An Interview with Porn Actress Betty Blac
When most people think of porn stars they imagine someone who looks like Jenna Jameson: a skinny, white blonde with breast implants. What about the women who work in porn that don’t fit this mold? I decided to interview porn actress, writer, and 2014 Adult Video Network Awards Show nominee Betty Blac to find out.
Betty explains that her first gig involved photoshoots for boutiques and fetish sites. “It was going to be a good sideline to the job I had then. I was just doing these things on the side. I put up my promo on Model Mayhem (a social networking site for models and photographers, authors note) and Score approached me to work with them. They’re a site that covers all genres, but their main focus is big tits.” Betty initially wrestled with the idea of doing a shoot for a widely-viewed magazine. Eventually she accepted Score’s offer, “I needed the extra money and I had no stigma or shame around porn.”
A week before Betty was scheduled to fly to Miami and shoot for Score, she found out that she was being let go from her job due to downsizing. “My unemployment hadn’t kicked in yet and that money from the shoot saved my ass,” Betty recalls. From there she began camming, performing sexual acts for money via a webcam in chatrooms, and was exposed to the seedier side of the industry. “When I first started posting, there were a lot of people who wanted to be my manager, so I met with a couple of shiesty people who set me up with this horrible cam site – after working 35 hours per week for two weeks, I received a paycheck of $500. It was one of those sites that takes 90% of your pay and 80% of your tips.”
Since then, she has learned a great deal about the economics of the industry and how much to expect for different kinds of jobs. “I’ve been paid as low as $200 for girl-on-girl scenes, and as high as $1000 for boy-on-girl scenes.” Sometimes the money flows right back into the job. “When I worked in L.A, I had to get myself down there, put myself up, do my own makeup, have my own wardrobe, cover the waxing, the nails, and the hair. Some of those shoots didn’t pay well.”
Despite the toil, Betty decided to continue making porn, but the road has not been easy. “The majority of the people in this industry have a certain look that isn’t mine so I tend to feel out of place.” At 5’8” and 220 lbs., her frame is often described as “statuesque” by her fans. Because of her voluptuous figure, her work gets lumped into porn’s BBW category – an acronym that stands for big, beautiful women. “I’m not the typical porn star,” she elaborates, “I am fat, black, have natural body parts, and I have a master’s degree.”
Only a year into her porn career, she was recently nominated for BBW performer of the year at this year’s Adult Video Network (AVN) awards show. Yes, porn stars have their own awards show and it’s pretty damn prestigious. It’s the first time that the long-running awards show has had a BBW performer of the year category – an indication that the industry’s views on beauty are expanding.
But the industry and its consumers still tend to give the cold shoulder to those who aren’t white and thin. “I was ignored by some people,” she recalls of her AVN experience, “I have a vibe with some, definitely people from the Bay Area, and especially the queer folks. But there were some people throwing me a little bit of shade. I think there are a lot of producers in the industry that are hesitant to try something different.” Films with heavier stars are considered part of a sub-genre or aimed towards niche markets. Mainstream producers tend to stick with performers that sell titles and have cross-over possibility, like actress Sasha Grey and Vice contributor Stoya. With their clothes on, most would not be able to tell them apart from other Hollywood actresses. But, she continues, “it’s always hard to be a trailblazer. It’s hard to be the first of anything. I do think there are bigger things and that I am going to generate. I don’t want to keep looking for validation in an industry that’s not really validating me.”
Betty is in the process of creating her own production company: Pulpcore Films. “I feel like my goals as a performer and a producer is to bring something different to the table. When you do a mainstream porn shoot, you do the whole thing in stills – start to finish. So you pose out the whole thing. You get dressed again and then record the video. You don’t just get down and fuck. There’s a lot of direction. ‘Spread your own buttcheek!’ ‘Angle this way!’ You’re supposed to keep angleing yourself for the camera and it’s all very structured. I’ve connected more with some of the local queer porn that I’ve done, like Trouble Films and Crash Pad. With them you have the opportunity to meet the other person and play with them and have fun. They just film it as it is, whatever happens. It’s not as structured. Another thing I like about it is that you discuss safety with your partner beforehand. You can have all barriers if you want, or negotiate which ones you want, whether you want to get tested...
If I produced films, I would be a hybrid of both worlds. I would definitely be on point about safety, having really clear discussions with my performers, providing barriers, and making sure that people who aren’t tested used them. I want people to get paid well and be able to work with people they actually want to work with. I also want there to be structure. There are some indie stuff in which the angles are all funky and the lighting is bad, and not much effort has gone into styling. I think that you can do stuff that’s indie and subversive and still have people be groomed. It’s not everybody’s aesthetic, but this is my porn company and I want to bring out the best of the actors. It’s supposed to be ‘real sex’, but people are watching you to get off, and if you’re not pristine in whatever is pristine for you then... well, it’s a little bit of an interruption. I think that’s the key for me. Also, I think people would like to see more blending of genres.”
The adult entertainment is an eight billion dollar industry, but not everyone gets an equal cut. “People always think I’m making bank. I’m not. I have seven housemates and I still sleep on an air mattress. The cost of living is a bit different now and the internet cuts into our profits.” While high profits are rare for most adult stars, Betty believes that her identity as a black BBW makes finding jobs much harder for her than her peers. “If you’re not ‘standard’ there isn’t much work for you,” she clarifies, “If you’re a person of color you’re going to make less money. If you’re a person of color and a BBW, you might as well quit.”
Betty has big plans for both herself and Pulpcore. “I’m proud to be a BBW, but that’s not all that I am,” she tells me ,”I really want to transcend my genre. When I think about doing bigger and better things and blowing up, I see myself doing work that is supportive of who I am, and is not as tokenizing.”
Betty’s daytime job is at an adult store, and she is open to her friends and family about her porn career. “I put that right out there, because I don’t want to deal with bullshit. If a stranger asks, I will usually say I work at Good Vibrations, but if it’s someone I’m dating, I let them know. My housemates are cool as shit. When I got back home from AVN, they had written on the chalkboard, ‘Good luck, hope you get your award!’. I definitely need that. I need people in my life who bring that positive energy. Porn is such a heavily stigmatized industry. My Facebook is a hot fucking mess with all the psychic energy from fans and disrespectful messages from strange men who think I’ll just fuck them. It’s a lot of crazy energy, so I have to have a sane base. You can’t survive without it.”