Tamara Santibañez: When we first met, you were working at the porn store, and you had just started working at the strip club and done some independent sex work.
Kingsley: Yeah, very hit or miss. Like I'm really, really broke right now, I need money tomorrow- that stuff.
T: You've steered your career path a bit differently recently.
K: I get this bug-every time it turns a new year, I get really excited and I apply to a bunch of porn sites and I never get accepted. In January I applied to Asylum, which is a pretty strenuous application process- you have to write an essay about why you want to do it. He actually reads it, and asks you questions about it- so, I applied, and I got accepted. March 26th of this year I shot with Asylum and it came out a week later, April 2nd.
T: So it was your first porn shoot?
K: Yeah, my first real one at all. Amateur or not.
T: How did you find the experience?
K: It was very nerve wracking. I had seen the site before, so I knew what was going to happen, and we had talked very extensively about what he wanted to do with me but it was very nerve wracking because I'm not much of an actress. I was also nervous because it was at his house. He’s very professional, and he never made me feel uncomfortable. But I was still like, oh my god, I'm going to this guys house I met off the internet. So I had to get over that hurdle of ‘I'm just going to some random person's house’ but his house is the set, and there's stuff everywhere that is related to the website so it was pretty easy to not be so nervous.
T: How did you feel afterwards?
K: I felt great! I felt very, very strong. I felt very powerful. I felt like I could stop a bus with my hand.
T: I’ve only seen the trailer, but it looked like a challenging scene.
K: Some of my friends that have seen it have been like “It looks cool! You look really sad.” I’m like god dammit- did you see, did you watch it? Do you see what's happening? I'm not sad, it's a challenge. It's the most difficult thing I've ever done! By far. Even with the other things I’ve done since- still, by far the hardest thing I've ever done.
T: So you were just jumping right in head first.
K: Yeah, like okay, this is what we are going to do first. We’re going to put you in this cage. Cages are cool! Yeah, that's fine. So, I'm sitting in this cage, and then he brings out the bowl of frozen cum because first he has it in the fridge until we are ready. He's like “Okay, we’re just gonna start,” and I'm like ‘okay.” He starts putting it all over my face, and it’s cold. I couldn't breathe because it's cold. He’s a smart sadist. So the shock of it being really cold and slimy and cum…
T: Definitely some intense sensation play…obviously that’s a direction that you want to steer your career in- have you mostly done fetish specific or kink specific work?
K: Since I started doing it professionally, I would say a lot of it. I like doing fetish work. I love it a lot. It's so much fun to me. Because with fetish porn, the viewer usually doesn't really care what the performer looks like. There are a lot less beauty standards in fetish porn and you can look however the fuck you want when you do fetish work. They’re usually so focused on their activity and their thing that they like that as long as you can do it, you can do it well, and you could either hate it if that's what they want or you can love it if that's what they want. What you look like, whether your hair is curly, whether you're black, whether you are not- these are all issues that I ran into trying to do stuff, this sort of thing. In fetish porn it tends not to be as much of an issue.
T: That's something I wanted to specifically ask you about, because I want to hear about experiences of people of color in fetish or BDSM communities. It sounds like you might have encountered some challenges in the porn industry.
K: There are so many things that I don't like about the porn industry that have to do with people of color, and mostly how they're treated and compartmentalized. We still adhere to extremely racist stereotypes of people. After I shot with Asylum this website called Facial Abuse contacted me and they were like… do you want to be on our site? And I said absolutely not. This is like one of two or three websites that I refuse to watch in porn, and there's a lot of fucking porn out there. So I say no, I don't want to be a part of it, etc etc. and they're like…what about for a site called Ghetto Gaggers? Which is their black site version of Facial Abuse. I was like nope, no, that's even worse. I don't do any type of race play at all. Hard limit- don't even ask about it. No, no, no. They asked me about it like six more times! I said no the first time, don’t ask again.
T: So two questions- what is it about Facial Abuse that makes you feel that way about it? I've never seen Facial Abuse.
K: It's like really really really really hardcore degradation. They pride themselves on making the models throw up. To me, they cross a very fine line of does this model know what they're doing? Do they know when they come in here that this is what they are going to be doing? Which just terrifies me. And they also do a lot of race play. In a degrading sense. Which I don't do race play at all, but especially not in a degrading sense. I've seen trailers of girls on their black site and they’re throwing fried chicken at them. Like no, no oh my god, I would lose my mind so quick but there are people who love it. Love watching it and love performing for it.
T: That's such a tricky thing, because I don't want to kink shame anyone, and I am fully aware that kink is a space where people can explore existing power dynamics-
K: And things that they think are taboo…
T: And hopefully ultimately find something empowering from it. And so I think it's really not my place to tell any person of color what they should or shouldn't feel comfortable with in their own sex lives, but there are some things I personally would not be comfortable engaging in. Have you ever had the experience that people want to impose race play dynamics without your consent or without checking in with you about that beforehand?
K: Occasionally. There's this one guy that I used to date. He likes mixed girls and it didn't bother me, but when his friends would talk about it it would really bother me. I remember we were all out at a bar once and his friends called him the “black girl whisperer.” And I was like ‘don't ever say that in front of me again”.
T: I have definitely experienced a lot of microaggressions of people saying things like “I would love it if you spoke Spanish to me,” like it’s a sexy, exotic thing- Oh, mami, papi this and that. I’ve gotten a lot of people on Fetlife adding me or trying to talk with me, that when I visit their profile and see all the racialized groups that they are members of I'm just like, no. Red flag, red flag, red flag. Again, if you’re a person of color and you want to engage in race play, that’s your choice. If you're a white person and you want to engage in race play, I'm giving you major side eye. I want to know that you really understand what it is that you’re wanting to engage in and perpetuate.
K: I do the same thing whenever I see people on Fetlife. My Fetlife is semi-professional. I don't have a lot of information about my personal self on it. People will add me and be like race play, race play, race play. I'm like god dammit! Jesus Christ.
T: What has your experience been in kink community? Do you go to a lot of kink events or kink spaces?
K: No, I don't. Because at least in Richmond, the one public place that's not somebody's house that is pretty well known is called Fallout and they have a really bad, shady history. It's a poor excuse but Virginia has a different way of operating. It's very “don't tread on me, gun rights” type of people that go there sometimes which just makes me uncomfortable because I'm terrified of guns.
T: Is Virginia a concealed carry state where you can have guns in public places? So people can bring guns into kink play spaces?
K: You can bring a gun there. I don't really like going to Fallout sometimes because of the right wing. They don't call themselves that, they call themselves the downtrodden and oppressed. They just like weird sex. Its different to me. Like you’re not oppressed…or maybe you are?
T: So it’s a middle class, straight white cis male type of crowd?
K: I sound like I'm being judgmental, but you have all these people that are like ‘this is a place of misfits!’ Nope, you just like weird sex. There's nothing wrong with that. Our oppression is not the same or comparable whatsoever. Just having to hear that all night bothers me. I also find in Richmond’s kink scene, there's always someone swinging their dick around. Not literally, but figuratively where they're like ‘I’m the biggest pain slut’ or ‘I'm gonna get suspended by barbed wire!” Everything is a competition.
T: What you just said is interesting about kink as a marginalized identity. I've been thinking about that a lot too because I see there being a schism as far as what access to kink looks like for different people. It’s a privilege in a lot of ways, a class privilege especially.
K: Yes. Kink is a privileged person's hobby. Tools, toys, the knowledge that you have to have to be able to practice all those things safely require you knowing someone, having the access to literature or things online that can be obscure. You can't go to the library and find it. It is hard for poor people to do it. Maybe that encompasses what I think better- it's harder for poor people to practice kink safely. Sometimes that's why I don't go to things. I can't afford it.
T: A lot of people are priced out of those spaces. Some events can be a $100-$150 entry fee, and most people cannot do that all the time, if ever. And when you go in the space and you're looking around at who is there and it's pretty apparent who is not there because of the cost prohibitive nature of the way the event is planned. I think there is this impulse for people to want to elevate kink and to make it classy and taken seriously but I think the result of that is often extremely classist. This idea that kink is only worthwhile if there's an art component, or if it’s expensive or if there’s a luxury or high-end sort of aesthetic where everyone is wearing a suit to fit the dress code.
K: It's like the difference between “escorting” and “prostitution” because people think that if you elevate it, it's not dirty anymore. And that’s what’s so frustrating to me, is that it seems that it is not accessible to poor people because it's just the way it's been “elevated” to be like ‘oh, it's classy, oh, Fifty Shades of Grey, oh this suit, and thousand dollar latex dresses and oh, our dungeon costs $75 to get in.” If you want to play, it costs this much.
T: Or there's often discounted entry into spaces if you are wearing the right outfit. If you are able to look like this, then you get the price break. How has that informed your own experience? You're not a rich person and you're doing sex work. Do you find that there is a certain pressure on you to cultivate an image of luxury?
K: For sure. I went to Tes Fest with Doctor Mercies from Asylum- he invited me to go with him so I was like his little degradation slave all weekend and he told me “you need to look really nice.” And I said “oh, ok, like how?” I can look nice in a bunch of different ways like a chameleon. I'm a stripper, I can be whatever you want me to be. He's like you know, dresses, fancy. I'm not saying he's classist and I'm not saying he was directly imposing it on me, but I can see where he's coming from. Where there’s the inner workings of this is a festival and my friends are going to be here, and I’m wealthy and I'm with you. And I agreed to be his accessory and I knew what I was doing. But I could see it, I was like “it's happening again, its happening again!” And that's always something that I found really bothersome with kink and backed away from it for a year or so. I cannot deal with fronting. Not enough black people, not enough people of color. If I enter any space and there's not enough black people for me, I'm going to check out in my head and stick around physically until the thing is over or I'm just gonna leave completely. Like, this is weird, bye. I'm done being the only black person when I'm only half. Whenever I see these things happening my confidence dips so much more, and that's why I prefer to do things on my own time, with someone that I find, rather than going to a dungeon where I'm the only mixed person, or the only person with curly hair, and I know everyone’s going to look at me, because it happened at Tes Fest. Not discredit the people that were there, but there was not a lot of us in the space.
T: Do you find that it puts a spotlight or a type of pressure on you? Maybe a projection that you're a trailblazer, you're here because you're at the forefront of inclusivity, or that your purpose here is to diversify this space?
K: I haven’t really gotten that before. If I did I would swiftly shut it down because I'm not the first person to do anything. I would have to give it to the people that inspired me to do these things. Even though I do think my fetishes and kinks are definitely ones I was born with. I wouldn't call myself a trailblazer by any means. I think I have some ideas that would benefit some people in kink, especially in Richmond, and if they would like to call me a trailblazer for that, it's fine, but these are also not ideas that I came up with on my own. These are things that I've gathered from other places.
T: Continuing along the lines of external pressures to look a certain way, what’s been your experience with that in the sex industry? I hear sex worker friends talk about getting eyelash extensions, or getting their mustache lasered. One of my friends retired from sex work recently and she was like “god, I'm so happy I can eat 3 meals a day, I can eat pasta, I don't have to work out all the time.”
K: Yeah, that is probably the biggest thing for me. I'm naturally a pretty small person but gained about 15 or 20 pounds which distributed to my frame I think quite nicely, but SO many people I met in porn were like “Yeah, lose 10 pounds.”
T: Wow, just straight up.
K: Yeah, like “5 to 10, and you'd be perfect.” I'm 4’11”. I’m not even 5 feet tall. I shouldn't really be losing weight. That is never something I cared about, ever, my weight, my size. Anything like that.
T: So you feel pretty unaffected by that advice?
K: It bothers me so much. I see myself now thinking maybe I shouldn't eat that snack really late at night, maybe I should drink that water instead, maybe I shouldn't drive to the store, maybe I should walk. All day I'm finding excuses to exercise or do things like that because this idea of how my body should look was introduced to me. “You should lose weight, you should straighten your hair, maybe your tattoos are too much.”
T: Do you find that it’s compounded? Once the door is open for one change people feel really entitled to give unsolicited advice or suggestions?
K: Yes. I find a lot of times people will involve other big stars, like the biggest biggest girls. I’ll use Abella Danger for example. I know she's younger than I am, she's 20, 21. Biggest star in the world, started doing porn when she was 18. Works out every day of the week, has this extreme regimen to keep her body in shape, teeth whitening, gets waxed, spray tanning. My agent would say “don't you want to be like her?” I don't actually. I think she's great the way she is, I wanna be like me. Comparing me to someone else is not going to get you very far in trying to get me to do something.
T: Do you have any hard limits in terms of “I will never straighten my hair for a scene” or “I will absolutely not do XY or Z other thing”?
K: None of them were physical things like straighten my hair, or I'll never cut my nails, or I'll never shave my legs. I have had to straighten my hair for Asylum and I do understand that when I straighten my hair I look different. Some people think I look younger, some people think I look more innocent, and when you are starting out in porn, 95% of the time that's what they want you to look like- innocent and young, I get it. I understand the mechanics of how people buy porn and what type of people buy it. I do have hard limits for things I won't perform. I don't do caning because that shit hurts and I don't like it. I don't like sharp pain. I don't do race play whatsoever, I don't do degradation either, even though I love degradation in general. I don't do scat, that's not my thing. That's about it, my list is very short. I don't do piercings- I've never tried them before and I'm not really interested in them. I also don't do insane breast torture.
T: Something I'm fascinated by is the tools that we can have as far as altering our physical appearance. Like you're saying, it's often a tool of marketing and that's something that I would think all sex workers are familiar with. Like, how do I quite literally make myself look more expensive so that I can make more money, or how do I play up a feature of youth or innocence for one client's taste, how do I market a look to a certain demographic that this video in particular is going to be for? Which is an interesting thing because it can give you a certain power, but you're also working within existing tropes and stereotypes that maybe aren't the healthiest or most constructive or progressive.
K: Definitely both, because I pride myself on the certain beauty standards I don't adhere to. I unlearned many things with a lot of help and outside resources, but I unlearned them myself ultimately. There are things that I'm proud that I don't adhere to anymore- that I don't shave my mustache every fucking week, I don't worry that my teeth are kind of crooked and like things like that. But I have jumped into this industry that is like this. I don't want to go backwards in my progression of my thinking, I don't ever want to step back. I do enjoy what I'm doing. I don't want to sound like I'm not. I do work really hard and I do think the hard work will pay off for me. It's just going to take a little time. I'm a very impatient person, but I do enjoy it. It is really fulfilling for me.
T: So what do you see being your ideal career trajectory?
K: I want to be the biggest porn star in the whole world in 2 or 3 years.
T: That’s amazing, that’s a really major goal.
K: That's what I want. Will that happen? I'll give myself some time. I want everyone's brothers to know who I am. My goal is very simple. I just want to be the biggest porn star in the world. I would also like to make my own porn, maybe when I'm too old to perform and I just don't want to fucking perform any more.
T: Who are some people that you look at that you’re like ‘damn, these people are doing really great things’?
K: Skin Diamond! My ultimate number one. I've loved her for so long. You're my inspiration! Skin Diamond, if you read this, come find me, I love you. I've been obsessed with her since I was in high school, since she got into the scene. She’s mixed, she's great. Porn is full of despots and it's kind of full of bad people, so I don't really look up to a lot of them, but there are a few people that I would really like to work with- one of them being Skin Diamond, Honey Gold- she's newer and she's also mixed. I have a soft spot for mixed people. Lance Hart, I would love to work with Lance Hart. I find him very admirable. We’re very different people identity wise but he's pretty cool.
T: So ideally you would just like to do across the board mainstream porn, broad audience, big productions. What would you like to see in porn as a whole? If you were to see a change in how porn is viewed or created, or how it exists on a greater scale, because there are so many people doing great things now with alternative porn, independent porn, queer porn, self produced porn…but if you were to tackle the monolith of mainstream pornhub.com, what would you like to see shifted?
K: God, there's so many things. I think putting more trust into and caring more for your performers would help a lot. Porn is one of the industries where when you leave it, there are no royalties, there is no backup, no safety net. Like ‘oh, you were in Big Asses 10 two years ago, you'll get $1000 a month for…” If you make this much sales of the DVD, you get none of that. There's no safety net, when you're out you're out.
T: Even for big names?
K: That's why so many porn stars have seven different other things that they do- they might be a DJ, they might be an escort, they might be a femmedom wrestler, they might have five different websites, they might cam. They’re not just performing because there's no safety net. There might be some other things like the rampant racism, the focus on youth, the corruption of young women, all of those are huge issues as well but as far as societal issues, within porn itself? Eliminating free tube sites would be helpful because it makes our work cheaper. People can pay us less for our work because it's free. Like, why would I pay you $1200 for this when I could pay that girl $700? That's an important thing I’ve learned in porn so far, a new girl turns 18 every day. Which sounds horrifying but it's true.
T: I was listening Tina Horn’s podcast “Why Are People Into That?” and she did an episode with Madeline Marlowe and Wade Hex. They're doing their own production company now and their own production space now that they've left kink.com and they were talking about something that I was unaware of, which is that there are certain discriminations built into the way that porn is cast and compensated. A lot of which, from what they were saying, is residual from the height of the AIDS crisis. Basically that because the performers who did both gay and straight films were considered to be “high risk” so people wouldn't be hired because of stigma, even though there were and are such stringent testing practices in place. This apparently remains true today, those performers won't be hired and people will expect higher pay to have sex with them so there's an inherent homophobia and transphobia in the industry, as well as racism.
K: I know that that's a thing. If I were white and someone wanted to book me for an interracial scene, even though I would not expect a higher pay, my agent would probably say “it's interracial, we need more money for it.” I know a lot of companies that won’t shoot with you if you've shot with trans performers, for kind of the same reasoning.
T: So they couch it in this language of concern about “safety.” On this type of work as a whole, are there any misconceptions you’d like to debunk or any little-known info that you've gained that you wait to share?
K: We are all tested and it is extremely strenuous and very adhered to. We aren't just fucking each other willy-nilly. I think that sometimes people don't know that we're all up to date on our tests. And if they're not, they’re not safe performing, and people know. Not all of us are broken, not all of us are people with daddy issues. Those are stereotypes and I don’t like those stereotypes. That's a misconception I don't like.
T: What do you think is more physically or emotionally taxing for you personally? Performing in porn or stripping?
K: Stripping. It’s way more emotionally exhausting. Because with porn I'm not doing big big shoots or having big names where the shoots are eleven hours long. You're fucking, actually fucking, not that long. Maybe 30 minutes. Stripping is far more emotionally and physically enduring because there's so much emotional baggage you have to carry when you dance. For the most part the way you make money when you're dancing is that you have customers that come and see you and ask for your phone number, and you keep up with them, and go out to dinner with them, there's all this stuff that is associated with it. I find it to be exhausting and I never liked doing it. With porn it's very one and done, like see you next time, let me know if it sells, if you like me. If you want to hire me again, you know where to find me. But I'm just gonna go now.
T: That’s interesting because I suppose I always thought of the club as the site where people can interact with you. Like ‘the only place that you have access to me is within this club so sorry, you're going have to come back next week and spend more money if you want more of me.’
K: I would try to do that route, but then there would be people that were definitely looking for the girlfriend experience. I discovered with working in the club that people come in there looking for things that are not necessarily “on the menu”. Girlfriend experience type of things, I have sold my socks and tights and dance thongs, things like that, pissed on things and sold it to people in the strip club. Sometimes people will use that as an entryway to fetish and kink type of stuff when they don't know where to go for that. So they think “I'm going to go to the place with the naked girls and start there.”
T: I think there is a lot of crossover that happens because of inaccessibility, especially in smaller towns where there isn't a central BDSM club or shop that they can go to, or a local commerce for fetish that’s easily found so people go to whatever kind of sex space they are able to find.
K: One of the last shifts I worked at at my club in DC, this guy came in. I always wore collars at work because people would ask me about them, they're curious, attention getting, whatever. He's like oh, mistress? I'm like “what do you want?” He says, “I want you to piss on your panties and sell them to me.” I was like alright, okay, you don't realize you can find this on the internet.
T: Are there any other experiences or thoughts that you want to share?
K: I know it's hard, I understand that it's hard, but try and pay for your porn, because that's how I get paid. It keeps the industry going when you pay for it.
T: What is the most effective way for people to support the performers in the porn that they are watching?
K: Let's say you see a performer on Bang Bros that you like. You're probably going to be able find her name, google her, see if she has a Twitter. Twitter is the thing that lots of porn stars use because you don't have to have anything edited. You can put naked pictures up on Twitter, unlike Instagram and other platforms. Try and find their social media, or go to their website and look at their wish list, see if they have videos for sale that you can buy, see if they have something you can tribute to them, give them $20 or whatever. If you're more into them wearing a certain thing, you can buy them something specific or buy them a video. Really the best way to support the performers that you like is to try and find them individually- their Twitter, their website, their ManyVids, their clips for sale, and buy something from them. I remember all the people that have bought stuff for me. It hasn't been many people, but I always remember people who buy stuff from me.
T: That seems like a win win, not only are you getting more money more directly into your hands, that's also a point of access for the client.
K: I do also have people who really like me and like talking to me and who can’t afford to buy my stuff, which I understand. You want to talk to her or them? Be polite. Don't send them a picture of your fucking cock, we don't wanna see it. Don't tell us what you're going to buy us a house or give $1000 because we know you're not. If you want to be a fan and can't afford to give us money, that's fine, just make it known. Don't be internet weirdo. Being nice to your performers. Don't ask them to do certain things, don't tell them they can do things better. I have people all the time saying things like ‘Oh Kingsley, you're so beautiful but when you lay down in this angle,’ like I don't give a fuck what you think about how my belly looks when I lay down. So if you're a fan and you're trying to talk to the performer that you like, just don't be weird, try and find their website…don't argue with her.
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