There’s a familiar trend in America; people of color create something attractive and mainstream culture charges in, often washing away the trail blazers. Remember the first Harlem Shake? Last month, Miley Cyrus’ fandom for twerking, teddy bears and dropping it on Robin Thicke during the MTV Video Music Awards, as well as serious news organizations like ABC attempting to decipher what most Blacks have been doing since middle school, made many roll their eyes. But what about two online pioneers behind this year’s hottest phenomenon?
“We don’t feel any way about it but I feel like people want us to,” says Lady Luscious of the Atlanta-based twosome, the Twerk Team. “Our whole movement is about girl power, so if you’re Black, Ahite or Asian, you can twerk. But Miley Cyrus twerking is not our twerking. She’s just a fan who is showing it to a whole different ethnic group, you have to give her her props for that.”
Lady Luscious, 22, and her younger sister Mizz TwerkSum, 21, began five years ago by shaking their gifts to Soulja Boy’s “She Got a Donk” on YouTube. Now the pair have graduated to releasing twerk-ready apparel like leggings, mixtapes–yes, they’re rapping–shopping a reality show pilot and prepping an upcoming Teach Me How to Twerk DVD. Their online fame also attracted famous fans like French Montana and Waka Flocka, who have recruited the young women to perform during their concerts and videos. Most recently, Wale hired the duo for his “Clappers” remix clip, where Lady Luscious says, “You can’t mention twerk without the official Twerk Team.” So as their trade’s popularity has risen, have the Team’s booking fees followed suit?
“Our shows were good before Miley Cyrus said anything about Twerk,” Lady Luscious says, adding their show fee is $5,000 and climbing. “She’s not stopping our business.”
“We make good money and we’ve never had to work,” Mizz TwerkSum adds, both sisters dabbled in college but decided it wasn’t their calling. “We go around the world to places like South Africa and the Bahamas, meet our fans and live how we want to live.”
In the shadow of booty bounce experts like New Orleans’ Big Freedia, who debuted his Fuse reality show this month and recently entered the Guinness Book of World Records for organizing the globe’s largest twerk-a-thon, and Los Angeles cabaret dancer Amazon Ashley, who admitted to In Touch that she taught Cyrus everything she knows, it seems twerking is enjoying its fifteen minutes of mainstream fame and creating a cottage industry for some of those involved, even though the sisters may not appear on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon anytime soon.
And while the Twerk Team are self-proclaimed entrepreneurs, they haven’t escaped disdain, muttered or aloud, for their flexible craft. But their mother Leslie Willis, who is also their manager, has little time for detractors.
“It ain’t like they’re taking off their clothes, and that’s the first thing that people want to criticize,” she says dryly. “Just being in the industry period you’re going to hear it and everyone’s entitled to their opinion. But these are my baby girls, and really I could give a shit less.”