Cam Girl Turned Hollywood Rising Star: How Sex Work Saved My Life
Isa Mazzei struggled with self-harm and suicidal thoughts until she learned to take control of her body and her sexuality via the world of webcam sex work.
Isa Mazzei—a cam girl turned Hollywood rising star—wants the world to know that sex work saved her life.
Mazzei was raised in suburban Colorado by successful parents whose high-flying lifestyles masked serious issues with mental health and alcoholism. “My parents had little in common,” she jokes darkly in her page-turning new memoir Camgirl, “but trying to kill themselves was really the glue that held our family together.”
By the time she hit her teens, Mazzei was facing similar issues. She attempted suicide in her bedroom, only for her dad to burst in and find that she had swallowed the wrong kind of sleeping tablets.
“I have been in dark places in many periods of my life,” she told The Daily Beast. “I was in a very, very dark place before I found camming.”
After suffering sexual abuse as a child, Mazzei said it was becoming a cam girl that allowed her to rebuild a sense of control over her body and that broke the spell of self-harm and suicidal ideation that threatened to destroy her.
Mazzei is now a movie screenwriter with a string of projects to her name. Her award-winning debut horror movie, CAM, which she wrote, was released last year on Netflix, and she recently wrote and produced an episode of Sam Raimi’s 50 States of Fright, starring Christina Ricci, which will air next year.
Just three years ago, Mazzei was spending virtually every night entertaining hundreds of strangers online with kinky sex shows that earned her thousands of dollars a month.
“I don’t know where I would be without camming, but I definitely credit it with saving my life, and I don’t say that lightly,” she said. “I really do not think I would be anywhere near where I am now without camming in terms of being a stable, functioning person and I don’t even know if I would be alive, to be honest.
“I really needed to confront my trauma. I needed to confront my issues around control. And I needed to get help. And sex work for me was a place that allowed me to feel safe enough to be able to take those steps.”
Mazzei’s book, which was published this week, tells the incredible story of a super-smart UC Berkeley comparative literature grad who turned her life around by venturing into the world of online sex work.
By the time Mazzei was a teenager, the family was relatively wealthy, her father traveling all over the world as a cinematographer on commercials and videos for the likes of Pink and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Her mother built up a list of celebrity clients as a high-end make-up artist.
Mazzei writes that her mother was also suffering from alcoholism and her father had bipolar disorder and would disappear into the basement to lie in bed for days on end.
When she started to become romantically involved with boys—and sometimes girls—Mazzei discovered that she loved to seduce people and make them fall in love with her, but she came to dread sex. The acts of seduction became ever more extreme, including flirting with people in front of her current boyfriend or stripping off at teenage parties, but when it came to sex, she felt revulsion.
A key turning point came when she accompanied a friend to a strip club for the first time and came away feeling jealous of the women on stage.
“Sex work was something that I had wanted to try because I envied people who were comfortable with their bodies and their sexuality,” she told The Daily Beast. “I looked at women who wanted sex and who were not ashamed of themselves and I thought, how do you feel that way?”
Mazzei decided to set up a cam girl account, and—after a difficult first few sessions—she was on her way to becoming a sex-work success. By the end of the first month she’d made $15,877.10.
During those nights online, a flood of requests would come in from both strangers and regulars, many of whom would only tip if she did as she was asked. Mazzei would pick and choose which challenges to accept, and her regular fans would upbraid interlopers who were rude or made inappropriate demands.
“Something that camming gave me directly was this ability to be able to set boundaries around my body and my sexuality,” she said. “Camming was about reframing my sexuality and sexual expression as something where I had control because ultimately, I was in control. If I wanted to ban a user, I could ban a user. If I didn’t want to do something, I just said, ‘No.’”
In her quest to keep moving up the charts and keep herself engaged, her webcam performances became ever more extreme, including regular BDSM sessions.
Mazzei fiddled with the oversized rings on her fingers as she explained: “Being a submissive can actually be incredibly transformative and healing, if you have a trauma history and a history of having been forced to give up your power and then you’re in a position where you are all of a sudden consenting to give up your power, it’s reframing powerlessness as a situation where you have control.”
It was only after months of camming that Mazzei felt ready to admit to her therapist that she had suffered sexual abuse as a child. It was a breakthrough moment, and she started to undergo trauma therapy. She’s now far more confident, happy and comfortable being intimate with her partners.
“I wouldn’t say it’s happily ever after,” she said. “I’m not all the way there, but a lot of things about me have fundamentally shifted and transformed.”