axel in harlem screenshot showing a man in purple pants walking down street

kalefbl483/YouTube

How Axel in Harlem strolled into our lives

“Axel, the neighborhood man-slut, attracts men like a magnet.”

 

Lindsey Weedston

Memes

Axel in Harlem is a cartoon by Animan Studios featuring a gay Black man who became a Tumblr meme in 2016 with his swagger. The character, named Axel, is recognizable for his large and pronounced butt as he walks the streets, catching the eye of every queer guy around.

As a meme, the key clip from Axel in Harlem was featured in many redraws and works of fan art across Tumblr, which appreciated its 1960s style, silliness, and celebration of Black queer culture. It eventually spread to Twitter and later to TikTok with footage of cosplays and video game recreations.

axel in harlem screenshot showing a man in purple pants walking down street
kalefbl483/YouTube

What is Axel in Harlem?

The studio released the cartoon short Axel in Harlem in 2016, with a link to its first trailer appearing on Tumblr on April 27 of that year by the Animan Studios account mraniman. The creator made the full video available to the general public on January 8, 2018.

https://maceomusic.tumblr.com/post/143478155527/mraniman-download-the-trailer-for-animans

The full version is a work of animated pornography, and the studio caters to gay men seeking this type of content. Axel, as stated by the studio’s Twitter account, “the neighborhood man-slut, attracts men like a magnet.” In the video, Axel walks down the street swaying his posterior until he attracts a trio of men who follow him to his home. The rest is not safe for work.

In Body Image

Who started the Axel in Harlem meme?

The creator of Animan Studios remains known only as Mr. Animan to protect his identity from those who might not approve of the making and spread of porn. In an exclusive interview with Seattle Gay Scene, Mr. Animan explains that he would like to keep his day job.

“‘Animan’ is a man of secrets, and because of his job he needs to keep his porno animation gig under a pseudonym, so we’ll respect that, but we can tell you, ‘Animan’ is not a fresh freshed 22 year old hipster kid,” writes the Scene, “he loves the retro look because he LIVED through the era and loved the graphics and the imagery of 60’s design. Born in the United States, ‘Animan’ now lives and works abroad.”

Mr. Animan is known for his retro style harking back to his days growing up in 1950s and 60s America. He began drawing at age 13, pulling from the shifting trends of the era.

“The mid-50’s were very conscious of wood and stone (cowboy influence) and the late 50’s and early 60’s had sleek, minimalism (space age design),” said Animan. “The former had warmth and the latter had boldness. When the hippies began their influence in the mid-60s, the design element went all psychedelic.”

Axel in Harlem in South America

Axel became particularly popular in South and Latin America, leading to a 2023 TikTok video that gave new life to the meme. On January 15 of that year, user @ambatukaan posted the clip from Axel in Harlem of the character waggling down the street to the Peruvian song “La Cumbia de Free Fire” by Bukano.

The account deleted the original video, but edited versions survive on other accounts using the same sound.

@bark._xd Animan Studio me salvó la vida #fyp #parati #navidadxiaomi #edit #animanstudios ♬ sonido original – Bukano

The clip on TikTok became closely associated with the song’s refrain lyrics “vámonos de fiesta a Factory,” which translates to “let’s party at Factory.”

Meme examples

In Body Image
@NxtDeterio/X
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@NxtDeterio/X
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@NxtDeterio/X
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@NxtDeterio/X
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@danieldumilefan/TikTok
In Body Image
@danieldumilefan/TikTok

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