LOS ANGELES — The 2019 TEAs, presented by ManyVids and hosted by Grooby, were held Sunday night at the glitzy, old-school Avalon venue in the heart of Hollywood.
One accesses the Avalon by treading on the iconic five-pointed stars, terrazzo red and inlaid in brass, commemorating the biggest stars of stage and screens. The Capitol Building, witness to chanteuses and the high glamor of Golden Age Tinseltown, to one side, and the most famous corner in show biz, Hollywood and Vine, to the other.
You’ve arrived, baby.
Tourists and onlookers were mesmerized by a long line of trans models from around the world, plus adult industry big shots, and other members of the community, lining up for the step-and-repeat ritual that is standard for Hollywood premieres and events.
This time the flashes were shining for some of the biggest stars in the trans firmament, top names like Aubrey Kate, Lena Kelly, Casey Kisses and Khloe Kay.
And of course, the night’s most shining star — the bangs, the eyes, the body, the one: Natalie Mars.
Mars was everywhere starting with the introductory video and ending with the last award of the evening, for Best Hardcore Performer. Wearing a flowing gown, Mars kept going up on stage for herself, for collaborations, even for a group pool party movie that was more party than movie set.
“I feel like I might win a couple. I’m hoping. If I don’t I’ll be a little surprised honestly," Mars told XBIZ's Zoe Tamara backstage before the show.
In terms of fashion, hues of gold abounded, plus classic Grecian gowns. Gold and black combinations were in enough force to satisfy a Pittsburgh sports fan.
Brilliantly executed by a team led by long-time trans impresario and advocate Steve Grooby, and the supremely efficient, unflappable Kristel Penn, trans adult entertainment’s biggest night was a stylish affair fit for its setting.
The evening kicked off with trans pop diva Alissah Brooks. The Atlanta-based activist, actress, dancer and recording artist, known for appearing on TV (“Teen Wolf,” “Love & Hip Hop Atlanta”) and film (Tyler Perry's"Good Deeds,” "If I Should Die Before I Wake”), was introduced with her video for the 2016 single “Dope $hit,” before marching onto stage, wearing a gold and black brocaded outfit, between two dancers.
Hyping the crowd with a “TS!,” Brooks rapped and sang over a medley that included singles like “I Am That Girl.” It was a perfect fit for the Avalon, a transgender diva singing about “girls like us” and being a “club star” who will never “fuck with fuckbois.”
The mistress of ceremonies for the entire evening was Domino Presley, wearing a couture ensemble with a layered green skirt straight out of a Paris runway.
“You all look stunning,” Presley told the crowd
With her long blond hair (“this is a wig,” she bragged) and her rapid-fire wit, Presley tried to make the strenuous duty of going through 30 categories go faster.
Soon it was obvious that Presley was not going to stick to script. “I'm mostly dyslexic, so if I read this backwards — my bad,” she said right off the bat, often interrupting the scripted lines to say hi to the crowd or flirt with cat-callers.“What? I’ll see you outside. You want me to see you outside? This dress comes off real fast…”
Presley might have been hosting a truly international affair for “the adult entertainment sector of trans erotica,” but she was not going to leave her Atlanta-bred sass behind. “Oh, yeah — I’m from Atlanta,” she offered by way of explanation when trying to make the rowdy crowd behave.
The fun everyone was having with the back-and-forths underlined the feeling that the 2019 TEAs were being held in the supportive, safest environment of the show’s original aim.
The first award of the evening was Best DVD, sponsored by Gamelink, and presented by cis female performers Ella Nova and Riley Nixon, who were also nominees in other categories for their scenes with trans performers. The winner was Gender X’s “Trans Pool Party,” directed by Jim Powers and starring the evening’s big winner Natalie Mars, alongside Casey Kisses, Lena Kelly and Janelle Fennec. An exhilarated Powers received the award surrounded by his cast and remarked that “that was a good day — it was an actual party. We were fucking drunk!”
Backstage Gender X's Deacon couldn't hide his shock: “We’re just thankful to win this award. It was a long day and a great day, and a lot of sex!”
“We were just here to present our award from Gender X Girl of the Year," Powers added backstage, "and the first award we’re like … what the fuck just happened?”
Best photographer award went to Radius Dark, who received it from Kristen Kraves and Casey Kisses.
The Gender X Model of the Year went to Lena Kelly, who seemed awed by the recognition. “It’s the first time I won anything,” she said, wearing a black bra, tutu and stockings ensemble.
The award for Cam Performer of the Year, sponsored by Streamate, was presented by Christophe from Streamate and Catherine Taylor. The winner was Jessica Fappit, who could not be at the Avalon but sent the first video acceptance speech of the evening. The soft-spoken brunette shot it in her bedroom, wearing signature bunny ears. “I’m so shocked, humbled and grateful for winning this award,” Fappit said, before thanking “all of my cam daddies for supporting my small and meaningful career, and also Chaturbate, the platform I stream on.”
Black TGirls Model of the Year, sponsored by Grooby, was presented by Domino Presley herself and went to Megan Snow. Snow also couldn’t attend the TEAs, but sent a low-key, short thank-you video shot vertically on her phone.
The much-anticipated Best Internet Personality, sponsored by FanCentro, went to River Enza, in the most secretly guarded surprise of the evening, which rewarded Enza’s use of Twitter to engage her audience. The award was bestowed by Sarina Havok, Robin Coffins and Smash Thompson. Enza, wearing a shiny gold skirt suit and sporting tiny pigtails, accepted the accolade for being “the horniest and the porniest” on social media.
"I’m having an adrenaline rush!" Enza enthused backstage. "It was a good award to win — it’s a good indicator that I’m doing something right. You’re out there on social media and it’s a wild landscape so to actually get an award for that is meaningful.”
It was now time for Best Industry Professional, honoring “an individual who doesn’t work specifically in trans porn but has supported it.” Steve Grooby, the gracious host, took the podium in his formal tuxedo and genial British accent to present the honoree, XBIZ founder and publisher Alec Helmy.
Grooby remarked that, after running the show for 11 years, it was the first time he had been onstage. He described how Helmy, a longtime friend, had been an unwavering supporter of those working “in the trans niche.”
“I have a lot of respect for [Helmy], a lot of esteem,” Grooby said. “XBIZ was the first award show that had trans performers get up on stage to receive their awards.”
After pointing out that every year XBIZ had given Grooby a place to have a round table at their annual Los Angeles convention, Grooby jokingly but also sincerely told Events Director Moe Helmy that “we’re gonna need a bigger room.”
Alec Helmy’s brief speech stressed the value of inclusiveness. “I gotta say this is hugely gratifying,” Helmy told the Avalon crowd, “because being inclusive of the trans community is something that’s always come natural. For us it’s never been about being up with the times. It’s never been about business. It’s never been a debate.”
“From day one,” Helmy added, “we’ve felt it is our duty to recognize everything that’s great about our industry — and the trans community sure is great!”
Speaking about Steven Grooby, Helmy remarked that “what makes this award extra-special is that it comes from someone who I admire. Someone who sticks his neck out, time and time again for the benefit of the trans community, pushing for change, pushing for progress, pushing for respect."
Marika from Kink Engineering, looking like a psychedelic Medusa from Greek lore in her colorful blue-green curls and goddess gown, came on behalf of Lord Morpheous to reward the Best Self-Producer. “I’m very excited,”Marika confessed. “This is my first time in L.A., this is my first time at a fantasy show. I’m a little bit overwhelmed but everybody’s been amazing and beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.”
She then announced the winner, Lena Kelly, who had been crowned Gender X Model of the Year moments before. “I went from zero to two [awards] in 15 minutes,” Kelly deadpanned, before thanking ManyVids for “keeping my content up there [and also] ‘thank you’ to me for producing it.”
Best Girl/Girl Scene, sponsored by T-Girl Nights, was presented by Jamie Jameson, who announced they were celebrating 10 years of club promotions and trans events, and Daizy Blaze. Once again, one of the winners was Natalie Mars, who kept looking for co-star Ella Nova, who had disappeared for a smoke break. Mars and Nova starred in TransAngels’ “Learning the Joys of Anal."
“Where are you Ella? Where the fuck are you bitch?” Mars kept rhapsodizing about her M.I.A. co-star. “Ella is gorgeous, her asshole smells amazing. She’s here somewhere, I have seen her, I don’t know where the fuck she is. Thank you very much!”
XBIZ did catch up with a bashful Nova backstage: "I missed going out on stage," Nova said. "I was outside smoking and no one got me. I'm disappointed I didn’t get to go out on stage, but it’s my first award so I’m totally floored! I love [Natalie] and G/G anal is my favorite content to shoot, hands down. When I get to shoot with trans women — women in general – I get to be more sensual and intimate and deeply dirty in a way I don’t feel compelled to do with men. It’s different with women.”
The award for Best Boy/Girl Scene, presented by TS Jesse, wearing a red sequined dress like Jessica Rabbit’s (not Fappit), went to Aubrey Kate for her gangbang “Aubrey Kate Plus 8.” Kate stole the show with a pink princess dress featuring a gigantic, Cinderella-worthy skirt.
The Best Scene Producer award went to Evil Angel’s Aiden Starr. She received the trophy from Nikki Vicious and King Epic. Starr, in best Golden Globes-manner, fessed up to being “really drunk” before thanking “John Stagliano and everyone at Evil Angel for believing in me” and telling the trans model community, “You’re amazing, I couldn’t do anything without you!”
The award for Best Transman, presented by ManyVids, went to the popular choice, Eddie Wood. Karla Lane and Betty Black presented the award to an inspiring Wood, wearing a perfectly tailored suit and sparkling dress shoes. After thanking Buck Angel for “giving me my first chance,” Wood energized the crowd first by making “people who worked with or were transmen” stand up — to cheers from the crowd — and then making “people who would work with transmen” stand up, which prompted a standing ovation.
“In 2015 I came to my first TEAs and that day I shot my first hardcore," Wood told XBIZ backstage. "It happened to be with a trans woman, Michelle Austin — she’s really been at the forefront of incorporating transmen into trans porn. I shot with her during the day and then got tickets to come at night and it was just amazing. It was the first time I felt like I really belonged. Then in 2016 I won Best New Face FTM and now 2019 I’ve won Best Trans Man —The TEAs have been so good to me. I'm grateful for porn and just them making room for us as trans guys, it’s really awesome to be included.”
The coveted Ms. Unique award, honoring difference and inclusiveness in trans representation, and presented by Grooby Girls, went to Demii D Best, who received it from Violet Monroe. Wearing a stunning green dress and pink hair, Best gave the evening’s most moving speech, acknowledging her struggles.
“It is hard for a girl of my kind to book a scene,” Best said, prompting quip-ready host Domino Presley to soberly acknowledge the performer, a brave soul who, Best said, “fought hard, fought the streets, [and] fought my real family to get where I’m at.”
The award for Best Solo Site, sponsored by ModelCentro, went to Mia Maffia, who couldn’t be found. Presenters Jasmine from ModelCentro and Jessy Dubai, killed time by hilariously bantering with Presley until finally someone arrived to accept the award on Maffia’s behalf.
The legendary Bob, a pioneer of the trans niche since the dawn of internet porn (aka, “he’s old as fuck,” Presley ad-libbed) was at hand to present the Bob’s T-Girls Model of the Year award. In acknowledgment of the 20th anniversary of the company, Bob awarded it to two performers instead of one — Natassia Dreams and Foxxy, who stood by either side of him.
The first half of the show ended then and there was a 10-minute intermission.
Domino Presley had some fun as people were filing in. “I can judge y’all as you walk to your seats,” she told the crowd. “They told me to be nice, you know?” she added before reverting to sassy mode “C’mon, get to your seats. I’m sweating in this dress and I have somewhere to go.”
The award for Best VR Title went to Korra Del Rio for VRB Trans’ “Hypnotrans.” The presenters were Australian talent Ella Venus and independent director Tarantino XXX, who came up onstage wearing goggles and attempted a humorous skit as if he was at the Academy Awards.
One of the most hyped categories, Kinkiest TGirl Domme, sponsored by Kink.com, was presented by Kink’s Alison Boden and director Fivestar. It was a bit of an upset, as many assumed the award was also going to go to the evening’s juggernaut, Natalie Mars. Instead, Jessica Foxx dominated the category. Foxx was unable to attend, so Kink.com talent advocate Bobby Sanchez accepted the award, wearing leather corset-braces and the black garb favored by many in the BDSM community.
It was time now for the two Lifetime Achievement Awards, acknowledging two industry professionals whose careers have positively impacted trans life and culture. The first, presented by Kristel Penn and Sammy Mancini, went to Transational Fantasies’ Fran. Penn received a standing ovation for the seamless organization of the TEAs. “I’m so, so socially awkward right now,” said Penn. “It’s like that dream. Thank you all for coming.”
Introducing Fran, Penn told a story about both of them doing the West Hollywood AIDS Walk, and joked how, because of her shorter legs, she wanted to leave before finishing. “But [Fran] convinced me that we had to finish the walk. We walked together in 100-degree heat and we finished the walk.”
Fran thanked “everyone’s who’s ever been kind to me” and the “friends, performers and activists in this room that inspire me to do better.” Finally she saved some words for the beloved Penn: “Kristel is just magic as everyone knows and a true inspiration for everyone.”
The second Lifetime Achievement Award went to iconic performer Morgan Bailey, presented by Natassia Dreams, Buddy Wood and Foxxy. Bailey was extolled as the “motherfucking porn mother.”
“She means more to me than anyone else in the industry” and “she welcomed me with open arms” were shared sentiments. In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, the crowd was also reminded that Bailey “is one of the more Irish trans performers ever.”
“Eleven years ago,” reminisced Wood, “I picked her up at the Burbank Airport for our first shoot and she asked me if I had weed. ‘What if I hadn’t?’ I asked. [But] I did, and we’ve been friends ever since.”
“Take note everybody,” said one of the presenters, “because she’s legendary in our industry — she accepts everybody, she works with everybody.” A video montage showed highlights of Bailey’s career and appearances at former TEAs. After the customary “Ladies and Gentlemen, Ms. Morgan Bailey,” she took the stage regally, wearing a full gown that shined like gold.
“Who the fuck put this thing so low,” quipped the notably tall Bailey, who broke the ice by trying to adjust the mic.
Reflecting on the award and the highlights video, Bailey said it "represents 10 years. I noticed the change we’ve all seen in the last 10 years. Can we give it up for trans people? I don’t wanna talk about myself; I wanna talk about this. We’ve been changing the world, honey!”
Bailey elaborated on her journey, speaking backstage with XBIZ: "I’m honored but I’m really kind of dumbfounded because a lifetime achievement award, you’d think it’s something you’d achieve after a lifetime! But the last 10 years have gone by so fast and in some ways, it is a lifetime. In a lot of other ways it’s gone by in no time at all. I’ve really accomplished so much — I just hope that I can be a guiding force for anyone coming into their own and trying to do something different, and just to be loved and recognized and admired for that."
After the Lifetime awards, it was time for Best Clip Site Star, sponsored by ModelHub. The award went to Mandy Mitchell and was presented by Nadia Love and Colby Jansen. Mitchell, who was not in attendance, thanked the crowd via video.
Another model award was Transational Fantasy Girl of the Year, presented by Sammy Mancini, and awarded to Janelle Fennec, who wore a pink minidress. “This is my first TEA award,” Fennec said, thanking Mancini as a distinctive auteur in the adult trans world. The emotional atmosphere was quickly dispelled by Domino. “They’re so sweet, look at them hugging and shit,” she quipped.
The Best Non-TS Female Performer award, sponsored by FameDollars, went to Lindsey Love. Presenters Korra Del Rio and Aspen Brooks pointed out that the category was getting harder for the judges every year because of a welcome evolution, as so many cis performers are now participating in TS content. Love thanked Natalie Mars and several other trans performers. “You made me comfortable with my body; I wasn’t before,” she revealed. “The trans community is a wonderful thing.”
“I’m in a state of disbelief," Love told XBIZ backstage. "I did so many shoots and worked with so many women this year — it wasn’t just one it was all of them that got me here. One thing that really stands out for me — on the night of 4th of July I was at a party with a bunch of trans girls. There was Natalie Mars, Aston Brooks, Chanelle Santini and Angel Ducati. I had been very self-conscious for a very long time and it was that night that they all reassured me that I needed to love the body that I had, that my boobs were fine and that I should appreciate myself because they would all love to have the same body as me. It was in that moment that I learned to accept myself. Ever since then I’ve just been so energized by and so in love with the trans community. They’ve taught me self-acceptance and that’s a beautiful thing.”
The Best Non-TS male Performer award, sponsored by Flirt4Free, was presented by performer Aubrey Kate, sauntering again onto the stage with her gigantic pink skirt, and producer Madeline Marlowe. “I’ll talk,” said the conspicuously curvaceous Ms. Marlowe, “cause Aubrey told me she doesn’t like to speak very much.”
The winner was, in fact, Kate’s boyfriend, Michael Delray, wearing a short-pantsed pink romper, who thanked his “beautiful girlfriend,” as well as frequent costar, and fellow nominee, Dante Colle, before uttering slightly unfocused statements which he explained away by confessing, “I’m really high, man — I’m not drinking. I’m smoking weed.”
“You’re only high?” wondered Presley as Delray stepped offstage. “What’s he smoking? I want some of that.”
“I was matching my girlfriend today," a more articulate Delray told XBIZ backstage, "who’s in this ridiculously large, gaudy Quinceañera dress. We started watching 'My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding’ on TLC and we got obsessed! We decided to copy that for the theme tonight and then my buddy Dante and I wore the same outfit and we came out from underneath her dress during the red carpet."
The inaugural Trans Model of the Year award, sponsored by ManyVids, was presented by Mercy West and Nicko Wolfe, who pointed out that two different people were introducing the category: the nonbinary West and himself, a trans male. The award went to Natalie Mars.
“Thank you so much to ManyVids for being my primary platform where I put up my content,” Mars said. "And thanks to my fans for buying my content and putting up with all the weird shit that I produce!”
A noticeably shorter Presley returned to the stage, explaining “I took my shoes off, cause fuck this shit." She introduced the Ladyboy Gold-sponsored category of Best Non-U.S. Performer, which this year included talent from Australia, Brazil, Chile, Japan, Russia and the U.K.
TransErotica’s Dan Hogue, and the buxom Alura Jensen, announced the award would go to Marissa Minx, who took to the stage and announced, “I’m the first Aussie to win this, so fuck yeah!” She thanked ”all the companies that believed in me, booked me and gave me the chance to be myself."
Beverly Hills plastic surgeon Dr. Alexander Sinclair, the transgender specialist, was at hand to introduce the award he created, The Transcendence Award, conceived to honor those who show the industry in a good light, especially in areas beyond just performing. The dapper Dr. Sinclair, wearing a sparkling blue jacket, presented the award flanked by Gia Darling and Tori Mayes. “It’s always been my fantasy to have a threesome with two former Transcendence winners,” he revealed. Honoree Chanel Santini, said Dr. Sinclair, “embodies creativity and is an inspiration to us all.”
Santini was not present to accept, but Natalie Mars once again marched onto the stage to read her friend’s speech. “To be acknowledged for standing up and speaking for trans rights,” Santini wrote, is special to her. Sending a message “to all of my sisters at the TEA show,” Santini added that “we are all in this together” but admonished that the industry “still has room to grow when it comes to inclusion.” Inviting people to transcend rivalries, Santini added that “we all know what it feels like to not be welcome, and that’s why we should have each other’s back.”
The award for Best New Face had an unfortunately named sponsor: Shemale.com. However, company representative MarissaMarissa from IMLive (who co-presented with ubiquitous cis female performer/entrepreneur Harriet Sugarcookie) stressed that the company was in the middle of a name change and rebranding.
The award went to Khloe Kay, wearing a wine-red dress, which seemed to be holding together although she “had a wardrobe malfunction earlier. Kay thanked controversial Florida-based agent Riley from Hussie Models “for bringing her into the industry.” She also had apologetic words for her supportive mother (“having a daughter in this industry is difficult”) and her boyfriend (“I know it’s hard to have a girlfriend who’s a ho!”).
The Fan Choice Award, was sponsored by Wicked Sensual, and thus was co-presented by the cis female superstar and multi-hyphenate who’s synonymous with porn’s Tiffany brand. An impeccably tailored Drake took the stage with D. Arclyte and announced that the winner of the fan-selected category would be offered a role in Wicked Picture’s latest production by porn legend Brad Armstrong. (“That pays well!” added Domino Presley from stage left).
“Most of y’all don’t know who the fuck I am, but that’s ok,” said fan choice winner Daisy Taylor, wearing another classic gold dress. “In this community [we] have so much magic being created,” she added, but “without us there would not be magic being created.” The crowd cheered but Taylor had room for one more acknowledgement: “Thanks for my butthole!”
The long ceremony was winding down with the last two awards. First came Best Solo Performer, presented by pleasure product company Bad Dragon. Before announcing the winner, a cowboy-attired Buck Angel (co-presenting with Jasmeen Lefleur) went on one of his trademark motivational speeches: “This community is fucking powerful,” he rallied, encouraging the crowd to “stick together” and “stop talking shit about each other.” For Angel, trans performers “should love each other and care about each other.”
Reminding everybody of his two-decade-long credentials (“We were doing,VHS kids, look it up”), Angel pointed out how far trans acceptance has traveled. “Today we have this,” he said referring to the swanky venue. “You have to understand how powerful it is. We are creating the future for the youth of this pornography generation!”
Best Solo Performer went to Casey Kisses, a tall, willowy beauty in a shiny black dress. Focusing on the positivity of the occasion a grateful Kisses joked that “it kind of sucks we waited so long, and we’re kind of drunk.”
“I feel so honored," Kisses told XBIZ backstage. "To have my name called out — my heart kind of dropped like, ‘are they calling me?!’ It’s definitely a surreal experience.”
The last award was Best Hardcore Performer, sponsored by Chaturbate, and presented by Kendall Penny and Will Havoc. This was the big one: “The winner should have bragging rights,” said Domino Presley.
If you’ve read so far (or if you read the intro), you know what’s coming.
“Oh my gosh, this is getting a little embarrassing,” her last speech of the evening began. “I never know what to say at these things.” Mars thanked all the performers she had worked with for “putting fists up my ass” and having “amazing penises,” among other skills and attributes.
“Congratulations, girl,” added Presley before introducing the closer, another performance by trans pop diva Alissah Brooks.
Additional reporting by XBIZ's JC Adams and Zoe Tamara.