"What I truly think separates altporn from mainstream porn is not just the music and the tattoos -- but it's the community that altporn sites have, that both girls and members participate in. On mainstream porn sites -- you simply can't see a girl getting fucked on camera, and then send her a message and drink coffee with her the next week."
Our interview this week is with 28-year-old entrepreneur, model, pornographic actress, and writer extraordinaire, Joanna Angel. Joanna, who runs the popular site BurningAngel as well as her own personal erotic website and blog, is smart, sassy, and totally down-to-earth and she dishes with the SFBG about what it's like to be a former lit-geek wallflower who blossomed into a full-fledged porn star.
SFBG: You were a self-described nerdy kid, a shy English major at Rutgers who didn't lose her virginity until you were already in college. So how did you find your way into the adult entertainment industry?
JA: I really don't know! People ask me that all the time. My whole voyage didn't really feel like I was "getting into the adult industry" it felt like I started a weird experiment with my friend. Basically in my senior year of college my roommate asked if I would start a porn site with him, and I said yes. Originally I was just gonna be the one who ran the show behind the scenes, but that was kinda unfulfilling.... so a few weeks later I took my clothes off in my basement while a friend photographed me in the basement of the house I lived in in college -- surrounded by half empty 40 oz bottles that had transformed into ash-trays and half broken Christmas lights. It didn't really feel like "the porn industry", but whatever it was, I liked it... so I kept going... and now here I am.
SFBG: You're obviously incredibly sexual, yet on your website you claim you were the girl who always sat alone at lunch and got picked on by the jocks. Deep down, did you always know you had this sexual side, or did you discover it later on?
JA: I knew it was there but I ignored it a lot. Like, I remember watching movies like Sweet Sixteen and then kinda dry humping my couch for a little while... that and like, Motley Crue videos I watched on MTV after my mom fell asleep. But I ignored the urges -- I wasn't really sure what to do about them. I kinda tried to focus on other things. It wasn't until I was about 19 that I let these urges really come out and came to the conclusion that it was OK to feel like that.
SFBG: For those who don't know, you are the owner of your own porn company called Burning Angel, which is an incredibly popular altporn site on the web. So tell us, what is Burning Angel and how did you come up with the concept?
JA: " target="_blank">BurningAngel is an "alternative" adult website which features girls with tattoos, piercings, and funky colored hair as opposed to your typical California tan blonds and such. We also have band interviews and record reviews on the site as well- and every girl has a profile and a blog -- and the community is very active both on and off-line. It's kinda like a cool little online world of sex and rock-and roll. The concept was really just an extension of who I was... or who I am. I mean, at the time when I started the company, I had no idea where "typical porn girls" hung out or what they did or where they came from. The girls on BurningAngel were just me, and my friends... and this is who we were and what we look like. Basically, when I decided to start a porn site, I had no idea what to do other than to be myself... so that's what I did. I had no idea that was completely new and unheard of at the time.
SFBG: I think it's really interesting that it started out with just you and some of your friends, and managed to grow into this huge site with tons of members and fans. The popularity is obviously due to the appeal of yourself and the girls featured on your site. What kind of girls are featured on Burning Angel, and what are they like?
JA: We have about 200 girls on BurningAngel now -- so obviously there are so many different types of girls on BurningAngel -- bigger girls, smaller girls, girls with long hair, girls with short hair, girls who are covered in tattoos and girls with no tattoos etc. I can't really categorize all of them but to sum it up -- we are everywhere! We are the cute girl in your class in college, the hot girl behind the counter at a coffee shop, the girl you are like so infatuated with but never thought was "your type" who works at the mall... we're just everywhere, you just don't know it. Or... maybe you do. I like to accept girls who enjoy the exhibitionist aspect of the whole thing -- we don't want girls who are just trying to make a quick buck. We also like girls who want to be active on the website, and come to events, and post in their blogs. We don't really want anyone who is just going to show up, take the money and disappear. Of course, the girls are beautiful -- and I can't lie and say that looks don't matter. They definitely matter -- but a 10 in looks and a 0 in personality is not going to get you on my site.
SFBG: What you do with pornography is often put into the category of altporn. How would you describe this genre and do you feel you participate in it?
JA: I don't even know what altporn is anymore. People say that I started it or something... but I look at other people who are lumped into the genre and I think our stuff is so different I don't understand why we are even on the same shelf. I think it is a fancy term for "porn that is a little different than most porn". What I truly think separates altporn from mainstream porn is not just the music and the tattoos -- but it's the community that altporn sites have, that both girls and members participate in. On mainstream porn sites -- you simply can't see a girl getting fucked on camera, and then send her a message and drink coffee with her the next week.
SFBG: Do you ever work or collaborate with the other players in altporn, like Suicide Girls and God's Girls, or any others?
JA: No -- I don't know them so well but from the little I do know, I can tell you that the Suicide Girls are definitely NOT interested in collaborating with anyone else in alt-porn or porn at all. Annalise (the owner of God's Girls) is a good friend of mine -- we have spoken about collaborating on something together but now just isnt the right time. I think we both need to grow a lot more before we could really both mutually benefit off of a partnership. So for now -- we're just friends.
SFBG: I think it's fascinating that so many of these DIY porn sites are run by, or owned by, women. As a woman, you have your own porn company and you direct your own pornos. That's awesome to see a woman represent! As a woman, do you feel you approach pornographic content in a different way than, say, a guy?
JA: There are actually a lot more female directors than you think these days. It is really awesome. When I first started this company I was right out of college and I took a lot of woman's studies classes in college and I was very like GRRR! I AM A WOMAN! HEAR ME ROAR!!!! But really through the years I have found many male directors I have similar creative (or perverted) visions to and many female directors who porno I just don't find arousing. On the same token, I have met a lot of women directors I feel a lot in common with and men with visions I am not into. It's just hard to generalize because there are so many different kinky little fantasies running around in everyone's mind. I know that in my movies in the "plot" the girls always have to be the aggressors and the guys are always kinda idiots -- but you know, cute funny idiots. Like, the other day I was watching one of my friend's movies (who is a male director in porn) and his "plot" involved a guy fucking two girl roommates and the two of them didn't know about it and he was kinda going back and forth in between them and walked out slyly in the end. If I would do that set up -- I would have done it reverse and have a girl like... pull a fast one on two different guys or, have two girls trick a guy into doing something that somehow involved sex in the end. Umm... that's just how I put my own "girly" spin on things.
SFBG: You're pretty experienced in starring in your own hardcore pornos. What is the most difficult photo shoot or video you've ever had to perform, sexually or mentally or otherwise?
JA: I did a scene with five guys once -- and not to be too descriptive but there was one cock in my ass, one in my pussy, one in my mouth and one in each hand like the entire time. It was pretty intense.... but it was also the most fun I have ever had in a scene. Other than that- I did this one scene outside in an alley way in a corner where there was nothing to lean on other than like, a window ledge kind of, and there was broken glass all over the ground. The whole scene was pretty much just a standing doggy thing and it was pretty uncomfortable.
SFBG: Wow that's intense! You're a writer. When you're so busy with your site and films, how do you carve out time for writing? What's the importance of your writing?
JA: Unfortunately- I do not get as much time to write as I would like and I hate it. If you read my blog- (on burningangel.com or xoxojoannaangel.com ) almost every blog entry starts off with me apologizing for not blogging enough. The importance of it is that I just really love living my life and telling people about it- and it's also really nice to have a place to just kinda hang out with my thoughts and laugh at things and reflect on things and come up with new conclusions to things that you never thought of.
SFBG: Burning Angel interviews bands and features original writing. It's cool that you are integrating your sex site with other forms of art and working together. Do you feel what you do is influenced by other art, like the music you listen to or the books you read?
JA: BurningAngel- is me. Like if one day I woke up in the morning and I was a porn site I would be BurningAngel. If I really like a band- I'll try to get a hold of them and interview them. If I see a movie I like, I will try to steal a shot, a line, or something from it and use it when I direct one of my scenes. Everywhere I go and everything I see gets incorporated into some aspect of the website somehow. The downside of having an awesome porn site is that there is really never a time where my work day ends and my "personal" life begins- because everything that is personal to me I just involve in the webiste but.... I wouldn't have it any other way. I am very proud of what I have.
SFBG: What's on the future horizon for Burning Angel and Joanna Angel?
JA: We are in the process of launching a whole bunch of other sites- making more movies, and doing a whole bunch of other stuff. We just wanna do everything that we're doing, but on a bigger scale. As for me, well... I could probably use a nap or something but... I can always take one later... like, in 17 years or something.