|Danni Ashe (born January 16, 1968) is the pseudonym
of an American nude model and former stripper, founder and former CEO of
Danni's Hard Drive, a pioneering adult web site.|
Ashe was born in Beaufort, South Carolina, United States. Her naturally large breasts (cup size 32FF) contributed to her popularity as an adult performer.
Ashe began working as a stripper in Seattle. Never finishing high school, she started stripping at the age of seventeen using a fake ID. In an interview, Ashe once explained her career choice: "I guess I'm an exhibitionist. But that's not quite true. Part of the reason is that I developed huge breasts at an early age and breasts are a very sexualized thing. At an early age I was getting a lot of sexualized attention. Eventually, I just felt that stripping kind of put all that stuff out on the table."
After about five years of working in Seattle clubs, Ashe moved to Los Angeles and began modeling for men's magazines and soft-core pornographic videos. She eventually worked as an exotic dancer in various strip clubs throughout the United States as a featured performer. This resulted in an incident in a technically non-nude club in Jacksonville, Florida. In interviews, Ashe has alleged that the club’s owner and its manager persuaded her to perform a topless dance, and encouraged her to sell softcore videos of herself at the club. Ashe was subsequently arrested. Ashe pled guilty to “prohibited conduct” and was fined $50. Neither the club nor her agent helped her through this incident. This unpleasant experience marked a turning point in her career; Ashe never again performed as a stripper, seeking instead to work in an area where she would have more control.
Her first online activity was confined to Usenet newsgroups during late 1994 and early 1995. In the spring of 1995 she decided to create her own website when her husband Bert Manzari — then a senior vice president of the Landmark theater franchise — showed her his company's new website. When she could not find anyone competent to help her design her own site as she had envisioned it, Ashe read The HTML Manual of Style and Nicholas Negroponte's Being Digital during a vacation. On her return to the U.S., she created the Danni.com website in two weeks. The site was launched in July 1995 and contained content exclusive to her. Ashe announced the website to her friends prior to travelling to New York with her husband. News of the site spread rapidly. When she reached the hotel in Manhattan, Ashe had a message from her ISP stating that the volume of traffic her site received had overloaded their servers and caused their system to shut down. Danni.com was moved to its own server, which became famous for having a "working" light that never went out. Ashe jokingly described her server as a "hot box", and when she started charging a fee for access to the site, she named the members' area "The HotBox".
During its first two years online, Danni’s Hard Drive was one of the busiest websites in the world, using more bandwidth than all of Central America. Ashe's business grew, allowing her to hire staff and models. By 2003, she had 50 full-time employees, a studio in Los Angeles (16,000 square feet (1,500 m²), and an archive containing hundreds of thousands of photos, and thousands of hours of video. Ashe was making a million dollars a year. Over the last 11 years her website has been updating daily.
Danni's Hard Drive was sold in 2004 to John Morisano who put Layne Thrasher in charge of it. In 2006, Penthouse Media Group Inc bought Danni.com and Video Bliss Inc. (owners of the website) for $3 million.
Rivalry for "Most downloaded woman on the Internet"
On December 5, 2000, Guinness World Records awarded Ashe the title "Most downloaded woman on the Internet", when they confirmed her image had been downloaded over a billion times. Ashe was the first person in history to officially reach this milestone. The download record had previously been claimed by bikini model Cindy Margolis, who claimed seven million total downloads at the time of Ashe’s challenge.
Ashe's counterclaim was documented and audited by three independent agents before being confirmed by Guinness. Samuel Sugar, her marketing director, then called The Howard Stern Show, during a live appearance by Margolis, to confront her with news that she’d officially lost her title. Margolis had gained popularity for this title, and she accused Ashe of "stealing" the title from her, unaware that Guinness had officially listed Ashe. Stern goaded the women, suggesting that Margolis and Ashe have a catfight to decide the title. At this time, stories about Internet pornography were featured frequently on the news, such as those following the leaking of a video of celebrities Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee having sex. Ashe was profiled in news programs worldwide in 2001, including the CBS, NBC and ABC networks. In Scotland, a man was featured in the news for losing his job after receiving Ashe’s picture through email while at work.
Following the publicity, Ashe was present at the Cannes Film Festival. In 2001, Guinness World Records then announced they would no longer have "downloads" as a record category, stating that they were "impossible to count". Ashe and Margolis both still claim the record for "Most Downloaded Woman", though Ashe was the last person officially recognized by Guinness.
Ashe no longer models, and has now officially retired from the adult entertainment business.
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