Entertainment

06.18.13

How a Porn Star Retires: Aurora Snow on Life After Porn

A union, health insurance, residuals? Porn stars get none of those things, and few manage to save their ‘movie money.’ Aurora Snow on why many keep returning to the business—and how she finally got out.

I was certain that I would never want a family of my own. I wouldn’t have entered porn if I had. I scoffed at the idea of being tied down in any way. But four years ago my brother was in a motorcycle accident, and I found myself thrust into the role of caregiver to my 4-year-old and 6-year-old nephews. My youngest nephew clung to me half asleep as I carried him from my car to his bedroom, and as I tucked him in, everything changed. I suddenly wanted a family of my own. That meant I needed to leave the adult business, but I wasn’t even slightly prepared. Like most of my colleagues, I had never considered an exit strategy. Worse, I felt I had no other skill sets.

A day in the life of a porn star might, on the surface, seem like the life of a Hollywood A-lister. Shopping in Beverly Hills, getting $500 facials, and spending thousands on shoes that will rarely see the light of day. But take one look at performer contracts and you will notice some major differences. Hollywood actors have a union, health insurance, and even earn residuals on their projects. Porn actors have none of these things. Once the money jar is drained on fashion, facials, and shoes, that’s it. There’s no more. So retirement is a tricky concept.

I have spent the last several years trying to figure out how to extract myself from a business I’ve been in most of my adult life. At first I cut back on the number of scenes I did. I adjusted to life on a budget and then put myself back in school. Finally, I felt like I was on a new path. But school cost money. Now I had to consider taking on more scenes to pay for it. I’d come full circle. In a way, I was right back where I started. I fell into porn to pay for school and here I was again. I was caught in a cycle that seemed to have no end.

I had to hit the eject button.

One impulsive decision later, I was dragging 300 pounds of luggage in seven big bags through LAX all by myself. Not an easy task. Change isn’t supposed to be easy. I moved to the Midwest, to a sparsely populated town in the middle of nowhere. My new neighbors were the four-legged kind that moo.

Once I was settled in, I began to panic. After all, I hadn’t planned this. I am an adult performer—that’s what I know how to do. Before porn I had other skills, but somewhere along the way I forgot what those were. I’d started believing I was only good at one thing. Over the years I had gathered content for my Web site. My version of a 401(k) was archiving content for my Web site, a business strategy that other girls continue to employ.

Many girls retire from doing scenes only to go on to feature dancing at strip clubs, web camming, or doing the soft-core late-night cable shows, all of which still involve nudity and pretty decent pay. It’s hard to quit cold turkey. It’s an even bigger challenge to try to do something with your clothes on, as retired adult star Brooke Haven discovered. The job market wasn’t as friendly as she’d hoped. “We want to hang up our G-strings, but then we realize the real world isn’t so forgiving,” she says. “I was applying for jobs all over the place and had to explain what I’d been doing for the last 10 years. They look at you like you’re lazy, like you’ve done nothing for 10 years. It’s tough.” Haven eventually found an office job with an adult agency, as quite a few girls do: “I work in the offices of Direct Models as a model coordinator because they asked me to come in and work and no one else is willing to hire me. It worked out well because I know so many people in the industry. They’re familiar faces.”

Once you’re in the adult business, it’s hard to separate yourself. There are few forgiving options, but the entertainment industry is one of them. Unlike so many others who quit because they just don’t love it anymore, Mary Carey walked away from her XXX career to pursue a mainstream one. “I retired to do reality shows, but I still think I’m not fully retired,” she says. “I’m still involved in the industry because I feature dance and I still shoot solo stuff for my Web site, but I don’t do movies.”

Carey now hosts Politically Naughty on TradioV, and while still active in entertainment, she has had to make some major life-after-porn adjustments, “When you aren’t getting your money from the movies, and you’re just feature dancing, it’s hard,” she says. “At first I didn’t adjust my lifestyle, so I was still living like I had movie money coming in. Now I live simpler, but probably not as simple as I should. I wish I had known that when I was younger. There was no reason to spend $2,500 to $3,000 on hair extensions. Now I drive an hour and a half away, and I get my hair done for $300 instead of $2,500 every six weeks. I never had a Ralphs card because I had lots of money and didn’t care. That was so stupid. I thought I was too cool for coupons.”

‘At first I didn’t adjust my lifestyle, so I was still living like I had movie money coming in. Now I live simpler, but probably not as simple as I should,’ says Mary Carey.

Retiring from porn is both a financial and mental process. As Carey has discovered, the better known you are, the more difficult it will be for the world to see you any other way. “The hardest thing about retiring from porn is that once people find out you did it, they treat you so differently, which is why so many girls go back into it,” she says. “It’s a double-edged sword because once you’re well known, it’s harder to go back to normal life. You want to be a well-known girl to get more money, but becoming the big name or becoming the award winner makes it much harder to become a normal person later.” Most girls don’t consider that when embarking on an adult career, and perhaps that is why so many of us retire several times before giving up the ghost.

Today there are a plethora of adult agents doling out advice to new girls, some of them former performers themselves. Shy Love, a one-time performer, agent, and owner of ATM, says she gives all her new girls this advice: “Don’t come in and say, ‘I’m going to be famous,’ and don’t assume the money is going to last forever. Save as much as you can so when you are ready to retire, you have options outside of the industry. Don’t quit until you have a master plan for what comes later. Don’t get rid of your money source until you have another one in place.” Of course, not everyone heeds that advice, and many end up coming back after retirement when they don’t know what else to do. It’s easy to go back to what you know. There is a comfort in the familiarity. That’s why I had to move to the Midwest to truly grow.

While I am still getting used to wearing boots on the farm so my high heels stay muck-free, checking under the covers for brown recluse spiders and waving at my neighbors every time we pass each other on the street (everyone here is so friendly!), for the first time since I entered the adult business I realize there is a world out there beyond it.

I have packed a lot of life into the last 12 years. While some people would look down on it, I don’t spend my days regretting. I treasure my fans and appreciate all this unconventional life has taught me. I’ve come to realize people don’t understand this former profession of mine, and I enjoy illuminating their curiosity. I’ve also found work in mainstream TV production, as well as in the health-and-wellness industry. Once I hit the eject button and became far enough removed from the porno machine, I found that brand-new opportunities eventually presented themselves.

As I begin my post-adult journey, I realize that it would be much easier had I invested more wisely. To the next generation of wide-eyed innocents entering the adult world, please take a few minutes to consider life after porn. Make some realistic long-term plans for yourself and consider that your wants may change. Mine did.