RCL Exclusive

What It Takes to Be a Porn Star Today

Performer of the Year nominee Eva Lovia on surviving in a business where fame is fleeting.

Women By

“I don’t even know how other girls do it,” Eva Lovia said. By any standard, Lovia’s career in the porn industry is a success. Both the Adult Video News (AVN) Awards and XBIZ Awards showered her with nominations for 2018, notably Female Performer of the Year. She commands a rate “significantly higher than the majority of the industry.”

Yet the 28-year-old lives in Wilmington, North Carolina, and no longer travels to L.A. for two weeks each month when she’d “shoot every single day, sometimes twice a day.” She has decided it makes more sense to “do everything on my own.”

“I think right now, unless the industry makes a bunch of changes, you’ll see more girls leaving and doing it on their own,” Lovia said.

Lovia isn’t suddenly opposed to porn—after all, she still produces it. But the days when she worked for various established companies and generally had an “awesome time” are over. Gradually, she observed things changing for the worse from a financial and even a safety standpoint. She concluded it was time to “make some changes” and ultimately headed for the exit.

This is what working in porn today entails and why Lovia is troubled by what it’s become. To start, there are challenges that simply go with the territory:

The Youth Factor. Lovia got her start at “roughly 22,” initially working only with other women. (She began doing scenes with men three years ago.) By porn standards, this makes her a late bloomer. Performers can legally enter the industry at 18. Lovia disagrees with this: “I am a firm believer it should be 21 and up.” She doesn’t think people at that age understand how shooting only a single scene for a small company under an assumed name will still invariably wind up “forever attached to you,” thanks to the power of the Internet. “At 18, making these life-changing decisions is kind of ridiculous, particularly since there’s no onboarding process.”

In particular, she finds the youngest members of the industry aren’t ready for grown-up financial responsibilities. “There are plenty of adults who can’t balance checkbooks, let alone an 18-year-old,” Lovia said. It makes sense someone might struggle with money when they’re going from “making $1,000 bucks a month to $1,000 a day.” (It should be noted earning that sum is increasingly unlikely—more on that momentarily.) Young performers are often particularly ill-equipped for dealing with the IRS: “I can’t tell you how many times a girl will shoot for six months, twelve months and then tax season comes around: ‘Hey, you owe us 20, 30 grand.’ She says, ‘I don’t even have that in my bank account.’”

The Physical Factor. You may have a great time playing football with your friends each weekend, but if you were put in the lineup against the Pittsburgh Steelers, you’d likely wind up hospitalized. That’s pretty much the relationship between “sex” and “porn sex.”

Take an act that is particularly popular among consumers: anal. Lovia occasionally has it with her husband: “Perfectly clean, great time.” So how is it on film? “It’s horrible. It’s absolutely horrible.”

Why? For one, the “positioning is just so much more brutal”—you’re not only in uncomfortable positions, but you need to hold them for an extended amount of time. Lovia said that there’s also the risk that, if you don’t properly prepare your body, things can “get messy really fast.” That’s why she tries to “stop eating by 6 pm the night before.” (She also does one or two water enemas the day of the shoot, allowing herself only “water and coffee” throughout the day, as if preparing for a cholesterol test during a physical.)

So you’re starving, but it’s still “better than having to be self-conscious during the scene.” Not that you get to the scene right away. First, there’s makeup, which “can last two hours.”

Then there are the photos. You begin with the “pretty girls,” which consist of the woman by herself. Then you “bring in the guy in for the sex stills.” Essentially, this is when the two start having sex, only they need to move as little as possible so they can pose for more photos. Lovia confirms this is as every bit as weird as it sounds: “It definitely takes a lot of talent to be able to make it look sexy and natural.”

A photo session may take another two hours. (Again, you’ve been fasting since the previous day.)

Then comes the acting (assuming acting’s needed for the project) and finally the act itself. Eva said the “actual physical portion is about two hours.” This includes the time spent on sex stills. Ideally, it all won’t happen continuously: “If the company is good, they’ll break for lunch. You’ll have an hour to decompress before the scene.”

Of course, the company may be running late, so you might “not even shoot your photos until 3 pm.” The result is that a performer may have been fasting for over 24 hours before engaging in a lengthy sex act that needs to look good (but not necessarily feel that way).

Lovia noted for her showcase video Eva with director Greg Lanksy—the French filmmaker who has described himself as the “Steven Spielberg of porn”—they “shot for two weeks straight” including five anal scenes: “That was a lot. You’re not eating. That was a lot of physical strain, but the product came out great. I don’t have any complaints.”

Again: these are all things Lovia could live with. Here are today’s trouble points:

You No Longer Know Whom to Trust. “Almost every woman in this industry has shot for a sh-t company,” Lovia said. “It’s an unfortunate rite of passage.” But she felt that when she started out, the problems were with “the weird, grungy sites from South Florida.” Whereas with bigger companies “you knew you were safe, you were going to be fed, you’d be treated with respect.”

Now, however, it’s a roll of the dice: “All of these companies now are freelancing their producers or directors so they can step away from responsibility. If something does happen, they can say, ‘Hey, they’re not our employee.’”

Lovia said it’s possible to avoid some problems by only working with directors you know and like. Even then, however, there is uncertainty. Lovia is a big fan of Holly Randall, calling her “a great director, great photographer.” But there are factors beyond Randall’s control: “[D]epending on who she’s freelanced to work with that day and what budget they gave her, that’s kind of going to determine how long your day is.” Quite simply: “You don’t really know what her boss is telling her to do.”

What happens on a bad shoot? It can range from the inconvenient (say, a disorganized process that takes hours longer than it should where no food is supplied) to the deeply troubling.

The Pressure to Do Things You Don’t Want to Do. Lovia has had multiple disturbing experiences with the company Bang Bros. She said at one shoot, a director demanded she do something to herself with a sausage. She hadn’t agreed to that act—when commanded to do it, she said no.

What happened? “They threatened not to pay anybody on set if I didn’t do it.”

Lovia said she still refused—“Sorry, that’s way past my comfort zone”—even as the shoot took a decidedly dark turn: “Girls were crying, ‘I need to pay my rent!’”

Ultimately: “Someone else wound up doing it.”

Sometimes the abuse is more monetary.

Not Getting Paid What You’re Supposed to Earn. There is a much longer article to be written about the financial struggles of the porn industry, particularly thanks to the rise of tube sites and online piracy. “A lot of girls are doing scenes for about 600 bucks,” Lovia said. (This may be for girl-girl or even boy-girl, which has traditionally commanded a higher rate.)

Of course, that $600 isn’t all hers: “Take $180 for taxes, take 50 for your wardrobe and maybe your tanning, 10 percent for your agent, maybe 20.” Then throw in travel expenses, even feeding yourself: “You very often have to buy your own food nowadays.”

“You can very quickly lose money,” Lovia concluded.

Which doesn’t stop companies from looking to undercut wages. Here’s one way. Porn tends to define interracial sex as “white girl, black guy.” This commands higher rates for female performers.

“I don’t like the fact that are different rates for interracial, but at the end of the day it’s business,” Lovia said.

(Lovia noted the definition is particularly strange in her case: “I’m mixed. I’m Japanese and Spanish and a little bit of white mixed in there. Technically, every scene I do is interracial.”)

Before doing a shoot with Bang Bros, she informed them that due to another company “I had a pretty strict restriction on IR.” (Indeed, she noted that she was forbidden to work with people who looked black, even if they weren’t: “Even if someone was dark-skinned, it could be marketed towards an interracial demographic.”)

Making it all the more bizarre when Bang Bros only offered her dark-skinned partners, with the director—a man she’d never met—ultimately insisting he would personally perform with her. Lovia was concerned about this—“I do not shoot with directors”—but had already extended her trip and, facing the costs of the flight change and additional hotel nights, considered it.

Until she discovered the director was also too dark-skinned for her contract. Upon reminding him that she was contractually forbidden to do this, “He canceled the rest of my week with him.”

Lovia felt as if she were being pressured into doing a scene that could be sold as interracial … without them having to pay her rate. “If this company is going to be marketing it in such a niche way and they’re going to be profiting 30-fold because of that, I need to get my cut of that as well.” She believes companies exploit the good intentions of female performers determined to show that race doesn’t matter: “The girls who refuse to charge more for interracial, the fact that you’re letting them market it as interracial is the issue.”

Women in porn being underpaid can lead to them seeking new sources of income, with dangerous consequences.

The Disease Factor. With rare exceptions, heterosexual porn is free of condoms. “The companies say it will hurt their sales,” Lovia said. “If you were to show up to set and say, ‘I’m only doing it with condoms today,’ they’d send you home.” Heterosexual porn instead tries to keep itself safe by requiring performers test for a variety of STDs every two weeks.

Lovia finds this “super risky, particularly with how much sex we’re all having.” She did the math: “Very popular girls are probably working 14 days of those two weeks. That’s 14 partners minimum. Not even considering threesomes, gangbangs, orgies, that kind of thing. On top of whatever you’re doing in your personal life. Some girls are escorts. Two weeks is a very long time.”

Which is why Lovia requires “people to a have test one or two days before they work with me.”

Rising numbers of performers sidelining as escorts ups the danger significantly. Lovia specifically cited Adriana Chechik. Chechik was the AVN Female Performer of the Year in 2017. She is known for extreme sex acts, such as triple anal. (Yes, this does mean three men simultaneously.) That testing of the limits apparently extends to her life off the set: “She has been on different radio stations and she has admitted to seeing so many johns bareback that she and one of her girlfriends, they were getting Z-Paks every single day. She’s doing that while she’s still shooting. She’s known for giving people chlamydia, syphilis, gonorrhea, that’s kind of her thing. That’s her reputation. What happens when she gets HIV?”

(This entire conversation is extremely NSFW, but at 31 minutes of her interview with Howard Stern, Chechik discusses how she contracted gonorrhea eight times.)

The risk isn’t just from female performers.

“Crossovers.” Male performers make more in gay porn than in heterosexual. (Which makes sense: in straight porn, the woman is the main attraction.) This creates a temptation to move between the industries. “If you’re going to crossover, there kind of has to be universal testing,” Lovia said.

Gay porn has begun to embrace testing, but traditionally relies on condom usage. As noted, these are extremely rare in straight porn. Due to the unprotected sex, Lovia said, “You cannot be HIV positive and shoot in straight porn. Can’t do it. Soon as that happens, you’re never shooting again.” However, that’s “not the case for the gay side of the industry.” (Indeed, there have been studios in gay porn that allow HIV-positive performers to have unprotected scenes with other HIV-positive performers.)

This isn’t a theoretical danger. In 2010, Derrick Burts was working as a “crossover” performer using condoms in gay porn and testing on the heterosexual side of the industry when he learned he was HIV-positive.

“If you have a girl like August [Ames] who says I’m not comfortable working with a gay performer because there are [HIV] positive people on that side of the industry, I don’t find that crazy,” Lovia said.

The 23-year-old Ames committed suicide on December 5. While she had been open about struggles with depression, it’s believed a contributing factor in her death was a wave of cyberbullying after she tweeted she was uncomfortable working with a male performer who also did gay porn, particularly since the company had not disclosed this to her. Ames insisted she was only concerned about the health risk and not homophobic, noting she was attracted to and had sex with women.

The Disposability of Women in General. At one time, James Deen was arguably porn’s most celebrated leading man since Boogie Nights inspiration John Holmes. Then Deen was accused of abusive behavior by both costars and ex-girlfriends.

“I’ve only met him in passing, I’ve never worked with him,” Lovia said. While she could neither confirm nor refute the allegations against him, she noted, “I have heard stories from people who have dated him or worked with him—it sounded like that definitely could have happened. It wasn’t outside of his character. He’s known for pushing the limits.”

Deen continues to work in the porn industry today. Indeed, if you scroll through the 2018 AVN nominations, you’ll see his name make a few appearances.

Lovia isn’t surprised: “He has his own company. No one’s going to fire him from his own company.” More than that: “I feel like a lot of the top male performers are more protected than the top women just because they’re more rare.” (They certainly have greater longevity: Steve Holmes continues to be in demand at the age of 56.)

By comparison, “Girls are kind of seen as like a dime a dozen unfortunately.” When asked if she’d include herself in this category, Lovia confirmed, “100 percent.”

That’s why Lovia has set off on her own. “I’m fortunate enough I have different streams of income: my website, my social media accounts”—Lovia’s on Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitch, with handles including “fallinlovia,” “lovialongtime,” and “madewithlovia”—“my toy line.”

She’s also diversified: “I have a couple restaurants, so I do a lot of cooking, menu testing, that kind of stuff.” She doesn’t use her social media channels to promote them: “It’s something I’ve kind of battled with. I do have this great platform to promote whatever I want. The thing with that is that I live in a smaller town. There’s the issue of safety, privacy. I don’t know if the reward would outweigh the risk.”

The porn she makes now is a mix of spontaneous efforts—“Most of the time it’s, ‘I’m kind of feeling this… let’s get the iPhone or let’s get the GoPro out’”—with the occasional larger shoot that sees her working as both performer and producer. She said she can get two videos and a large number of photos done in 12 hours, whereas working for big studios she was sometimes “on set for 19 and we did one scene.”

How long will her new approach to porn last?

“I think I’m going to test it out and see what happens. Right now I’m comfortable so I’m going to keep it rolling.”

And her advice to anyone thinking of entering the industry?

“Learn and use the word no. A lot of times people will try to pressure you into doing things you don’t want to do … No one’s owed an explanation. It’s your body. It’s your product. It’s your brand. If you don’t want to do something, for whatever reason, you don’t have to do it.”