A medic was outed by the New York Post this weekend for posting explicit pictures on OnlyFans for extra income. Now, anger over the story has fueled $33,000 in donations to first responder Lauren Kwei—and questions about why the story was published in the first place.
The article, headlined “NYC medic helped ‘make ends meet’ with racy OnlyFans side gig,” attempted to make something scandalous out of the fact that the 23-year-old had posted nude photos to the popular subscription site. It cited a subscriber who counted 32 posts by Kwei, and quoted an anonymous FDNY paramedic turned morality cop who snarked that other first responders “make more money by pulling extra shifts, instead of pulling off their clothes.”
In the article, Kwei defended herself by telling the Post, “What I do in my free time is my business. It has no effect on how I care for my patients. I know when I’m working, I’m a paramedic. I think I’m pretty good at my job.”
Apparently, many others agreed. The article was quickly decried by critics on Twitter, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-NY), who tweeted at the publication, “Leave her alone. The actual scandalous headline here is ‘Medics in the United States need two jobs to survive.’” The tweet received over 300,000 more likes than the Post’s tweet of its story.
This weekend, one of Kwei’s friends started a GoFundMe page in her name, writing that Kwei had turned to sex work in order to support herself and her family and was now at risk of losing her job. Kwei herself said as much to the Post, telling the reporter she had taken down her OnlyFans “in the hopes that I won’t lose my job in the middle of a pandemic and three weeks before Christmas.” (A representative for SeniorCare EMS told The Daily Beast that Kwei is still employed and it does not intend to let her go over this issue.)
“We are asking for donations to help Lauren keep her freedoms of choice and expression to support herself during her legal battles against the newspaper and her fight to keep the job she loves,” her friend wrote on the GoFundMe.
In a little over a day, the page attracted more than 1,500 donors and raised $33,000—far above the stated goal of $5,000.
“Stay strong!” one donor commented. “The shame belongs to those who tried to shame you. You weren’t hurting anyone, you were merely attempting to make a living because your job as a front-line healthcare worker, helping to save people’s lives, doesn’t pay enough–which is the real shame.”
Another wrote simply, “Because no-one should live in fear of some fragile toad of a man ruining your life for a non-story.”
In a post for the GoFundMe, Kwei chimed in to say she is currently in West Virginia taking care of her father—the sole provider for the family—who had gone into cardiac arrest last week. She said she had started the OnlyFans because she did not want to ask her parents for money and could not reasonably work more than 40 hours a week, but couldn’t afford to live on a paramedic’s salary. (Even a paramedic quoted by the Post admitted that the pay at such jobs was “pretty crappy.”)
She added she had not spoken with her employer yet and was not sure what they would do, but that she would “continue to fight for my name and reputation.”
“I truly believe I do not HAVE to explain myself, but I want to,” she wrote. “I know in my heart that I did nothing wrong, but it really helps to be reminded that I do not deserve to be treated like this or spoken about this way.”
“I don't think I deserve all the kindness you all have shown to me, but I cannot thank you all enough,” she added. “I'm a strong woman because I have strong women all around me. I did nothing wrong and I will not take this lying down.”