This article originally ran in the January 2016 issue of AVN magazine. Click here for the digital edition.
When AVN approached me to write an article about how a foreign performer breaks into the American porn market, my initial response was one of hesitance. There are, in my opinion, many individuals more qualified than me to answer this question. Following the hesitance, I was taken by contemplation: What does it mean to have “broken into” the American porn market?
If we take “breaking into” the American porn industry to mean the realization of sustained market visibility and profitability, then a foreign performer breaking into the American porn market is neither new, nor unique. A quick scan of the current U.S.-based performer pool, particularly male performers, reveals many foreign performers who have enjoyed great success. Five-time AVN Male Performer of the Year Manuel Ferrara is one; reigning AVN Male Performer of the Year Mick Blue is another. To this list, add prolific performers Ramon Nomar, Toni Ribas and the now Budapest-based Erik Everhard.
Turning one’s gaze abroad, Steve Holmes, Rocco Siffredi and Nacho Vidal have all established themselves within the American porn market as talented directors. Add to this list the superb work of Mike Adriano and the impact of director Greg Lansky—the creative mastermind behind the Blacked/Tushy juggernaut—and the influential presence of overseas talent in the U.S. porn market is undeniable.
Foreign female performers, it has to be said, haven’t been quite as successful as their male counterparts when it comes to breaking into the American porn market in terms of quantity, longevity or influence. Nonetheless, their presence cannot be ignored. Anissa Kate (two-time AVN Foreign Female Performer of the Year) and Valentina Nappi are part of a long list of foreign performers who have established a name for themselves alongside individuals such as Sandra Romain, Rebeca Linares, Katsuni and Aletta Ocean. The list continues to grow with newer performers like Amirah Adara and Misha Cross.
So back to the question: How did these performers make it in the American porn market? While there may be some different steps demanded of foreign performers, I think the ones they share with American performers—and one in particular—are more deserving of attention.
Professionalism, performance, passion and persistence are important universally. But the bottom line is that these are a given; without these qualities any performer, male or female, U.S.-based or not, would face a difficult if not impossible time breaking into the American porn market.
What my observations suggest, and what my personal experiences consistently emphasize, is that branding is supremely important when it comes to achieving sustained market visibility and profitability. What branding offers a performer in terms of identity formation, communication and potential diversification makes it an extremely important aspect of any performer’s profile in the contemporary adult entertainment industry. Regardless of whether performers actively brand themselves or not, they are branded, and it plays a role in how they are perceived and received by the porn consumer in America.
In 2015, an adult performer must aim to be an identifiable product: a brand. With a stream of highly talented performers continually entering the U.S. porn industry, the importance of separating oneself from the crowd has never been greater. Being an amazing performer is no longer enough. This is not to suggest that new performers should craft a fake persona that they think is marketable or only focus on their brand at the expense of their product. One’s brand, first and foremost, has to be honest. It has to complement a professional, passionate and dedicated attitude to excellent adult performance. But one’s brand needs to be actively developed and must be the focus of continued attention and thought. As the market changes, so must one’s brand.
Branding is, in the final instance, about communication. Not only the communication of a certain product, which in the case of this article is the adult performer, but a certain quality, a certain value and a certain philosophy. For adult performers in 2015, this communication has to take place constantly: with fans, fellow performers, directors, producers, all manner of crew, agents, PR representatives and event managers, not to mention potential endorsement providers. And it has to take place via all mediums: performances, interviews, articles, social media and public appearances.
Good branding has more foundations than simply being true to the performer’s identity. Firstly, it needs to be integrated, coherent and pervasive. Building on one’s performances, it can encompass how an individual dresses, speaks and acts—the list is almost endless. Secondly, this honest, integrated brand needs to have a voice. Akin to the way production houses such as Jules Jordan Video, Hard X and Blacked add voice to their branding through their use of everything from logos, font choices and color palettes to location selection, wardrobe language and music, performers need to give themselves and their brand an easily recognizable voice. With so much content being produced featuring so many performers and being consumed via so many mediums, performers need to make sure they remain visible to and in communication with the American porn market.
Intelligent branding has played an important role in the careers of many of the industry’s most successful performers: Bonnie Rotten and Kayden Kross, to name a couple. These stars of U.S. adult entertainment are heavily branded and in both cases it is an honest, integrated voice that complements and communicates their innate talent, skill and commitment to creating professional and passionate content. While the brand that is Angela White is always evolving, it remains honest and carefully crafted.
While the process of branding enhances communication and hence plays a role in sustained market visibility, it also plays a pivotal role in an adult performer achieving sustained profitability, whether they be male or female, U.S. or foreign. With the disruption caused by technology to the global adult entertainment industry over the past decade, diversification has become increasingly important. Companies, for example, that were once heavily focused on DVDs, such as Wicked Pictures, now have a meaningful web presence and have branched out into tangible goods. In this process, they have given themselves powerful tools to meet the current challenges that confront porn producers. Brand equity, built up over decades, played a central role in this process. It allowed the positive associations with Wicked Pictures’ DVD product to be transferred to new domains and revenue streams. Many of today’s biggest adult performers have achieved similar outcomes. Alexis Texas, Asa Akira and Tori Black have all taken advantage of their branding and branched out into directing, unlocking lucrative revenue streams such as feature dancing and establishing meaningful passive income through their Fleshlight endorsements. The growth of these individual brands has been vital to achieving sustained visibility and profitability for both foreign and U.S. performers in the contemporary American porn market. All of this success would have been impossible without branding.
Since entering the adult industry in 2003 at the age of 18, Australian Angela White has explored her sexuality while opening minds and promoting sex-positive porn. The University of Melbourne graduate directs and performs exclusively for her website, AngelaWhite.com, as well as her DVD studio, AGW Entertainment B.V., which is distributed by Girlfriends Films.