Black Stars Come Forward With Their Racism Horror Stories

Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast / Photo Getty
Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast / Photo Getty

A few of the women seemed nervous as the cameras began to roll and the orgy got underway—not unusual for newbies. Except there was one woman who appeared to be dodging a particular male performer. If he got too close, she’d walk off-camera or reposition, creating a buffer of other performers’ bodies between them. It seemed personal.

His physical performance began to suffer. Ugh. Wood problems would mean longer working hours for everyone. When several performers called for bathroom and water breaks, and with the scene paused and fewer people nearby, he sat down next to her and asked why she was scurrying away from him during the shoot. She ignored him. So they sat in naked silence until all the other performers were back on set.

“It’s ‘cause you’re black!” the director shouted out from across the room. At first, everyone thought it was a joke. It wasn’t. The director had known the entire time; he’d cast the orgy that way on purpose. Any one of us could have left at that moment but we wouldn’t have been paid. As a newbie, the consequences of leaving weren’t well understood, though the racism was clear. Twenty years later, not much has changed in the world of . But some actors are finally making their voices heard.  

In the midst of two pandemics—the coronavirus and police brutality against unarmed black people, including the recent killings of George Floyd, David McAtee, and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police—the adult industry is having a long-overdue conversation about the racism that has infected so many aspects of the adult world, from the marketing of scenes to the amount workers are paid.

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Still pumped from the street protests against police violence he attended earlier in the evening, Ricky Johnson speaks passionately about his newfound desire for protesting.

Better known for his work as a performer/director in the adult entertainment industry, Johnson often dons Brazzers’ garb (who he’s under contract with) while out protesting. “I went to a couple of protests. They are much more peaceful and organized now, less cops. Things have changed in the last two days, in terms of organization and being peaceful,” Johnson offers, thinking back to the first few protests he attended. “Everyone was so tense in West Hollywood protesting the first couple of days. There was a lot of anger, a lot of people seeing firsthand how things are. In the Long Beach protest there was a whole bunch of us and someone threw a bottle in between the front lines and the cops, and a couple of cops got out their rubber bullets and started shooting into the crowd.”

For Johnson, who has witnessed plenty of racism in his chosen profession, he now also wants to bring the protests’ momentum for change home to the adult entertainment industry. “It’s such a strong thing to be black in the industry. Everyone tells you you’re black and then because I’m light-skinned I hear jokes, ‘Oh you’re not black enough,’ and I don’t know how to react to it.”

Men’s pay is often dictated by their performance or the size of their sword, regardless of color, but it’s different for women. “I see my African-American counterparts in women, they struggle with payment, the white girls get paid more to have sex with a black guy. And that thing with putting girls under contract to wait for a year before they have sex with a black guy, that doesn’t make me feel normal,” says Johnson. “There’s no difference between me and my colleagues at work. My skin color shouldn’t separate me from them.”

The financial implications of racism are still prevalent in —so much so that new performers entering the industry are usually told to seek out someone “in the know” to discuss the cost in how they identify their race.

Upon entering the adult industry six months ago, Sahara Leone had a conversation with her then-agent about the financial impact of claiming to be a person of color, rather than “passing.” One payday lost, for example, would be the first scene with a black man, dubbed “interracial” in jargon (which is only and exclusively used to mean a black man with a white woman). “You won’t be able to do IR if you’re black,” Leone recalls the agent saying. “So, for me when I started, I said I was Cuban.”

By avoiding identifying as black, she received the payday for her first “interracial” scene. And then there is the attention that goes with doing your first IR scene, which is unavailable to black women in the industry.

“IR is so publicized, and if you’re a black woman there is no IR because IR is just a black male role and a white woman role,” Leone explains. “I was trying to hold on to that because you get so much more money for your first IR scenes and all these things, which is what my agent said.”

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Less than three months after entering the adult business, COVID-19 shut it all down. Since then, Leone discovered various camming platforms, which ultimately changed her business model. “I don’t want to hide,” says Leone, who has since changed how she markets herself. “And I do want to share that I felt pressure to hide. I want to come out on the record and say, ‘Yeah, I am black, and yeah, I was ashamed, and if anyone else feels that way, you don’t have to hide. There is a market for us too.”

Being a woman of color in an industry that plays up taboos and racism for profit requires thick skin and a strong sense of self.  for decades has actively marketed racial fetishes, playing to stereotypes or overt racism. Daisy Ducati recalls one of her first encounters with financially incentivized racism.

“I was in a production and, according to the information I received prior to the shoot, it was a regular boy/girl scene, no dialogue, easy,” she says of her expectations that day. “The male talent was fine—an older white man, he was a great scene partner, it was in and out, I got done and went home. Later, the DVD came out and it was a showcase of black female performers with white male performers and they called it Black Wives Matter. I had no prior knowledge until I saw my face on the DVD. I contacted the director, he also had no idea, and apparently it was a decision made at the company’s corporate office.”

Indeed, it is not unusual in for performers to have no idea how a scene is going to be titled or sold. “There are people that genuinely don’t give a fuck because there is profit in racism, there are racist people willing to pay,” Ducatti says, pointing to this as the source of the problem.

A quick search on Pornhub reveals a full range of offensive, tasteless, and racist titles—because racism apparently makes for great search engine optimization.

What bothers Ducatti the most is the long-standing complicity of many in the adult industry. “It’s not even a hush-hush thing. I’ve had directors straight-up tell me that they can’t pay me as much as the white performer that I’m performing with, in the same scene! I’ve had to learn how to market myself on my own and not work for people that treat me like that. It’s infuriating,” she says.

For women of color there are less available roles, and less roles means fewer paydays and fewer opportunities to garner award nominations, which will in turn lead to increased pay and higher overall rates. It’s a vicious cycle.

With well over a decade in the industry, and a number of awards recognizing her work, Misty Stone, who is black, has an enviable career—but she knows she’s had to work twice as hard for it.

“I’ve been around a long time, so my rate is a lot more than most,” Stone admits. “My rate is up there with the white girls. So I did very well for myself but when I first started, my rate was $400. I have mentored so many women in this industry, and some of them were white women that got paid $800 to start. Another girl got paid $1,000 to start. And these are beginner girls! This is because of the color of their skin. Isn’t that interesting?”

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