End Run

How a few black publishers are making a play for the Maxim man

"That's how I knew there had to be something about me," she says. "I knew girls who had Yahoo groups up for a while, and nobody's numbers grew like mine." Soon afterward she was contacted by G-Unit and appeared in Tony Yayo and 50 Cent's "So Seductive" video. She made the pages of F.E.D.S. ("Finally Every Dimension of the Streets"), and a half-dozen other magazine covers quickly followed. "She became, like, a hero for big-butt girls," says Sweets' Clark.

Now she has a hot-selling DVD and calendar, an ad campaign with Azzure Denim, and a MySpace page that gets up to 200 messages per day. (The lion's share solicit sex, or her hand in marriage, but an increasing number are from girls who admire her look, Buffie says.)

Having done pretty much all the urban men's magazines, she's attempting to branch out, and is slated to play Satan's girlfriend in a touring gospel-music play.

Antoine Clark lets Jazz do the heavy lifting.
photo: Alana Cundy
Antoine Clark lets Jazz do the heavy lifting.

"I'd be lying if I said it's been a struggle, 'cause it hasn't been," she says with genuine modesty. "I thank God every single day, because I am blessed, I am gifted, and I know if it wasn't for my butt I wouldn't have made all this money. I wouldn't be traveling; I wouldn't have met all of these people. I wouldn't be sitting here talking with you."

She's sweet. But I have to come clean. The fact is, her big ass does nothing for me. Perhaps, as a white guy, I'm just not hardwired to understand.

"Even white guys are coming out of the closet, admitting their fetish for big butts!" she assures me. "They were just always shy about it, sort of scared, before I hit it big. But now there are people from Switzerland, the U.K., Ireland, and Canada who order calendars from me." "Even guys from China and Korea order my calendars. I'm like, how do them people know about me all the way ovw er there?"

"Do Chinese guys even like black women?" she asks, laughing at her own question, before concluding with a contented sigh: "The world is changing."

The largely incarcerated readership of F.E.D.S. magazine went crazy when Buffie made her print debut in the January 2005 issue, shortly after a friend had sent in her pictures.

"They thought it was incredible," remembers Antoine Clark, who, in addition to Sweets, also publishes F.E.D.S., a true-crime quarterly. "We had a lot of response about her butt. Some people thought it was too big to be real."

When Clark debuted Sweets in December 2006 as a spin-off of F.E.D.S.—an underground hit with about 90 percent of its subscriptions going to incarcerated readers—he knew just who to put on the cover. Along with Buffie, inside were the same swimsuit and thong shots as in King, but without the hip-hop interviews, fashion spreads, or articles of any sort. "It's just page after page of short, stocky urban chicks with fat butts and big hips," Clark explains. Like F.E.D.S., Sweets' basic graphic layout and untouched photography gives it a gritty, unpolished feel. Even his wife likes it. "She actually thought the first issue looked kind of good. She thought it was gonna be crazy, but it was kind of tasteful."

Clark, a 37-year-old father of three from northern New Jersey, runs his publishing empire from an unmarked former auto garage in the north Bronx. (He asks that the location be kept secret, as some folks are occasionally made cranky by F.E.D.S.) He estimates Sweets' circulation is 25,000, making it considerably smaller than his competitors. But Clark believes there's a sub-niche to be mined within the genre for those who prefer more cellulite and less airbrushing.

"They're all kind of washed," he says, mentioning King as the major culprit. "They touch up their photos too much. You'll find no flaws. Sometimes a black woman no longer looks black; their complexion almost looks golden. You don't see a real black woman that's actually golden." Of Sweets, he boasts: "We're a little more raw; we're a little more about the big-buttage. You can still see the stretch marks."

"I also feel we show dark-skinned women," counters Jermaine Hall of King, which is owned by Harris Publications, publisher of XXL. But he allows, charitably, "I think [ Sweets] could work."

Smooth's Vasceannie says she routinely gets letters from readers asking for more dark-skinned females. As to touching up her magazine's pictures: "There's airbrushing and there's airbrushing," she says. "We do take away blemishes, but in terms of reshaping models, we don't do that. What you see is what you get."

Stephen Jay Gould, in his 1985 book The Flamingo's Smile, recounted the 19th-century phenomenon of the "Hottentot Venus," a stage name applied to two or more Khoisan women from southern Africa. The Venus was paraded in European sideshows for her prodigious backside. People paid to touch it.

So the obsession isn't new. But Buffie admits to being baffled by it.

"I've asked guy friends of mine, and guys I used to date, 'What is it about a big booty that makes y'all go so crazy?' " she says, between hysterical fits of laughter. "They say, 'It's just the way it looks in jeans, or the way it feels, or the way it moves back and forth. Or how when you're having sex you can hold onto it. Nobody could give me one answer."

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