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.
Twenty years ago, Leilani Whitney accepted a temporary job in the adult industry and never looked back. Working for industry vet Scott Taylor — the founder of companies such as New Sensations, Digital Sin, NS Novelties and National/Universal — has presented Whitney with many opportunities to further her career — and she’s seized every one of them. According to Whitney, taking on the unknown has been rewarding in many ways and has put her in positions that defied gender stereotypes. In her current role, Whitney serves as managing director of Fantasy Lingerie, where she’s gearing up for a prosperous 2016. In this month’s edition of Women In Adult, we profile Whitney to learn more about her career goals and accomplishments.
I am very proud of how far Fantasy Lingerie has come in the past three years. Hopefully my greatest accomplishment is yet to come; otherwise I would have been retired already.
XBIZ: How/when did you get into the industry?
Leilani Whitney: I had just finished directing a play in San Francisco and needed a job. I signed up with temp agencies that specialized in the entertainment business and they called with my first assignment. This was 1995 when no one in “polite society” spoke of the adult industry, so I figured it would be an interesting experience and I would have a fun story to tell for years. I was aware there were movies, but I never thought about what went into getting those movies made or sold. I had no idea what I was walking into, so imagine my surprise when I showed up and there were all these young, relatively normal looking people. After the two weeks, I left to work on a mainstream movie for a week and the temp job was held for me. I’ve worked for Scott Taylor ever since.
XBIZ: What did you do prior to working for Fantasy Lingerie?
Whitney: I’ve worked for Scott within his companies in various roles for the past 20 years. Ultimately, I ended up as the managing director for him. When he needed someone at Fantasy Lingerie, I added that company to my list of duties and it has now become my main focus. Anything prior to working for Scott seems like another lifetime. In that other lifetime, I was, at one time, the owner of an acting school and, another time, a regional supervisor for a large corporation. I also spent some formative years as a very young bartender in Hawaii a long, long, long time ago.
XBIZ: What is a typical day like for you?
Whitney:The only typical part of my day is the morning. I have a long commute so I am up early and answering emails before I head into the office. Once I’m at the office, the day will depend on what part of the process has the biggest need. We are always working on development, production and sales… then, there are advertising, promotion and social media components to contend with. In addition to that, personnel and company business play an important part of my day as well. We have a great team, so there is a lot of communication and interaction throughout the day.
XBIZ: What challenges have you confronted in your career and how have you overcome them?
Whitney: I have said yes to a lot of opportunities that have had rather steep learning curves, as the job and/or the industry were new to me at the time. In the same token, I have also worked in several jobs and industries that weren’t originally thought of as a “woman’s position.” This more than once left me wondering what in the world had I been thinking, but you have to put one foot in front of the other and keep going. I’m not afraid to ask questions and have gotten a lot better at asking for help. Working for a person who is supportive is also a must and thankfully I have had that.
XBIZ: What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Whitney: I love seeing someone that I have trained or mentored have a win; I get very excited to see that. I also enjoy seeing potential in someone for a position that they had not considered for themselves, watch them take to it, and excel. It is truly a rewarding feeling. For myself, I get a kick out of coming up with an idea or solution that has a long-term positive effect on the company.
XBIZ: What is your personal motto or mantra that you live by?
Whitney: My current motto is, “If you are going to whine, make it red or white” — but that is for 2016.
My motto has always been to say yes to new opportunity. Ever since I was young, I have been offered jobs in different states or industries. I wasn’t tied down so I had the ability to say yes, which made for some amazing experiences. Even within the past 20 years, if someone left the company and a position opened up that I hadn’t done, I would offer to learn the job or say yes if it was offered to me.
XBIZ: What career accomplishment are you most proud of?
Whitney: I am very proud of how far Fantasy Lingerie has come in the past three years. Hopefully my greatest accomplishment is yet to come; otherwise I would have been retired already.
XBIZ: What are some of your professional goals for the future?
Whitney: One goal is to see Fantasy Lingerie continue to grow and expand as a known brand. The other goal is to harness more of my creative side. I have been using my brain for structure and business for so long, I had forgotten how much I enjoy being creative. Looking at designs, coming up with slogans and working with magazines has reinvigorated my desire to create.