asianprincess, fake porno-starlet extraordinaire!
I wanted to change it ALL! I wanted to be the first Asian female porno director, and I wanted to be the first one to cast Asian men! I took notice of Asia Carrera because she authored her own website, directed some of her own movies, and was unabashedly intelligent! I interviewed her for the first time while I was in college and it completely changed my political paradigm.
About a year after the anger stage came the "field work" stage where I would attempt to be that hyper sexualized, hyper ethnic asianprincess identity that was adopted by Asia Carrera, Kobe Tai, Mimi Miyagi and others. I started work as an exotic dancer during my last semester of college and it changed my life and shaped my identity in many ways for better or worse. I originally wanted to call myself 'Jasmine' because it sounded "more Asian" but it was already taken so I quickly adopted Tyra after Tyra Banks, another woman I thought was hot. My femme identity was suddently reborn! All of a sudden wearing high heels and short ass skirts was empowering because it made me more money in one night than my broke student ass had ever earned in a week! And it felt awesome to look men in the eye for once standing 5'9 in my high heel shoes. I was taking back everything that I felt that men had taken from me since I started to become a woman in this world.
I have gone through much growth and transformation in the 4 years of sex industry work and I am now at the bitter end of my stripping career, the "transition out" period. My asianprincess identity mostly refers to my performance persona rather than my stripper persona who I still refer seperately as Tyra. Although Tyra is also an asianprincess, my power comes mostly from writing and performing outside of a sex industry context although I have made great strides to make an impact within this world as well (see performances with Gorilla X).
My experience as Tyra, however has probably informed my performance persona and subversive people skills the most. If you know how to smile while an asshole talks some shit that is supposed to be interesting, nice or funny and is the absolute opposite, you probably work or have worked in customer service, existing on tips; waiting tables or dealing cards like my dad. If you ever want to learn to exist in the belly of the beast while you sit on his lap as he makes racist, pro-war, sexually offensive, degrading and/or ignorant remarks that in his world are probaby very real and true, become a sex worker. This isn't a hard and fast rule of course.
I doubt I could have gotten a better representation of what men (and women) from all walks of life think about subjects of all kinds than working in a stripclub. I was fascinated with the things that I heard and wanted to find out what these opinions were based out of. This is not say, of course that I didn't set straight the people who were outright idiotic, ignorant or abusive to me. I pride myself on the ability to be able to spy on the thoughts of the "other" while I pretend to be objective. This, I believe was one of the most valuable skills I may have learned from being Tyra...
In 1999, Annabelle Chong (right) the first gang bang queen was featuring at the club that I worked. She was working on a documentary that was going to Sundance, and had graduated with an art degree from USC. She was amazingly approachable and we talked and hung out like old friends. She invited me to come with her to experience the AVN (Adult Video News) awards in Vegas (the grammys of the porn industry) and another adventure was about to begin. Las Vegas itself is usually a circus that showcases a lot of performers and I never really liked it because I wasn't much of a gambler. My first year was like I had died and went to heaven. Imagine me, swearing that I was going to be a porn director since I was 19, lipstick lesbian doing gigantic paintings of women that were now walking around everywhere and hanging out with Annabelle Chong, a woman I researched in one of my papers on Asian American sexuality at Cal. I got to meet Asia Carrera, Nina Hartley (above left), and party and live vicarously the life of a fake porn starlet. I walked down a red carpet with Annabelle, cameras flashing at my sexy revealing outfit. We even did a publicity stunt and kissed each other with bulbs going crazy and popping everywhere. I was already a stripper, pretending to be a fake porn star was not much of a stretch. My first year, I was pretty much a tourist, but I went under the guise of "Annabelle's new discovery" and she introduced me to all her director and producer friends.
I went a second year, that time sans Annabelle but with her friend "Helen," a transgender she male porn star/director (another eye opening experience). I was not as overwhelmed by all the women this time, but still really liked them around. I did get an autograph and photo from Janine (above center), and told her that I had a huge 4' x 3' oil painting of her masturbating above my bed. She seemed interested but I knew she probably wasn't. I was playing the role of hot sexy wanna be photographer and I had this ideal that I might break into the behind the camera roles that I had wanted for so long by meeting someone at the AVN.
By my second year at AVN I was extremely aware of the performance art aspect of the circus arena of the porn world, and the entire sex industry for that matter. I was already burnt out of stripping and recovering from a devastating break up. Going to the office from 9-5 while depressed is extremely difficult, but imagine going to work from 10-3am, stripping for strangers-prolonging the performance of sexuality for the pleasure of the audience while inside you are falling to pieces. I had already acknowledged how much stripping had stripped away from my personal, romantic interactions and innocence. The only thing sacred sometimes were the sex acts that I withheld from customers. It became clear to me at this time that I should not actually have sex acts as a job because it would be emotionally devastating. I always knew that "full service" prostitution was not for me, but after this period the idea of being a real porn starlette even if it would get my name in lights also became out of the question.
The year is 2003 and the asianprincess has completed more than three distinct bodies of work, completed a short film and embarked on a new career as a teaching artist. I have still held on to the fake porn star identity strictly as a performance persona. I don't collect porn movies anymore and I don't go to the AVN awards now that I don't have the connections I used to. The last time I saw Annabelle Chong was right after September 11th . I was still working in a club and she featured in San Francisco again. She came on stage beating up an inflatable Osama Bin Laden doll waving American flags and collecting money for the Red Cross or something. It seemed like a classic case of new immigrant "patriotism" syndrome. I found it pretty appalling and hard to identify with as an anti-oppression person of color activist. This was probably the beginning of us distancing from each other in a benign way. I have recently gone to her web site and discovered that she no longer identifies as an artist, but seems to be more of a "Republican American computer nerd retired porn star" who openly desires secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld. Although we don't hang out anymore she definitely showed me a lot through her life as a porn star and as the subject of a documentary on herself (Sex: the Annabel Chong story). It is through my experiences with her that I probably perform the fake porn star persona and was also inspired to make a documentary on my own life.
I haven't painted anything in a while, and recently sold the Janine painting for $1800 at the beginning of this year. (Very exciting.) The next time I paint I doubt that it will be a continutation of the giant porn star images that have been so popular with me since college.
The biggest difference aside from the fact that I don't really have sex with people on screen for money is that as a fake porn star I am allowed to have my own opinions and am allowed to be vocal about my political views. If you think about what a lap dancing stripper actually does and think about the concept of the "lap dance" you would realize IT REALLY IS FAKE PORN. I make all the expressions and mannerisms of actual sex acts (creative realistic positions and all) without ever penetrating, and in most situations the other person must remain fully clothed. Basically I am a self certified "dry humping champion." I believe that my persona is in fact a clever device of my art work to grab the attention of the viewer so that he/she may engage further into the deeper meaning of my self and not my sex. I sign polaroids, I sell my photos, I talk about politics. I am sexy and sexual entirely on my own terms and don't give more than I want to, to anyone one which is definitely to the dismay of some. My stripper experiences allowed me a chance to engage with my audience on an interpersonal basis in ways that the women in porn movies and magazines cannot (or don't wan't to). This experience of engaging helped to cut down on the negative objectification aspect that is so rampant for most women in this world, but especially in the industry it is almost a reality. I often call myself a "stripper activist" and I am educating and schooling my customers all the time as part of my "community outreach" efforts. They are so suprised that I can challenge their minds. All strippers are supposed to be dumb, why else would we be sititng on this lap? It is important to note, however that being a stripper is not a primary identity of mine since my transition out of the industry, although I can talk from that perspective candidly. The asianprincess is a performance persona, not a stripper, even though elements of stripping and porn may be parts of the concept.
I have probably reached the pinnacle of the vicarious porn experience through the AVN awards experience short of actually accepting an award for directing or starring in a movie. I doubt that my feelings will change as I am ever increasingly distancing myself from the sex industry each year. I sometimes feel conservative for feeling the way that I do. I am certainly not ruling anything out. If it is was to happen, It would have to be an "asianprincess production" where I must be in complete control of my body, my image, my intellectual property and creative direction. (and that is not really too possible in the porn industry as it exists today). This is why my short DV project 1-900-asianprincess is so excitng. Watch it when you get the chance. It is the epitomy of fake porn!
When Asian men started to complain about their lack of representation in the straight porn world, I took note and created several art pieces around the idea. Why fight to be visible in a world where an aesthetic is defined by white Southern California executives? Do we really want a piece of that pie? Would that really be a step forward for the community? Annabelle Chong, the first Asian women to screw 261 men! Chalk one up for Asian America, right? Yet, on the other hand, although I don't neccesarily agree with or condone every single thing Asian female porn stars do with their lives, I do acknowledge their influence in asserting themselves and their sexuality beyond the Orientalist standard that we used to argue about so much in the eighties. Annabelle singlehandedly led the way at asserting herself with the best Mapplethorpe anal fisting champs, overthrowing the petite innocent Asian girl with a laugh. They'll never call us small again, thanks to the proof in those movies.
There was an awesome Japanese porn movie called I.K.U that screened at the Asian American film festival a couple of years back. I could see myself doing something like that possibly. There is also my ethnic twin, internet/porn star "Tigerlily"who is half Chinese, half Japanese. She does monogomous hard core with her boyfriend. I could imagine making some hot porn with one person that I was in love with, but probably not for profit. I guess my "conservative" view on this subject (and I definitely did not always feel this way) is that : the act of fucking and making love, especially the act of fucking someone you love is so sacred and special (meaning: uncommodified and emotionally real) to me that I preserve the fake part of this porn-star dom to try to uphold these beliefs.