THE INS AND OUTS OF MODERN PORN – WITH JESSIE ANDREWS.
Adult entertainer, international DJ, designer, fashion muse and all-round LA cool kid. We hang with the girl shaking things up and proving porn’s no longer a dirty word.
On a sparkling summer’s day, over an opulent bottle of still water, talk turns to double penetration.
The conversation cocks the ears of nearby diners – those who, when not gazing north across Bondi’s familiar mix of water, sand and concrete, ogle the naturally attractive American sporting grey marl shorts and a striped halter-top alongside an easy smile and obviously-erect nipples.
Jessie Andrews, the porn star, is openly discussing the literal ins and outs of the industry she’s used to penetrate the mainstream as a globally recognised DJ, designer, model and pop cultural poster girl for the new millennials.
Specifcally, the 23-year-old’s detailing a recent flm. Her last. It’s not something she’s much time for these days – her schedule clogged by straight business demands and global music stages. Still, she was intrigued by the script, an inaugural anal scene and the director’s want for, industry parlance, ‘DP’.
“I played this kidnapped girl kept in a tent in the backyard by a guy and his brother for years…” Think Room, minus the awards. “I was devoted to them and it was just intense and intriguing and not something I’d seen done in porn before.”
Andrews takes in the shimmering view and a sip of water. She likes Australia, and Bondi, where she hangs with a close circle of friends who also tend to straddle recognition via art – through music, photography and fashion.
In Sydney to DJ as part of the Stereosonic music festival, Andrews will also fnd time to shoot editorial for a couple of directional fashion magazines and well-known blogs, hers included. She’ll also use the time to gather inspiration for her rapidly expanding line of fne jewellery, Bagatiba. It translates as ‘opulence’ in Latvian – a tip to her mixed-race heritage that also takes in Chinese and American.
The Asian genes are why we’re sipping overpriced aqua: “I can’t drink, I’m allergic to alcohol – being part Asian I go bright red.”
Pushed on her clean living, she admits to the occasional sip.
“But I’m never out, you know, drinking. And I’ve never done drugs – I don’t see what it could possibly do for me. You may be in a different state and it’s all dreamy and you lose yourself, but I’m happy with who I am, I’m happy with where I’m at.”
Where she’s at, right now, is a curious cultural crossroad – one where adult entertainment and certain acceptance collide. While a porn star ‘crossing over’ to touch mainstream regard, success even, is nothing new – think Sasha Grey, Jenna Jameson and Shu Qui – Andrews presents as a progressive rarity: a woman respected for her messages of empowerment, applauded for her achievements, idolised for her lifestyle and a central component of the societal march towards greater approval of this once sordid business.
Andrews was born and bred in Florida – her upbringing split between a maternal townhouse in suburban Kendall, south of Miami, and her father’s place in Tampa. School meant middle ground trying to make it through as a green-eyed Caucasian kid among a sea of Hispanic faces. Neither cool nor nerdish, bookish or brain dead, she did as she pleased, “got good grades” and played soccer and volleyball. Mostly volleyball. Headstrong, she moved out at 17, balancing school books with night-time excursions into Miami’s club scene and work, as part of her diploma, on the retail foor of an American Apparel store.
A year later and an older college girlfriend told Andrews about the US$500 she’d made for ‘background’ work (exposing her breasts) in an amateur, online porn video. The equivalent of two weeks wages, Andrews’ interest was immediately piqued.
“I guess I also saw it as an opportunity to get out of Miami and travel somewhere else. In my mind, I was going to end up in community college and working as a waitress – I wasn’t about to go to California, and that was always a dream.”
She decided to get involved and was soon on set shooting her adult flm debut.
“There were like 90 girls in this club with five or so male strippers. The girls were giving blowjobs and showing their boobs, with only one girl getting fucked – me [laughs]. Yeah, that was my first scene.”
While Andrews can’t recall the film’s title – “I don’t remember a lot of the early stuff because I shot so much that first year” – she remembers the pay cheque: US$1200. “I got interested in shooting more and making more money – being able to buy things and do things. And I remember always thinking,
‘What’s the next thing, now that I’m shooting, what’s next?’” What actually arrived was her ousting from high school after officials were informed of her more extreme extracurricular activities. Still, beyond some awkward parental conversations – “Dad said he loved me no matter what; Mum said she didn’t think it was the right thing but that she supported me” – Andrews continued to pursue porn and was soon flming between Los Angeles and Miami.
“When you’re cute, new and easy to be around, everyone wants to shoot with you… So that frst year I was easily shooting two scenes a day, almost every day.”
She commuted back and forth for 12 months before making a full-time move to LA’S ‘Porn Valley’. She was 19.
It was there Andrews soon booked a worthy studio piece, Portrait of a Call Girl. The flm went on to collect several creative and technical industry awards – including best film, director and actress at the 2012 Adult Video News (AVN) Awards, the Oscars of the adult industry. Jessie Andrews ‘The Star’ was born.
“Winning that award for best actress at 19 is just about unheard of,” Dan Miller, managing editor of AVN’S media network, tells GQ. “It was a high-profle role in what was arguably the most ambitious adult flm produced that year. And Jessie demonstrated remarkable range with both her sexual prowess and ability to emote – and it became all the more impressive considering how inexperienced she was at the time.”
The award, adds Miller, propelled the young actress into an elite category.
Watch Andrews’ adult work and she stands out for a variety of reasons. Naturally attractive, with small breasts and sporting hair where very few of her contemporaries dare, she’s different to what one immediately conjures in regards to a porn actress. As Miller says, her work on camera is indeed “emotive” – loud, if seemingly honest in its performance. Little wonder her fan base quickly grew. So too the list of people wanting to work with her.
It was around this time that Andrews signed with one of porn’s most prominent agents, Mark Spiegler.
A former day trader who transitioned into porn as a producer in the ’90s before becoming a talent agent about 10 years ago, Spiegler’s renowned for being tough, highly selective and protective of “his girls”.
In Andrews, he says down the phone from Los Angeles, he saw not only a star but someone with obvious smarts.
“By then Jessie was on the cusp of being famous and so we had dinner one night,”
recalls Spiegler, a walking cliché of a porn manager: a granny glasses-wearing 50 yearold who could be mistaken for a grizzled, portly version of Bobcat Goldthwait. “I knew she had potential, she was good looking and can really act. And she’s responsible. For me, a girl has to be good looking, though the most important is that they’re responsible.” On signing Andrews, Spiegler imparted some personal porny wisdom. “When I get a girl her age, I tell her to have a life outside of porn; I tell her not to get caught hanging out with a bunch of porn people. And you know what, Jessie’s got two friends in this industry – me and [fellow Spiegler actress] Asa Akira. Everyone else she hangs out with are in music or the arts, you know, real people.” Spiegler goes on to discuss Sasha Grey – an actress he says had a plan and who “came into the business and used it to get this and to get that”. Grey ended up shooting the well-received 2009 Steven Soderbergh feature The Girlfriend Experience and a season of Entourage as Vinnie Chase’s (Adrian Grenier) girlfriend. “Sasha’s someone who was self-aware and had a plan, and that’s just like Jessie. She’s never been this super filthy porn chick, she’s kind of more vanilla and wasn’t into doing crazy circus shit – she’s the girl next door, the all-american girl and she knows her brand. And that’s really important for a long-lasting career and for a career after porn. So, Jessie used porn to become a DJ and then [used] being a DJ to start her jewellery business.” Steven Hirsch has been in the porn industry for 30 years. As the founder and CEO of well-known production outft Vivid Entertainment, he was responsible for a certain Kardashian tape, among many others. Hirsch agrees that Andrews is rare in her ability to fnd fame in porn – and to successfully move beyond its confnes. “For someone to break through into the industry is now more diffcult than ever, because it’s spread out over such a huge area, and she’s done that,” says Hirsch. “Jessie has the ability to fnd an audience because she’s very real in what she does… I don’t think there’s any question that she comes over as the girl next door and she’s very natural looking; her performances are natural and that helps separate her and makes her unique. People believe that she enjoys what she’s doing.” Does she? “It’s defnitely work,” chimes Andrews. “At the end of the day I’m an actress, a performer. When I’m doing a scene everything is like, ‘What position is this person in, do I look good, do they look good, is there anything I need to cover, do I need to make sure that I’m kissing’… There’s a hundred different things going on in your head at the same time, but that’s what a good performer does.” Chemistry is also key, though Andrews rejects that this directly translates to sexual intimacy. “It’s about having the right people and good chemistry and knowing that someone’s clean and easy – the worst is getting to set and someone’s already touching you when you’re just chilling, you’re like, ‘Dude we’re going to have sex in an hour, just chill.’ Or when someone smells or has bad breath – that’s not cool. “Do I get aroused? In a sense, though I’m never attracted to anybody on a mental level. That would take a lot for me because I don’t really like to date or go around and hook up with a lot of people – when I do, I need to be really into them and people in porn aren’t for me.”
Andrews hasn’t shot a flm since early last year – the aforementioned tent/anal epic. That she shot with men was an even more uncommon occurence. “I stopped shooting with guys about three years ago – I just got really busy and that takes more time... So I was shooting with girls for a long time, but hey, if they come along with a good scene and some good guys, I’ll do it.” Her ability to straddle porn while achieving external success is why Andrews can attract certain scorn from those who remain locked in the industry.
“There were like 90 girls in this club with five or so male strippers and only one girl getting fucked – me.”
“There was never a ‘fuck you’ moment, there was never this, ‘fuck you, peace out’ thing like with Sasha or Jemma. I was never like, ‘I’m never shooting again.’ I’ll shoot again. And a lot of people in porn hate me – they’re bitter that I’ve got one foot in and one foot out. Because I feel that’s what they’d all like to do, to make a living outside of porn the same way you do in porn.”
Such sentiment is backed by Miller.
“I think it’s fair to say that many girls in porn would like to cross over to mainstream entertainment, but few can and actually do. And Jessie has shown her crossover appeal isn’t a fuke – she’s sustained it.”
Still, there’s surely a substantial slice of luck involved. It’s an interesting proposition when put to Andrews, who meanders into obtuse corners of conversation about “not being born without an arm”. True. But is she not lucky to have made it beyond porn, given the industry’s tendency to trap certain types – people who, in some cases, perhaps shouldn’t be there to begin with?
“Yeah, OK, it’s a hard industry to get into sober, or unaffected by upbringing – a lot of people do go in because they don’t have, well, there’s a lot of people there because they don’t have money and feel that’s the only way out or they were abused or they’re on drugs…”
So there’s a lot of drugs in porn?
“There’s tons of drugs in the industry… Getting in and making all that money, some people become accustomed to that way of life – they drive a nice car or have a nice house and fancy things. Then, if they stop shooting, they can’t have those things working a normal job, so that’s why people keep shooting and don’t know how to get out. And that’s when they’re doing something they perhaps don’t want to do and are taking drugs to deal with it.”
Again, curiously, she goes on to rail against such words with what she labels misconceptions about porn.
“I’m always trying to tell people it’s not a bad industry – everyone thinks it’s dirty and degrading. But they don’t know, we get tested every 14-21 days depending on regulations and how often you’re shooting. And I’ve probably only slept with 100 people because you end up working with the same people over and over again. It’s actually much cleaner than going to a bar and hooking up with some guy.”
Brand Jessie Andrews is arguably best represented via her website – jessieandrewsoffiicial.com – and associated Instagram account, the bio of which describes her, simply, as a “modern woman”.
Her Instagram followers – 255,850 of them at the time of writing, a further 224,000 following her on Twitter – are given insight into what presents as an attractive and healthy life: images of a girl, sometimes scantily clad, travelling the world Djing, designing, shooting and hanging with the cool kids. She’s seen as an occasional muse for dubious photog Terry Richardson and as friend of renowned international DJ Skrillex. So too (one-time) West Coast hipster Mark Hunter, aka, The Cobrasnake – the pair often snapped jogging LA’S Runyon Canyon.
“I knew I wanted to be a brand from the start,” says Andrews, bluntly. “Instagram wasn’t around when I started shooting porn, it came two years later and I didn’t get into it until a year after that. And I looked at what other people were doing and how they moulded things together, things about their lifestyle.”
Ultimately, she wants to show diversity in what she does while encouraging others.
“It’s fair to say that many girls in porn would like to cross over to mainstream entertainment, but few can and actually do.”
“I post photos of me at the beach, of me Djing and then photos of jewellery and things for friends’ ‘grams – there’s no real porn stuff there as I’d get blocked.”
She has been in the past. Though for now her account lures many young female fans who speak of the empowerment Andrews presents as a women seemingly in charge of all she does.
“I guess the young girls know me as an ‘Insta girl’. At least until they Google me and dig a little deeper, as there’s a shit-ton of photos of me out there.
“And I want to be a good role model, but I can’t be what everyone wants me to be… At the end of the day, I want to project to women, especially, to be themselves and to do what they want and not just follow what people or society say.”
Just as she’s done from a young age? “Exactly. I got into porn myself, I didn’t want to go to college or have a normal 9-5 job. So what I want is for people to be free and do whatever it is they want to do in life – and I like to be an inspiration for this.”
Andrews’ ability to pave her own path pays generous dividends. While continual porn offers come in at a “high five figures” for a four-scene outing, she admits Bagatiba is already making her more than enough to live off. Victoria’s Secret are apparently interested in working with her, and she’s previously collaborated with luxe global lingerie label, For Love and Lemons.
“Once jewellery is the biggest thing, I’ll think about what’s next after that.”
For now, though, plans don’t extend far beyond a desire to live, wholeheartedly, in the now, and to continue to travel and entertain with her music.
Admitting she’s had to fight off a few musical detractors waving placards about being a ‘Celebrity DJ’, Andrews is, in fact, the real deal – in demand across America, Canada, Europe and Asia, signed to club nights and festivals for her ability to mix, not simply stand, press play and wave.
“It’s easy to be categorised if you have a profle outside of music, and it’s also hard to be a female in this industry – so there’s always been a couple of factors working against me. But it helps that I’m mixing live, I don’t use a computer and I care about the music I’m playing.”
Parental musical influences meant household sounds that went from Nora Jones to Bob Marley to Queen, while her own early tastes centred on the likes of Fall Out Boy and Panic At the Disco.
It was as a teen that she discovered decent house music – as a Miami club kid – and it’s what she still bangs out today.
“I love to have people dance because that’s what I used to love to do – I remember going out and wanting to dance forever, wanting a song to go on forever so when I play now, that’s what I’m thinking of.”
Andrews this year started a residency at well-known San Francisco club Harlot – a club that’s previously hosted legends such as Derrick Carter, Stacey Pullen and Carl Craig. According to Harlot’s marketing director Nick Santoro, Andrews deserves her place in the booth alongside such luminaries.
“Jessie’s legit,” he tells GQ. “She’s a distinctive style and stays true to herself. Veteran DJS and techs have been in the house when she’s been playing and they’ve all been very impressed. But the feedback that counts the most are the smiles on the dancefloor – and there’s always a lot of those when she’s here.”
Santoro frst came across Andrews a couple of years ago – oblivious to her work in flm.
“A good friend of mine was digging a remix by Jessie. He told me to check her out, so I did. I had no idea who she was prior to this. She had this disco mix on her Soundcloud that she’d recorded live for WVUM, a cool college radio station at the University of Miami. The frst track on the mix was ‘Joy & Pain’ by Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, and I was sold. And from there I did my homework – she had a strong following, she was touring, she was producing, her music and vibe were tight, she was the perfect ft for Harlot. I made her an offer and the rest is history.”
Sydney’s humidity is an unwelcome hug to the varied revellers who’ve turned out for Stereosonic. Andrews, wearing a lenghty, original LA Lakers T-shirt (announcing the basketballers as ‘1987 World Champions’) atop denim shorts and leopard print ankle boots, stands at the side of the Beatport stage, preparing to take to the decks.
She’s to follow DJ Snails – a chunky Montreal-based producer and DJ renowned for his personal ‘Vomitstep’ genre, a kind of thick-edged dub-step hybrid. If that’s even a thing. The gathered crowd of a thousand-strong bounces to the scattered beats being thrown out.
While Andrews said she doesn’t succumb to nerves ahead of a set, she appears a little uneasy – certainly her club-friendly deep house is at odds with the bass-heavy music of her predecessor.
She says she’ll go in a bit harder than she was expecting, before moving things over from there.
“People, give it up for Jessie Andrews!” comes the cry, to which more than one man can be seen mouthing a version of, “Oh, I’d give it up for her alright.”
Moving through her set, shuffling side to side, tweaking the tunes, Andrews loses a fair swathe of Snails’ devotees. She plugs on as green visuals projected on to the screen behind spruik her initials – twisting and contorting in a way that would surely please people on a particular high.
A remix of ‘Sweet Dreams’ then buoys the crowd – ah for The Eurythmics.
After nearly an hour, local duo Yolanda Be Cool arrive with a tub of iced booze as they prepare to take over. Andrews knows them, so too the surfy Cut Snake kids who’ve also taken up a spot side of stage.
“I love Jessie – she’s a cool chick,” says Cut Snake’s Leigh, without prompting.
With that, she’s done: sweaty, rosy cheeked, but done.
“You know what, I’m happy with that,” she confides a few minutes later, sitting backstage in a makeshift dressing room devoid of any personality.
“I haven’t Djed in a while so I was happy with how clean that was.” Would she have liked to have kept a few more of Snails’ audience?
“Even if there’s only one person in the crowd, that’s who I’m playing for. I guess I play to my own beat in that way. ” Yes, she does.
From top: Andrews in an advertisement for American Apparel; on stage to collect her AVN award; with agent Mark Spiegler and his ‘girls’.