Photo by Gustavo González
This article originally appeared on VICE Canada.
Laika, 27, is a rising pop artist from Toronto. Its music embraces the 80s synth-tinged vibrancy popularized by bands like CHVRCHES and The 1975. It’s accessible and heavy ear candy for teens and 20+. From a sales perspective, these are all good things. Although she is new to the world of pop music, she entered it with celebrity status. This is because, until recently, she was known by another alias: Cortana Blue. And as Cortana, she’s one of the most popular camgirls on the planet.
For her, an average night camera can generate $ 1,000 [$750 USD] with relative ease – a target she hit 20 times in a single month. Her premium Snapchat (which costs $ 50 [$37 USD] at $ 100 [$75 USD] to access it), currently has 2,500 subscribers and would be much higher if it had not been deleted previously. His Twitter and Instagram both exceed the 100,000 subscriber mark, the latter also having been deleted several times. She has portrayed cam sites to sexposts, walked the red carpet at the AVN Awards, and even had her content stolen by fake accounts in an attempt to reverse her success. Basically, she has built up a level of social notoriety that most of us will never achieve.
Walking into his two bedroom home, a luxurious condo located along Toronto’s waterfront, I couldn’t help but think: it looks expensive. At one end of her couch, next to her computer and dual-screen setup, is a small collection of fan art. On the other side, two guitars – one acoustic, one electric – are on display in front of a huge floor-to-ceiling window. It’s probably not intentional, but it all seems to be placed metaphorically, as if to say, “This is one side of me the world. should know about. “
As she sat across from me in a shiny blue dragon jumpsuit, I asked if the decision to come forward as one, which does both porn and music, was a conscious decision. She told me yes. “Why would I lose three hundred thousand people who already have my account, especially with cam, with people who know me as someone who sits, plays guitar and sings on cam, why would I do something with it completely different? “
The exploitation of social media tracking is relatively new to the sex work community. A ‘past life’ as a sex worker can be a source of stigma and shame for some public figures, but changes in the way sex workers interact with the public on social media have helped artists like Cardi B, who was once a stripper, to thrive in the mainstream in part because of – and not in spite of – a career in sex work. It’s an underdog success story that comes from a world we don’t usually associate with underdog success stories. The next evolution seems to combine these careers seamlessly.
This is where Laika differs from, say, VeraBambi, a former webcam performer who leveraged her Instagram account to launch a career as a YouTube cosplayer / makeup artist. (Vera currently has 912,000 subscribers). The difference is that, like Cardi, Vera left sex work before monetize his other interests in a new career. Laika, on the other hand, does not view sex work as a means to an end. Instead, she sees it as a tool that can be turned around and used to fight stigma, while also setting her apart in the music world.
“When I go on tour, I will be go on stage and say ‘You can all buy my Snapchat for fifty dollars, you can see me naked,’ ”she said. “I can only imagine saying that in a room full of people. I wonder how many people will buy my Snapchat. (Snapchat, its second largest revenue stream after camera shows, generates around $ 7,000 [$5,246 USD] a month.)
Until recently, porn celebrities didn’t have platforms like Instagram or Twitter to control their career trajectory. I often wonder what the ’00s Sasha Grays could have accomplished if their peaks were after Instagram’s childhood. Laika told me that without social media and her four-year dedication to the camera, her music career “wouldn’t have happened.”
In its first month, Laika’s debut single, “Earl Gray,” had topped 100,000 combined Spotify and Apple Music streams.
“If people only cared about my nudity, I wouldn’t be streaming. So it’s clearly as if people accept that I can do both, and why not? While chasing her cats, she mentioned (rather casually) that she had also raised $ 30,000. [$22,485 USD] for his first clip. She did this by selling her private Snapchat, as well as self-produced porn through ManyVids, an adult entertainment video and e-commerce hosting site. “It was like a crazy and lucrative month for me,” she said. According to her, this exceeded any fundraising she had done before. All things considered, I asked if there would ever be a time when she would stop filming, to which she confidently replied, “No.”
It seems more likely than not to alienate younger listeners due to her involvement with the cam, although she told me she wasn’t really worried. “When Christina Aguilera released ‘Dirty’, we were in grade six… grade six. And my mom still lets me listen to that. My mom always let me go to her concerts, ”she said.
Over the past decade, we have seen a push to view sex work as real job. As Laika has mentioned almost on several occasions, “it’s exhausting” and her peers seem to understand that. But the appearance of progress often comes with setbacks. Vex Ashley, who founded the adult film collective Four Chambers, knows all too well the risks associated with running a mainstream (or “real world”) space as a sex worker.
“I think it’s so difficult because the problem is that once you’ve done sex work it’s always going to be the most interesting, salacious, and remarkable thing about you,” a- she declared. “We consider you to be either in the world of sex work or in the real world and this is something that is really difficult to merge.
It wasn’t that long ago that sites like Tumblr offered a safe space for sexually explicit content alongside fashion blogs and pop culture GIFs. Vex’s four bedrooms are the product of spaces like this. Her UK-based project uses crowdfunding to produce conceptual and artistic porn. By the time they started in 2014, everything was pretty gradual.
Supporters would make subscription contributions through Patreon to help fund future projects. All this was done with the added bonus of total transparency between the contributor and the creator. In 2018, she said the project raised nearly $ 26,000 [$19,486 USD] per film.
Then, in June 2018, she got the call. Four Chambers was to be removed from Patreon. They claimed that the community directives, supposedly implemented by the new FOSTA-SESTA laws, were to blame. Even on the phone, I could sense her skepticism as she explained that sex worker profiles on Patreon were being removed long before these new guidelines. Before shutting down, Patreon gave Vex a month to update subscribers, on the condition that it remove any posts that violate their updated terms. “I literally had to go through and purge everything I had done on the site in order to get over this last month.” She said it was like starting from the beginning.
Vex, Laika, and countless others are seeing deleted accounts all the time. In the case of social media, especially Instagram, there is no grace period; we don’t give you a month to advise subscribers; everything happens without warning. As Vex explained, there is no human judgment on what is acceptable on these platforms, “it’s just an algorithm”. Once you’ve been deleted, there’s really nothing you can do but start over. So for someone like Laika, the very thing that helps her launch her music career might also be the thing that holds her back; have to start over and over again.
Yet Vex sees the appeal beyond self-promotion when it comes to social media and sex work. “The blessing and the curse of social media is that it allows people who work in sex to be more accessible in a domestic way than they used to be,” she said. “I hope this will give the public a broader view of the kind of people who do sex work because it’s a big church.”
According to Laika, this is the goal. “One space one name, do both things.” With a smile on her face, she told me that if her music career continues to be successful, she will have porn to thank for it. “Camming gave me money, and the money changed my life,” she said. After all, sex sells.
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