Q&A: Lexington Steele Gets Down to Business

Q&A: Lexington Steele Gets Down to Business

LOS ANGELES — Smoother than a pinstripe suit, Lexington Steele threads black and white with sophisticated finesse, layering interracial and all-ethnic pornography masterfully.

Humble and gracious as he is, Steele has the instincts of a Wall Street executive, given his well-heeled New York stockbroker background. In fact, he once played host to lavish BBC parties for the Big Apple aristocracy, inviting highbrow socialites, financiers and entrepreneurs to partake in bacchanalian debauchery. Several of those delighted guests soon became trusted clientele, paying generous sums to videotape his erotic acts.

Backed by brains, bling and brawn, not to mention a healthy appetite for this newfound art, Steele decided to devote himself full-time to the adult film industry. Investing resources with corporate raider cunning, the East Coast businessman set his sights on Los Angeles, where he cultivated studio relations and sexual liaisons intelligently. He planted seeds both on camera and behind-the-scenes, applying a courtier’s attention to detail and hefting a scythe in his powerful grip for the coming harvest.

Now, borne aloft by a legendary 18-year career, Steele is reaching the climax of his storied journey. Looking back, the XBIZ Award-winning filmmaker launched his successful Mercenary Pictures studio in the early 2000s, carved out an untouchable position in the IR market, forged strong bonds with the likes of Kevin Moore and joined the ultra-exclusive directing ranks of the Evil Angel empire.

XBIZ got down to business with the Wolf of Porn Valley, to learn how he attained such supremacy, what kind of legacy he plans to leave behind and where IR content is heading.

XBIZ: Tell us about your early days in adult. How did your mainstream experiences as a stockbroker influence your approach to adult?

STEELE: When I started working in New York, the people I spoke with on a regular basis were primarily entrepreneurs, people that ran their own businesses. And I really had no idea that I was going to leave finance to chase an adult media career. But once I made the transition, very quickly I had aspirations of owning my own studio and doing my own thing. And, it was remembering the mindsets and a lot of the mantras that had been passed on to me by my clients, that led me to have what it took to be an entrepreneur. To put, you know, your name out front of a building and launch into a competitive marketplace. That was the main influence I carried over from finance — an entrepreneurial spirit from having clients for six years that were all business owners in their own right.

For adult, when I started in ’98, the climate was a lot different than now. I’ve seen eras where male performers could work seven days a week, three scenes a day if they wanted, and we’re at an age now where there’s just not as much media being produced. But when I started, there were a lot of girls that did harder work. I think we have stars now that have become stars without necessarily earning the term “star.” When I started, there were girls like Nikita Denise and Jewel De’Nyle, and these were women that were recognized as stars because of the power of their performance. So, I think social media has a lot to do with who gets the title of “star,” and that’s a big difference I’ve seen is how quickly people earn the title. But, like I said, there was a lot more work for guys, a lot more work for girls and there were fewer hands in the cookie jar, if you will, from a business standpoint.

XBIZ: How have you evolved professionally and personally, since your first adult films in 1996?

STEELE: When I started, as an amateur, I was into what’s called “lifestyling,” which is basically being a swinger. And, I was with a group of guys in New Jersey — we called ourselves the Gentle Giants — and we hosted interracial BBC parties, which would be either orgies or gangbangs. So, I had a completely recreational aspect to this. But what happened is a few of the people we met over the years developed into clientele, because they wanted to tape or film what was happening. Then, we began getting compensated for it. So, I was introduced to getting compensated for being videotaped having sex, prior to coming to L.A. So, by the time I got to L.A., I already had plenty of experience being a paid performer in front of the camera, and I was able to hit the ground running. My career developed pretty fast because I had a head start from what I did in New Jersey, in New York, plus I fell in line with some very powerful companies at the time that really elevated my name. Because I did good work for them, they had the power to elevate my name to a certain degree that I’ve been able to maintain. And from there on, I started my own company and continued as a performer, director and so forth.

Wearing many different hats has just sort of been a natural progression of the business, so a lot of people should just really take a career track like I’ve had, in terms of trying to ascend from one spot to another. Not just being a performer and not just being a director, and not just being an owner, but becoming a distributor and so forth. And then, we’ve been launching other projects — whether it’s adult novelties or performance supplements. Because, there are a number of things you can do as a performer that has nothing to do with having sex in front of the camera. And the longer you’re in it, the business will avail itself towards how much more you can do than fuck. I think a lot of people have missed that. They didn’t get the memo that they don’t have to just be making money in front of the camera.

So, that’s all on a professional level. On a personal level, there have been a lot of things in my life I had to put on hold while I’ve been a performer. I was nearly married 10 years ago, but luckily I didn’t, because I married now at obviously the best time for me, as opposed to back then. On a personal level you do have to sacrifice a number of things, whether it’s, you know… the women that you associate with and whether they’re just people limited to adult media or to those women who are understanding of what you do for a living. To my family, they’re well aware of what I do. And my friends, nothing’s ever changed with any of my people. The people in my personal life have always understood my hustle. You know what I’m saying? In that regard, I’ve never had a problem in my personal life, other than having certain other things on hold. Like, I haven’t started a family yet. While I am married, I don’t have any kids. Most of my friends that are in their mid-40s like I am, have multiple kids, maybe have been married and possibly divorced by now. So, I kind of have some catching up to do in that regard.

XBIZ: In the midst of your prolific career, with over 1,000 films under your belt, you created Mercenary Pictures. What inspired the decision to start your own studio? What challenges did you overcome in making it a success?

STEELE: I started my own studio, which is Mercenary Pictures, in 2003, and our first release was April 2004 with Katja Kassin, which was “Manhammer 1.” What inspired me to start my own studio was when I first got into the business I understood that running a studio wasn’t rocket science. It really wasn’t that difficult of an entrepreneurship, and the individuals I was surrounded by were very, very good at running their companies. I was surrounded by Chris Alexander and Greg Allan of Diabolic, James Alexander of West Coast Productions and Christian Mann of Video Team. You know, this is before my associations with Evil Angel and Jules Jordan, but the primary companies had been Diabolic, Anabolic, West Coast and Video Team. And with the owners of these companies, I became very close friends, and they actually indoctrinated me into what it’s like to be an executive.

Whether it was letting me literally sit in on meetings in their offices or conveying to me directly information about what it is that they do on a regular basis. But I will say that, in large part, it had to do with the fact I was the same age as these guys. I was 28 when I got into the industry so I wasn’t a kid anymore — I wasn’t wet behind the ears. I was already a person who made a living as a grownup in the real world for a number of years. So, I think a lot of my success had to do with the fact I became cool with guys I would’ve become cool with either way. I became friends with the owners of these companies, not so much with the other talent I was working with. And then, I had instruction by very good performers — they taught me how to be a performer.

When I got started, Mark Davis, Vince Voyeur, Mr. Marcus, Jake Steed taught me literally how to be a performer, you know what I’m saying? So, by 2003, I already had the performer thing as a pretty consistent form of income. The problem with starting my own company was getting the financing necessary. So, I saved up the money I was making, I had a distribution deal with Red Light for my first few titles and then when I went fully independent, I had the revenues from my previous red light titles — and then, I had an angel financier that came in and got behind me. So, I had the financing to get started. At one point, we had as many as 13 in-house employees and pretty much with Mercenary I ran that until my last new title, which was… 2013?

And, I’ve struck deals since then to continue the distribution of Mercenary. Then, I launched another company. And there were certain challenges that I overcame initiating Mercenary, gaining financing but also gaining distribution. It’s important to know that the distribution of Mercenary had a lot to do with the seeds I planted at the beginning. What I mean by that was, my very first title for Anabolic was “Balls Deep,” and the second thing you see after the Anabolic Video name is “A Mercenary Pictures Video,” so even with my first release, I was already seeding the soil for the launch of my own studio, whereby the buyers would be familiar with Mercenary Pictures “the brand” after I became independent. So, when it came time for me to discuss my price point in launching Mercenary, I was like “look, I’m vying for the Anabolic price point, not the new company price point — you’ve been buying Mercenary Pictures for four years.” They’d be like “what do you mean?” Well, I’d tell them “you’ve been buying Lex Steele-directed titles from Anabolic, which are Mercenary Pictures videos” and they’re like “oh, you’re right!” So I was able to get that price point because they’d been basically buying my titles already.

It’s that business aspect a lot of performers don’t get a chance to really express — they’re not privy to these particular strategies. Still, it wasn’t rocket science. I know this is the way things are run in the regular business world. You know, whether it’s selling screwdrivers or a porno, it’s the same thing — you’re selling something with your name on it. Then, the challenge for me over the years became: how do you maintain your success in a narrowing, diminishing marketplace? Because, the market around 2011 wasn’t honey and cream anymore, for anybody. I mean, between 2006 and 2011 or so, everybody was ballin’. It was the Wild West. I remember I started my company early enough that I got to see VHS and DVD sales and VOD. So, I’ve seen a number of transitional periods in the sales of adult media. I decided to pare down my productions, since the overhead of my productions was not being met with commensurate revenues. And so, I had to make some decisions, and luckily enough I was able to land a deal with Evil Angel, which allowed me a greater platform for distribution in a narrowing market. So, how do you increase your distribution in a narrowing distributorship? I managed to do that.

XBIZ: How did your relationship with Evil Angel develop, to the point where you joined their illustrious roster of directors?

STEELE: I always worked for Evil, whether it was Joey Silvera, John Stagliano or the late John Leslie. You know, Randy West, I worked for Rocco, I worked for all the Evil directors throughout my early career. What happened is Kevin Moore was an assistant to John Leslie, so I developed a relationship with Kevin and then he had a project for Mile High, for which he and I did a movie together. A small teenie movie and it did really, really well. And he had the idea, why don’t we start something together? So Kevin and I launched Lexington Steele Productions and we co-direct all the titles. It really was a tremendous upgrade to the quality of my media, because you know, if you’re successful with your own stuff that’s fine, but then when you have to coordinate with the standards of another, and those standards are possibly higher than your own, then if you can step up to that level, you continue to grow. So, I think that in the transition, the consumers were happy — and also, there is a big difference between if you are… say… a boutique production house vs. a major distributorship — like a Walmart versus a small mom-and-pop store, a bodega versus Walmart. Being a small distributorship with four titles releasing a month, versus a mega warehouse like Evil Angel with 35 titles releasing a month.

And also, I will say the transition to Evil Angel went very very smoothly, because I had been working for all the directors anyhow as a performer. And over the tenure of my career I’d become friends with all these people as well, and there was this respect between myself and all these other directors. So, you know, Manuel Ferrara’s been a good friend of mine since ’99, but not a lot of people know that, that I was friends with Manuel from my travels to France, to his country, before he ever came to the United States. Toni Ribas, I know from Spain, not when he came to the United States. Steve Holmes, you know what I’m saying? Guys I go back with 15 to 18 years. So, I would definitely say that becoming a part of Evil was a transition that made a lot of sense, but I will say that it also made me make a decision between working with a developing business associate or working with a close friend. And on a personal level, Jules Jordan and I go back to like ’97. This is before L.A., so at a certain point, when I was deciding to go with a larger distribution, whether it was with Evil Angel or someone else, when I decided to upgrade my distribution while I was downsizing distribution of Mercenary — I have a deal with Pure Play to take care of that catalog — I had to make a decision of going with my friend, who’s Jules Jordan, or going with Evil Angel. And, I made the decision to go with Evil Angel. But, that was a great consternation because you know… Jules is a personal friend of mine.

But a lot goes into these decisions, and I think I made the right one. He and I continue to make great work together, but it was a case of some very very good options and some hard decisions, some challenging decisions. Luckily, everything’s worked out. What I still do with Jules is this fantastic series called the “Impaler,” which we recently released #9. That dates back over 10 years man, you know, killing the market with those things. So, I’ve been very blessed to have some strong associations, and I think a lot of times people make the mistake of thinking that all that they’ve done, how they’ve arrived at the place they arrived, is by way of themselves, but if they look back, there have been certain people that played a certain part in their career. And you quickly realize that had that person not been in your career at that moment, you may have made a very bad decision.

Even to date, my mentor, really, is the owner of West Coast, you know… James Alexander. And regardless what people think about the interracial market or the ethnic market, that’s a company that’s been around since forever. So, to count him as my mentor, I’m honored. Honored to be mentored by James Alexander. And also, literally one of the greatest distributors in the world, Jules Jordan, literally is a good friend of mine. So, if I have any questions about the business aspect, I have people to turn to. With Kevin Moore, in our partnership, we work out how best to position ourselves at Evil Angel, which has a competitive market internally. I think that the balance of having a competitive market in-house makes the whole conglomerate that much stronger when facing the marketplace outside its own doors. And so, I think there’s a lot of history to be written between Evil Angel, Jules Jordan and Lexington Steele, the three brands — we’ll make some historic stuff and I just want to keep physically able to do it. So, I’ll do my part, between my workout regimen and what-have-you, staying disciplined when I’m away from camera.

XBIZ: Describe your signature directorial style. What separates a Lexington Steele title from other IR offerings in this burgeoning market?

STEELE: I think there’s a few ways to look at it. You can go with the market trends, be a market trendsetter, you can be a pace maker, you can be a tastemaker, what-have-you. Or you can offer the American classic, if you will. What I offer, is the American classic. I don’t try and reinvent the wheel. You know, I always fashion myself as the pitcher on the mound who has one pitch, maybe two. You can’t hit my fastball. I might throw you a curveball, you might be able to hit that, but you’re not going to hit my fastball. So, why am I going to do it the other way? I’m going to throw a fastball right down the pipe. My name is Nolan Ryan, you can’t get behind it, it’s 103 miles an hour, why do I got to throw anything else different? So, I just throw fastballs. I try and deliver quality jerkoff material.

From that standpoint, it’s very easy. There’s very little formula if I have a little bit of lead-up, it’ll be comedic, but nothing too heavy. Because I understand the first time a person watches your movie, they’re going to watch the dialogue. But if it’s a good scene — which you want it to be a good scene — the second time they watch it, they’re going to skip past all that stuff anyhow. So, I’ve always kept it to shooting precisely what a guy or girl can masturbate to as quickly as possible. Because I think that a lot of times we get in our own way. Now, the people that do the dialogue-laden and plot-driven adult media, they’re masters and experts at what they do. I’m not a master of that. I’m a master of jerkoff, so I go right to the jerkoff stuff. Within the markets that I’ve been dominant — the interracial market and the all-ethnic market — I’ve been able dominate strictly by putting more money into my productions. So, the quality of my productions within the all-ethnic market has always been superior. Unquestionably. And that’s based on being taught by Christian Mann of Video Team, RIP. And of course, James Alexander has always put out quality product at West Coast. So, the money I put into my productions allows it to be on-par with the best interracial stuff, which I’m also known for producing.

So, it’s always been a case that, while it’s not a bad thing to be well-budgeted, you must spend it correctly. My whole thing — and maybe that’s a throwback to my having been a broker — is if you give me a boatload of money, I’m going to return you twice that. So my thing is — how do I take what we have and exponentiate its growth? That’s how I look at the interracial market. Over the years, it’s becoming increasingly competitive and I’ve seen other companies come out of nowhere and develop a presence. I mean, kudos to what Blacked.com is doing. What can you say? What Lansky’s doing has been heretofore unseen. So, how do you compete against that? Well, like I said, I stick with what I’ve been the very best at, and what my associates have been the very best at over the years.

So, that’s how I distinguish myself, is quality and delivery. And the quality is the caliber of production and the delivery is the “stroke value.” And when you quantify something like “stroke value” it’s very, very difficult. But you know, my pedigree is based on Anabolic and Diabolic. Those were very powerful companies back in ‘98, ‘99, 2000. Regardless of what we’re seeing in the landscape right now, the pedigree I was raised in this business through was par excellence. And so, I haven’t lost that. The challenge for me is to continue my brand by developing talent that will perform in my absence. As I get closer to the end of my career, how do I maintain the value of my brand without myself being in it, and that’s my greatest challenge right now. How do you purposefully identify the person to take your job, your successor? Do you hone that person while you’re still shooting or do you wait until you stop, and then try and substitute that person in there? It’s challenging.

XBIZ: How has the interracial genre evolved over the years and where do you see it going in the future?

STEELE: The interracial market and the genre has… I wouldn’t say evolved, and I wouldn’t say devolved… I will say that it’s been stagnant. But I will say that its movement has been lateral at best, because you have a number of issues that are complicating the genre. And for this, I point directly at the talent management agencies. As the industry has shrunk and there’s less money to produce as many titles, the agents are having an increasingly difficult time finding work for their talent. So for the girls doing interracial, they had to find a different price point, different reasons to create more money for them. So, by making interracial a price point differential, it gave them another thing to use.

Say a white girl charges $900 for a boy/girl. At the beginning, 10 years ago, an IR scene would’ve cost the same, $900. But now, with an IR price point, agents can say, “Look, I can get you $1,100 — boy/girl with a white guy is $900, but boy/girl with a black guy is $1,100.” IR anal is also a price point. The agents will try to say, “Well, look, she’s going to be working with a bigger dick, so we’re charging a premium.” And that is bullshit, because now, more than ever, black men no longer hold the exclusivity on size, especially not in porno. So, the size differential is absolutely bullshit. How do you escape working with me, when you’ve got to work with Manuel Ferrara, or Steve Holmes or Chris Strokes? There’s no escaping larger size. So, the agents who made it a dollar issue have changed the genre. You got certain agents who will speak to white directors one way, and then speak to me in a different way for the same girl. What they don’t know is, I have personal relationships with these directors, not just business relationships, so I get a call from another director that says, “Yo, watch out for such-and-such, this is the way they’re actually rolling over there.”

That being said, everyone understands the genre remains one of the most important genres in the business because everyone enjoys interracial — it’s kind of like the meeting ground where everyone can find something they enjoy and I think equally important is you’re seeing increasing value for black females and white men together. It’s not just a genre that is simply black male with white female. And in answer to that, I launched a series called “White Man’s Revenge” through Mercenary — it was white guys working with black women. Now, you see what Dogfart does with a number of their titles, which skew the interracial line to the proverbial “reverse interracial.” So, I think the genre has always been important. I’m happy that I remain an important part of it. And I’m also very keen to the responsibility of being one of the flag-bearers, if not the bellwether for interracial. And this is my 18th year — there’s been whole studios created to feed my brand. It’s crazy, but true.

I think as far as the girls, though… I’ve never had a problem with them. The girls that are in this business are perhaps the coolest women, period. And it may be because you have to be, to be in this business. But the girls are literally the coolest women you’re ever going to meet. Very rarely is it the woman that’s got a problem working with me because I’m black. It could be an association — maybe the comfort of the boyfriend or maybe her agency has different directions for her career. So, I never trip out. People ask me all the time about the girls — we don’t have a problem with the girls. It’s not the chick, it’s the people that hold sway in that woman’s life. And charging premiums for interracial doesn’t really help the talent. A girl that would normally do 10 scenes a month could end up garnering just six scenes a month. Why? Because she charges 150 percent of her rate for an interracial boy/girl scene and there’s always someone who’s willing to pay that extra $200 or so. But, she’s losing out on the opportunity to exponentiate her monthly revenue by doing more scenes overall, and that’s a fact.

And another fallacy is that a woman is going to lose fans for doing this, that or the other. Bearing in mind, that the percentage of fans a woman would lose for IR, pales in comparison to the percentage she would gain. So, nobody wins with premiums. The agencies might claim there’s a win, but the loser is definitely the talent. And as a producer of IR, I can tell you there are plenty of women who will do it. If you don’t, the market continues to go around you, so do you want to expose yourself to that money or not? Look at the return of certain stars, in what is the reviving of their careers — some of them didn’t do IR before and it revived their career completely. Why would someone deny themselves the expansion this business can offer? The one color that matters in this business is green. And the talent needs to be aware of that. I never get caught up in whether a girl will do IR. I’m like, well that’s cool, I won’t be able to pay her, I won’t be able to cast her in my movies. Who’s the loser here? I’m still going to get a girl, I just won’t be able to pay that girl. But I do realize that someone needs to explain it and I’m happy to explain it. I think an even greater disgrace is what’s happening with some of the way male talent is handled.

You’re also seeing the disintegration of the traditional black female as talent. This is something I’ve seen over the life of my career, what happened to her is a big question. I think what happened is, you saw black women that were built classically… classically identifiable as a black woman — whether that was the measure of her posterior, the type of performance scene she did or the quality of her sexuality. Again, green is the only color that matters, and once the green started drying up, studios were shooting less and that meant that work for certain elements of talent was going to diminish. So, if you were a classically black woman and black-on-black wasn’t being shot as much anymore — and you’re not one of those crossover talents — then the work was no longer there for you. So, the black girls built classically gave way to the ones with crossover appeal. That makes it difficult to maintain the all-ethnic product, because when consumers are looking for the classically built black girl, they’re seeing the ones that are representative now. It might sound argumentative for me to say that, but I’m certainly qualified to make that statement.

That being said, whether it’s Misty Stone or Channell Heart or Skyler Nicole or Nadia Jay, Porsha Carrera, a number of these sisters are truly stellar talent. Whether it’s Teanna Trump, Sadie Santana, there’s spectacularly beautiful women that can perform exceptionally and would’ve been stars in any era. But it’s just the notion of rarely do you see a Cherokee D’ass or Beauty Dior — there’s a number of classically built sisters that the marketplace has narrowed to the point of invisibility. And it’s interesting because, the juxtaposition is, you see an increase of white girls that are built like classic black women. So, what’s being celebrated now is the look of a classic black woman that has been replaced by a similarly built white girl. It makes it very, very difficult for black female talent to survive. What I can do, is release titles like the XBIZ Award-winning series “Black Panthers,” but I only release maybe four of those titles a year in the rotation of my series. I’m crudely aware of the status of my sisters.

Even with the black male talent, there are issues, because a lot of times people are like, “Oh, Lex never hires black male talent other than himself.” But, what they have to remember is, I’m at the point where my brand is me having sex with the girl. If you get to the point where your brand is being the sole dude fucking a girl, then you’ve made it there. People forget there’s a huge responsibility when you’ve got to carry all the weight. A lot of people would pale under all that weight. Do I get tired? Hell yeah I get tired, because I can’t dial in a scene. I literally cannot dial in a scene. To the people that want to say I don’t hire other dudes, no, my movies are showcases — what happens when this girl gets placed in the ring with this male talent, which is me — I worked for that. But, there’s weight behind it. To give an example, when I do an “Impaler” — Jules Jordan and I maybe do one or two of those a year — literally, the interracial marketplace within the width of that title coming out is filled with anticipation. The pressure is so high when I’m doing scenes for that series, way more than when I do my own shit. The reason being, the higher you get up the food chain, people forget, the greater the weight of your actions.

When I started, if I was doing a three on one, I’d disappear among the other dudes. As you move through certain price ranges and rates, you got guys focused on doing the multiples. Well, the dudes that are in that price range, doing the two on ones, the three on ones… let me tell you something. Enjoy that. Because, the next level is where all the weight is on you — you get paid more money, but you get all the weight. Do you want a blockbuster release that the title alone makes it a blockbuster release? You have to live up to that and deliver a blockbuster release. I mean shit, man, the girls that you work with? The higher up the food chain you get, the more expensive these girls are, which means the studio’s less likely to hire a cheaper guy, because they’re all in with their chips. Do you have any idea the pressure of fucking up a scene, with a $4,000 girl? Right? You know what I’m saying? Can people fathom the pressure that Manuel Ferrara has, to do the “Manuel Ferrara” thing for all the titles that he’s in, each month?

So, there’s a commensurate challenge that comes with ascension and I love it, I thrive on it but sometimes… I don’t buckle under it, but I have failed. And even for me, when I fail, there are times the director is afraid to cut the scene and there are times I’ve failed in front of my close associates, who told me that they’re cutting the scene — whether it’s Kevin or Jules, two directors who have absolutely no problem shutting a scene of mine down if I’m underperforming. And I appreciate that. I wish other directors would have the fortitude to tell a performer when they are not delivering. So it’s a challenge for everybody but it’s my 18th year and I probably will go until my 20th, just as a number. And I also have a number with my Evil Angel releases, I don’t know if I’ll get to that number before my two years are up. I’ve completed my 40th release recently and I’d like to complete my 200th before my time is up, which is a tall order. Mathematically, it doesn’t lend itself to two years, so I may not make 200 Evil Angel titles — but I will make it to 20 years!

XBIZ: You’ve underscored the importance of your relationship with fellow adult star Savana Styles, your wife. What’s it like being a high-profile porn couple?

STEELE: Over the years, there have been a number of couples the industry has seen that have been very successful. I think it’s without question some of these couples have been their own detriment, but some have been their greatest strength. Whether it’s Mark Wood and Francesca Le of LeWood and Evil Angel, or Luke Wilder and Alexandra Silk, Brad Armstrong and jessica drake, they’re wonderful couples. And I didn’t necessarily plan to return to being married with someone in the industry. Now, being married for me has been something which has had a strengthening effect. A lot of times, if you have certain successes or certain failures, you can share that with your close friend or associate, but there’s nothing that measures against sharing that with your significant other, whether that’s your spouse or your girlfriend. So, there’s definitely a strengthening effect. Also, too, with Savana, she had a similar career track in that she left a very very sound professional career to chase a dream. Like when I left finance, that was really a case of I’m going to give myself six months to do this, and if I can’t, I can always come back. But I can’t stay too long or I’m going to lose my licensing. In her case, she was like hey I want to do this, I’m going to take the opportunity to do this and go for it.

She relocated from Canada to the United States to get into the business and then we met, got into a relationship and have been together close to a year now. It’s crazy because a lot of true colors are laid bare, when you’re a couple. Like, there have been people that speak to her and share things that surprise me, perspectives towards certain things. But it’s helped me learn and grow as an individual. There’s also a certain amount of bachelorhood, if you will, swashbuckling that has to come to a necessary end. And it’s comforting when you have met the person that allows that lifestyle of recklessness to be brought to some sort of discipline. And that’s one of the wonderful things about being married, is that if you respect the woman that you love, then you can actually allow yourself to be disciplined. And I think discipline is a strength, not a weakness.

But I will say, it’s crazy too because, she’s new in her career and we’re at totally different ends. And so, her being at the beginning of her career, versus me at the tail end of mine is different because I have to be comfortable with her being aggressive about the blossoming of her career. And if your wife is a performer, you have the same things to talk about, how your day at the office was. So, it’s all cool when you can tell her yeah, you blew three loads today in three girls, and yet how’s it feel when she says yeah, I took five loads today from four guys, and such-and-such’s dick is so big. I’m like, really? Yeah, a lot of information there, but what can you say? What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. But no, it’s just crazy, because I can’t say enough about the discipline of having to answer to somebody. Because as a man, you get to a certain age where if you’re single, the thought of answering to someone — outside of your job — is a foreign concept. But, I think that even a strong person can increase their strength by adding someone that they answer to.

XBIZ: Any words of wisdom for aspiring adult actors and actresses looking to break into the IR market?

STEELE: Well, the interracial market still remains very, very popular, and I certainly want it to be as popular as it can, because that keeps me employed. But for those wanting to break in… male performers, there is a necessity for you, but there is not a need for you if you’re not up to a certain caliber. Because as a performer it’s one thing, but as a producer, I can hire the same dude time and time again. So, the key is to elevate your own performance to a point where you cannot necessarily remove someone else from their position, but you can cut a position for yourself. Number one. And for females, I think there’s never a greater time in my career for one’s popularity to increase now with social media. For girls that have had reservations about doing it, one thing that should be understood is — a woman gets to decide who she wants to work with in terms of individuals. So, if you want to pick and choose who to work with, do that, but do not limit yourself from doing something that’s going to put more money in your pocket and increase your popularity.

If you don’t want to work with me, there are plenty of other guys, whether it’s Flash Brown, any of the talented guys over at Blacked.com, good friend of mine Mo Johnson, Jon Jon. There are a lot of talented brothers out there to emulate. But, while you’re seeking to emulate these good performers, know that you have to create your own brand and I think that Mo Johnson’s doing that currently, but there’s always Rico Strong, there’s all these stalwarts that you have to “unseat,” but don’t feel that you have to unseat them. Just feel like you want to put your seat, at the table. Because he’s going to handle his shit — no performer’s going to relinquish his spot at the table, you have to forcibly cram your seat at the table.

For sisters, know that the marketplace is not limited to only white girls. Sisters need to realize that there are companies that still want to shoot all-black titles, and there is a place for them in the IR market. And, the belief that you have to look a certain way now as a black girl? No, you can be as classically beautiful as you always have been — it’s just more competitive now. It’s a smaller marketplace. And, I think the people involved in this market need to know, in most cases, it’s less about a color or racial thing, it’s more an economic thing. Because people don’t know the reason why there’s less black-on-black being produced right now is not because the marketplace doesn’t demand it. It’s because the studios don’t have enough resources to allocate towards it, because the pie is being cut thinner and thinner. So, there isn’t a budget that can be afforded to movies that didn’t perform as well, studios can afford to invest in their blockbusters, not their ancillary titles. And far too often, titles we’ve been in are the first ones not renewed.

Also, bear in mind that there is not a marketplace for us in feature productions. I count myself as one of the few that performs in features, and kudos to Axel Braun who hires me in his productions. But think about it… I’ve been a member of SAG since 2004, not for anything I did in porn. But, why is it I get a dialogue role maybe once every two years? And that’s only through Axel and what he does, when he does it. There’s something wrong with that. Is it a racial thing that there are only a few roles written for black performers? Or does porn merely mimic Hollywood? So, it’s a big question. But bottom line is, to anybody that wants to follow in the career track that I have had and the footsteps I’ve followed in, whether it’s the road that Sean Michaels or Mr. Marcus created — they made it very easy to do what I do — I hope I’ve made it easier for the guys that follow me. Just know that if I can say anything lasting, the bottom line is economics, not race or culture so much. Those things have their place, culture yes, racism no, but the bottom line is… look at the economics of it. Me not being hired for feature productions may not be an issue of not hiring a black person — it may be an issue of, there’s only so much money to pay an actor. And, can they pay Lexington Steele this much money versus that actor? And, should we pay Lexington Steele his day rate for five days, when we can get such-and-such cheaper? You’ve got to understand it’s not always a racial thing, it may not be a black thing, but it is always a green thing.

XBIZ: With awards season slowly approaching on the horizon, what are some projects this year that you’re especially proud of?

STEELE: Well, I think first and foremost, we have a title called “Lex’d.” And that is one title that is special for a number of reasons. There are a number of girls where not only is it the first time that I’ve worked with them, there are also some first time anals, first time IRs. You know, “Lex’d” is a very good title. I’ve always enjoyed Luna Star, so to work with her was great. Also, and this is something I want to point out, that Kevin and I do with Lexington Steele Productions — rarely will you see the same girl shot more than once. What we try to do is always introduce new girls. So, you’ll see girls that may not be doing interracial otherwise, but we’ve been lucky enough that they’ve chosen to work on our productions. So, I’d like to showcase “Lex’d” as one of my most powerful options.

In terms of titles that I’ve participated in that are outside of my own production company, there is “Impaler #9” from Jules Jordan. Between “Lex’d” and “Impaler #9,” you have two of the best interracial offerings for the year — those would be two to look out for. But also too, there’s some work for West Coast Productions that are closer to what I’ve done for Mercenary, whereas my stuff with LSP is a partnership, it’s what Kevin and I both bring to the table. My West Coast stuff is my brand 100 percent in terms of the style. So, people can decide what they like. If you like what I do with Jules Jordan, you’ve got a great offering. If you like what I do with Kevin, you’ve got a plethora of great options. If you like what I do with West Coast, we’ve got a fantastic array, like “Lexington Steel’s Massive White Asses.” What makes this title important is you have first-time anal with some of these girls and it showcases some of the most curvaceous girls in the business. But, how do you compare that to some of the girls that haven’t done interracial before, whether it’s Alison Tyler, who we just shot for one of my titles? And, what can I say, Luna Star is arguably one of the greatest performers working right now.

I really would like to say it’s about time that we see an ethnic woman win Female Performer of the Year. The industry will determine who the industry likes and who the industry will support, but it’s crazy when you see the support that some individuals have in the world through social media and then you’re like, why isn’t that girl being lauded as well, in the pages of our industry publications? Hopefully, they’ll get a nod when it comes to being nominated for best female performer. Speaking of awards season, it always begs the question — will there ever be another black Male Performer of the Year? And, I think there could be. I think there should be. There are a number of people that deserve it. Whether it’s XBIZ, or another publication, it’s just a case where I’d like to see some ethnicity win some of the heavier awards. Like, it’s difficult to vie for some of the Best Actor awards when you don’t get the roles, and are limited to just the gonzo market. There are only so many nominations you can get. There are proverbial nominees like myself. I take a slot on everybody’s list automatically, so if there are 10 slots, there’s really only nine available. So, it’s tough man.

But, I haven’t won a Male Performer of the Year for over 10 years, right? That’s what I’m saying… you mean to tell me no other brother since then has deserved it? But you know what, that’s the wonderful thing about this industry, is how you can make a name for yourself. I did well in this industry, because someone made it palatable to hire guys that look like me. Had it not been for Sean Michaels, then I would not have had the breadth of work I’ve had. Now, someone will look at my career and follow in Lex Steele’s footsteps. They’ll be exposed to other things as well, whether it’s travel, higher compensation that I’ve enjoyed or what-have-you. So, what’s been happening is I’ve been realizing it’s more about what I leave behind, than it is about the porno. 

XBIZ: Where do you see yourself 5-10 years from now?

STEELE: I’ve always liked to operate with a 5-10 year plan. When I started in the industry, I wanted to become a director within five years. I arrived at that two years before. I wanted to start my own studio within 10 years and started Mercenary in 2003, so I beat that by five years. In ’98, I wanted to be a director as part of my five-year plan, and my first Anabolic title was a 2002 release. You know, wanting to become a broadcaster was another goal. I wanted to return to getting paid for speaking. As a broker, you’re judged by how well you hold a conversation with your client, because rarely do you see your client. So, I started going back to some of those roots in 2015. I had as many as three podcasts — I had a sports show called “Fourth and Goal,” I had a talent show called “Lexington Steele Live” and I had a current events and political show called “ManCave.”

So, the three shows as a broadcaster are really giving me the experience of those 10,000 hours you need to become an expert at something. As I transition to broadcast journalism, I need to make sure my skillsets are available and are honed to a specific sharpness because I do believe that you have to be prepared for opportunities. So, while I create my own opportunities by having my own podcasts, preparing me to get a job with mainstream entities, I need to be ready for that. Hopefully, within a 5-10 year plan, I’ll end up with my own show on mainstream television or premium channeling. To give you a perfect example, one of my greatest heroes is Ed Bradley, the one black guy on “60 Minutes” back in the day. And, people remember Bryant Gumbel. He represents broadcast journalism and my love of sports. He’s one of my heroes. And these are two guys that I would like to emulate. So 5-10 years from now, if I could have a show where I get a chance to get my inner Bryant Gumbel on, I’d love to be doing that. And, I want to be a father. My wife wants to wait about two years before she does that and I can respect that because she wants to give her body about two years to run like a Ferrari before we put one in the oven. So, yeah, the next 5-10 years, I have a number of projects that are outside the industry and I hope my fans will follow me into.

I’m also going to be launching a talent management group and it’s going to be primarily focused on male talent, to cultivate their careers. So, that’s something in the works right now, and eventually I’d like to expand that into female talent. Hopefully, that’ll be something that lasts. As I transition from in front of the camera, you know I’ll continue to direct and to produce. My thing has always been… how does one create one’s own reality? It’s always laying one brick at a time. So, before you know it, by the time someone recognizes it, you’ve already been working on it for five years. If I start these things now and have the financing to start the new endeavor, I’d like to have a viable male talent company five years from now, along with some female talent. And, that’s something that’ll serve me well, because I’d like to hone talent, using my own productions — because, as I said earlier, one of the greatest challenges is seeking out someone that’ll replace me. And, it’s a daunting task, because when I stop performing in my movies, it’s my sole responsibility to maintain the viability of my brand — no one else’s responsibility. I’ve looked at myself in the mirror with that reality. So, there are a number of strategies I will employ to do that. And doing this interview is just one of them!

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