Sex workers and Hollywood

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With the rise of shows like Euphoria comes the slow, but long overdue appreciation for prior sex workers turned Hollywood stars. Chloe Cherry, who played Faye on Euphoria, is just another of the latest stars to turn their earlier acting careers into newer and bigger brands for themselves. Since the start of 2022, Cherry has had many big-time accomplishments. She walked the runway for LaQuan Smith during the New York Fashion Week show alongside Julia Fox and she has been interviewed and photographed by numerous big-name publications including Variety, Nylon, i-D, & Paper Mag. She also had an art showcase in Los Angeles, all while amassing thousands of followers. But, she is not the first. 

Before she was Josh Safdie’s muse, Julia Fox was a dominatrix who acted in several movies, posed for Paper Magazine, attended the Oscars, and become a social icon. In recent years, Mia Khalifa has rebranded herself using Tiktok and Twitch as platforms to transition to acting and activism. Lana Rhodes has dominated the adult-film industry while also maintaining an influencer status with a successful podcast and Youtube channel. These ladies can be accredited for being a part of the larger culture change to destigmatize sex work, however, it can also be attributed to a few other aspects.

Most Hollywood films still abide by the Hays Code, but streaming services like HBO can show as much or as little as they want for an M for Mature rating. And, content platforms put the power in the people’s hands so that they can post to their heart’s desires (except for some community guidelines.) We have the freedom of the internet to thank for our many new perspectives on what is appropriate nowadays as previous generations were not as open-minded to stars being salacious. 

Despite this, numerous celebrities got their start working in the sex industry in some shape or form. Hustlers made over $150 million in 2019. It showcased some of the biggest stars like J. Lo, Keke Palmer, and, of course, Cardi B who has been incredibly open about her past as a sex worker, and is now Playboy’s first-ever Creative Director. A few years before, Magic Mike was the latest thing, and its lead actor, Channing Tatum, also performed as a stripper before his big break. Matt LeBlanc, Sylvester Stallone, Jackie Chan, and Cameron Diaz are a few more famous actors who were either dancers or had roles in adult films ahead of their stardom. Jeff Koons is currently one of the biggest pop artists of the 21st century and his ex-wife was a famous Italian porn star, who is now an activist. 

Perhaps we can contribute this social shift to the previous two decades of user-friendly content-creating platforms. In the last ten years, individuals have been able to self-advocate through several eras. First, came the Youtubers and with them, the Vloggers. Then podcasts started taking off, which gave us voices such as Call Her Daddy, Slutrepeneur, and more. As videos adapted, Vine turned into Tiktok, and somehow, through it all, Instagram and Twitter adapted photos, captions, videos, stories, and reels. More than ever people have a way to share their interests, hobbies, and opinions, influencing how they are perceived. We can try to understand each other better than ever by seeing one another through their eyes. 

However, every con has its pro. People are now capable of sharing even the most intimate and more private images. Sometimes, things that were only meant for one person’s eyes find their way into the public’s eye which fuels shame culture. On the flip-side, because so many people are realizing they are also sharing these private things with more and more people, it is also becoming more common to embrace this new reality. Year after year posts get “spicier” as Spring Break bikini posts evolve into casual under-boob on a Tuesday. 

All of this goes without mentioning, the change in narrative and new takes on the discussion of the subject matter had led more individuals to consider turning to sex work, It’s now considered a more valid job opportunity due to platforms like Onlyfans making the general demand for private content creation and consumption more transparent. Sex workers in the US are currently attempting to unionize on a larger scale. And, as being a sex worker becomes more normalized rather than criminalized, as it should be, so does the opportunity to become something other than one, to those who choose to follow a different path. Sex work is real work, whether it is on one’s resume already or not, and that is that.

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