A few months ago I admittedly skipped over the Elite Daily video in which the world was introduced to Kan Seidel, a man who spends his work day cuddling with strangers to make money. The viral video invited viewers into a new age therapy in which you cuddle with strangers. I made my assumptions that my fellow millennials will put a price and a fancy term on anything to make a few bucks and moved on with my life. But according to BET, Kan’s co-star is now the one making headlines. The site reports:
“You would never know who Kan’s costar is that offered the profound remark because she was never properly introduced to the audience. Amaku Ukpong is a black female in the business of cuddling and it’s hard to believe that doesn’t have anything to do with why she remained nameless in the clip, even after practically begging Elite Daily producers to identify her.”
BET gave the fellow cuddlist a platform to speak her piece after she was briefly featured at the end of the Elite Daily video saying:
“I feel like I matter. That might have been a little bit too deep, but that’s how I feel. That’s how I feel. I think cuddling can do that… make you feel like you’re a human being especially when you feel invisible to the world.”
The irony is real. In addition to being a cuddlist, Ukpong is an energy medicine practitioner, spiritual nutritionist and Higher Brain Living mastery facilitator. The 31-year old Brooklyn native is an expert in moving negative energy from the body and was first introduced to professional cuddling after spotting a flyer in a supermarket in Park Slope, Brooklyn. She trained this past summer to become a professional cuddler herself.
Ukpong reveals that she and Seidel are friends who also cuddle with each other outside of their clientele. When asked how she reacted to the video going viral although all of the focus was placed on her co-star, she responded:
“It was interesting because I was celebrating the success of the video and my friend getting so much attention. I’m that kind of friend that can’t wait to celebrate your success. I’m very supportive and I was in a supportive role there, but Kan’s the one that brought it to my attention that they didn’t mention my name not once. And I was like, ‘Wow. Yeah, that’s right.’
I wasn’t really focused on me. I was caught up in the conversation about cuddling and non-sexual touch that it took me second to realize that they really played me, pretty much.”
What makes Ukpong’s story particularly different from that of her co-star is her specific experience in the world of cuddling as a black woman, a perspective the video failed to explore. Ukpong who charges $80 an hour spoke on clients who specifically want to cuddle with her because she is a black woman:
“I have been contacted many white males that have expressed so many times to me, they’ve never had close contact with a woman of color. And so for them it’s new, it’s interesting. I get a lot who say, ‘I’ve never touched a Black woman before,’ because maybe it was something that wasn’t encouraged, or allowed growing up. And they think somehow it’s supposed to be different.
“I had a guy who booked a session with me and I winded up not doing it because his motives didn’t sound clean. He mentioned to me something like, ‘I’ve never touched a Black woman before. I’m curious cause you know what they say about Black women.’ And I was like, ‘Well, I could only imagine, but since this isn’t a sexual service it doesn’t matter what they say.’ So I had to end that conversation real quick.”
Can you say ‘missed opportunity’? We’re happy that BET gave Ukpong a chance to share her point of view into a world that according to Ukpong, many black women (including myself), would have otherwise ignored:
“Supporting roles are also memorable roles. And a lot of the conversation, especially for women of color, surrounded the end part when I talked about feeling like I matter, especially in a world that tends to make you invisible.”
“A lot of my girlfriends who are African-American that saw the video told me they watched it because they saw a woman of color and were like, ‘Apparently this is something that not just white people do. Let’s check this out.’”
You can read the interview in its entirety here.