‘I Wasn’t Before My Time—Everyone Was Just Late': Elisabeth Ovesen Talks Feminism, Career & Finally Owning Her Story

To look at her now, it’s like being transported back to the early aughts—the arguable golden era of hip hop. This was the time of huge budgets, raucous parties, raunchy lyrics and the reign of video vixens. 

Her face is almost identical, if not more beautiful as it was when she first turned up on our screens as a music video dancer in the 2000s. But make no mistake, she’s not the same woman. Although the bravado and strong opinions are still there, Elisabeth Ovesen, formerly known as Karrine Steffans says she’s much wiser. 

Steffans was widely introduced to us by way of her megawatt book “Confessions of a Video Vixen,” in 2005 which recounts her time as an ‘it girl’ in the hip-hop industry, and the relationships that came along the way. The book was a lightning rod, prompting conversations about fidelity, misogyny, loyalty and the true happenings once the curtain was pulled back on some of our favorite entertainers’ lives. Following the success of the book, she followed it up with six more over the course of about seven years, with the last, ‘Vindicated: Confessions of a Video Vixen, 10 Years Later’ released in 2015.

From there, she says life has been “very quiet,” and her “purposely choosing to enjoy privacy.” So, it’s no surprise that after years of being virtually off-the-grid, fans are a bit confused that she’s reemerged with the same fire, but a new name.

“Writers have pen names,” she explained in a May 2022 XONecole interview. “That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn’t go back. I’ve always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I’ve never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody’s business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you’ll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn’t the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.”

She’s right. Her opinions have always shaken the room. Nearly 20 years after the debut of Confessions of a Video Vixen, she’s still sparking conversation.

Her latest project, a new relationship podcast “Asking For a Friend,” isn’t your typical love advice show, and has garnered a few viral moments including her take on the ways Kanye West love bombed Julia Fox, and why men should aspire to marry sluts.

The weekly show, powered by Blavity, centers women’s experiences in relationships of all kinds, most importantly the ones with themselves, with Oveseen doling out advice based on her lived experiences and deep research on sex and love.

It’s not a responsibility she takes lightly…or she even wants to have.

“I don’t want to know about all the things I do but it’s how God designed it,” she shared with Essence. “I don’t know what else to do,” Ovesen, sharing that she’s been coaching and teaching since 2013, with some of her lectures taking place at California State University as a guest professor. “I’ve gotten into the habit now where I’m always coaching. It’s become part of my personality now where I love to share what I’ve learned and to try to save women from themselves, not just from evil men.”

In her work, she’s always espoused the power of cishet Black women owning their sexuality, decentralizing men in their lives and amplifying their voices, even in a time when that wasn’t en vogue in the early 2000s. This is commonplace for social media conversations now, and for many of us looking back, it appears as if she was before her time. She says that’s not the case though.

“I wasn’t before my time— women have always been talking like this,” she said, pointing out the Women’s Liberation Movement of the 1960s and 1970s platformed women leaders that empowered female choice. Ovesen went on to explain there was a significant shift in the sexual revolution following the AIDS epidemic in the 80s, where early misinformation about the syndrome prompted shame in women, whereby a diagnosis served as a morality tale.

That and the fact that the patriarchy is still alive and well.

“Women were pressured to settle down, find you a husband— you can’t be out here. There’s this disease of killing people who are having sex freely. For a long time we were forced to adhere to stringent respectability politics, but now time changing back. We’re taking our power back. So yeah, I wasn’t before my time–everyone else was just late.”

In addition to the podcast, she’s also working as a copywriter, a guest lecturer and working on a new book entitled Men Love Sluts based on her wildly popular Medium.com essay of the same name.

But with all the success, she says she’d much rather be—wait for it—a housewife.

“I hate working,” she shared. “I should have men fanning me with grape leaves—I don’t know why I have to do these things. I want to have the right to work, but I don’t want to have to work. I want to be able to work because I want to. But that’s not what God has called me to do. It hasn’t been easy weathering the storms of my life,” she said, recalling that the backlash from Confessions of a Video Vixen often left her fearing for her life.

“For a long time it was a life filled with police escorts and threats—everyone isn’t built for this. But sharing the truth no matter how bitter it is and helping others stay away from some of the choices I’ve made is the best way I can think of to thank Him for carrying me through.”

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