The woman formerly known as Karrine Steffans pulled up on MADAMENOIRE for a segment of I GOT QUESTIONS to discuss, among many things, a name change which threw many people off, and had both the latter alias and the former moniker back in peoples’ mouths. Of course, we got into the scorn she received being a young Black woman with sexual agency and bodily autonomy, and the backlash that came with telling her truth about sexual abuse and the entanglements she’s had with men in the hip-hop and entertainment industry, but neither was the highlight of the conversation. Elisabeth Ovesen, as she now answers to, lent herself to a two-part conversation that touched on gender politics, misogynoir, relationships, healing and the current wave of feminism and sexual freedom. –And no matter what name she chooses to go by, she has and always will eat, sleep, write, love and fuck on her own terms. 

 

Elisabeth Ovesen

Source: Prince Williams / Getty

 

MN: Thank you for making time to sit with us. You are a favorite of MadameNoire, so we’re honored. Thank you.

Elisabeth Ovesen:  I appreciate it.

 

So, I want to just jump right into it, because the most pressing question has been the name shift. Right. Masses have known you as Karrine Steffans with the author of your book.

New York Times bestselling author of several, many books.

 

C’mon, tell us.

I mean, there’s three New York Times bestsellers. There’s eight books in total.

 

Yes.

Karrine Steffans. I used it for 10 years. It is my pen name. It is one of my pen names. Actually, I have several. So, a lot of our favorite authors are not using their real names. It’s no different than any other kind of entertainer using stage names. I mean, stage/pin names are basically the same thing. Karrine Steffans was mine. It had a ten-year run, which is my initial plan for the pen name to start in 2005 and finish her off in 2015. Everything I do is very calculated and very much on purpose. With purpose. Same thing with Elisabeth. Elisabeth is not my birth name. As Elisabeth is not my first name.

 

OK.

Ovesen is my family name. It’s an old, good, strong Danish family name. But Elisabeth is not my first name.

 

All right, thank you.

There are more pen names out there that I write under when I’m writing certain articles or essays, when I want to remain anonymous, and then there are more pen names coming as I venture into fiction. So every pen name is a brand. Every pen name does something different. And you wouldn’t want Karrine Stephen’s writing children’s books, right?

 

That part.

That part. You don’t want to be awkward, so you want to make sure to change, pending, and you’re changing genres, at least for me.

 

MADAMENOIRE wants to give you your flowers and your props right off the bat, okay. Because you’ve ascended to this space of Black feminist GOAT.

All right.

 

Well, ahead of this time, in this time, this era, we’re dismantling these old myths around womanhood and sexuality and patriarchy and sexism, and your visibility and your stance on these things have made you a pop culture icon. Right and of course, you know this, but what are your thoughts about that? How do you feel about that kind of weight?

It’s a lot because I’ve had this weight since I was young. I’ve always felt this way, and especially when confessions and video vixen first dropped in 2005, I was actually shocked that people weren’t where I was with it. It’s not a new thing, right? Women have been bucking these things for decades. I mean, the sexual revolution of the late 60s, early 70s really set it off my mother’s generation, and so I am the generation after that. So, there’s a lot that I learned from the women in my life just growing up strong. I’m an island girl born and raised in the Caribbean. So, island women do not play. They will put a man out in a second and get them another one and not worry about it. And I just kind of grew up. With these free witchy women, these island women who just kind of made their own rules. And so, I didn’t realize that other people weren’t like this.

 

Right.

And that’s why I always say I wasn’t before my time. This is not new. A lot of women are just late to this revolution, to this owning your body, having the sex you want, when you want, how you want, not apologizing for it, right? For what?

 

Yeah, I agree with you. Right. But I also want to add to that, right. I think a lot of women were performing in the front, but behind the scenes, we were kind of like having a lot of sex, good sex, bad sex, just sex. Right. But I think a lot of women felt pressured to present a particular way, you know what I’m saying. And I feel like at that time, for women who did not know before, you kind of set a stage, right and kind of began to make it comfortable for other women to kind of shed those masks and things like that.

That makes sense because I have been wondering where this influx of support has come from, because for over a decade, I had next to none. Yeah, but it was very rare because it was interesting, I should say, because in private spaces, whenever I meet people in the street, there’s lots of support in the street, but online, there seems to be very little. And now the table seemed to have turned. I mean, things have changed. The Me-Too movement, I think, did a lot for this particular generation. I don’t think that it should have, though, because that wasn’t our fight. That wasn’t ours.

 

Right.

But it was very interesting because I felt like now people of color, women of color felt that they had permission and got it from other women, from the elite, from the Hollywood elite, from women who white women, basically rich white women said, oh, my God, I’ve been molested. And then everyone’s like, oh, yeah, me too. It almost felt like other women needed permission to be able to say, this is wrong. This happened to me, and I’m going to say something about it.

 

Yeah, that and just kind of like comfort in being able to come forward, too. Sometimes you need someone to hold your hand if you feel full about a certain thing. So, I do think it’s both. I think both things are true.

But then here’s the thing is, I was doing that. That’s what I was doing in 2005 when I talked about being abused as a child, being raped at 13. I went through all of these things, and it was none of it. Nobody cared about I should say nobody. But it was very rare to come across. Especially on social. Especially in media and mostly urban media or black media in particular. To come across anyone who paid attention to the first half of that book was all about my childhood and the trauma and trying to escape that and then what familial trauma does to a little girl who’s now out in the world by herself. Living on her own at 16-years-old. I’ve been on my own since I’m 16. I’m 44 almost. So, all my life I’ve been on my own and not having any parental guidance, never feeling safe. I still don’t feel safe in the world. This is a book about not being safe. Not at home, not in the street, not anywhere. And the pitfalls and the downfalls that come with that. I didn’t receive this overwhelming support, understanding, or wokeness. I think we’ve all just kind of gone through a lot of awakenings over the last 5-6-7-8 years, especially, you know what I mean? It feels like now all those things that I talked about, the women who have been thinking it and were performing and now feeling more safer, to be able to say, this is how I felt.

 

Right.

And then the women who weren’t listening before, whose ears were closed before, for whatever their personal internal reasons were, their ears are now open. Since we’ve gone through so many changes just in the last 6-7-8 years, it’s been insane how much society has changed.

 

You are part of that and that’s why I said, I need to give you your props, because it just wasn’t a thing to do for many women … I think. I don’t even think, I believe that many women read that book and identify and just did not have the voice that you may have had, you know?

Circle back next week for part two.

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