LOS ANGELES—Kendra Sunderland knows there is nothing typical about her porn career.
“It’s just crazy how lucky I am,” Sunderland says.
Three years ago she was a student at Oregon State University who wasn’t sure she wanted to continue her studies. She was also a live-cam beginner whose decision to do a topless show in the campus library led to national notoriety when the clip went viral.
Fast-forward to January 21st, 2017, at Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas. That night Sunderland secured her place in porn history, winning the trophy for Best Boy/Girl Sex Scene with three-time AVN Male Performer of the Year Mick Blue at the 34th annual AVN Awards.
Her performance, which was directed by Greg Lansky for Vixen’s Natural Beauties, was the first professional scene Sunderland had ever done.
Just a few days before she stepped onto the biggest stage in porn to accept the award, Lansky named her the first ever Vixen Angel of the Year at the AVN Adult Entertainment Expo, giving her a one-year exclusive performance contract and a diamond necklace worth $20,000. She also landed a signature Fleshlight toy deal with the title.
“It just blows my mind,” Sunderland says. “Everything moves so fast. That’s why I don’t really plan things. I just kind of go with the flow because everything in my life has been a crazy turn of events.”
On the heels of her improbable weekend in Vegas, the 22-year-old native of Salem, Ore., moved to LA in February so she could be closer to the action in Porn Valley.
“I wanted to be around people that live my lifestyle,” she explains. “Up in Salem, Oregon, there are no porn stars; there’s a few webcam models. But nobody really understood the lifestyle that I live or why I am the way that I am. When I moved down here it was great to make friends with people that are in the industry who you can talk to about your work and they’re not all weirded out by it.”
At press time Sunderland still had less than 20 sex scenes on her resume—half of which are for Vixen and the other half for Lansky’s Blacked—but it’s safe to say quality, not quantity is what has defined her body of work.
“When I look back to my first scene—even though it won Best Boy/Girl—I feel like such a baby and that was only a year ago,” Sunderland says. “It’s just crazy to me how I’ve evolved. I feel like I’ve opened up more in my scenes. I feel like I was a little bit reserved in my first few because I had no idea what I was doing.
“Nowadays I know how to shoot for Greg to a tee—I’ve got it down.”
She says now the question she gets most often is why she got into porn.
“I feel like all my life I’ve been a really sexual person and I used to be hated on for it because I would sleep with guys that weren’t necessarily my boyfriend even though the guys were doing the exact same thing,” she explains. “I got a bad rep for it. My friends were like, ‘Why are you so open about it?’
“I would always want to talk about sex and I always kind of felt like there was something wrong with me. Then I found out there’s this whole industry of people just like me living the same lifestyle I want to live, so I feel like this is really where I belong.”
Sunderland continues, “I like to be filmed. I like to be photographed. My mom said I always used to beg to have my picture taken. I’ve always loved being in front of the camera. I love being able to explore my sexuality and being a part of a project. That’s the huge thing that I love about it is to act in something and to take pictures for something and then see the final project. It’s like wow, I really did that.
“I think that’s part of why I want to go off and do mainstream acting and movies and television. … Now I look at things different. Movies, porn, anything that I watch I just think about how they made it.”
Before Sunderland logged onto cam for the first time, she remembers how hard it was to find a job in Oregon. Despite her efforts, no one wanted to hire her.
“It was so strange. I would hand in resumes and you would think I would get hired easily. I don’t mean to sound conceited but I really thought it wouldn’t be that hard for me to get a job,” Sunderland says.
“Eventually I got one at this diner. It was like a 50s-themed diner that was just starting up so I was the first employee that they hired.”
She helped them set up for the grand opening, even doing some painting before she settled into waiting tables.
“It was kind of fun. It was really different to get tips and then go home with cash but then also get a paycheck,” Sunderland recalls. “That was really cool and then I got fired. I think that I broke too many glasses. Because I’m clumsy and I would break a lot of their Coca-Cola glasses or I guess I just didn’t take it as seriously as the other girls and so they let me go."
When one of her friends suggested webcamming, she decided to try it, making a couple hundred bucks on her first night on MyFreeCams. Three years later, Sunderland is a porn A-lister with only high-profile credits on her resume.
She may not have a lot of scenes, but the ones she has done include many of the top performers in adult entertainment, including Manuel Ferrara, Mandingo, Jason Brown, Ricky Johnson, Jean Val Jean, Isiah Maxwell, Christian Clay, Dredd and Chris Diamond. Her female partners include Riley Reid, Blair Williams, Ana Foxxx, Jillian Janson, Bree Daniels and Alexa Grace.
“I shot a scene with [Xander Corvus] for Vixen that’s not out yet and I was really excited about that one because I had a crush on him, so I was so nervous,” Sunderland admits. “He’s a really good performer.”
A year ago this month, Blacked unveiled Sunderland’s first star showcase, Kendra’s Obsession, in a four-part series. In the movie Sunderland performed a three-way with Jason Brown and Ricky Johnson, a three-way with Isiah Maxwell and Jillian Janson, and did separate scenes with Brown and Ana Foxxx. She plays an adventurous college student turned model who is exploring her sexuality with her photographer boyfriend (Tucker Eli).
“That’s my baby. That means so much to me,” Sunderland says. “The guy that plays my boyfriend in it is my actual boyfriend and we do live the open lifestyle where he joins.
“He’s actually the first white guy to fuck on Blacked because there’s like little inserts of us and our relationship. The whole thing is just special to me because it’s my first showcase. It actually portrays the lifestyle that we live. Kendra’s Obsession will always mean the most to me out of anything that I’ve done. That’s my favorite project.”
Tucker tells AVN that making his performing debut in Kendra’s Obsession was an intense experience.
“My heart was racing, it was beating out of my chest,” Tucker says. “I had already been to one AVN and started learning about the industry and looked up to Greg—like man, this guy’s doing it big. So being on set with him was really intimidating. He just worked everything out with me really well. He took me out to dinner. It was really cool; he really helped work me through it.”
Kendra’s foray into porn marked a transition in their relationship, according to Tucker.
“Originally her and I were going to shoot for different companies together,” Tucker explains. “I was always super into the idea of her being in the adult industry. Then when Greg reached out I experienced a lot of insecurities and jealousies but I knew it was such a good experience and opportunity for her that we just worked through it together with a lot of communication.
“It was definitely life-changing. It took our relationship to a completely different level that we never expected working for Greg.”
Now the Arizona native and former line cook has also become a regular part of Lansky’s production crew, doing behind-the-scenes videography and still photos.
Speaking of the crew, when Sunderland isn’t shooting she has a significant role with Lansky’s social media presence, posting photos and videos on the official Vixen Instagram from the monthly Vixen Angel ceremonies and exclusive photoshoots.
In January, she will be signing at Lansky’s booth at the AVN Adult Entertainment Expo in Las Vegas.
“I’m almost done being Vixen Angel of the Year,” Sunderland says. “I’m going to have to give it to someone else. But I’m still the first one so it means a lot to me.
“I got into porn with the best. Everything he does is so classy and high quality so I’m happy that I went that way instead of a different way.”
So are her co-stars.
Isiah Maxwell, who performed with Sunderland in Kendra’s Obsession, calls her “very special.”
“Her best is yet to come,” Maxwell says. “Each project she gets better and I'm ecstatic to have a part in her growth. She is drop-dead gorgeous and will be a standout figure in this industry.”
Veteran stud Jason Brown agrees.
“She’s one of my favorite people to work with because not only is she gorgeous but she’s attentive,” Brown tells AVN. “She’s completely in the zone in scenes. She genuinely loves sex and embraces her sexuality. I met her before she got into the biz and to see how’s she’s grown is simply a sight to see.”
Through it all, Sunderland remains humble, realizing her rapid ascent is the exception, not the norm. She remembers being overcome with emotion when her Fleshlight was released.
“It’s a huge honor to have one—all the top girls have one,” she says. “I cried that day when it came out. I was like this is just insane, it’s unbelievable what my life has come to.”
When her Vixen contract is finished Sunderland says she has no plans to hire an agent and begin shooting for other studios.
“I was never planning on shooting with other companies, just with girls for their sites,” she says. “I feel like I probably have at least one more year collaborating with other girls. I never wanted to be in for the long run.”
Last week she even teased the idea on Twitter of making the final sex scene of her career her first anal for Tushy.
“I wanted to see how people would react,” Sunderland says. “I am thinking about finishing with that to kind of go out with a bang.”