WIA Profile: Julia Grandi

WIA Profile: Julia Grandi

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.

Julia Grandi, founder and owner of JulModels, has been working in the adult entertainment industry for 11 years — from rookie performer to running one of the most successful adult modeling agencies in the world.

My adult biz career started in St. Petersburg, Russia, where porn production was organized poorly, didn’t pay all that well (I earned $200-250 for a boy/girl anal scene) and basically wasn’t completely legal (although I didn’t know that back then).

At the JulModels agency, Grandi discovers new performers and future porn stars and puts them on the right track so that they can unleash their sexy wild side in front of the camera.

Grandi, who is this month’s WIA Woman of the Month, recently spoke to XBIZ for this Q&A, offering a glimpse of how she runs her thriving agency and her journey through adult — from her homeland in Russia to Hungary, where she runs her agency.

XBIZ: From performing in adult to owning your own erotic modeling agency … that shows some commitment to the business of adult entertainment. How did this all come about?

Grandi: Years ago, I was just one of thousands of girls who entered this industry hoping to make some quick cash. Back then I was sure I’d just do a couple of scenes, get paid and be gone. But today I look at the calendar and it’s December 2017, which means I’ve been in adult business for exactly 11 years.

The first stage of my career wasn’t a long one. I performed for about two-and-a-half years, and despite some local success I quickly understood that since I decided to change my life so drastically (I studied journalism and worked as a graphics designer before I first starred in a porn video) I needed to achieve more.

My adult biz career started in St. Petersburg, Russia, where porn production was organized poorly, didn’t pay all that well (I earned $200-250 for a boy/girl anal scene) and basically wasn’t completely legal (although I didn’t know that back then).

After half a year working as a model, I started scouting and bringing in new girls who wanted to try their luck with this kind of a job.

Later, I had an opportunity to do videos in Europe. Every time I traveled there to shoot a scene, I took a few more models with me — acting both as their scene partner and their manager.

I personally brought my first models to various photo and video shoots in Europe for Evil Angel, Pierre Woodman and DDF Network companies.

More time passed, and after realizing it was becoming harder to combine modeling and managing jobs, I decided to step aside from working in front of the camera. That was the moment when I came up with “Jul Models.”

By the way I still don’t like the name. It’s just that I didn’t have a name for my newly created agency and companies started calling it by my name Jul Models.

The second stage of my adult business career was the longstanding search of models and job opportunities for them in all adult genres.

At first it was my personal search of models right in local cafés, clubs or through various classifieds, but eventually I put together a scouting team to perform internet search of suitable candidates.

I never really kept exact count, but I’ve probably worked with more than 1,000 models already.

Mostly newbies, so I not only had to find them acting jobs, but often had to show them how it’s done myself and even teach some of them how to give a proper blowjob. Well, there’s nothing I won’t do to make my beautiful models the best.

This part of my career was full of good moments as well as complications I encountered with every new step I made.

Back home, Russian TV channels and journalists were all over me, trying to insult and humiliate me on-air. I received numerous threats from my models’ boyfriends and had a number of hard and unpleasant conversations with their parents regarding their daughters’ unorthodox career choice.

Then came a new law that one could read between the lines as saying that I as a person was an outlaw in my own country because I was a bad influence on the young generation’s morale.

You probably already know about my country’s intolerance towards the freedom of choice, sex industry or minorities, and this new law became the last straw that finalized my decision to move to Hungary, which was and still is the center of porn industry in Europe.

I’ve already had experience working with local studios and sending them models, so they already knew me there and were glad to welcome both me and my girls.

I had to face some of the larger local agencies at the time and worked closely with one of them, BrillBabes, for several years.

I looked for models all over Europe, but naturally most of my models still come from my motherland because there are so many beautiful and eager girls there.

Everything has been great since the move, and today my agency already has 323 models, a number that will grow even larger by the time this interview is published because I currently sign two to three new girls a week.

So, we finally have come to the third stage of my career, which started a couple of years ago. It is by far the most exciting stage for me. This is the stage when I started to see my models, both male and female, not just as men and women ready to make a great video for other companies. I started to see them as potential business partners.

Rapid development of social networks and various online platforms helped us in accomplishing this.

I spent a lot of time to studying this, so that I could offer my models an opportunity to build their own mini-businesses and not depend on any companies or producers.

Sure, it’s cool and important to shoot for legendary companies, but unfortunately here in Europe the number of scenes even for a supermodel is quite limited because there aren’t so many companies, and everyone wants fresh models all the time.

I started visiting various conferences, reading and studying where I could go with all my models ... it was a hard choice to make, but eventually I chose a group of models who were ready to take risks together with me in search of more money online.

We tried virtually everything there was to try on the internet creating and selling or promoting content.

It’s hard to believe, but four-to-five years back I had no idea about key service components of online commerce — like traffic companies or affiliate programs.

I always jokingly called it “the dark side of business,” myself being a businesswoman on a production side where it’s all simple and clear. I had to give up on days-off and holidays and figure out everything myself in order to be able to move things forward.

Today I have a much greater understanding of how everything works and keep learning every chance I have, passing on my knowledge to my models and using it to build mutually beneficial partnerships in our new projects.

Today I can do a full production cycle myself from finding a model and creating a website for her to shooting and editing photo and video content, promoting it or finding a buyer for it. I do believe that delegating most of the tasks on each separate stage to the professionals is a more efficient way to run a business; however, the knowledge of all aspects of production does help me a lot.

XBIZ: How does JulModels find its stunning talent, and what kind of attention do models get at your agency?

Grandi: I have a team helping me recruit, but I always communicate with all models personally. I always find time to listen to them because it builds trust.

We are a friendly team with a slogan “JulModels: Not just an agency, but a family” (however, of course, there’s always somebody who doesn’t fit in). We celebrate holidays and sometimes go on vacations together. I enjoy snowboarding and already put one of my models on a snowboard.

Friendship aside, we do our best to be serious and professional at work. It’s easy for me to help the models because they know I once was in their place and know how everything works inside out.

My models have great faith in me and they know they can always count on my support in every undertaking. Sometimes my models come to me with their own business ideas, and I put my every effort to help them bring those ideas to life.

XBIZ: What are some of the unique traits of JulModels that clients should consider?

Grandi: Aside from my boys and girls being absolutely the best? Our clients are well aware of my efficiency. They know that I’m a pedant and an idealist. I always want everything to be on the highest level.

I will always help a company find a model they need when they contact me asking to find them somebody unique either by the appearance or by the working qualities.

I can also help any serious company set up shoots in different countries. We have a large database of shooting locations, and both our models and our own camera crew can travel and shoot almost anywhere. Yes, we have our own camera crew as well because we are that kind of a versatile agency.

I am very proud of my website — it’s definitely the most beautiful and advanced agency site out there and it’s gonna get even better pretty soon.

If you are a proven industry person you can already take a sneak peek at it and check out model profiles that contain every bit of information you need (edited and unedited photos and videos that will help you understand how a model moves and acts in front of the camera, a recording of model’s voice, zoomed-in photos of model’s tattoos and photos/videos with a partner if she/he has one, links to previous works with other companies and all the necessary metrics).

Some of the new site’s functions like creating favorites lists and online booking are already active and an interactive booking calendar for every model will be added in the nearest future.

The calendar will show you the current location of a chosen model together with her availability, medical history, etc.

The live booking function will send both me and the model immediate alerts and we will be able to confirm the booking at once. We keep working on new tools and features for our site and further you will be able to pay all the agency fees online and immediately request an invoice.

You will also be able to pay the performers for their services through our site, and the model will have the tools to control both her/his profile and bookings online, with our supervision of course. You will also be able to leave your comments about certain models or producers. It will influence the internal rating which in its turn will determine models’ pay rates.

I believe that a model who is often not ready for the shoot and the one that always is and is never late shouldn’t be paid the same in Europe.

When I change their pay rates myself, oftentimes they hold a grudge, so now it all is going to be based on actual ratings and comments about their work.

Our site also will display the current number of each model’s followers on social networks (quite an important stat for many companies today) and have many other cool features and useful tools.

We’ve been working on our site for almost 10 months, and even though we are still in the testing phase, it’s already a step ahead of the majority of competitors.

XBIZ: What are some of the logistic issues with providing models throughout Europe, Russia and the U.S.?

Grandi: Oh, yes. My daily headache and No. 1 question. Europe and Russia are not far from each other so it’s manageable, but even here we pretty often have certain issues with visas and work permits.

U.S. is a dream place to go for anyone working in adult industry and me as well.

But it seems the U.S. government is not very happy about people from other countries coming to work and paying taxes, so it’s easier for them to just not let us in.

Most European performers in the U.S. traveled there illegally on tourist visas and then somehow found a way to stay there and work legally.

Me, I don’t want to play with the law, and I am trying with many lawyers to find an official way to bring my talents to the U.S. to work legally and then return home. So far, it’s impossible.

Even while working on this article I am not completely sure if I would be able to attend the 2018 XBIZ Show because we are not welcome to even visit the states, let alone do business there.

XBIZ: What’s a typical work day like? And what’s the best part of your job leading JulModels as its creator and chief executive?

Grandi: To be honest, my days may look weird to some people. I start my day by dealing with main agency issues like booking requests and planning, then I usually have a few castings and interview new talents.

Then, instead of having lunch as a normal person I eat in front of my computer to save time checking how my models’ 14 personal websites and other projects are doing, preparing some notes and later calling the models to give them advice what to do. If I have a shooting this day I have to be there often acting as a director/producer and explaining my team the idea of content we plan to shoot and what I want them to create in a scene.

I also stay and do backstage and live social media stuff whenever I can. Then comes the time for mail, calls, more mail and more calls. I also find time to review my models’ Snapchat (we got involved with FanCentro to make premium Snapchat), and afterwards I give advice to a group of talents what was good and what was better to not do.

I usually spend my dinner time checking mail or doing some paperwork, and finally way past the midnight I unleash the creative side of me working on my personal project — a paysite that not only provides quality content, but also takes you behind the scenes of making porn, uncut.

You can see the final product, but also some fun stuff, bloopers and behind-the-scenes extras from its creation, including model interviews and live shows.

I know it’s not something you see very often, but it’s my life that I find pretty unique and I am happy to share it with you. By the way, if you are reading this, text me on Twitter and I will give you free trial to check out this project of mine.

XBIZ: When not thinking about the biz, what do you like to do?

Grandi: SLEEEEEEEEP!! I wish a day had more hours in it.

I also love to cook for my friends, I like to drive for long distances, snowboard, go out with my friends (but they always complain I am too busy) and do other things a young person like me (I am 30) usually does.

I love to travel around the world, but I have never had a real vacation. I’m always working at least half a day. Oh, and I love cinema and watch as many movies as I can (not porn). You can say my hobby is creating new work for myself. I always dream big and have business ideas non-stop (probably even in my sleep).