Behind the Scenes of the “Turn Down for What” Music Video—An Interview with Sunita Mani

Violent-Sexy Dance Moves: Behind the Scenes of “Turn Down for What” 
An Interview with Sunita Mani
By Andre Novak

SunitaMani

If you haven’t already seen the music video to DJ Snake and Lil Jon’s “Turn Down for What,” watch it right now. You will not be sorry. I promise. This video has everything you ever wanted. Insane partying. Weird sexiness. Violent Brazilian dance moves. A woman breaking a baseball bat on a dude’s boner. Yeah.

Needless to say, I’ve been somewhat obsessed with this video since I first saw it about a week ago. Even in today’s completely desensitizing world, it stands out as something uniquely raunchy, bizarre, and fun. I suspect it will go down in history as one of the all-time greatest music videos.

I recently had the honor of interviewing one of the video’s stars, Sunita Mani, who plays the beautiful baseball bat-wielding, grind-dancing character mentioned above. Her performance is nothing short of astounding. In the video, she and her co-star, Daniel Kwan, bring the unbridled insanity as they bump-and-thrash around in ways that would make any respectable Kingston dance-hall look like a bar mitzvah by comparison. Sunita was kind enough to share some behind-the-scenes insights regarding the making of the video.

What are your thoughts on the “Turn Down for What” music video?

I am blown away and reeling. I love it. So gross and so brilliant. I can’t believe it actually happened and I got to be a part of it—they pulled off this sick action-movie with epic humping and dancing, and it looks incredible! It’s too funny!


Do you have a favorite part or aspect of the finished product?

The build of each scene to the song is so fun and impressive. I couldn’t quite visualize the whole when it was described to me or when reading the treatment, so it’s a true gift to see the finished piece over and over. The visuals and narrative work so well with the music; you can’t stop watching because you have to see what happens next! I will love watching Dan Kwan dance forever and always, but my favorite part is when the mom-character’s boobs bounce. They’ve been wanting to do that trick for forever. It. is. so. funny. You’re watching her face, trying to grasp what is happening yourself, and ultimately you’re tickled by the surprise and absurdity instead of the upsetting actualities. And I got to puppeteer the movement of those babies! I was under her shirt with boxing gloves, essentially, made out of a bra. The actress, Aixa Maldonano, NAILED IT. She was an angel to work with and was so open to my hands resting on her chest for hours. She’s very special!

SunitaManiDrop.jpg
Are you a fan of the song? Did you know it before you shot the video?

I didn’t know of it before the DANIELS (the video’s directors, Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinhert) sent it to me. It struck me as an odd collaboration of a DJ and notorious hype man, but I felt indifferent until I got to bust a move to it. And I love it now because of the music video.


I suspect this music video will go down in history as one of the all-time greats, alongside Fatboy Slim’s “Weapon of Choice” and The Beastie Boys’ 
“Sabotage.” Did you have any idea of how rad the final product was going to be while shooting? Did the DANIELS describe their vision while you were putting it all together?

Wow! I hope you suspect correctly! Indeed, I had complete trust in the DANIELS making something rad. They can’t help themselves! They are creating for fun and they reach great heights with their sense of play. At first, I was told the “vision” via text message. Kinda like this:

Daniel Scheinert: Hahahaha do you wanna come back to LA for a music vid?

(I’m based in NYC and was in LA the day of this text)

Me: Would love to

DS: Let’s figure out schedules

Me: I will make it work. What band?

DS: It’s “Turn Down for What” by DJ Snake

DS: Feat. Lil Jon

Me: WOW. OH MY GOD. You don’t want a real booty ho? Will Lil Jon be there?

DS: No, but he’s obsessed with the idea. You have to do violent/sexy dance moves for 2 days straight. Probably a scene where you slam your butt in Kwan’s face so hard you smash him through the floor.

Me: DONE I’M IN

And now you see the video.

Yeah, some of the dancing between you and Daniel Kwan is pretty insane. Like, at one point you’re sort of twerk-bashing his face—earlier in the video, as you described, you epically drop your butt onto his face from a standing position. How much of that was real?

IT WAS ALL REAL. MY BUTTHOLE WAS ON HIS FACE. OFTEN LANDING IN SLOW MOTION. They say if you place a butthole on the tip of a man’s nose, he will fall in love with you eternally. Both Dan Kwan and I wanted to be respectful of each other’s fate, so we kept it professional.

For that “twerk-bash” move in particular, where my ankles are hooked behind his neck to whip his face into my butt, I cushioned my butt cheeks with foam. We’re referencing the Brazilian style of dancing Surra de Bunda, which is that exact move, but over and over by girls in bikinis performing to a specific Brazilian butt-smash song.

So, I assume you actually broke a wooden baseball bat over Daniel Kwan’s peen—what was that like?

Yes, I swung a real “Yankee standard” on his goods. It felt like murder, but he was a first class sport!

Sunita Mani, butt-smashing Daniel Kwan in "Turn Down for What"

Sunita Mani, butt-smashing Daniel Kwan in “Turn Down for What”


Was the shoot fun to do? It looks like it was probably either a blast or really taxing. It if it wasn’t a total nightmare, what was your favorite part of the shoot?

I have so many favorite parts. Watching everyone dance on the monitor, puppeteering those boobs, improvising dance moves with Dan Kwan, hanging out with people on set who are kind and funny and so good at their jobs, sitting on the roof witnessing that BEAUTIFUL CRANE SHOT at the beginning of the video. The shoot was terrifyingly fun! One or two takes only at times! Level 10 workout! Jump off of this ladder onto a padded mattress! Everyone was on board to do everything. And the DANIELS make it an environment where you want to be on board. Which is so amazing and essential to their directing style: Try it out. Have fun however you want! Here, throw this piece of dry wall in the air while you do it.

What kinds of responses to your performance have you seen so far from family, friends, and strangers?

Family? Don’t know if they’ve seen it…

Friends? Incredibly uplifting support and praise. My friends are those I consistently want to impress the most! So it’s super meaningful to make them proud!

Strangers? It’s kind of funny because I don’t have Facebook to receive a public response for a thing like this, so I’m getting congratulations very directly on my phone from folks coming out of the woodworks, emails from people in all parts of the country just wanting to say “cool faces and dance moves!” It makes me feel so loved and like I’m really famous. It’s super cool that some folks connected to various Indian communities are reaching out because they are excited to see an Indian lady in a viral rap video!


You seem to be involved in a variety of artistic and performance-based projects. On your Tumblr page I’m seeing all kinds of stuff like improv comedy (with none other than the legendary Upright Citizens Brigade!), commercials, writings, short films—what are you working on right now? What can fans of your performance in the ‘Turn Down for What’ video look forward to?

Well, get a load of this: I’m part of the dance comedy outfit COCOON CENTRAL DANCE TEAM. We make up highly choreographed dances for fun and for laughs and it’s pure love. My cohorts, Tallie Medel and Eleanore Pienta, are two very funny, very precious gems with whom I collaborate on camera and on stage. We are working on releasing a web series called REHEARSAL, directed by our talented, collaborator-friend Alex Fischer. We have 3 episodes up on our youtube channel—Cocoon Central Dance Team—with more to come!

Cream City is a Baltimore-based site, so I have to ask: have you ever been to Baltimore? If so, what was your experience like? If not, what are your impressions of the city based on what you’ve seen or heard?

I’ve never been to Baltimore. And I hear it’s cool. I also haven’t watched The Wire yet. I’m sorry, everyone.

From now on if anyone asks, I will say Baltimore is a creamy dreamy city with creamy clouds and dreamy skies.

Awesome. That’s all very true, by the way. Thanks so much for your time! Please keep up the amazing work!

Thank you so much for reaching out! I loved being able to talk about the process!

 

My Brief Wondrous Career as a Male Stripper in Guatemala

My Brief Wondrous Career as a Male Stripper in Guatemala
By Donny Kestler

Strip

“So, what do you think?”

My eyes shifted in and out of focus as I thought about the offer. Multi-colored lights were flashing in time with Pitbull’s “I Know You Want Me”, which blasted from speakers at an obscene volume. Everything seemed blurry and my head was spinning. The added stimuli were not helping me to consider the proposition.

“I dunno,” I yelled, slurring, “I can’t really dance.”

“That’s fine—they just want a cute guy to strip, to get naked. Come on.”

The offer seemed to good to be true. Walk a few blocks to a bachelorette party, take my clothes off for a group of stranger-ladies, and make roughly $50? I didn’t exactly have my wits about me, but something told me the whole thing was a scam. I knew exactly how it’d probably unfold. The gringa and her Guatemalteca friend would walk me out the door of La Parranda, pull a couple of blades out, and fleece me of my last Q100 and my bank cards. I’d be fucked—forced to go back to the US on traveler’s checks or something. My mind fought against toxins to make the right decision.

“Pues,” I said, “I have a friend who’d totally be down for this. I think he’s ripped and fairly attractive too. Can he come along and dance with me?”

The gringa furrowed her brow and turned to her friend, unleashing a torrent of fluid Spanish. I knew enough of the language to barely understand that she was explaining my idea. The friend nodded and smiled. They both had really dark hair and morena complexions, but the Guatemalteca was much shorter and had beautiful, round Mayan eyes. I wondered what the gringa’s story was. She introduced herself as Carla, I think. Her English and Spanish both seemed perfect to me.

“Yeah, she likes the idea, but it’s still only gonna be about Q400 in tips, so you’d have to split it with your friend.”

“Fine by me,” I half-shouted, “I’m not in it for the money anyway.”

I told her I’d find my friend, and then meet her by the entrance in about 10 minutes.

I stumbled around the club, scanning for the computer programmer, Casey. He was a nice guy. He struck me as someone who had probably been a child prodigy—22 years old, already working a high-paying job, clearly very intelligent. He was fluent in Swedish too. He’d already traveled all over the world apparently. He seemed to have a wild streak in him and I assumed he’d be into this plan. I found him drinking a Cabro in a dark corner with some of the boring people from our language school. I waved him over to the far wall. He looked confused.

“Look,” I said.

“What?!”

“Looook,” I shouted over the music, “do you wanna make some money tonight?”

Casey’s face told me he was concerned.

“No, it’s not anything like that,” I yelled, “It’s these two girls—they need strippers for a bachelorette party down the road. They asked me, and I wanna do it, but I don’t want to go alone. I’m worried they might rob me or some shit.”

“Do you know them?”

“No, they just approached me about 15 minutes ago and asked if I’d do it. I don’t even care about the money. It just seems like something you should do if offered the chance.”

“Yeah, totally. I’m in. Just let me finish this beer.”

It’s easy to trip and fall while walking down Xela’s streets because they’re made of uneven cobblestone. It’s even easier to trip and fall while intoxicated.

“Ta-da!” I yelled, catching myself mid-fall, breaking into a jog to stay on my feet. The girls and Casey laughed.

Casey and I made small talk with our new employers throughout the blurry hike to the party. We did our best to speak in Spanish for the Guatemalteca. I sensed that we were both trying to impress her.

“Ummm, ustedes van a matar a nosotros?” Casey joked, nervously. The girls laughed. I laughed—nervously and drunkenly.

“Solo con diversión, chico,” responded the Guatemalteca, closing one of her beautiful Mayan eyes.  We all laughed.

We were led through a dark garage to a tiny room with a bar. Balloons and bottles of alcohol were everywhere. A group of some ten ladies sitting on small couches and chairs began cheering and whistling when we stepped in. They were mostly really hot and I suddenly became worried about getting a boner while stripping. But maybe that’s exactly what they wanted? I really had no idea. We waved at them, smiling. I remember wishing I had sunglasses.

We were introduced to the bride-to-be and some of the other ladies. Our new gringa friend poured massive tequila shots for us and suggested we start the show in about five minutes. She would provide the music. And no dicks, we were told—it turned out the girls just wanted us to strip down to our boxers, which was kind of a relief. We mingled with the ladies for five minutes and it was showtime.

The song “Stereo Love” by Edward Maya started through the speakers. The lights went down a bit. The girls started cheering. I couldn’t dance, so I just slowly began removing my clothes to the beat of the music at first. Luckily, I was far too drunk to be awkward and I ended up dancing a little anyway. Casey was a pro. He seemed like he’d done it before and I was glad I’d dragged him along. The ladies began pulling Quetzales out of their purses and whistling at us. We took our shirts off. They crowded around and slapped our asses and tugged at our pants. I pulled mine down, partially at first, and shook my ass a bit. The response was positive. The ladies stuffed Quetzales into the waistband of my boxer-briefs and my pants came off entirely. Some other song came on that I didn’t recognize. The ladies formed a line to take turns slapping our asses. They were screaming and laughing in Spanish. Quetzales were raining on us. I remember thinking we’d be millionaires by the next song.

The whole act lasted about 15 minutes. After we finished, the girls moved onto some kind of pin-the-penis-on-the-man sort of game. We were invited to stay and drink for a little longer. The girls were really friendly. In English, one of them asked if we’d danced like that before. We laughed and told her no. I’m sure she wasn’t surprised. The partygoers were trashed but not particularly flirty. Casey and I assumed that most of them were probably married or had boyfriends. Or maybe they just thought were total sluts or something. Either way, we were having fun.

Before leaving, we thanked everyone in Spanish for the great time, and they thanked us. Some of the girls were falling over. The bride-to-be was nowhere to be seen and the gringa told us she was in the bathroom, puking.

Luckily Casey remembered the way back to La Parranda and we stumbled over the cobblestones laughing about the whole experience. Casey suggested we start a business there in Xela. Los Hermanos del Fuego, he offered for the name.

In La Parranda, we counted our earnings. Just over Q400—roughly $50 to divide between the two of us. We laughed and split the money up.

“Not bad for 15 minutes of work,” Casey said, grimacing.

I turned to look him in the eyes with my best deadpan face.

“For me, it was never about the money.”

We both laughed some more.

The Lewd and Sexy Art of Baltimore Club Music

The Lewd and Sexy Art of Baltimore Club Music
A gallery of images

Those of us at Cream City feel that Baltimore Club music is one of humanity’s greatest achievements. If you’re not familiar with Bmore Club already, you’re missing out—big time. It has everything you need: sexiness, sleaze, and frenetic dance beats.

So whether you’re new to the Baltimore Club music scene, or you’re already balls-deep in it, take a moment to enjoy some hot artwork from the genre’s top artists. Also, be sure to check out the tracks linked in the image captions. You won’t be sorry.

Field Trip to Miami—An Interview with World Erotic Art Museum Director, Naomi Wilzig

Field Trip to Miami’s World Erotic Art Museum
An interview with Naomi Wilzig
By Kit Ames

WEAM

What was your grandmother doing when she turned 70? Kicking back with grandpa? Taking up bridge or shuffleboard? Or was she fighting a battle against sexual repression in America by establishing the United States’ first erotic art museum?

If you answered yes to the last question, you are either a liar, or the lucky grandchild of Naomi Wilzig—the creator, director, and owner of the World Erotic Art Museum (WEAM). After accumulating a private collection of over 4,000 pieces of erotic art, she founded the museum in 2005, at the age of 70. Over the last eight years, the WEAM has become something of a cultural institution, even earning the key to the city of Miami in 2006.

I had the pleasure of visiting WEAM last spring. That museum has it all: an ornate bed with Kama Sutra images carved into it, a giant golden penis, knickknacks—like watches or boxes—that were used to hide sexy images during the Victorian Era, the ceramic penis-turned-murder weapon from A Clockwork Orange, erotic works by Picasso and Rembrandt, and so much more. The pieces range from breathtakingly beautiful to charming and naughty to downright lewd and crude. What you really take away from the experience at WEAM is the feeling that despite the decade or culture, sex and sexual pleasure is a core part of being human. It created us after all. But we continually repress our own sexuality and shame those who are open about theirs, especially in the United States. Naomi Wilzig is seeking to change all that with her museum, and was kind enough to answer a few questions about her efforts to bring erotic art into the mainstream.

What changes have you seen in the United States art world since WEAM was established?

WEAM has been open for 8 years. There is much more nudity and eroticism displayed openly in galleries and antique shows than when I first started collecting in 1992.

Many of the ads in magazines now show nudity, all types of sexual orientation, and promiscuity to invite people to experience a “better existence” though their products.

Do you think the United States is becoming more accepting of erotic art or is the vast amount of accessible porn making it harder for genuine erotic art to be taken seriously?

Unfortunately the American public confuses the two subjects and thinks erotic art is a synonym for porn.  It’s an educational experience when they come into WEAM and see the difference.

You faced a lot of adversity, first with collecting art, then with getting a location to display the art. What’s so important about this collection that motivated you to not give up?

The American public accepted violence and murder in our movies, TV, and printed matter. Yet they balk at the idea of a nude body or sexuality. Through the art collection, we are illustrating the world of love and sexual practices that are essential to life. We show the beauty of the body and genitalia. We emphasize the fertility rites that were essential to keep communities from dying out. It’s life as we live it, and the acceptance of it. I emphasize that all practices should be with consenting adults. I am particularly proud that most of the local colleges and universities send their human sexuality and art classes here to experience the museum, to see how the artists present and interpret what they study and research in their class work.

The hulking Swarovksi golden penis at the WEAM

The legendary Swarovksi golden penis, on display at the WEAM

What kind of role do you think erotic art plays in people’s lives?

It gives credibility and acceptance to people’s fantasies, experiences, thoughts, dreams.

Do you think erotica helps or affects people’s sex lives?

It definitely helps. It answers questions and removes fallacies. It illustrates that many things people do are acceptable in people’s lives.

WEAM has so many pieces, it’s almost overwhelming. What is your favorite room and why?

The Leda room. It holds the Greek and Roman mythology artworks, the memories of Pompeii, antiquities showing sex acts and relics that are thousands of years old, and several other unique artworks.

The collection of Lada and the Swan art reveals how artists worldwide can interpret the same myth according to their own medium and experience.

I’m sure you get all kinds of rude or wacky guests. Do you have a story about a visitor that’s your personal favorite?

A group of four Jewish women came to town for the tennis matches. They decided to check us out. Then they hesitated to come in, thinking someone would see them going into an unsavory place. They then saw my mezuzah (Jewish symbolic piece for good fortune) on the doorway, and decided the place can’t be so bad, as they laughingly recounted to me.

What’s next for WEAM? Any special events or exhibitions?

We are always looking for new artists, particularly of various ethnic backgrounds. We portray collections that depict various alternative lifestyles. We now have our annual Josephine Baker exhibit up for Black history month. We still have our George Daniell photography on display. In April, we will display the works of Tomi Ungerer, who went from fame for illustrating children’s books, to disdain for creating imaginative erotic drawings.

It was truly an honor that Ms. Wilzig would even give me the time of day, much less a full interview. Naomi Wilzig is truly an amazing and passionate person whose art collection and museum is helping to move society toward viewing sex the way it ought to be viewed: as something natural, and something to be celebrated.