Stoya, Pop Star of Porn

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

Instead, Stoya will emerge from a cloud of red fog tonight at the Box, a nightclub in the Lower East Side. At 2:30 a.m., she'll step onto a $3,000-an-evening bottle service table, muscle herself onto a giant hoop hanging from the ceiling, perform a fiercely acrobatic aerial routine, artfully discard a thong she glued with rhinestones, and hang naked by her ankles over a crowd of investment bankers, her long brown hair tinkling within inches of their champagne-jammed skulls. Tomorrow, she'll wake in the afternoon, don a Marie Antoinette wig decorated with the protest signs of Occupy Wall Street, and splash in a claw-footed bathtub in an East Village art gallery while Salman Rushdie and Amanda Palmer look on (hence the late-night bid for the wig cap).

Porn Valley may have signed her up, but "New York likes me," Stoya says. "I want to be where people like me. I feel like it's a natural human thing to do." As Digital Playground puts it in Stoya's official porn bio, "After a brief stint in Hollywood, California, Stoya moved back to east coast skyscrapers, preferring the brash, concrete reality of the east to the 24/7 sand and glam of the west coast." To Stoya, "it beats sitting in L.A., twiddling my thumbs 28 days out of the month."

Twenty-eight to 35 is early for career-ending butt wrinkles. But Stoya's always been ahead of the curve: Out of school by six, smoking at 12, sex at 13, living on her own by 16.

Power couple: Stoya and James Deen at the 2013 AVN Awards in Las Vegas
Nate ‘Igor’ Smith
Power couple: Stoya and James Deen at the 2013 AVN Awards in Las Vegas

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

Stoya's parents—she's the daughter of a feminist engineer and a business consultant—like to tell her that she returned from her kindergarten class in North Carolina and demanded to be homeschooled. They obliged. When Stoya was 13, Britney Spears hit the cover of Rolling Stone in a black satin bra with a purple Teletubby under her arm, pledging to preserve her virginity until marriage; Stoya hit the mall, looking for the "cleanest, most attractive boy who looked like he was over 16." She told him she was 15, and then had sex with him in his parents' basement: "It wasn't very interesting, but it was over."

She earned her high school diploma in the mail before her 16th birthday, then headed to Philadelphia. She got a volunteer gig at an anarchist bookstore collective. She spent six days as a Subway Sandwich Artist and was let go after stuffing a rude customer's foot-long with hot peppers. She hostessed at an Italian restaurant, folded pink Burberry cashmere onesies at a chic baby shop, pushed paper at a law office, and buzzed around on the back of a party promoter's Vespa, juggling his notebook and cell phone.

One day, her amateur photographer roommate came home, found her "sitting on the couch with no clothes on," she says, and recruited her as a model for a couple of alt-porn websites. Soon she was making so much money in the naked-lady business that she never needed to fold clothes again. Stoya took a shortened version of her grandmother's Serbian surname as her stage name—and trademarked it in 2009. When one site asked if she'd have sex with a girl on camera, she rented a DVD of John Stagliano's Fashionistas and liked what she saw. "I'm going to go make a living off my body now," she says she told herself, "because I can do that."

Then Digital Playground called, in the heyday of Sasha Grey, looking for a girl with an "alternative" look. "She completely defied everything the porn industry had decided 'sexy' was," says Adella, a publicist who worked for Digital Playground at the time. "She didn't fit into any category. She was fresh-faced, brainy, and a little bit of a hippie—I think she got that part from her mom. She had no alterations. She hated the sun. She just emanated sex appeal." Even so, the company was surprised by the success of Stoya's first release, Jack's POV 9—the cover features Stoya pulling off a bedazzled red tank top. "Their expression of shock was downright insulting," Stoya says. "They were like, 'We don't know why you're selling so well!'" Stoya did: "The Internet. Duh!"

For Stoya, negotiating the sex part of her career was easy. "She didn't want to do super-pansy tame sex—she wanted to push her boundaries on screen," Adella says. She shot through the industry, performed with Grey herself, scooped up the AVN award for Best New Starlet in 2009, put her name on a silicone masturbatory sleeve molded from her own vagina (the "Stoya Destroya" Fleshlight), and joined the industry last year in campaigning against Los Angeles's condoms-in-porn initiative, Measure B. But learning to present herself to the public proved more challenging. As a homeschooled kid, "I had no idea how judgy-wudgy the real world is," Stoya says. Adella says she had to coach her to "maybe not talk in a public forum about STDs, menstruating, or gas so much."

At first, "I didn't comprehend the 'star' part of it," Stoya says. "That means you spend most of your time doing weird promotional stuff so they can get your face out there and make you into a viable persona." She found herself fielding questions like "Which member of your family raped you as a child?" and whether her parents hated what she did for a living. Stoya's answers didn't fit expectations. "My mom hates the fake eyelashes and high heels," she told Xtreme Magazine. "If I was doing turtleneck-sweater, Birkenstock-wearing lesbian porn, she would be so happy, I think she would actually cry." She had to deflect different porn-star stereotypes—first, the dimwitted bimbo; later, the intellectual brunette who's not like the other girls. "Because I'm pale and have small boobs," Stoya says, "people ask me about my thoughts on Occupy Wall Street." She told one reporter: "Mussolini started out as a journalist."

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