WIA Profile: Elle Sonson

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.

For Elle Sonson, Streamate Network’s director of talent recruiting, creating and maintaining relationships with models isn’t just a job; it’s her most favorite aspect of what she does.

To be a budding model in a sea of thousands of other models can be very daunting. It’s all about baby steps and building a foundation.

She’s the live cam giant’s point person who keeps track of the scores upon scores of talent who entertain the millions who use the site.

Now in her seventh year at Streamate, Sonson knows the live cam space like the back of her hand and knows which talent can build upon her company’s success.

XBIZ recently sat down with Sonson as WIA honors her as Woman of the Month for this Q&A.

XBIZ: Tell me exactly what you do at Streamate as director of talent recruiting?

Sonson: My six-year-old recently asked me to participate in her classroom’s bring-your-parent-to-school day to discuss what I do for a living. Although I politely declined (her dad has a nice, vanilla job at Microsoft, and he ended up doing it), and for fear of being outed to my minivan-driving soccer mom comrades, it did raise the question of what my job entails.

The way I explained it to my second-grader — everyone has a talent. Some people like to tell funny jokes, or dance or take pictures. Mommy helps people use their talent to make money. I think I bought myself some time for the real conversation… many, many… many years from now.

I head up the talent recruiting division for the Streamate Network. The job itself is two-pronged — marketing and promoting our platform to potential talent and managing and advising talent before and once they have joined Streamate. My focus is on recruiting independent performers in the U.S. market predominantly, in addition to Australian and western European territories.

I’ve worked with a vast spectrum of models over the past seven years — first-timers, camming veterans and adult film stars. Creating and maintaining these relationships is my most favorite aspect of what I do.

When I am not in recruiting mode, I am studying current trends in our industry and how today’s performers and online personas are building and expanding their businesses through live cam platforms and other types of media.

XBIZ: What type of cam performer is Streamate looking for?

Sonson: On Streamate, there are millions of visitors that frequent our network of cam sites on a daily basis, all with unique preferences and needs. That said, having a diverse talent roster to accommodate this is very important.

When people usually think of porn, their minds conjure images of the hot porn stars in XXX films. But that’s not an accurate reflection of the live cam segment as a whole. In live cams, we aren’t only looking for supermodel or porn star-types in particular. We want real people.

XBIZ: For Streamate models, how important is broadband speed and the quality of the cam?

Sonson: Aside from the actual performer, internet speed and the type of equipment being used are keys to a successful show. Streamate is, at its roots, a technology firm. We prioritize high-stream quality and use of HD video, and factor in these components when determining model placement on the site.

Realistically though, not everyone has the setup of a YouTube vlogger or serious gamer. Not everyone will have the fastest internet or access to state-of-the-art equipment. To bridge any potential gaps, we currently offer models different streaming modalities that are compatible with a wide variety of at-home set-ups (internet plus computer plus webcam) to ensure that they are streaming on a level that meets our standards.

XBIZ: How do Streamate models find real success? And how much can some earn?

Sonson: Over seven years into recruiting at Streamate, I can comfortably say that a model’s aesthetic is not the determining factor for success. To be a budding model in a sea of thousands of other models can be very daunting. It’s all about baby steps and building a foundation.

My best advice to models hoping to find success on Streamate would be to be consistent, especially in the beginning. Build a realistic schedule and try their hardest to commit to it. Not only will we take notice of a model’s consistency, but the people who frequent our sites will as well, and that is in part how you grow a fan base. They will learn a lot more about what does and does not work for themselves and their shows only through doing and experiencing them firsthand.

Secondly, hone in on personal skillsets, then find a niche or theme and build upon that as a foundation for shows. They not only need to be comfortable with the content that they are providing, but it should be, for the most part, fun and enjoyable as this will be apparent to their viewers when they are actually performing on cam.

I cringe a little when asked, “how much will I make” by models or studios, which of course is a perfectly valid question. But it has no real one-size-fits-all answer. Some models earn six-figures at the end of the year, but work hard and invest a considerate amount of time to get there.

I commonly see hourly earnings on Streamate that match or exceed those of high-paid, professional trades. How much an individual model takes home at the end of the week is contingent on a combination of factors, including but not limited to time spent online, the quality of her stream, per-minute rates, how she engages with her guests, how she conducts her shows, etc.

The answer to how much a model can earn varies as much as the models on the site themselves. There are unlimited possibilities.

XBIZ: How important is social media to Streamate models?

Sonson: To my knowledge, we are one of the only cam sites that do not allow third-party promotion, including that of social media pages, on the actual site.

What’s interesting to me is that as much as we stress the importance of social media these days, some of our highest-earning models have little to no social media presence. With that, I do not believe that a model’s cam career rides solely on her involvement on social media, but it certainly can thrive and expand through those means.

XBIZ: What’s a typical workday like?

Sonson: I wake up at 6 a.m. and peek at my phone to see what I’ve missed overnight. I get ready for the day soon after, then get my two daughters ready for school. I make them breakfast, then off to school they go, and myself to the office in downtown or working from my favorite seaside cafe.

This sounds so simple as I’m typing it out, but the reality of it is a complete fiasco, a touch of cardio and lots of multitasking.

The rest of the day is a compilation of completing my outline of to-dos and objectives in the midst of following up on new leads, and fielding questions and requests from current and potential models via email, phone and through my social media pages.

I head out in time to pick up the girls from school, then hit the gym. This is my sacred time, and thankfully my gym has poor cell reception so that I can resist the urge to stop and get sucked into work matters (although it happens).

I head home and make dinner, usually while working from the laptop on the kitchen counter. Clean up and prepping everyone for the next day ensues, and Facebook bingeing in bed thereafter. I usually end my day around 11:30 p.m. There was a time when I’d stay up and work until 3 or 4 a.m., but now into my 30s, I realize that prioritizing my personal health only allows me to keep all aspects in the sphere of my life in balance.

XBIZ: In your spare time, what do you like to do?

Sonson: I love my self-care time — doing things that are good for my body and emotional wellbeing. It can be going to the gym or a spa, attending a networking event, dropping in on weekly hip-hop class, making myself pretty, having a nice dinner and cocktails, spending time with loved ones and friends, and traveling when I can. Also more recently, going to Seattle wrestling shows. And sleep. Sleep is so good.