XBIZ Honors Brings Pleasure Community Together for Its Biggest Night of Celebration

XBIZ Honors Brings Pleasure Community Together for Its Biggest Night of Celebration

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — Executives and leaders of the pleasure industry gathered Sunday night to toast outstanding career achievements with a night of glamorous looks, heartfelt speeches and fun tributes as they took to the stage to present and accept coveted XBIZ Award and XBIZ Exec trophies.

Following a welcome from the XBIZ team, Deja Vu’s Megan Swartz, who presided over the event last year, introduced this year’s hosts: XR Brands’ Josh Ortiz and Lulu Shwartzer of Viben Toys.

“This is your night!” Ortiz told the crowd. “Normally, in our industry, at awards shows, companies and our products are the focus. Tonight, the focus is on you.

Shwartzer joked about having to be on her best behavior while holding a microphone, so as not to blurt out anything that might get her in trouble. She then got things rolling by introducing Paolo Davide Griffo of DanaMedic Aps and April Hoopes from Edonista, to present the first two awards of the evening.

Museum of Sex took home the first trophy of the night, for Retailer of the Year (1-2 Stores). Kit Richardson was on hand to accept.

“I wouldn’t be here without my vendors who support me and give me guidance,” she said. “I appreciate all of you. I know our Miami opening this year has been the longest foreplay ever! But when it opens, it’s going to be the biggest orgasm of your life.”

The second went to PinkCherry, named Online Retailer of the Year. CEO and founder Daniel Freedman took the stage to accept the award, cautioning the crowd that he was “a little rusty” at making acceptance speeches.

“I just want to thank everybody: my customers, the greatest vendors,” he said. “I’m not a great public speaker, but I appreciate it!”

When Ortiz and Shwartzer returned to the stage, Shwartzer scored laughs from the audience with a story about going home for the holidays and telling her parents she was going to host the XBIZ Honors awards show.

“I told them about you,” she informed Ortiz. “I said, ‘That’s my little brother!’ My mom asked, ‘So does he do what you do? Does he sell vibrators?’ I said, ‘They’re a little different.’ ‘Yeah? Let me see! Let’s pull up the website!’ The first thing that came up was Creature Cocks. I’m ashamed to show my mother, but she goes, ‘Can I get one of those? When I play mahjong with Margaret and she starts to win, I’m going to pull it out and stick it in the middle of the table.’”

The co-hosts then announced the next presenters: Matthew Skinner and Susana Molina, who revealed the winners in the Pleasure Product Account Exec and Male Pleasure Product/Line categories.

The former went to Nasstoys’ Taylor Means.

“I’m kind of always the bridesmaid and never the bride for these,” she said, accepting the trophy. “It’ll be 15 years in this industry for me in March. I want to thank Rondee Kamins and Bob Wolf, even though they’re not here tonight. That’s how I got my start in business. I want to thank Elliot Schwartz. And I want to thank all of you for standing by me and supporting me!”

The latter, Male Pleasure Product/Line of the Year, was presented to Kiiroo for its Powerblow device.

“I have very little voice left, but with what I have left I want to thank you so much for acknowledging our work,” Kiiroo’s Kate Kozlova said. “I’m so excited to keep doing our best to offer the best products that connect people from all over the world to each other. Thank you so much for your support, and thank you for being open to innovation.”

Returning in green velvet outfits, Ortiz and Shwartzer joked about their intense pre-show debate over how many outfit changes they should work into the show, before announcing the next presenter, Tracy Felder.

Felder first revealed 2024’s Queer Pleasure Product Brand of the Year: Fort Troff.

Scott Watkins of Doc Johnson accepted on Fort Troff’s behalf, citing his company’s partnership with Fort Troff as exemplary of a great collaboration.

“Sometimes you don’t always know what it’s like to be in a certain marketplace, but Fort Troff has educated us and we’re excited to sell this product,” Watkins said.

Felder then presented the trophy for Fetish Line of the Year to XR Brands for its Master Series. XR president Rebecca Weinberg said that it was a company tradition for the newest hire to accept the award, and Senior Sales Exec Heather McNeely stepped up.

“It’s an honor to be part of a company with such a legacy when it comes to this level of fetish,” she said. “Thank you, Ari and Rebecca and the entire team, our great support staff — and this amazing group. And it’s going to go so much further. We’re excited. Get ready!”

“Shameless Sex” podcaster/authors Amy Baldwin and April Lampert followed, presenting in the Retail Account Exec of the Year and BDSM Pleasure Products Company of the Year categories.

“It’s my absolute pleasure to announce the nominees for Retail Account Exec of the Year,” Lampert said. “This prestigious accolade recognizes the outstanding contribution of individuals who play a pivotal role in shaping the retail landscape and ensuring that consumers, the most important part of our business, have access to the products that they need to have the pleasure they deserve.”

Lampert then requested a drum roll. As the audience obliged, she named Ruth Arceo of Pleasure Chest the winner.

“The nominees in this category are amazing!” Arceo exclaimed. “I thought I had no chance. Just being nominated with Loretta was enough. This is for us, girl! Thank you to the vendors and other buyers like my mentors out there. You know who you are… Phoebe!”

Baldwin praised the BDSM industry as a whole for breaking down taboos, before naming Sportsheets the BDSM Pleasure Products Company of the Year. Kelly Sofferman and Nathan Hammerle came onstage to accept the award.

“Thank you all for loving Sportsheets!” Sofferman said. “Thank you to all our partners and collaborators.”

The next categories up were Boutique Online Retailer of the Year and Retail Training Program of the Year. Vincent Renou and Mira Waidelich took to the stage to announce the nominees and winner.

When Spectrum Boutique won for Boutique Online Retailer of the Year, Zöe Ligon dedicated the award to her team: Dirty Lola, Carly and Valentine.

“Nalpac, my amazing distribution partner, thank you all so much,” she added. “It’s been 10 years in this industry and I just love spending every year with you!”

Eldorado’s Elevate U was named Retail Training Program of the Year.

“It’s a great resource,” said Eldorado’s Derek DalPiaz. “I’m grateful for our company investing in a tool like this, to create a resource that stores can use to be better educators for their community. We just appreciate all the support over the years.”

Kristi Colon and Reynaldo Cedeno were up next. First, the duo presented the award for Business Development Exec of the Year, which went to Joreail Armstrong of Honey Play Box.

“We’re the new kids on the block!” Armstrong told the audience. “If I could break this award into pieces, I’d give it to the people who coached me along the way, like John and Derek from Eldorado, Phoebe from Nalpac and Raj Armani. Without them, I don’t think we would even be where we are.”

Colon and Cedeno then awarded the trophy for Sex Lubricant of the Year to Wet. Andrew Eustace of manufacturer Trigg Labs apologized for not preparing a speech but promised to be “better equipped” next year.

“We’ll take it and put it in our trophy case!” he said.

Malay Vannouvong and Kerry Hart then took the stage to present the awards for Marketing Exec of the Year and Sensual Accessory Product/Line of the Year.

Upon winning the Marketing title, Nalpac’s Phoebe Grott thanked all of her pleasure industry colleagues.

“All of the people nominated here today are fabulous members of this community,” she said. “We work so hard and we’re so passionate. And behind us, we have whole teams of people that make what we do possible. So every one of you here tonight, and the teams behind you: This award is for all of you. Congratulations! We are figuring it out and we’re going to continue to grow and change perceptions. It’s been a long, long fight, and it’s been a pleasure to be out here doing it with you. I want to especially thank Andy and Steve for giving me a chance and believing in me.”

Subsensuals’ Helaine Oliner-Katz was not on hand to accept the award for Sensual Accessory/Product Line of the Year, for the company’s Desire Evolution Magnetic Nipple Clamps, but later posted a thank you on the industry-only P3 Facebook group: “To have won was a complete surprise. I was up against the big names and I am honored to have been nominated alongside them … I wish I could have made it but mother nature has just not been nice to the east coast and she is coming around again today. Thank you to everyone who has supported me. It truly means more than you can ever imagine.”

Jassmine Cudney and Marcus West headed onstage next to present the nominees and winners for Subscription Box Brand of the Year, with the trophy going to L’amour Box.

The brand’s Kristoffer Hjerrild gushed, “Thank you so much! I’ve been in this industry now for 11 or 12 years, and I love all of you. It’s just so much fun.”

Moving on, Cudney and West declared Dual Vibe! Sex on the Beach, by Orgie, the Sex Enhancement Product of the Year. Orgie Export Manager Massimo Artioli expressed surprise and delight over the company’s first-time win at XBIZ Honors.

Ana Moreno and Rolando Gamez were then called to the stage, presenting the Brand Ambassador of the Year accolade to Chris Armstrong for Holiday Products.

“What an honor!” Armstrong said. “To my team: Kenny, Veronica and Susanna, thank you guys. I really want to present this award to our founder, Moe Levy, who last Sunday passed away. I want to honor him with this. So thank you, Moe.”

Moreno and Gamez also presented the award for Retailer of the Year (3-9 Stores), which went to Pleasure Chest.

Returning to the stage, Arceo said, “Thank you so much for thinking of us, supporting us, and to all of these vendors and distributors. Thank you again!”

Ortiz next introduced the presenters for a category he said was very close to his heart: Cannabis-Focused Intimacy Company of the Year. Kim Marks and Sam Hadlow awarded the trophy to High On Love.

Angela Mustone accepted the award, saying, “I’m so thrilled! I want to thank my lovely team here and back home. Thank you for your dedication and thank you for putting up with me. I also want to thank my clients, my wonderful vendors, my influencers. Thank you so much. Of course, I want to thank Susan Colvin for teaching me a lot about being in the industry. Finally, I want to thank all of you women in the industry! Thank you so much for your support. When we band together, we are stronger in numbers.”

Marks then discussed the importance of the next award: Community Figure of the Year.

“We are a large, diverse group of people, and we are also a small family here,” she said. “We lean on each other a lot in this industry, and the people who are nominated tonight have really stepped up to support not just their own business, not just their own friends, but the vast diversity of us. I want to say thank you to everyone in advance.”

Dean Elliott of Sliquid was named the recipient.

“This is one hell of a community, and I am so honored and fortunate to be a part of this for 27 years already,” Elliott said. “The community, which is all of us, has been my family. I love most of you — and the rest, I probably just don’t know you yet! I can’t thank you enough.”

An “In memoriam” video then scrolled the names of pleasure industry leaders who passed away over the last year: Sue Johanson, Moe Levy, Nick Mahler, Tony Sicilia and Kimberly Varner.

Ortiz and Shwartzer, now dressed in colorful track suits in homage to the track suits worn by last year’s hosts, ushered on Stefanie Neuman and Chad Jenny to present the next categories: Couples Toy of the Year and Powered Sex Toy of the Year.

Sync 2 by We-Vibe took the Couples Toy title, with Kim Card taking the stage to accept. She said it felt strange accepting the trophy by herself, since in previous years she was joined by her team.

“Thank you to our partners, thank you to everybody who took a chance on a little company named We-Vibe,” Card said. “We’re going to continue to do awesome things and are looking forward to what 2024 holds for all of us!”

In the Powered Sex Toy of the Year category, Joi by Honey Play Box was named the winner.

Accepting the trophy, a grateful Joreail Armstrong said, “We put a lot of hard work into this one!”

After giving a shout out to her “work wife,” Char Lopez, Shwartzer brought Rubén Dario Barrios Urriola and Tracy Leone out to present the Team Leadership Award which went to Card.

“This means the world to me,” she said, returning to the stage. “There are some pretty amazing people on that list that I was lucky enough to be included in. Anyone that knows me knows I’m not usually speechless. January has unfortunately marked sadness for a lot of us in this industry. We’ve lost some important community figures. We’ve lost people in our families, myself included. And this room full of people has been my family in those moments. And so my takeaway from this to all of you here is that we’re on this train once, so love harder every single day!”

For Sex Lubricant Company of the Year, Wicked Sensual won and the executive team made their way onstage, with company president Steve Orenstein accepting the award.

“I thank all our distributor partners and retail partners,” Orenstein said. “Thank you to our team! It takes a whole team to put out the product. So we appreciate your support.”

Justin Depow and Philip Ryder then took the stage to present Sexpert of the Year and the Progressive Leadership Award. For the first, Baldwin and Lampert returned to the stage jubilantly to express their gratitude for the shared title.

“The other beautiful nominees are fabulous human beings that are highly skilled and also our mentors,” Baldwin said. “So a big thank you to everyone who was nominated.”

Lampert added, “Thank you to all the industry, for supporting “Shameless Sex” and for what you do each and every day. You all know how important you are. If you don’t, I’m telling you right now! I’m going to wrap it up in the wise words of Maya Angelou: ‘When you know better, you do better.’ That’s what sex education is about. Let’s keep spreading the word, breaking down taboos and making sex education not only informative, but fun as fuck. Let’s celebrate human sexuality. Let’s celebrate pleasure. Cheers to an amazing year ahead!”

Next, Raj Armani was named winner of the Progressive Leadership Award. Ryder accepted the award in his absence.

To present the awards for Retailer of the Year (10+ Stores) and C-Suite Exec of the Year, Ortiz brought out Jessica Drake and Charlette Lopez.

Hustler Hollywood was named the winner for Retailer of the Year, receiving a cheer from the crowd. The presenters accepted the award on their behalf, continuing on to announce the recipient of the C-Suite Exec of the Year title, which went to Nalpac’s Andy Craig.

“Thank you to our partners, the amazing Nalpac and Entrenue team,” Craig said. “And of course, last but not least, my less handsome brother for convincing me to quit my day job back in the day!”

Rebecca Weinberg and Scott Watkins then prepared to present the award for Businessperson of the Year.

“No matter what’s been going on this week, I love all you guys out there,” Watkins told his fellow attendees. “If you’ve got a sibling, text them ‘I love you.’ This week is a testament to who we are as an industry. All of you guys had my back and showed me so much love this week. This is the greatest industry in the world because of the people that are in this room right now. That’s what business is about, and that’s what being human is about.”

Nalpac’s Steve Craig was then named Businessperson of the Year.

“I’m accepting this award on behalf of our team,” he said. “Thank you very much. It’s not about me. It’s about a group of people together. It’s about their support. And it is a community, as Scott said.”

Megan Swartz was then joined onstage by Efren Mendez Garcia to present the trophy for Progressive Pleasure Products Company of the Year. First, however, the two took a selfie, instructing everyone in the crowd to emulate Garcia’s signature beaming selfie as the two took a photo with the crowd as their backdrop.

With that out of the way, Doc Johnson was named the winner. Kerin Francis thanked everyone for supporting the company’s brands.

“We are proud of what we do every day,” she said. “Our team is one big family and everybody up here should take a bow because we are very proud of what we do.”

Swartz and Garcia then presented the award for Full-Range Pleasure Products Company of the Year, which went to CalExotics.

“I would like to thank my community,” founder Susan Colvin said. “As many people have said, it is about the team. It’s the people. No one person can do it all. We have a lot of people behind us and I appreciate them. This is also our 30th anniversary! So this award means a lot.”

With the evening nearing its finale, the WIA Woman of the Year Award was announced, and Cheri Curry hit the stage to accept the trophy.

“You are my people!” she said. “Being seen by you, being affirmed by you — you have been through all the seasons with me, and I want to honor all of my co-nominees.

“In my company are fierce entrepreneurs,” Curry shared. “You never stop. You go. We stand on the shoulders of giants no matter where you sit in this industry. Everything you do is affirming others. I see you. I believe in you. Thank you for believing in me!”

Taylor Means returned to the stage to present the Legacy Award to Elliot Schwartz, honoring both him and Teddy Rothstein.

“This guy really doesn’t need much of an introduction, but I’m going to do my best,” she said. “Almost 12 years ago, at my first ANME, I worked for a really small company. I skipped out on the awards show. I sat at the hotel bar and in came this guy blasting through the hotel lobby, throwing his hands in the air, and he said, “It stinks. It’s rigged. Can’t they give me a Nice Guy award or something? So tonight, we’re going to do you one better.

“Elliott and Teddy are two of the true pioneers of this industry,” she continued. “Before we had silicone, before anyone heard the word 'rechargeable,' before vibrators, before sex education.”

Schwartz called from the audience, “Don’t make me sound that old!”

Means observed that Nasstoys had come a long way since then, with Schwartz at the helm.

“Where others have come and gone in the business, Elliott remains at the forefront of the company, continuing to attend trade shows and events,” Means declared. “He’s the mayor of the adult products industry.”

Someone of like mind called out, “He’s the governor!”

“There isn’t a person in this room who doesn’t know Mr. Elliott Schwartz,” Means said. “He’s a mentor not only to myself, but to countless others. More importantly, Elliot is genuinely just a good person who cares about people. He’s a great businessman, yes — but he’s an even better human. He’s a fantastic father, a grandfather, a friend to all of us and one of the most generous people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. I consider myself very fortunate not just to work for Elliot, but to be a part of the Nasstoys family.

“I can stand here and go on and on about everything that Elliot has done for this industry and how loved he is,” Means concluded. “But without further delay, it’s my great honor to present the Legacy Award to the one and only Elliot.”

Schartz began by thanking his business partner and best friend, Teddy Rothstein, for giving him the opportunity 50 years ago to become a part of the business.

“Thank you to the late and great Nick Orlandino,” Schwartz added. “At every awards show, he’d win an award and lift it up in the air, thanking this one and that one. I told him if I ever won, I wouldn’t know who to thank and he said, ‘Elliot, thank me.’ So, thank you!”

Schwartz also thanked other industry pioneers including Susan Colvin, Michael Warner, Michael Moran and Tony “Big T” Sicilia.

“Everybody knows Tony was bigger than life,” he said. “Everybody just congregated around him. The people who never met him, you really missed out on motivation. So I just wanted to say, I wish you rest in peace.”

Ortiz returned to the stage dressed in a sparkly dress and bob-cut wig, for a drag performance of Cardi B’s “WAP” that included lip-syncing and dancing. Shwartzer then returned wearing a bright red onesie and holding a stuffed animal, both matching her signature locks. Together, the co-hosts congratulated all of the evening’s nominees and winners, and wrapped up the ceremony by inviting attendees to boogie at Honey Play Box’s bustling after-party.

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