Colby Keller, the newly crowned XBIZ Awards Gay Performer of the Year, is still working out a few ideas for his yearlong reign (he takes the baton from Sean Zevran). “I’m not good at planning, but I do enjoy exercise,” he told XBIZ in an exclusive interview. “Maybe I could start a new aerobic dance routine that incorporates sex somehow? Is ‘CrossFuck’ already taken?” (Otherwise, he muses, “I’d love to learn how to become a better dancer. I’m especially interested in Congolaise dance at the moment.”)
His crowning as Gay Performer of the Year caps a tumultuous year for the prolific performer, activist and performance artist. He had splashy roles in three of the films nominated for Gay Movie of the Year that offered him the chance to show off his wide-ranging talents and interests, from the mysterious park ranger in the horror-comedy “Scared Stiff” (NakedSword Originals) to the erotic parody “Star Wars: The Gay Force Awakens” (Men.com) and the mind-bending psychological thriller “The Stillest Hour” (CockyBoys). Keller also rivals Gallic skin stud Francois Sagat with his burgeoning role as a fashion and art-world muse — which includes serving as a Fleshjack brand ambassador and the face (and body) of a Vivienne Westwood campaign as well as the inspiration for a performance art piece with the avant-garde designer known as BCALLA.
I’m actually a very shy person. Sex is one of the few ways I’ve learned to successfully communicate with people.
The latter project was a collaboration with CockyBoys, whose latest high-profile art-porn project is a series of erotic short films directed by indie auteur Bruce LaBruce. The studio’s arthouse aesthetic closely aligns with his own, although Keller also possesses an enormously appealing streak of wholesome goofiness. (On the night of the XBIZ Awards in January, for example, he was photographed trying to take a bite out of his trophy.)
The Michigan-born, Texas-raised hunk spent most of the past year fielding harsh criticism for his vote in the November 2016 presidential election for Donald Trump. He has explained his decision as “a vote against a corrupt system.” In a later interview, he clarified his position. “I think the problem is that I don’t support Trump. I did vote for Trump. That’s the distinction.”
Keller is a performer who views his work in the adult industry as an opportunity to explore social activism alongside a variety of issues related to sexuality and communication, masculinity and self-esteem. “If I had to pick a favorite role I’ve played recently, it was definitely the role of ‘quasi-sorta-maybe-artist’ that I got to perform for two-plus years [filming] ‘Colby Does America,’” he said. The crowdfunded performance-art web series involved shooting sex scenes with a variety of men in all fifty states (as well as a sojourn into Canada). “The project was a real revelation. It continues to surprise me just how accommodating and supportive most people have been.”
He notes several participants have since asked for their vignettes to be taken down, which Keller says has been “difficult and disappointing.” However, “I have a lot of fond memories. It would be hard to pick one video over another. I met my current boyfriend during the project. We traveled together filming videos and camped across the country for several months. I have a special fondness for the moments we spent together on the road first getting to know each other.”
Keller notes his evolution as a performer and describes how his work in blue movies has actually bolstered his self-esteem. “It’s been a long learning process,” he says. “But I’ve definitely become more comfortable with my sexuality thanks to porn. I’m actually a very shy person. Sex is one of the few ways I’ve learned to successfully communicate with people. When I started porn, I hated the camera. I still do, but over time I’ve developed better coping strategies.”
A persistent “pressure to survive” has led to his need to confront “a lot of my personal reservations and anxieties. It’s sink-or-swim. Or doggie-paddle furiously without drowning, in my case. Most people think I must make a lot of money doing porn. In truth, it’s a real struggle just to get by and it gets harder and harder every year.”
Nevertheless, Keller relishes the positive aspects of his adult work. “I’ve learned not to fear pleasure the way I once did as a child. ‘Work sets you free’ in my Calvinist family. Sex just happened to be work in my case. I’ve definitely learned a lot recently. I think it’s important to keep an open mind, to listen to your heart and to speak truth to power whatever cost may come. Defending the need for honest dialogue shouldn’t require sacrificial victims. If there is any art to dodging bullets, I can’t claim to be much of an artist, but, then again, I learn the most when I fall. Hopefully, this coming year won’t require so many hard lessons.”
Keller is eager to share some of the hard-earned wisdom gleaned from his adventures. “It seems pretty basic, but communication really is key to successfully navigate a whole range of contexts. I love sex. I’m not ashamed to admit it and I don’t think others should be either. That said, we all need different things from relationships. If you’re not honest, no one will ever get what they need. Satisfying needs is what I’m all about,” he says. “I realize the wording is a little problematic, but I like the following motto: ‘Cum clean, cum free, cum one and all!’”
He offers one final piece of advice to potential newcomers: “If you can’t make a realistic orgasm face, it’s hard to see how you can survive for long in this industry. Practice makes perfect, I guess!”