How does a 19-year-old college sophomore with no dance training and no desire to be a performer wind up in his Calvins dancing in a Shakira tribute video that has been flagged as “inappropriate” by YouTube? Boredom? Curiosity? A slight exhibitionist streak?
Andrew Foster, who is majoring in violin performance at the University of Washington, wasn’t even a fan of Shakira when he coaxed his friends into replicating her much-discussed “She Wolf” video and posting it online. But after a few days of dancing, editing, building a wooden cage, and gyrating for the camera in a ripped-up leotard, he has become an Internet sensation -- like the “Single Ladies” tributes and the “Party in the USA” boys before him, “He Wolf” has been viewed by thousands of people, posted and reposted on sites ranging from Facebook to The Advocate to Manhunt.
Despite his work being deemed an adult video by YouTube -- “I’ve read through their policies on what constitutes inappropriate content, and I fail to see where my video violates their policy,” Foster says -- he got exactly what he wanted out of his experiment in music-video making: a good time with his friends.
Advocate.com: Were you inspired at all to make this after seeing some of the “Single Ladies” videos or any of the other artist tribute videos that have popped up recently?
Andrew Foster: Honestly, it just started out as something fun and creative to do with my friends. It didn’t come from anywhere -- I wasn’t inspired by anything I’d seen already.
Did you ever give any thought to doing another song, or was it always “She Wolf?”
It was definitely this one. After I saw it, I couldn’t really think of anything else of a while. I showed my friends, and they thought the video was ridiculous and disturbing and different than anything we’d ever seen before.
So are you a fan of Shakira, or is it more that you thought the video was so completely over-the-top, you had to do something?
More I just ran across the video and was sort of shocked and amused by it. I thought, I have to do a parody of it. I have to do my own version.
Are you a dancer, or is all of that you goofing off?
[Laughs] I’m not trained at all. I was completely goofing off. I didn’t think anyone would think I was a dancer. No professional dance, no performance training at all.
Have you seen some of the comments? Some people are giving you high marks for your moves.
Well, that’s true, but I know one person said they think I should take hip-hop lessons because I’m not fooling them.
When you put it online, what was your expectation? Because you’re up to well over 150,000 views and climbing in less than a week.
Well, I told all of my friends about it when I first put it up -- I knew they were expecting it because I’d been talking about it while I was editing. I knew they would all like it, but I had no idea that they would ... well, I guess I should have known, but I had no idea it would get as big as it has. Twenty-four hours after I’d posted it, it started getting big enough that I knew it was a possibility it might get this big.
Where are some of the places you’ve seen it posted? Have you tracked where people have posted the video?
Yeah, YouTube has this feature where you can see where all your videos are being embedded and linked from. At first, it was linked mostly by Facebook -- it was mostly friends spreading it to friends. That was back when it was between 10,000 and 20,000 views. It got picked up by Manhunt [laughs] ... I think that was the first blog that picked it up. And then I got a huge number of views from that. There have been some gay porn blogs that have picked it up, which has been really funny to see.
Have you seen it posted anywhere that really surprised you or caught you off-guard?
A lot of people in Brazil.
Ah, so you’re big in South America.
Yes -- very popular in South America. A lot of Spanish-speaking websites.
Well that makes sense, it being a Shakira song. Were you shocked at all when they flagged the video for adult content?
That was completely unexpected. I was kind of dismayed because this means that it gets buried in the search results when people look up “He Wolf,” and people who just copy my video and repost it online are showing up ahead of me just because theirs haven’t been flagged.
Have you attempted to contact YouTube and see if they’ll reconsider?
I’d like them to reconsider, if only because I want people to be able to see it who don’t have a YouTube account. So I’m trying to figure out the best way to contact them, but it’s very difficult to make contact. They don’t provide phone or e-mail.
Why do you think they flagged it?
Well, I know they flag content based on users flagging it first, but then they review it before they actually agree to put a restriction on it. I really couldn’t say -- if it was just because there were an overwhelming number of people who flagged it, maybe that’s a reason. But I’ve read through their policies on what constitutes inappropriate content, and I fail to see where my video violates their policy.
Does it surprise you at all that Shakira’s video isn’t flagged but yours is?
It doesn’t surprise me, but it’s frustrating. That’s probably the main point of this, since mine copies Shakira’s so closely. It really draws attention to the double standard.
I’m going to go out on a limb here, but with 150,000 views, I’m guessing Shakira has seen this or is at least aware of its existence. For you, what would be her ideal response?
I’ve never really thought about this. I’d be thrilled if she liked it.
Well, there’s the guy who did Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies” video, and he wound up walking the red carpet with her at the premiere for her movie Obsessed. That group of friends did their “Party in the USA” video and Miley Cyrus tweeted that she was addicted to it. So, theoretically speaking, Shakira could reach out to you. Have you given any thought to what you would do if she came calling?
I haven’t given any thought to that. I mean, I wouldn’t be opposed to it. Whatever reaction I get from her would be great.
What has been the most ridiculous response?
When it was first posted on ReddIt, one of the first comments posted, probably within 10 minutes of my posting it, was “Most disturbing thing I’ve ever masturbated to.” I got a kick out of that.
So what song are you going to take on next?
Who knows. It would be hard to do something like this again. Mostly because the original video was so easy to duplicate. None of the dance moves were impossible. It didn’t have huge special effects. There weren’t a lot of extras, and there were only three sets. But we'll see.