Kat Stacks Hasn't Changed: The World's Most Hated Web Star After One Year
Courtesy of Mohammad Abdollahi
Andrea Herrera slides headphones off her sleek black mane and steps out of a recording booth. Wearing a tight blue dress and pumps that are a half-size too big, she's anxious as she leans against a nearby pool table -- or at least as anxious as one can be after drinking half a bottle of cognac.
It's late October, and just the day before, the 23-year-old released her first single, a repetitious dis track called "Bitch Who," but on this Tuesday, she's more interested in her day job: instigating. Inside a dimly lit Miami Gardens office complex, she spends a half-hour crafting a perfectly composed photo for her 68,000 Instagram followers to tear apart.
The former Tootsie's stripper looks up from her Android phone and bats her cartoonish eyelashes before relaying, "Someone just said I look like I was born with a dick."
Florida Atlantic University Owls Men's Basketball vs. Middle Tennessee State Univ Blue Raiders Mens Basketball
TicketsSat., Jan. 21, 7:00pm
Titan FC 43
TicketsSat., Jan. 21, 7:00pm
Miami Heat vs. Golden State Warriors
TicketsMon., Jan. 23, 7:30pm
Colgate Skating & Gymnastics Spectacular
TicketsWed., Jan. 25, 7:00pm
Inspiring this sort of vitriol is exactly how Herrera -- better known as Kat Stacks -- became a public figure. By trash-talking every rapper who appeared in videos on WorldStarHipHop.com, she amassed 250,000 followers on Twitter.
But then an immigration judge threatened to deport her to her native Venezuela, and she spent two years locked up.
After she was released, Herrera went on a media tear, declaring her alter ego a thing of the past on local and national television, in hip-hop rags, and to anyone who would listen. Kat Stacks the swaggering, universally loathed video star had been replaced by an advocate for sex-trafficking victims and the DREAM Act.
But a year after her release, not much has changed. She subsists mostly on Skittles, Hennessy, and Instagram hearts. She spends her days watching VH1 reality shows about rappers. And she hasn't really done much to better the lot of the immigrants she said she would help.
Then there is Admire Andrea: Surviving Savagery to Saving Lives. Her book is rather like the Chinese Democracy of memoirs: It has been set for release at least three times but has yet to be published. After a series of management changes (ping-ponging from WorldStarHipHop to a talent agency and back, and getting a slew of tattoos and coverups in the process), the author is betting on a vague date of 2014.
"Her book is coming out as soon as possible," says Seth Copenhaver, her PR manager. "But we don't have a firm release date."
Andrea Stephania Herrera was born in Caracas. Her father died when she was 10 months old, and she moved to Aventura to live with her mother, a permanent resident, when she was 8. But her childhood was marred by what she describes as an absent mom and a mentally ill grandmother.
By age 12, she had a tattoo on her leg that read, "Show No Love." Two years later, she was a Highland Oaks Middle School student running with a gang called the 71 Jag Boys and swooning over an older man who called himself only "Prince." He was six-foot-one with light-caramel skin, long dreads, and a pretty face.
Herrera's mother, Johnyelsi, did not like her daughter's new beau, who said he was 19 but turned out to be 22. As Johnyelsi puts it: "I felt I was in the presence of something evil."
By the time Herrera was 14, Prince was selling her body to johns for $200.
By April, 24, 2006, when Prince gave her a ride out of South Florida, she didn't care that it was only to a cheap motel in Cocoa Beach. "When you're in the game, you think your pimp is your boyfriend, your dad," she reasons. "Someone has to open your eyes to how it really is."
It was normal in her neighborhood for kids to run away. "Let's say if I drop rice on the floor, it's two punches to the face," Herrera says of how she was raised.
Soon, Herrera's mother came looking for her, so Prince moved the 15-year-old first to Atlantic City and then to Brooklyn. He gave her one directive: "Make stacks" of money outside a White Castle burger joint. Her new first name came from Prince's pet, Kat.
"He was a predator," she says of the man who let her sleep in his bed but also beat her with stripper heels and liquor bottles when he was drunk. "He had two other minors before me." Despite everything, they remained a couple for half a decade.
Then, when she was 19, police caught Herrera with a firearm in Broward County. A judge sent her to an immigration facility in Pompano Beach after discovering her visa had expired. Because she was two months pregnant by Prince, she was allowed supervised release at her family's home in Aventura. There, she began blogging under the pseudonym "Kat Stacks" before giving birth to her son, TJ, on November 26, 2012.
After her house arrest ended, she met Lee "Q" O'Denat, the man behind WorldStarHipHop, the website he referred to as "the CNN of the ghetto" in a 2012 CBS interview. His site, which averages more than a million page views per day, is a mélange of music videos and tabloid news. He encouraged her to start "instigating," as she calls it.
For Herrera, that meant sleeping with low-level rappers and publicizing their phone numbers in confessional video blogs for WorldStarHipHop. In spring 2010, she blasted the entire Young Money Crew, Nelly, and Bow Wow. Most notable, she filmed a video at Atlanta's InterContinental Hotel claiming Soulja Boy had a cocaine problem. "You gotta check this out, yo," she said as she zoomed in on three lines of white powder. (Later she would admit they were crushed-up Advil pills.)
By November of that year, an immigration judge changed one of Herrera's upcoming court dates -- she contends without notifying her or her lawyer. Authorities picked her up at the Nashville airport and sent her to confinement in Louisiana. A judge concluded her "behavior as an online persona [was] a significant negative equity... Her conduct was in no way indicative of someone who wants to help others, make positive changes, or be a role model." She was held for almost three years -- her status always indefinite.
When activist Viridiana Martinez heard about Herrera, she believed the former prostitute's story was important. She started an online petition calling for Herrera's release and alleging the "Kat Stacks" persona was just her way of dealing with posttraumatic stress. Her WorldStar videos were shown in court.
"I explained to the judge that Kat Stacks is freedom of speech," Herrera says, "that it was just entertainment and they shouldn't violate my constitutional rights."
Ultimately, 5,000 petition signatures, a promise of reform, and a therapist's testimony persuaded the judge to release Herrera on January 2, 2013. The newly free former prostitute vowed she would work toward her GED, quit drinking, and change her Twitter handle from IHateKatStacks to AdmireAndrea. She also said she would write an autobiography that would expose the underage sex-trafficking industry. A judge granted her a "T visa," which is given to victims of human trafficking,
The autobiography, though, is why Stacks agreed to meet with New Times this past October at Star Boy Studios, a recording studio in Miami Gardens. It's a huge, colorless rectangle directly across the street from Tootsie's Cabaret.
Asked about her new role as an activist, she demurred. Instead, she wanted to talk about her hip-hop cred. "Most of the rappers, when they arrive, they talk about a life they didn't live," she said between shots of Henny. "Maybe the game needs someone like me."
She seemed to have reneged on her promise to stop partying, as she sipped liquor from one cup and soda from another -- a trick she said she learned in ghetto strip clubs. Pressed for details about a planned nonprofit, Andrea Saving Girls, she was vague.
Herrera declined to give a second interview. In the meantime, she changed her Twitter handle from AdmireAndrea to KatStacksLive to QueenWorldStar to TheGameGod1.
But activists such as Martinez say her online persona is irrelevant -- her detention was unlawful, and she spent years being abused.
"She was pimped out. What do you expect her to be? Mary fucking Poppins?" Martinez says. "No, she's going to be someone who's dealing with stuff and trying to cope with it the best she can."
Send your story tips to the author, Allie Conti.
Follow Allie Conti on Twitter: @allie_conti
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Miami, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.