Back Stories – Burning Angel Entertainment’s Joanna Angel

Rutgers University – named Most Diverse National University for thirteen consecutive years by U.S. News & World Report’sAmerica’s Best Colleges,” ranked one of the top 63 North American research universities by the prestigious Association of American Universities, first in the nation for graduate programs in School Library Services and Women’s History…

…and former stomping grounds of punk rock porno princess Joanna Angel.

Several “unicorns,” or fantastic mythical legends that people want to believe regardless of the fact that no evidence substantiating them exists, about and around porn have haunted US culture for decades.  Some major ones include: porn is only made by men, and the industry itself is run by the skeeziest men of all; although all talent are stupid, women talent are stupid andnaïve (presumably because they are being taken advantage of by those aforesaid men); porn people party party party and do very little “actual” work; and finally, although some feminists may see the potential for sexual liberation in adult content, no self-respecting feminist would ever in their right mind make porn!

I can assure you that each of these presumptions is far from true and there are many people who can substantiate that claim with their personal experiences and work, but don’t take my word for it – the brilliant, beautiful, and super hott Joanna Angel took more than a minute out from running her “mini-empire” to answer some questions for Porn Valley Vantage.  Her perspective picks a fight with those aforementioned unicorns and several of their friends. Read on!!

First off, thanks so much for taking the time out for this Joanna. I know you’re crazy busy and have been at this whole porn thing for a long time… but for how long exactly? And, for those who don’t know, what specifically do you do?

“Well jeez… I started my first website eight years ago.  I don’t know if that means I’ve been in the industry for eight years; but, at the very least, I’ve been naked on the internet for eight years.

What do I do? Well I direct, produce, and star in my own porn movies. My company, Burning Angel, is known as one of the originators of the ‘alt porn’ genre, meaning we feature models with tattoos and piercings… girls who represent more of the alt/indie subculture.  In addition to the adult content, we also feature band interviews and record reviews. So, in a nutshell, I guess you can say I run a mini-empire filled with sex and rock & roll!

Haha nice – I bet most people would love to run their own mini-empire, especially one filled with sex and rock & roll!! So, what got you into the business in the first place? What did you do before?

I got myself into the business! No one and nothing really got me in. I was in college, and my roommate and I thought it would be fun and interesting to start a porn site… so we did.

It was very small at first, just a few photo sets of our friends and of myself. It didn’t really feel like I was ‘getting into the industry,’ which is a funny thing about internet companies. You don’t have anything tangible to represent what you do. A few years later, the company became more of a reality when I started meeting other people in the business and we began producing and updating the website on a regular basis. Then it really became my job and my life.  Until then, it almost felt like a science experiment!

Before porn, I was a full-time student at Rutgers University. I had random part time jobs on the side such as waiting tables or working as a cashier at a piercing place. Nothing too particularly exciting.

So, what’s your favorite thing about working as talent? What’s most surprising or unexpected?

Umm… the sex??  Haha! but really, the sex is pretty damn good. And on that same note, I think what has been most surprising for me is the amazing sex I’ve had with people who were just not my ‘type’ at all. Before porn, I always kinda hooked up with the same types of guys – guys who were in the same age range, listened to the same music, and dressed pretty similar. I don’t know why that happened… if they were just the people I was attracted to or, in some instances, the people I thought I was supposed to be attracted to.

In porn, I’ve worked with guys I would never have thought were attractive at all and have had some of the best sex of my life with them. It’s really pretty amazing! I will say that the whole experience has made me a lot more open-minded, and I don’t believe in really having a ‘type’ anymore. I mean, before I got into porn I would have never thought I could share something so passionate with, for example, a 55 year-old married German father of three (whose wife and three kids, incidentally, I’ve met on several occasions – I think they’re great, and they think I’m great!).

Oh wow… this idea of moving beyond ‘type’ is really interesting, but what about the other aspects of your work?  Is there anything surprising or unexpected about your work behind the scenes?

Well I think the way this business operates is pretty fascinating – the way shoots can be so predictable and unpredictable at the same time, the way something feels in person as opposed to the way it’s translated on camera.  And what I really find fascinating is considering website traffic and determining what areas or what girls get clicked on a lot versus who or what barely gets clicked on at all.  I feel like I’m able to look at the world in a very 1984-ish way when I stare at the stats and realize the last things I would ever expect people to like are actually very popular.

When I first started running this company, I only had a passion for the creative side of things – planning out scenes, casting them, planning out the ideas, and writing funny dialogue.  But as time as gone by I’ve really come to love the ‘business’ end of this business and figuring out what sells, what doesn’t, what people like, what they don’t, and how different types of marketing can affect these numbers. It really is quite fascinating!

Man this sound like it takes up A LOT of time… has working in the industry affected your personal life at all?

Yeah… in the sense that I don’t really have one anymore! Haha! but I think anyone who owns any kind of business is in the same boat. Running your own company is really difficult; and whereas most employees of a company only have to think about accomplishing their duties, the owner has to think about everyone’s duties plus their own.  And let me tell you – doing only a quarter of this stuff naked with a dick in my ass is not an easy task!

I used to read a lot of books, and last week I finally got around to reading a book that I have seriously been too busy to read for the past three years. I love playing video games, and it’s been at least 18 months since I touched my Wii.  I’ve lost touch with a lot of friends… not because I’m sick of them, but because I’m just simply too busy to keep up with them. When you run your own company, work just has to come first. Thankfully I am in a relationship with someone in the business who has just as much going on as I do, and we work on a lot of different projects together. This makes my work life more personal if that makes any sense.

It does, and honestly it doesn’t sound that different from what happens in many other occupational fields – lawyers dating lawyers, teachers with teachers etc etc.  So given all of this, where do you see yourself in five years?

In five years… hmm… well I really do hope that Burning Angel is just as big as all the other ‘big’ companies in the adult industry. I hope we can become a fun punky alternative to Hustler, Playboy, or Vivid for example while still being right up there with them… and if I don’t get us there, no one will!!

Damn Joanna, you really do have an impressive amount of ambition! I almost feel silly asking this after everything you’ve already said, but what else? What do people need to know about you?

Hmmm you know I don’t know… Check out some of my websites – joannaangel.com and burningangel.com are just two of them, but I actually have eight altogether and listing them all would just get silly!  Oh, I also have a toy line!  People can buy my sex toys in the BurningAngel.com store or at any adult retail store. You can also read my blog at xoxojoannaangel.com or follow me on twitter.  Anything else that I haven’t said here I’m sure I will say there!”

Wow.

So many years ago, when I was first wrapping my head around porn and feminism and unicorns and all their associated complexities, I ran across a piece that Joanna had written on being a feminist with a porn site in Carly Milne’s (ed) Naked Ambition – Women who are Changing Pornography(2005).  In it, Joanna discusses being kind of a bratty college kid looking for attention and the process she underwent to become a confident woman working to challenge popular notions of sexually desirable, hott, and what it means to be a feminist with her indie/alt sexiness.

She opened with a statement that has always stuck with me: “There are two kinds of sluts in this world: the kind I used to be, and the kind I am now.  The former sleeps with guys for attention… The latter sleeps with guys because she genuinely likes having sex.”  The fact that Joanna underwent some significant personal growth and reflection via the development of Burning Angel is embedded in this statement.

After she tells us the whole story, she closes with: “I’m not sure I started a revolution, but I know I started something pretty awesome, and most important, I feel like a real, true, honest-to-god feminist.” (sic)  This statement has also always stuck with me.  It gets at the authenticity of experience integral to feminist thought and action… a level of authenticity that is sadly absent from many dimensions of our culture and social world.

pictured throughout: Joanna Angel. Pictures courtesy of Joanna Angel and Burning Angel.

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From performers to post-production, office workers to executives, PVVOnline Back Stories explore the lives of people who work in all aspects of the adult industry. For more industry insiders’ Back Stories, go here.

Images courtesy of Burning Angel Entertainment and Joanna Angel.

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