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OPINION: The Line Between Mainstream Celebrity and X-Rated Performer is Getting Blurred

Actresses from the porn industry are carving out a lane to become internet stars or enter the arena of mainstream film and TV. The floodgates are opening for adult entertainers and mainstream celebs to freely migrate between both industries. The inevitable outcome is that mainstream entertainment will be pornified, pornographic content will be mainstreamed, and audiences will no longer recognize a distinction.

In a recent interview with Bustle, 29-year old former porn actress Mia Khalifa recounted her story of getting scouted on the street for nude modeling at the age of 21 shortly after getting a breast augmentation procedure. She mulled over the offer and accepted, conceiving of a stage name from her dog’s name (Mia) and her favorite rapper, Wiz Khalifa. She also gave a controversial nod to her Lebanese heritage by donning a hijab in explicit videos.

Her stint in the adult entertainment industry only lasted a few months, but she quickly soared to the number one spot on Pornhub and attained permanent notoriety. That type of fame has come with obvious drawbacks.

Khalifa recalled being touched inappropriately by strangers who recognized her from porn, receiving scrutiny online for her appearance, and two failed marriages with partners who were uncomfortable with her public status. She also found that her background in porn inhibited her in seeking conventional jobs.

In 2016, she decided to take her fame into her own hands. Khalifa became active on Instagram and Twitter, began streaming on Twitch, and joined a sports commentary podcast in Los Angeles. She grew a platform on TikTok where she now boasts a following of 32.8 million, and capitalized on her platform by launching a subscription-based OnlyFans account for lewd content in September 2020.

Chloe Cherry is another adult performer who used her background in porn as a launchpad for a budding acting career. She landed the role of Faye in HBO Max’s flagship teen drama Euphoria and has since walked high fashion runways, starred in ad campaigns, and exploded in mainstream popularity. Despite the fact that Cherry owes her current success to her start in adult content, she revealed during her appearance on Alex Cooper’s podcast Call Her Daddy that it cost her many friendships and she is completely “done” with the industry.

Another X-rated star named Lana Rhoades made the switch to a PG-13 career in social media. In an interview featured in Playboy Magazine, the influencer relayed that she never found fulfillment from her work as an adult entertainer, and opted to use her name recognition for a more lucrative and less mentally taxing gig: “I wouldn’t say I gained that much success or happiness from anything within the industry. It’s helped me after the fact because it led to people knowing me, so now I can do other things with it.”

Former Disney child star Bella Thorne launched an NSFW OnlyFans account in September 2020. The actress made over one million dollars in her first day on the platform. Thorne is an example of a mainstream celebrity that dabbled in the adult entertainment sphere, further blurring the line between adult film stars and establishment-approved celebrities.

These stars want to profit off of the notoriety they gained from adult entertainment, while avoiding any consequences of the taboo surrounding the industry. They feel entitled to complete control of their public image without acknowledging that they abandoned their better judgment to make a name for themselves. Sadly, this seems to be a successful strategy.

For every Mia Khalifa or Bella Thorne who gets to bask in the limelight after doing porn, there are hundreds of faceless young women who are taken advantage of in the industry and then promptly forgotten.

Pornography should not be confused with mainstream entertainment. Allowing the line between these industries to blur or fully disappear would irreversibly coarsen culture and exploit the most base desires of performers and viewers alike.

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