WIA Profile: Jodi West

Each month, industry news media organization XBIZ spotlights the career accomplishments and outstanding contributions of Women in Adult. WIA profiles offer an intimate look at the professional lives of the industry's most influential female executives.

They say when one door closes, another opens — and it’s a cliché that aptly describes the transition into the adult entertainment industry made by Jodi West, co-owner and featured performer of Forbidden Fruits Films. Following a career in real estate that spanned more than 20 years, Jodi found herself in the middle of the market implosion that brought the real estate sector to its knees. What started as a fun diversion — unpaid amateur webcam work done purely for the thrill of it — became the seeds of a new start in adult entertainment. As Jodi puts it: “An exhibitionist was born,” and almost before they knew it, Jodi and her husband Jay “were making some serious money, having a blast and getting all of our wild-child needs met.”

Being in front of the camera as well as behind the camera has been a key element to our success. We always say that if someone doesn’t have skin in the game, literally, they can’t be nearly as empathetic.

Entirely self-funded, Jodi and Jay launched Forbidden Fruits Films in the Fall of 2012. After struggling initially to find a distributor willing to handle their catalog, Jodi reached out to Howard Levine of Exile, who “took the call, watched our movies — and the rest is history,” Jodi says.

XBIZ recently sat down with Jodi to talk about her dual role as executive and performer, the challenges and benefits of distributing content that touches on taboo themes, and the future of Forbidden Fruits.

As someone who is both an executive and an on-camera performer, you represent something pretty unusual within the industry; how does your perspective as a performer help you as an executive, and vice versa? Do you see these roles as entirely separate, or are they complementary in some way?

Being in front of the camera as well as behind the camera has been a key element to our success. We always say that if someone doesn’t have skin in the game, literally, they can’t be nearly as empathetic. Although I’ve only worked for a handful of other companies, I do know what it’s like to be treated well as a performer and what it is like to be treated as just ‘talent.’ We like to treat all performers with respect and kindness and I think it shows in the performances we get from the people we hire. They aren’t always the most well-known, but if they work well with us we tend to use the same performers over and over. Both Jay and I have marketing and managerial backgrounds and we work very well together, having a great time being creatively naughty.

Forbidden Fruits recently won an XBIZ Award for “Mother’s Indiscretion;” what does that sort of recognition from the industry mean to you?

It’s hard to get any recognition in the adult industry if you aren’t in California, don’t come from within the adult industry, or know someone. We had no ties and have had to work twice as hard to get where we are. That said, it has paid off. When we went to industry events, no one really knew much about us except that we were from Florida and our movies sell — very well. To win an XBIZ Award, which in my opinion is based more on merit and numbers than anything else, our first year eligible, was very validating. Peer recognition is important in any business and in the adult industry, in order to get the better talent and press, you need to get recognition.

The titles produced by Forbidden Fruits contain some pretty edgy and controversial themes; do you receive feedback criticizing your company for making movies with such themes? If so, how do you respond to people who might say it’s wrong to produce content catering to these kinds of fantasies?

Other than a couple of people who have never watched our movies, we don’t get much criticism for our subject matter. I can honestly say that most of our fan criticism comes from the fact that we don’t push the envelope far enough. We only do step-relationships and are always careful to establish early on what that relationship within the blended family is. I’m not here to tell someone that their sexual desires or fantasies are right or wrong; I’m just telling a story. We must be doing something right though because everyone has jumped on the bandwagon. We didn’t invent the genre, it’s been a common theme in Greek tragedies and Shakespeare made a killing on it!

What’s next for Forbidden Fruits?

Of course we started with the blended-family theme movies then moved into a lesbian line with great selling titles like ‘C U Next Tuesday,’ ‘Mother Daughter Lesbian Lessons,’ ‘Lesbian Training Day’ and ‘Who Needs Boys?’ Levi Cash joined us a director in December of 2013 with his ‘teen manipulation’ line and it is also doing very, very well. We’ve just released our first double-disc feature ‘Family Secrets’ which hits shelves later this month. Our next adventure is a collaboration with the phenomenal director Harry Sparks in a very dark, erotic thriller that I can’t wait to start in May. We’ve heard wonderful things about his work and this should be a great fit. We thank all of our fans, some of which have been there since the early days of camming. Without their feedback and encouragement there wouldn’t be a Forbidden Fruits Films!