Q&A: XBIZ Female Performer of the Year Dani Daniels Dominates Adult
LOS ANGELES — Ever since she began stripping to pay off art school debt, Dani Daniels has painted the town scarlet with undeniable charisma and dynamic virtuosity.
After her January 2011 entry into adult and signing with OC Modeling, Daniels has gone on to star in more than 400 movies and direct for major studios such as Reality Kings and Brazzers.
With a tireless devotion to her fans through savvy social media marketing, active blogging and even highly detailed "pointillism" works of art, Daniels has exhibited true mastery over the modern adult entertainment landscape.
Last year, she pushed the envelope by insisting that Doc Johnson include a bush in her sex toy deal, ensuring her bush-loving fans were satisfied. In fact, in an era of men and women shaving nearly every inch of their bodies, Daniels has established herself firmly and successfully as unabashedly au naturel, tweeting #DailyBush pics to adoring followers the world over.
Daniels has gone on to win consecutive XBIZ Awards for the past three years, scoring Best Actress All-Girl Release in 2014 for "The Vampire Mistress" (Sparks Entertainment/Exile), 2015 Interracial Release of the Year for "Dani Daniels Deeper" (Blacked.com/Jules Jordan) and 2016 Best Sex Scene — Vignette Release alongside Luna Star and Johnny Sins for "Let's Play Doctor" (Brazzers). Her unstoppable ascendancy reached a newfound crescendo when she was named 2016 XBIZ Female Performer of the Year.
Now, Daniels is poised for continued domination, as she paints with self-assured brushstrokes that are as broadly expansive as they are deeply colorful. Nothing is beyond her reach, be it feature dancing, directing, performing, brand ambassadorship or completing her flight school training to pilot private jets. Yes, she can actually fly planes.
XBIZ spoke with Daniels about her multifaceted approach to adult, as well as her ambitious game plan for the years ahead.
XBIZ: Tell us about your performances during the past year. What were some of the personal highlights?
Daniels: My favorite movie I’ve shot hands down was “Dirty Daniels” — after I won Adult Empire’s “Empire Girl of The Year.” The contest was entirely fan voting, so it really meant a lot to me when I won. I was already directing for Reality Kings at the time, and I really wanted to try writing. I wrote a script and submitted it to AE, asking them if I could have creative control of the feature I’d won, and I was so happy when they said yes! They asked who I wanted to direct the movie (I can’t fuck and direct at the same time, because I like to run a camera myself) and I asked for Holly Randall, who is one of my closest friends as well as in my opinion one of the most talented individuals in the business.
Working with AE and Holly was a dream, I got to cast whoever I wanted, as well as to my good fortune, get everyone I wanted (that doesn’t happen often). The script is a fictional-non-fictional story, in a way, my life in a parallel universe. Every scene in the showcase was special to me, the girl-girl-girl with Riley Reid and Skin Diamond was a personal fantasy of mine, down to their cute maid uniforms. The pilot scene with Ramon and Cherie Deville meant so much with my love of aviation and all the flight training I’ve been doing. The scene with Jessy Jones was the first time Jessy and I have worked together one-on-one, the chemistry is very apparent.
And the scene with my “husband” Steven St. Croix… well, it’s Steven. The guy’s a daddy legend. It was intense. Being able to creatively control a movie with both a great artist (Holly) and a great company (Adult Empire) is really a rarity, and the movie turned out incredible. I’m not just saying that because it’s my movie, I’m saying that because Holly and the cast did such an A-plus job. I can’t wait for it to come out in April.
XBIZ: Tell us about your recent directorial deal with Brazzers, what led to it and what types of work can we expect to see from you?
Daniels: I love Brazzers! It’s funny, they came to me after seeing my work for Reality Kings. The head of production emailed me and to be honest I thought it was a joke. I got so lucky directing for RK so when Brazzers was like, “Hey, we would love you to try directing for us?” I really didn’t think it was real. Directing is so new to me, when I’m on set I’ll be the first to tell girls, “Ok, I’m still learning, so bear with me,” because I want to learn, and I want to know what I’m doing.
I am forever thankful to RK — they took me under their wing and taught me how to shoot. They really are a family, and I love it! I love to hold the camera and lie on the floor and get dirty and capture amazing sex, it’s been so incredible being able to bring my art side into porn. When I talked to Brazzers about directing for them as well, I mentioned that I wanted to try a whole new direction, and shoot porn star “fantasies.” As a performer, we all have a wish list of scenes that we have always wanted to live out, and I wanted to collaborate with porn stars and make their fantasies come to life. Brazzers loved it, and I did a “trial” scene for them, consisting of Cherie Deville’s fantasy. I wrote a script around the scenario she most masturbates to, and the results were unbelievable.
The combination of her doing what she thinks is sexy, with co-star Aaliyah Love, who she chose for the intense chemistry they share, made for this oozing sex scene. Brazzers loved it, and I loved capturing it. And so here I am! I am doing my second scene this month with Riley Reid and her fantasy, so look out for that! I can’t wait to continue to work for them in the future, they are top-notch, not only in the way they treat their employees, but the way they treat us performers and the porn they produce! They really care and it’s an honor to work for them.
XBIZ: Has directing influenced your performances, or vice versa?
Daniels: I can’t say it has. I don’t think when I perform to be honest, I just bone and enjoy myself. I guess I am kind of selfish! When I direct, I try to tell performers what to do as little as possible, and focus on capturing them having “real sex” as beautifully as I can. Directing has given me a whole new respect for other directors though. I really try to not waste time on set, to know my lines and to come prepared. Not that I didn’t before, but now I see how performers’ actions can affect everyone on set. Not knowing lines, for example, can cost valuable time and end up with a larger location fee. And being on a tight budget, that can really hurt a director.
XBIZ: Would you say you’ve developed a signature style as a director, and if so, how would you describe it?
Daniels: "Pretty-Gonzo-Comedy-Feature-Glam?” Haha. I want real gonzo sex, with beautifully lit cinematic circumstances and dialogue that’s actually believable. And it has to be somewhat funny. I can’t help but try and keep things funny, that’s just my personality. Porn should be lighthearted and fun for the most part.
XBIZ: Last year you signed a deal with Doc Johnson for your own branded sex toy line, how did that come about?
Daniels: I did! My first dildo was from Doc Johnson, and so when they approached me to do a toy or a few toys, I was so happy! Chad and Sunny became instant family to me, and I voiced how important it was to me to have a toy with a bush. That was partially why I hadn’t done a toy yet, because I wanted creative control and I wanted a bush. Bushes are expensive to make on a toy! At first, they seemed thrown off by the bush bit, but when I explained how my fans were hardcore bush lovers, that I post a #DailyBush every day, and that my bush really is a part of me, they understood. My fans loved it. And I loved that they loved it!
I also wanted my toy to have both a pussy and ass mold, because I get so many fans asking me to do anal, and I feel a bit guilty that I don’t do it. I thought this was a happy compromise — they want anal? They can fuck my ass themselves! Haha! Also, I worked with them on the box, the retro look, the pinup waitress wardrobe (inspired by the old school Cherry Pie album cover) and my toy, in my opinion, came out literally perfect. It’s so me and that’s what was important. I didn’t just want to sign a contract and be like, “Here, whatever, make a toy, I don’t care,” I really wanted to be hands-on during the process, and the fact that Doc Johnson let me is why I think they are number one.
XBIZ: Tell us about your blog, how do you find time to keep it updated so frequently given your busy schedule?
Daniels: I have no idea! Social media is easy and second nature to me, but taking time to sit down and blog is actually really difficult. I really wanted a place my fans could go and see everything I am doing in one place, so I really work hard to stay on top of it, for them. I wanted it to be easy for them to talk to me, connect with me and know what’s new in my life, what I was shooting, directing and where I was going to be appearing next. I do it for them!
XBIZ: Tell us about your art. What inspired you to create pointillism works?
Daniels: When I was in high school I was terrible at paying attention. We used to have to do this thing in history where we would have to take notes and turn them in, and it was so distracting you would be in such a rush to write things down you would forget the whole lesson in the process. I started creating patterns with my notes, squiggles and circles and hearts and things, and when I got to college (art school) I started evolving it into more complex designs. After I dropped out, an ex of mine found some of my old works (I never showed anyone my stuff, I always thought it was terrible) and he grabbed my shoulders and stared me in the face and said, “Do this. You need to be doing this.” I never forgot it.
I started doing portraits of musicians and writers and leaders I admired and now here I am, doing commissions and selling prints and I still giggle to myself because I see them as doodles, but I do love that people enjoy them enough to hang my works in their homes. I love to create a portrait with the words of that artist. It’s for me a way of celebrating them and reminding people the bones of why we love them. Art has always been a part of my life — growing up, my mom didn’t have a lot of extra money so she would make it a point to take me to museums on the day of the week they were free and we would spend the day walking around, giggling at the terrible art and staring at the incredible works. She took me to the Louvre as a graduation gift when I was 17 and I remember walking through halls and halls of these amazing artworks and sitting in a room full of 30 feet or taller French Renaissance works and staring at them for what felt like hours and thinking, “I want to give people the good feels that these artists gave me.” My mom’s my biggest fan and my art is literally on every wall of her house and every time I sell a piece or commission I think to myself how wonderful it is someone likes my doodles. You can see my work at Pen15art.com and Pen15store.com.
XBIZ: What was your reaction when you were named 2016 XBIZ Female Performer of the Year?
Daniels: Ha! I actually wrote about it on my blog...
...Friday night was incredible, and one of the best nights of my life. I am still processing it. I really didn't think I was going to win (you can see it in the video). I also had no speech prepared because I thought Romi Rain or Riley Reid were going to win and I went up to them beforehand and congratulated them. I also peeked backstage before presenting with Dana DeArmond, Best Feature and Best New Starlet and couldn't find the Performer of the Year trophies but I saw everyone else which probably makes me a bad person for peeking. I had so much fun and silliness with Dana on stage presenting, that XBIZ will probably never have us present again. We did beg them backstage to let us host though! I announced Abella Danger as Best New Starlet and I was so happy for her — but Dana and I made fun of her for crying on stage and I thought to myself, "God, I'll never do that!"
Then I went back to my seat after presenting and was like, "OK, my adult duties are done, I can drink a Scotch now, as Asa Akira and Jessica Drake (two women I hugely admire) presented the performers of the year awards and Steven started to record me as they ran through the list of names and I said, "Stop it, that’s sooooooo embarrassing when I lose!" Asa said, "And the winner is.... I'm so excited to say this.... Dani Daniels!" And then they called my name and I sat there with a dumb look on my face thinking I made it up in my head daydreaming or something and then I thought, "Maybe they called the wrong category," and then everyone in the room was staring at me and I started to cry because I was scared and embarrassed and happy and I remember walking to the stage as quickly as I can thinking how gross I was for crying and now I'm that girl — this was my karma for laughing at Abella... now I'm crying and people are making fun of me I bet! (I'm not the only one that put that together, so did Manuel and he got a kick out of telling everyone all night, lol).
I had no speech prepared and no idea what to say and everyone was screaming at me so I took a deep breath, tried to stop crying and thought of three people... Mr. Darwin, and OC Modeling. I thanked them, a couple more things and tried to get off stage as quick as I can because I still couldn't believe what was happening. I practically ran off stage and stood in the corner backstage staring out into space and clutching my trophy for dear life. Koga grabbed me and pulled me in front of the wall for press photos and I just stood there wide-eyed like a deer in headlights. I think at one point I pretended my trophy was a huge cock? I don't know.
I didn't really know what to say except what I said on stage in a fit of panic (I don't do so well at words in front of peers), and thank you so so much to all of you and XBIZ! I am so thankful and grateful and to be honest still in shock. Thank you fans for all the support and love you give me and keeping me in this business that I love so much. Thank you all my friends that were there Friday night and screamed for me and cheered me on. Thank you everyone that has been sending me love on Twitter and texts and emails, it means so much to me but it still hasn't been set in my mind that I won yet. I promise to write more when I can somehow explain the happiness and surprise I have been feeling all weekend...
XBIZ: What are your plans for 2016?
Daniels: My schedule is so nuts, I have my hands in a million different things! I would say I plan to keep performing (I love it so much and I have no plans on stopping no matter how busy I get!), directing (for Reality Kings and Brazzers), painting (I just signed with a manager out of New York!), feature dancing (check my blog to find out when I am coming to a city near you), texting (my fans, through Chatstar.com!), camming (for Camsoda.com), keep up with my YouTube channel, blogging/writing, flight school (I plan to continue with my private license and continue on till I can fly private jets), PornHub Casino (I just signed with them as their brand ambassador so I will be doing live dealing on their site, I am really excited for that!), travel (always always always make time to see the world), and shooting for my website.
And, if after all that, if I have time, chill with Darwin and smoke a cigar and have a Scotch!