True fame is not easily attainable through pornography. For every first-name-only icon like Jenna, Tera or Ron, there are countless others who are forgotten almost before their photos appear on the Internet. In between are varying levels of notoriety. But what is it that can make two performers with similar looks, talent and resumes have such divergent careers? Why do some get all the attention, while others stay under the radar? And for those under the radar, what is the secret to taking their career to the next level?
One popular theory has to do with how hardcore a performer is. Specifically, that the girls who do super-hardcore scenes are the ones who get the bulk of the attention. But if it were simply a matter of being a solid performer in nasty scenes, Kelly Wells should have her own TV show.
After almost three years in the industry, Wells said she has cut down her workload to two or three scenes a week. That's almost a stoppage for someone who has appeared in "easily 400 to 500 movies." Her Wikipedia entry says Wells has "centered her career on" double anal scenes, and while that might be a stretch, no one can question her filth credentials. Despite her resume, Wells is still not a household name.
"Is it all that important to have a big name?" Wells asked. "For someone like Jenna Jameson or Briana Banks, it is a lot to have a big name. They've been contracted to big companies. Someone like myself, who has shot mostly gonzo scenes, it's a lot less significant to have a big name. To me, the only place that it matters is with your website."
How important is it for a performer to build her brand? Many are perfectly happy plugging away for their paychecks and going home. And with rates running at around $1,000 per scene, they can be heading to a pretty nice home at that.
Roxy DeVille, who seemed to be on the verge of a breakout in 2007, said she is happy with her career.
"I didn't get into this because I wanted to be famous," she said, "I got into it because I think it's a really fun way to make a lot of cash. It's not because I want to be a star. It's a job, it's not my lifestyle."
DeVille said she is pleased with her workload, shooting three to four scenes a week, allowing her to maintain a life outside the industry. But that doesn't mean she'd turn down a little added recognition — and a certain contract — if it came her way.
"I would take it, not from just anybody, but there is one company in particular that I would love for them to own me," DeVille said.
One of the most obvious ways for a performer to raise her profile is to hire a publicist. With industry news outlets often starved for stories and a long list of porn-themed gossip and information sites that will post virtually anything, it can be surprisingly easy to get press.
One of the allures of signing a contract with a company is the media machine that comes with being signed to companies like Vivid Entertainment, Wicked Pictures and Digital Playground. Freelance girls or those with agencies are on their own in the hype department.
"I really think it makes a difference," Brooke Haven said. "Whatever work you do, you might not get recognized if you don't have someone always out there pushing your name."
Haven, who's logged more than 100 scenes in each of the past three years, recently signed on with porn publicity group The Star Factory.
"It's very beneficial if you want to make a career out of this," she said. Trina Michaels knows she's on the bubble. She's established, having appeared in a few hundred scenes in the past 3½ years, but she hasn't quite garnered the fame one might expect.
"I think people recognize me, but they're not sure where they recognize me from," Michaels said. "Maybe I wasn't quite pushed in the right direction when I first started. I just kind of got stuck in gonzo, which I'm trying to change."
Being known as a gonzo girl, Michaels found it difficult getting roles in features. She was pleased to have a role with some dialogue in SexZ Pictures "Upload" in 2007.
"It's kind of a small part, but it was a great dialogue part," she said. "Hopefully people will see that and think that I can do more than hot sex scenes."
She has made efforts to raise her profile, feature dancing once or twice a month and directing her first movie, "Dick Hunters," for Mayhem. She is also keeping her ears open for contract offers, saying she would "definitely" be open if the right offer came along.
"I like where I'm at," she said. "If I'm supposed to stay in gonzo, that's fine with me. I just want to be the best at what I do."
Sometimes the unexpected happens and a performer can lose one of her greatest assets: Her name.
When Slovakian starlet Diana Doll entered the adult business a few years ago she went by the name Sue Diamond. Three years later, enter Susie Diamond — another performer from Slovakia who was doing dirtier scenes (anal, double penetration) than Sue. Suddenly producers didn't want Sue if she wasn't going to give them the hardcore performances "she" was giving other companies. Susie not only usurped her name, she was taking her work, too.
That's why Sue, whose scene count was in the triple digits, took on the name Diana Doll last year.
"It was hard for me because people knew me as Sue Diamond and when I changed my name everybody thought I was a new girl," Doll said. "I was very upset about it."