by Rich Moreland, March 2019
Ela Darling is the final installment of our series on the Star Factory clients we interviewed at the 2019 Adult Entertainment Expo.
Formerly educated and politically active, Ela is not typical of adult stars.
Photos are credited to Kevin Sayers.
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Ela Darling and I go back a few years. It’s a delight to interview her again.
We begin our discussion with VR. Apropos, I might add, because this statuesque model is an able promoter of VR in the adult business.
She is the chief marketing officer for PVR Fun, an adult headset company.
“It’s incredibly good, very lightweight, really good tech,” Ela says of the product. “I would say it even outperforms some of the more mainstream standalone headsets.”
This University of Texas grad has been involved with VR for five years. “As you know, I created the first ever live broadcasting platform in virtual reality and I’m the world’s first VR cam girl,” she says.
Personally, Ela is branching out in the VR world. She’s learning code and building robots for her new company, Gonzo VR (nothing to do with porn, by the way), that she named after her dog.
“VR is basically my life. I’m held hostage to my house by VR robots and I escape the world through my PVR Iris,” she says with amusement.
A Librarian First
Ela Darling received her masters in library science from the University of Illinois, the gold standard for that profession.
“I was a librarian before I made the obvious transition to pornography,” she says matter-of-factly.
If that isn’t an interesting combination of talents, try this: Ela is political and acts on her beliefs. She took her APAC (Adult Performer Advocacy Committee) resume — she was on the board of directors and served a term as president — and reached into California politics.
The Texas native ran for the position of Democratic Assembly District Delegate in her home area.
“I was second runner up, which for someone who does porn, I think is pretty cool,” she says. “It was great running with some awesome progressives and getting to know some of the people in my community without [being] laughed right out of the house.”
Chalk one up for porn star activism.
Knowing how outspoken Ela is on political issues, I ask her to reflect on the #MeToo movement and the adult industry.
“Adult film performers are feeling more emboldened to speak up about their experiences on set with people who are abusive and act in ways that are unacceptable.”
That is no mean feat, she implies.
“We still see people who come out and share their experiences being ignored. Some of that has to do with the fact that they are adult film performers. We’re a very marginalized group and people still have this idea that if we fuck on camera, what were you expecting?
“But there are boundaries in any sexual experience and establishing and respecting those boundaries is paramount, especially in a professional workplace.”
Ela continues. The public doesn’t understand that if a porn model claims she been abused on set, it isn’t easy to go to the police.
“The first thing they do is question your personal decisions. They start to look for any reason not to believe you and that goes twice as much if you’re a sex worker.”
Not only that, but pressure to stay silent comes from within the industry.
“We have this fear that if we speak up, we’re gonna be blacklisted. No one’s going to hire us again.”
Despite the barriers present, Ela is encouraged.
“People are sharing their experiences more, [but] I don’t know that they’re being granted the credence they deserve. It’s a very complicated discussion to have.”
From her end, Ela is there for victims who come forward. “I support anyone who is experiencing something like that and I will always be here to hear them and listen.”
We change the subject to camming. Does she?
Sort of, Ela says, but it is more like “live broadcasts” that are not always involved with adult entertainment. What’s more, she’s busy with it throughout the day.
“I’ve got a twenty-four-hour livestream from my living room. I’m talking to people who are driving around in my little VR car.”
Does she think the cam girl is becoming the new porn girl?
“It’s really insightful to say that cam girls are the new amateur porn because that’s basically what it is,” she says. Live broadcasting is their trademark, but only a portion of their business.
“Most of them also make clips. That is amateur porn. And, with the diminishing taboo with camming, we’re seeing a lot more people enter that space than we ever have seen before.”
To put things in perspective, Ela offers a short back story.
“Maybe fifteen years ago, most of the cam performers primarily were porn performers. Because if you’re already in porn, it’s not that big of a jump.”
On the other hand, it was challenging if sex work was not your thing back then.
Today is different. The public sees camming as “a light, exotic thing to do and more people are doing it all over the country. That’s awesome because that drives acceptance and tolerance,” she says.
Ela sees an increased fairness in the industry today because cammers and porn models are more alike than different.
“Both porn and cam performers have a lot more control and ownership over their careers and their brands and for what they do. So, they’re becoming a lot more similar than people imagine it to be,” she concludes.
Only One Part of the Picture
However, we can’t lose sight of market forces when it comes to porn models turning to camming, though one influence is not necessarily more important than the others. It’s cumulative.
“I wouldn’t say that the growth of camming is driving porn performers to cam,” Ela contends. There are other factors, she believes, like “decreasing sales in porn, fewer work opportunities, rates either stagnating or decreasing.”
Of course, she adds, other money-making opportunities like “producing clips” and “feature dancing” are part of the total picture.
“The porn star of today is not just someone who goes to set, fucks, collects a check and goes home — the way that it was in the golden days. The porn star today does pretty much a little bit of everything. They go to set and shoot, they also shoot their own stuff. They cam because it makes sense. It does increase your brand, your reach [and] your fan base. It drives more people to buy your clips and your scenes and whatever wears you might be selling.
“I would say that camming has become one part of the very diverse job that is being an adult film performer.”
We next talk about the modern porn girl. Some circumstances are updated, others not so much.
“These days, you have the ability to work a lot more. Your work and your financial opportunities aren’t at the whim of someone hiring you. You have more control so you can decide ‘I’m not shooting for a studio today, I’m gonna use this time to create something that I can make money off of forever.’”
On the other hand, “When you’re a sex worker, the rest of the world always sees you as a sex worker. You always have the same weight of discrimination and marginalization,” Ela says.
I bring up the three-legged stool analogy and Ela suggests the modern performer is like a centipede with legs everywhere.
Beyond shooting scenes, feature dancing, and escorting, all choices available to any porn girl, Ela asserts, they have other responsibilities.
“They do porn, they do clips, they do camming, they do production for their friends, they do production for themselves, they do editing, they do every aspect of the business, every job that there is.
“They learn to do it themselves so that they can create their own content and own it and maximize their profits off of it.”
Often performers do all of this without agents, perhaps the most telling change in the profession today.
Of course, stigmas remain, she insists, and brings up escorting as the longstanding example. But a girl in the business today builds her own choices, especially in producing their own content. They “own it and maximize their profits off of it.”
So, the cammer is the new porn girl?
“The new cam girl and porn girl are growing to be one and the same,” Ela Darling concludes.
And don’t forget, she’s an entrepreneur.
That’s the new porn industry that is growing around us everyday.