opinion

Branding a Star

Memphis Monroe
I don't think many girls grow up dreaming of the day that having sex on camera would earn them a lucrative living. Every girl in this business has a story of how she wound up here. Their journeys into the world of XXX film range from getting in through a friend, to looking for an easy way to make a quick buck (those girls don't last long), to spreading their legs to get back at a boyfriend or some other strange reason.

I'm not saying that a girl's motivation to be a porn star is suspect, but then again, porn is not exactly a typical occupation. Every performer — from artists to musicians to actors — has a wild, independent streak. Porn performers are no different.

When I first started in the business, I can say that I saw it all the first month I was here. I dealt with substance abusers, sex addicts, primadonnas and girls that came from all walks of life blinded by great sex and dollar signs.

I got into this business after receiving an email that claimed I could "Make 20K in two weeks," so I jumped on it. Granted, I didn't make $20,000 in two weeks, but I did make more money than I ever had before in my life.

I cried at home, unsure of my decision that I made to come out to Porn Valley. I even thought about quitting after the first couple of shoots, but I stuck with it. I wasn't born to be a porn star, but I was a determined woman and giving up didn't suit me.

After that second week in the biz, I told myself I was going to make porn a career and really do everything in my power to become one of the top performers. At the same time, I aimed to be one of the most personable and approachable people you could find in the industry.

I never thought the industry really ran the way it does behind-the-scenes until I started shooting. It's basically like Hollywood but with hardcore fucking. The big companies put hundreds of thousands of dollars into production, marketing and promotions — just like major Hollywood studios.

Being a performer takes a physical toll on you. This is a full contact sport. Performing is a hard job and I don't think people outside the industry see the full details. Performers get paid the money they get paid due to the physical toll and actions that they are doing. The money is really nice, but you have to keep track of your health and well-being.

I went and got tested at AIM Healthcare before my first scene and after checking out OK, I went straight to interview with producers and directors. I was stripping butt naked for producers with five or six other girls from the agency. They would take a hard look at you, ask you to move around and pose for them, and if they liked what they saw, you'd get booked for a shoot.

The attention was really overwhelming in the beginning, but I got used to it fast. I'm very comfortable with my body and had no problem doing what was asked of me. The rumors of a casting couch were true in my experience, but I kept my dignity and politely refused. It was important for me to keep things strictly business. I might have lost some jobs because I didn't put out, but it didn't matter to me. The most important thing was being comfortable in my own skin.

One of the biggest difficulties girls encounter when they first get in the business is staying grounded; it's easy to lose track of reality when thousands of dollars are pouring in fast and furiously.

When the money starts rolling in right after you were used to grabbing a 40-hour-a-week paycheck and bringing in $200 after taxes, now you think you're rich, and some girls spend money like they have an all-access pass to the Federal Reserve.

I always play by the rule that my next scene could be the last. One day my phone might not ring and I have to be prepared financially for the day I stop fucking on film.

I never fell into drugs, alcohol and late-night excessive partying. I focused on being prompt, professional and polite. No producer or company wants to hear about a new girl who is a hassle. This business is just like high school, in that everyone hears everything. Remember how the lunchroom at school used to be? I took the proper steps to make sure I had a good reputation.

You do a great scene and word travels fast. Producers will call each other and say "you gotta shoot this girl, she was amazing," or "don't waste your time, she complained and was unprofessional." I have seen a lot of girls that I thought could be big stars simply fade out after a month because of attitude alone.

I came to realize that unless you perform every day like a star, 10 other 18-year-old girls that just came through the door are eager to shine in your place. In this day and age of the Internet and the mainstreaming of porn, it's hard for a star to shine in a crowded field. That being said, these advances present more opportunities, too.

I've been in the industry going on three years now, and I still feel like my name recognition is not where it should be, but I'm not greedy. I know I have to wait my time to achieve the level of stardom I seek. It really takes a good team around a girl to become a star. I know I'm the product, but I can't do it alone.

Ten years ago when there were fewer girls in the industry, companies really revolved around girls, branding them as stars and centering marketing and PR campaigns on them.

Now, with the glut of content that gets released every day, websites and production companies shoot anything and everything just to keep pace. With this reality, star branding goes out the window. That's what I love about contract girls. Companies like Wicked Pictures, Vivid Entertainment, Adam & Eve, Digital Playground and a few others are still pushing their stars, shooting the big-budget features and promoting the hell out of them. I love being involved in these glamorous, high profile projects.

This whole industry is one big business that you have to stay on top of. Things change every day and having a cute face and nice tits will only carry you so far. If you really want to rise to the top and stand out from the rest you have to be willing to work for it. Really, you have to become a businesswoman by trade. You have to start making decisions for yourself and assemble the right team around you to function as your support staff — manager, agent, assistant and publicist.

Be critical; you owe it to yourself to honestly assess the people in your camp. Don't just take someone's word on who you should hire — dig deep! These people only make money if you're making money, so assemble a team that really cares about you and not just the almighty dollar. You are not their personal cash register or ticket to Easy Street.

It took me until this year to really buckle down and set a goal for my career. I laid out a timeline and everything I wanted to accomplish. Some of my early goals were to invest in my first house and buy a new car. Those two goals I met within my first year and a half in this business. I'm not trying to boast at all, I just want young girls in this industry to know what being financially responsible can do for you in today's economic reality.

I know I'm not the biggest star in this business by any means, but I want to leave my mark and be remembered. I'm comfortable in my chosen career and I think my best and most rewarding years still lie ahead.

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