There are no phones allowed in my theater. I set mine to silent before I put on my costume: a collared shirt with the top button left open, a tweed skirt, crimson ruffled socks, brogues, and a wool cardigan with heart-shaped buttons. I affix my hair into a chignon, put on matte coral lipstick and wire-framed glasses, and I’ve finished my transformation into a quirky office clerk. No wardrobe assistant took my measurements; I’m the director here, and this costume is for me, belongs to me. The skirt’s zipper digs into my back when I get to my chair on set. Unlike other director’s chairs, it sits in front of a computer screen. When “action” is called, I’ll be camming.
As an actor, singer, director, multidisciplinary artist, and independent filmmaker, I take on myriad jobs within and adjacent to the industry. Contrary to our reputation, camgirls can be role models. In my day job, I work with the elderly, and it is my pleasure and privilege to provide seniors with companionship and camaraderie. But social services are not known for their monetary compensation, and I refuse to let economic vagaries or traditional funding bodies interfere with my autonomy. I scout locations and avenues by which to make my own projects, and I am currently on track to fund a short film with my income from camming. If all goes according to plan, the film will deconstruct boundaries between itself and the audience. This idea extends directly from my cam work, in which I look into my viewers’ eyes and respond to their needs. I allow their moods; their sadness or silliness, to be the subtext of non-scripted sessions.
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For the March 2021 issue of Harper’s, Martin Scorsese wrote an essay titled Il Maestro. In it, he uses his appreciation of Federico Fellini to critique the current content-based model of entertainment: “algorithms, by definition, are based on calculations that treat the viewer as a consumer and nothing else.” I strive for the opposite as a camgirl. I treat my customers the way artists treat their patrons. I embrace improvisation and experimentation, resulting in consistent elation for the viewer and validation for the artist. Amidst every personalized interaction, and eventual transaction, desired distraction from reality occurs. One person requests I become his childhood nanny, singing nursery rhymes while half-naked. For another, I camouflage in army uniform; harnessing the authority he craves.
In truth, when it comes to form, I shoot more film than I watch, delighting in 35mm self-portraiture and experimenting with expired rolls of 16mm Kodak Vision. I perform for professional cinematographers or analog lenses I affix to tripods. I catch myself performing when not on screen at all. As an actor, I escort viewers to another world, no matter the venue or context. Role play is often employed in many arenas, from meditation to therapy, theatre, and of course, in sex. It releases inhibitions, and that freedom is at the core of my work. Techniques that distance the audience are not welcome, and I try to neutralize that effect through my vulnerability. For some, camming entails nudity and sexual openness. For others, cyber companionship consists solely of conversation.
Non-traditional elements of cinema and non-traditional funding have paved my career path. I’ve made the fourth wall of a 4G internet connection into a tool in my journey. One need not conflate cinema and content. Yet, I implore others to contemplate the changing tides on which the actor floats today. Definitions have been threatened by the instantaneous digestion of new media. The semantics behind job titles — “exotic dancer” vs. stripper, camgirl or escort — matter far less than intention. Artists seek euphoria, not euphemisms.