It’s 1 p.m. in Seattle as the bells of Skype resonate through my home office on a particularly dreary afternoon. As the video comes into focus, Tera Patrick appears on the other side. She recently upgraded her webcam, which is apparent as her curled crimson hair and energetic smile greet me even more vibrantly in 1080p. “It’s like an Asian invasion!” she banters. We comment on each other’s style for the day.
Tera has flown in to Pittsburgh for the weekend from her home base in Italy, and is gearing up for the first of two evenings of feature dancing at a local gentlemen’s club. As we settle in for our video call, she positions herself in front of her hotel room window to take advantage of the bright sun exposure, with just the right amount of backlighting. “Is the lighting okay, is the cam working OK?” She’d recently watched a tutorial about natural lighting for cam models, and combined with her new webcam, is testing the conditions with these simple enhancements. “It’s perfect,” I assure her.
For more than a decade, camming has been populated most notably by adult amateurs and newcomers. In recent years, it has steadily gained traction within the adult film community as a mode to connect more intimately with fans, grow their following, and as a means of additional income between shoots.
Tera is a performer, producer, business owner and entrepreneur: a powerhouse whose robust career spanning nearly two decades has earned her international fame and recognition in both the adult and mainstream worlds. Her portfolio includes a catalog of hundreds of adult scenes, magazine covers and features, mainstream film and television cameos, her own website, a production company (Teravision), clothing line, published personal memoir and countless achievements and accolades. Since her retirement from shooting hardcore adult film (circa 2008), Tera maintains a full schedule of live appearances, feature dancing and within recent years, cam shows.
For more than a decade, camming has been populated most notably by adult amateurs and newcomers. In recent years, it has steadily gained traction within the adult film community as a mode to connect more intimately with fans, grow their following, and as a means of additional income between shoots. The jump from scripted film to improvised live streaming, or from professional production studios to DIY home set-ups, however, has a bit of a learning curve — something that Tera is determined to conquer and perfect.
Tera has been aware of the concept of webcamming since the days of dial-up internet. “When I started (my career) around the beginning of 2000, magazines were very popular — I had done the circuit of becoming a Penthouse Pet, I had been on the cover of Playboy and webcamming was … kind of under the radar.” She recalls other performers at the time whispering about doing it on the side. “You know, getting online and talking to guys. It was so cool to me — it was very rogue! So I thought ‘okay, there’s different facets of the adult industry.’”
How exactly, then, did a porn celeb begin her foray into the world of camming? She smiles as she recalls the initial conversation. “One of my close friends had been on Streamate for years, and one day she asked, ‘Why aren’t you camming?’ To which I responded, ‘Oh girl, can we talk about shoes or something?’ My friend said, ‘No, I’m really serious right now.’ I thought, ‘Maybe people won’t log on.’ I didn’t want to sit there and wait for people to pick me. It was daunting, and I was a little bit intimidated.”
Tera eventually set up her account, and as a rite of passage for any cam performer, faced the unknown during her first live cam session. “The number one thing that I heard once I logged on was, ‘Tera? Is it really you?’ People were really shocked! I was trying to pose, take clothes off, talk and type … it was overwhelming. I can remember sweating and some guy said, ‘Oh, I like sweat! Show me your armpit!’ It was happening so fast! But it was cool, and I thought, ‘This is it. I’m back in.’ It’s been three, almost four years now, and I love it.”
As a businesswoman, Tera looks for longevity in any new venture, starting with research and development. Frequenting other models’ cam rooms is a common exercise. She recalls this practice during her early days on cam. “I was curious to see what other girls were doing — I think we can really learn from each other. I always try to emphasize how important branding is. What kind of look are you putting out there — are you glamorous, fetish, are you a hardcore performer? You don’t always have to stick to one thing.”
So, how has Tera branded herself as a cam persona? “I’m full-on glamour. I’m inspired by Marilyn Monroe and Bettie Page. I love wearing really nice lingerie, I love doing my hair, my makeup. I love giving the full experience and looking really good on cam.”
This is not to say that she hasn’t ventured into unfamiliar territory with her shows, of course. “I also love roleplaying. I’m 5’10”, so lately, I get a lot of leg worship, foot worship, giantess requests — this is kind of a new direction for me.”
Tera proudly shares some of the cam “lingo” that she’s picked up through her experiences: “SPH, JOI, CEI, sissy boys, cuckolds. I’m learning so much about all the different fetishes. I just like to have a lot of fun. I like to engage. Just throw it at me and we’ll see where we can go from there. I’m here to indulge you and give you what you want. I have found out through camming that I really like giving therapy. One thing about having regulars that log on all the time is you start to build a little bit of a relationship with them — beyond just getting to know someone, but what makes them tick. In a way, I think, when you understand your fans or your clientele, you can do better. It helps you improve your show.”
Regardless of how long you’ve been doing it for, finding success as a cam performer on any large cam site or network will require a level of competitive edge. Whether this is based on variables like persona, promotion or skillset, the fundamental building blocks can also go a long way for both beginning and seasoned models. Tera advises, “I’m really starting to put in the time. Consistency is key. Come up with a plan of how long you want to or can be online. The consistency is really important because it not just contributes to your brand, but to practice. Practice makes perfect.”
Seemingly everyone is jumping aboard the content creation train these days, and live cams are no exception. Models hold the reigns when it comes to controlling their live shows and steering the creative direction. They are essentially acting as their own boss by managing their own schedule and hours. Tera agrees, “I think it’s been a really comfortable, nice transition. I’ve been able to keep up the Tera brand; I can still put my face out there, my image out there, what I want out there. With webcam, I feel like you have so much that you can play with.”
And as the chaos of modern life goes (especially as a parent), how does one find equilibrium between work life and private life? It’s about time management. “I designate a certain amount of hours in the morning to the mid-afternoon to work, and that’s it. I have a schedule, so at night, I can have my life outside of my work life. That keeps me sane and it keeps me enjoying my work. So when I get to do these shows and travel, I’m fully energized, fully prepared — I’m not overworked. You sacrifice a little bit. We all could always make more money, but I feel like we will never get back the time. I think the time is the most important thing.”
Tera also frequently lends her perspective to other models. “The industry is a huge piece of pie, and I feel it’s big enough for everybody to eat from. There are no secrets. Nobody did it first, you know, we’re all doing the same thing. I’ve always said ‘we’re all hoes on this bus.’ Of course there is some competition there, but we can all be in a league of our own and do all our own things. There’s thousands and millions of clients logging on every day so there’s definitely enough to go around. Focus your energy on what you’re doing great — that’s the most important validation, because your security, your awards, are going to come from having financial freedom, freedom to do what you want. This job allows for such an incredible amount of freedom, and I think that is something everybody yearns for. Everyone wants to wake up and make their own hours and make their own schedule and when you can do that in a short enough amount of time and still have time for the other things in your life, how awesome is that?"
Now, Tera is living her best life in 2018. If you follow her on social media, you’ll see reflections of family, travel, health and career adventures. She is textbook what many in this industry, or any industry, would consider a success. One thing stayed with me well beyond our insightful conversation, beyond her tremendous body of work, and it was gratitude.
“For me personally, success is freedom — when you can wake up and have gratitude and freedom. I have the freedom to travel and live the way I want to live because of this amazing career and this amazing job and that is success to me. I believe that gratitude is something you have related to the quality of your life, so if the quality of your life is good and you’re happy and you have gratitude, that’s success.”
To watch Streamate’s full interview with Tera, visit StreamateRecruiting.com/Tera-Patrick. For her live cam shows on the Streamate network, visit TeraPatrick.CamModels.com. To view her official website, go to TeraPatrick.com.
Vanessa Eve is the director of talent recruiting for the Streamate live cam network.