Stoya, Pop Star of Porn

The Internet explodes for Brooklyn's own Stoya, America's sweetheart of smut

Stoya, Pop Star of Porn

On the ground floor of a Bushwick tenement building with a staircase lined in peeling fleur-de-lis wallpaper, inside a railroad apartment and past the big bed with black silk sheets and two massive chests full of rhinestone-encrusted thongs, Stoya is perched on a metal stool in leggings and a sweatshirt, talking about the future. She cracks open her kitchen's rear window, tucks her legs beneath her, and smokes a Parliament Light. Then another. And another. "There's an unknown expiration date for me," she says. "It could be 28, or it could be 35: The age when no one cares anymore, I'm no longer relevant, and there are strange wrinkly things happening to my butt cheeks that should not appear on HD video." Stoya is 26. She smokes another cigarette. Then she tweets to her 124,000 followers from the iPad perched on her windowsill: "Does anyone know of a place where I can buy a wig cap on the Lower East Side at 11:30 pm on a Thursday?"

Within the hour, the sweatshirt is on the floor. Fake eyelashes extend from the corners of her almond eyes, peach glitter is sparkling from her lids, and her lips are stained red like a valentine. She slips into a pair of patent-leather flats and a floor-length white mink coat, and steps onto the stoop to search for the town car she's called to pick her up. She lights a Parliament.

When she exits the car on Bowery, Stoya is out of Parliaments. She collects a café au lait from a diner, gravitates toward the nearest neon Budweiser logo, and arms herself with two fresh packs. Another Parliament is resting between her lips before she hits the sidewalk, where she waits for the light to turn. Some nights, when she is standing on a street corner like this, a passing stranger will tell her that she is going to hell. And she'll wonder what they're referring to, specifically: The tobacco she's sucking into her lungs? The 50 mink pelts hanging from her shoulders? Or the porn?

Stoya: “I had no idea how judgy-wudgy the real world is.”
Clayton Cubitt; Fashion styling: René Garza; Makeup and Hair: Katie Wedlund
Stoya: “I had no idea how judgy-wudgy the real world is.”
Stoya playing Marie Antoinette at Molly Crabapple’s art opening
Jennifer Loeber
Stoya playing Marie Antoinette at Molly Crabapple’s art opening

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See More Stoya:
Burlesque With Stoya and Friends (NSFW) by Nate "Igor" Smith

A white van rolls down the street and idles in front of her, right in the center of the intersection. The light turns. Stoya begrudgingly scoots behind the van, removes the Parliament from her lips, and spits on its back door. "I read once that Hunter S. Thompson credited his health with never keeping an emotion inside," she says.

Radical self-expression is a challenge for a legally contracted porn star, which is what Stoya became at age 21 when she inked a deal with the adult feature company Digital Playground. Stoya's contract requires her to show up in Southern California about 46 days out of the year to film X-rated videos like Stoya: Web Whore and Stoya's Haunted House. The remaining 319 days, she's paid not to have sex on camera anywhere else. That's time for building the Stoya brand: porn-convention appearances, sure, but also composing essays on her Tumblr and for the Guardian and Vice, where she writes a regular column about "the pitfalls of heteronormativity" and the "metaphysics of cocksucking."

It's not the typical career arc for an industry luminary. Consider the mainstream glimpses of Stoya's fellow Digital Playground contract stars: In the 2005 film Middle Men, Jesse Jane played Jesse Jane. Kayden Kross appeared as "Convention Attendee/Stripper" on an episode of CSI. Riley Steele acted as "Crystal" in Piranha 3D, engaging in lesbian underwater sex and meeting a bloody end. Occasionally, Stoya will be sent a script with a character description like "Tiffany: looks like a stripper," and she will throw it in the trash.

"Hysterical Literature," a project with photographer Clayton Cubitt

Stoya does not look like a stripper. The artist Molly Crabapple, a friend, describes her as "a cat-eyed Snow White beauty" who is "mathematically perfect." Stoya declined Digital Playground's offer of free breast implants, twice. When the company later seated her next to a plastic surgeon at an awards show, she told him, "I've seen your work, and I am not impressed." When she books a sex scene, she stuffs herself with ice cream for a week in an attempt to exhibit, she says, "something resembling a bosom." In Los Angeles, she carries a frilly black parasol with UV coating to protect her porcelain skin. Once, at a signing, porno fans mistook Stoya for Jesse Jane's assistant. She was OK with that. She mocks the plots of porn films and constructs morbid fantasies about her least-favorite co-star ("Peel strips of her skin off and douse her in lemon juice and just let me watch!").

But Stoya loves her job, and it shows: She giggles so exuberantly throughout her sex scenes that an early partner, Mick Blue, initially thought she was mocking him. "Her performances are ones of genuine pleasure," says Jiz Lee, a genderqueer performer who once posed as Jack the Ripper while Stoya dressed the part of a Victorian prostitute. "It's hard not to fall in love with Stoya," says Lee. "I cannot help but be aroused by the joy she expresses while she's fucking." Internet fans have isolated those facial expressions into 1,000 constantly repeating GIFs, and launched Tumblrs like "Fuck Yeah, Stoya!" devoted to her. "But when Hollywood asks for a porn star," Stoya says, "they don't like it when I show up."

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