By Rich Moreland, December 2012
Though they have an unusual job, porn people are pretty much like everybody else. And, like all of us, some pornsters are tidy and immaculate with personal lives that are organized, while others are not so much.
I have the pleasure of knowing one of the neatniks, Imani Rose, an ebony model filled with class. Not only is Imani sweet and hot and funky, she works to keep her image respectable.
I spent some time with Imani at her apartment complex in Woodland Hills getting a view of the adult industry from an African-American perspective. Things have not gone well professionally for her recently; Imani’s not had a shoot since the summer. Her income now is in webcam.
In some respects, Imani Rose is a lesson for women wanting to enter the biz. She’s a good example of how even the best put together souls can flounder at first, right the ship, and maintain a vision of where she wants to go.
We talked about her first shoot with white male performers and her naiveté that surrounded it. She is not reluctant to do interracial scenes and seeks them out where possible, but the first one brought her pause for thought and a measure of disgust.
There was a confederate flag on the set, very racist. Imani felt more debased over that fact than anything in the shoot itself. Afterwards she experienced one of those teachable moments when survival is a girl’s instructor.
The scene was a blow bang, she recalls, but the director wanted more. He cajoled her a bit, justifying his insistence by saying he wanted to give each of the males increased action time with her. “’I’ll throw in more [money] if you let each of them pump you,’” he said. Imani clarifies that the director wanted to stretch the shoot so that “each guy could take three or four penetration hits.”
That came after all the oral, she says, “and then they did the bukkake (ejaculation on her face) effect on me.”
A messy act for such a meticulous person, one thinks. But there is more to this story. I’ve known Imani for some time by porn standards and have the utmost respect for her. Much of that respect comes from the knowledge that she’s learned some things the hard way (no pun intended, so don’t even go there!) Imani is a sincere and focused young woman, but her beginning in the industry is a story that is all too common.
What did she expect when she went to the shoot?
“I was told I was doing a blow bang. I wasn’t told the actual concept of it and I didn’t know that they could add stuff,” Imani says. If she had been aware of the script and its accompanying props, maybe the flag would not have been a surprise and she might have insisted on changes.
They shouldn’t “add stuff,” I thought, unless you’re new and don’t know how to assert yourself which is typical. Take advantage of the new girl who wants to please.
The director told her she could refuse. “But,“ Imani continues, “ I didn’t know what my responsibility was as talent.” Experience has taught her that she should have contacted her agent and told him what was going on. If the situation came up today, she would make that phone call to get the facts. “‘Hey, this guy wants to add this. Is this something you guys negotiated beforehand?’” would be her approach, she says.
Looking back, Imani accepts responsibility for the scene. In situations where she is not “fully informed,” as she puts it, the burden is on her. Agents don’t always step up. Most agents don’t “pay attention to the little details,” she points out, especially if they are managing a lot of girls. Unfortunately, they “don’t take the time to actually make sure the girls are taken care of,” she adds, which includes easing a girl’s anxieties.
At the time of the blow bang, Imani had been in the business for about a month. Though hesitant and uncomfortable, she was fortunate. “The guys were super nice,” she says with the infectious smile that is a part of who she is. Imani never felt as if she were being harmed, it was the self-doubt about her own empowerment that gnawed at her.
Let Me See Something
Having some history with Imani helps with the next place I want to go in our conversation, the casting couch. I never quite know if I’m going to get an honest response on this one, but Imani is upfront. I ask if she’s ever done an anal scene and afterwards been approached by the director for a similar favor, something I’ve heard from other performers.
Imani admits that she has and I detect she is still troubled somewhat by it. In her first four months she went “through so much,” she says. “I didn’t know I was dealing with unethical behavior because its porn and I’m thinking all of that stuff is just perverted anyway,” she admits, then quickly changes her tone, “But there are just certain things they shouldn’t do and shouldn’t ask [the girls] to do.”
Imani’s concern about such behavior is amplified by every performer’s nightmare, the chance infection. As talent she is responsible for having a clean blood test, but is the director or any member of the crew likewise committed to that standard? “I don’t know if they are tested,” she says, “they’ll just put you in that situation and I hate it.”
If she were to contract an STD, her next test would come up positive and she’d be out of work for a period of time. If she were booked to shoot the next day and infected another performer, complications arise for everyone.
Back on the set, Imani reviews how the scenario goes.
The director and crew will have a “hurry up” attitude. They’ll turn the post-shoot shenanigans into a reality TV show-like atmosphere by doing it off-the-cuff without a script. The camera is rolling and trailing the director who has already decided what will happen, though it is entirely impromptu for the performer. A favorite place for this little episode is the bathroom where the model goes for her post-shoot clean-up.
Imani knows the routine. There is a knock on the door. A voice shouts, “’Hey Imani, what’s going on?’”
“’I’m getting dressed!’” she replies.
The voice is unfazed by that bit of information. “Yeah? Well, let me see something,” it insists.
“So, they’re getting another shoot in the bathroom that you’re not contracted to do?” I ask, suspecting that an additional anal penetration can be unwelcome and uncomfortable after a shoot is finished.
“And, they’ll add it in down the line to what they already have on film.”
“Yeah,” she responds.
Here is where the new girl is in a perilous position. The most quoted phrase in the business is, “you don’t have to have sex to get the job, having sex is the job.”
Imani continues. “In my head when it was happening, I’m like, ‘okay I haven’t been paid first so I don’t know [what to do].’ “Because I haven’t gotten my check yet, they could easily say something [that might forestall that], so being new and not understanding it, I would just go with the flow.”
Implied but rarely overtly mentioned is that resistance can lead to eventual de-prioritization, not being hired again. The Family of X is a small circle of directors and performers. Word travels.
Illusion of the Fantasy Girl
Over time, Imani has learned that there are certain people in the industry she does not want to work with and there are agents whose concern for the talent is not what it should be.
As her career progressed, she would “argue with agents,” Imani says. “If I run into a situation I feel is unethical, I’ll tell the agent about it. ‘Why didn’t you tell me about this situation? You know this person. You’ve been in the business long enough. You sent other girls over there so you know what’s going on.’ That’s why I don’t have and agent now,” she adds.
Imani does have an educated head on her shoulders. A Cal-Poly grad, she knows what it takes to succeed in a competitive atmosphere and the necessity of a business plan. An actress should be just that, an actress. She must build her brand by getting her name out there and a good agent can help with that. But, ethical agents or managers who work for their clients are difficult to find, she says.
Yet, they do exist. Imani speaks of one who is “a dream come true to every girl that really wants to be an actress.” He keeps a minimum of girls, she mentions, around ten to twelve and has a “long waiting list.” Too many agents, she laments, “don’t really care what happens to the girls because most of the girls are going to give up after their fourth or fifth scene because they have to deal with all this bullshit.”
Imani believes that the porn business is a system that ignores quality largely because there is a supply and demand imbalance and everyone knows it. “There are more girls than there are companies,” Imani observes. The studios have a real advantage. “It’s cheap for them because they like fresh faces all the time and I just don’t understand that concept.”
There is a further complication. Imani believes porn is about “the illusion of the fantasy girl” and male consumers don’t have the opportunity to settle in with their favorite actress. They are overstimulated with new faces. Imani is animated as she explains how guys jump from one girl to another, sometimes attracted to “certain body parts.” Imani, incidentally, is pigeon-holed somewhat into anal videos.
“Yeah, and I don’t even have an ass, you know, it’s not like a big juicy plate. It’s like nice and firm. They just don’t know what to do with me.”
Perhaps, but Imani knows what to do with her career. That’s the topic for another blog post.
A personal observation: I admire Imani Rose. She is bright, cuddly, and has a disarming smile. She is ebony and classy in an industry that does not have a high demand for black girls who want to do interracial. Of course, for most white female performers the opposite is true. Interracial is a standard and work for them is easier to find.
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When I first met Imani, she was signing in Vegas, sharing a convention booth with two other African-American performers. During our conversation, a white dude with the appropriate tattoos and urban duds came over to me and must have sensed an opportunity to make a dollar. “I only date black girls,” he said arrogantly, indicating that these were his ladies and there might be something in it for me. Was he an agent? Perhaps, but he was of no consequence. I was captivated by Imani’s intelligence and charm. The years since have not changed my mind.