Entertainment

09.26.13

Scandal in Twerktown: Big Freedia’s Twerking World Record Challenged

Big Freedia says she set the world record with 358 twerkers bouncing simultaneously Wednesday in New York City. But what of the 1,945 who twerked at the Teen Choice Awards? Brian Ries on the battle.

A rapper named Big Freedia, the self-described “Queen Diva of New Orleans Bounce,” gathered 358 of her biggest fans in New York City’s Herald Square on Wednesday to set the world record for “Most People Twerking Simultaneously” in one spot. And she did it. So, at least, says Guinness World Records, whose representatives were on hand to make sure participants were “competent in performing the dance move with the correct technique,” that their bodies remained “upright, with the movement concentrated in the hips,” and that all participants were twerking “simultaneously for a minimum of two minutes,” according to guidelines the organization shared with The Daily Beast.


But there’s one problem.

Back in August, during the nationally televised Teen Choice Awards in Los Angeles, 1,945 people shook their rumps as hosts Lucy Hale and Darren Criss egged them on from the stage. “All right, guys! You know what time it is! It’s time to set our twerking world record!” Standing off to their side, wearing their trademark yellow blazers, were the cofounders of the world record-certifying website RecordSetter.com. According to their rules, participants were required “to shake their hips in an up and down bounce motion,” had to “listen to a hip hop beat for duration of attempt,” and had to “twerk in unison for at least five seconds.” The folks from RecordSetter.com were there, the hosts told the hopeful twerkers, to adjudicate and certify the world record. 


Now they’re crying foul.

“We were surprised to see Guinness recognize today’s twerking event as a world record,” says Dan Rollman, who cofounded the site in 2008. “While their category title was slightly different and rules varied slightly on performance style and length of dance time, the categories are, in essence, nearly identical.” He adds that while he has great admiration for Guinness, the 58-year-old organization that officiated Big Freedia’s event, he thinks calling Wednesday’s event “a legitimate world record” is inaccurate.

Nearly 5,000 were in attendance at the 2013 Teen Choice Awards. And while not all of them twerked—that much can be seen from a cursory review of the video footage—Rollman and his team are confident of their methodology, noting recently in a comment on the video that they reviewed the footage and “very conservatively based our count on 1/3 of audience members participating, plus the two hosts.” When a commenter questioned the number, Rollman responded, “Spoken from someone who was onstage witnessing the attempt, I can say with extreme confidence that more than 1/3 of the audience participated. I believe an accurate count would be closer to 2/3, but as I say, we felt a need to err on the conservative side.”

It’s that methodology and Guinness’s guidelines that a spokeswoman for Guinness points to when contacted by The Daily Beast. “Guinness World Records never received a record proposal around the Teen Choice Awards Twerking attempt,” says Jamie Panas, a PR manager with Guinness World Records North America, Inc., in an email. “As every Guinness World Records proposal is accompanied by its own set of guidelines which the participants must adhere to, we cannot thoroughly assess whether or not a record was set as we were not involved.”

RecordSetter is a separate entity from Guinness, she says, adding: “It’s important that any organization interested in record breaking register an application via www.guinnessworldrecords.com ahead of time to prepare for their attempt with the necessary guidelines. This is what makes our records ‘standardizeable,’ whereby any record attempt which follows could be attempted on an even playing field by all.”

Rollman, at RecordSetter, says he disagrees. 

“While RecordSetter and Guinness World Records are indeed two separate entities, world records are not,” he says. “World records mark best-ever achievements across all fields, regardless of governing body.

“Just as we reference Guinness World Records and other governing bodies when assessing whether to recognize a submission as an actual world record, we would expect they do similarly.”

Big Freedia, the rapper, did not respond to a tweet requesting a comment. [Update! In a BuzzFeed Instagram video, recordeed during the Queen's media tour promoting her upcoming Fuse show Big Freedia: Queen of Bounce, the New Orleans musician stands strong. She says, "I'm the world record of twerking. Girl, down. BuzzFeed, baby."]

Disclaimer: The author set a certified RecordSetter.com world record for “Most Tweets Sent to @MCHammer In One Minute Using a Cell Phone” on March 25, 2009, which was defeated by Bart Winkler of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, on September 21, 2012.