Jessa Rhodes Explains The In And Outs Of Porn Stardom In 2014 (The Adult Film Minute)

Jessa

Jessa Rhodes

Once per month, Dr. Chauntelle Tibbals will be telling us a little bit about what’s going on in adult entertainment and why it should matter to you.

There’s a “good ol’ days” porn performer myth that people occasionally reminisce about – the exclusive contracts, the $100K annual salaries, the only-working-for-one-company thing. This fantasy-archetype has been blown out of proportion time and again, both in hyperbolic fictionalized accounts of real porn stars and in wild statements about net worth from certain… *icons* – le sigh.

In truth, even when something kinda like that good-ol’-days job description did exist, it didn’t exist for the majority of performers. And today, minus a very small handful of women, the “contract girl” is all but gone. But that’s ok! Today’s up-and-coming porn starlet is a hustler of different proportions, a savvy marketer who knows the value of multiple streams of income (yes, yes, multiple streams, we can wait until you finish giggling).

Take for example Jessa Rhodes. Jessa started working as an adult performer in 2012, and today has about 100 credits to her name. Her career is on the rise, but it got me to wondering – how the heck does one do this, especially in 2014? So I asked.

Jessa told me a few things about money, marketing, and what sort of effort she has to put forth on a regular basis.

Shooting

Controlling for the summertime slowdown, Jessa gets booked for an average of ten scenes per month.

For projects like New Sensations’ Second Chances (2014) (link NSFW, obvi) a charming little comedy about romance and redemption, she works, she gets paid a flat rate (different amounts for different types of scenes, but no royalties or anything), and then she’s done. Jessa’s schedule is actually a bit busier lately after a slight pitch some months ago when she decided to self-represent in lieu of having an agent.

Self-Representation vs. Having an Agent

Jessa used to have an agent, but now she doesn’t. An agent acts as a middle-person between performers and producers, helping to coordinate talent on both ends. According to Jessa, agents generally take about 15% per booking as their fee.

“[After I stopped having an agent], I really had to hustle to contact people and remind them I was still around,” Jessa told me. “A lot of producers rely on agency websites and if they don’t see you there, they kind of forget about you.”

Dancing

Jessa’s first love is dancing (and by “dancing” I mean stripping). Dance bookings are something she does two to three times per month, and though this may sound simple, it’s not.

Like everything else in a performance-based career, one must always be on the lookout for opportunity. This involves getting your name out there, which can be costly, both in terms of time and money (see Marketing below). Feature dance bookings are no different.

But the work doesn’t stop once you get the gig. Dance bookings generally require one travel day, two to five days of actual shows/dancing, and one final day of return travel. Dancing also requires fancy expensive costumes and a roadie, all of which Jessa pays for out of pocket. Thus, in spite of whatever spoils may come, the initial financial outlay is pretty great.

PR, Marketing, and Social Media

Like every good public personality, Jessa has a well-developed twitter (@JessaRhodesXXX) and Insta (also, @JessaRhodesXXX). Currently, these sites are free and relatively porn-friendly within their specific TOS, but each requires quite a bit of time and savvy to maintain. Marketing costs start to stack up pretty quick after that though…

For example, though conventions and expos (“exxxpos”) are generally presented to the public as debaucherous good times, what these events *really* are are marketing and networking opportunities. Consequently, they cost money.

There are occasional events that top performers are paid to attend and there are a few events that help performers out with travel costs, but without additional pay. The most common type of convention however is pay-to-play. Performers pay for their travel, room, food, and an attendance fees. Like a ticket. In this respect, the performers are no different than your Average Joe – everyone’s paying to be there.

But exposure is important! You pay to be at the show because it’s worth it and, according to Jessa, another way to get good exposure is by hiring a publicist. “Even if I don’t really have something going on in a given month, my publicist Rising Star PR helps make sure my name is always out there and always on peoples’ minds,” she told me. “It helps.”

Hair, Nails, Tanning, and everything else

Because women and gender and workplace inequalities and yeah. That sh*t adds up.

“I have to spend about $200 a month just on my nails,” Jessa estimated. “As soon as they start to grow out, I have to get them filed because, you know, my hand is usually wrapped around a cock.”

From flights to costumes to waxing, you gotta spend money to make money. But listening to Jessa talk about all these different financial and marketing components made me super anxious, mostly because there are no guarantees. I mean, there are never any guarantees in life. But a lot of financial output seems to be required just for the hope of cultivating a vibrant career. And though all of these examples speak to Jessa’s experiences only, none of them are too outlandish or exceptional in the porn world.

Being a porn star in 2014 sounds expensive and difficult. And unlike the days of yesteryear (for some), there’s no one there to fact check your bookings or pay for your marketing – except yourself. Jessa is steering her own ship, just like many other porn performers today. It’s intense.

Visit Jessa Rhodes on Twitter and Instagram at @JessaRhodesXXX. You may also buy her charitable T-shirt for Profane Clothing – all proceeds go to help Christy Mack.

Dr-CTibbals

Chauntelle Tibbals is an embedded public sociologist. Her research has been published in numerous scholarly journals, and she has been quoted and cited extensively by cultural and news media outlets including CNN, VICE, and KPCC (NPR). Chauntelle has been studying the adult entertainment industry for more than ten years.


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