Digital Divas: From Street Smart to Tweet Smart

It’s a small world and, with the advent of the Internet, nowadays it’s smaller than ever. Journalists and soldiers on assignment in strange lands can now enjoy a virtual dinner with their loved ones thanks to services like Skype. Students in the Congo can read a Canadian blog in live time and subscribe to a virtual stranger’s YouTube channel from continents away.

That we are now able to captivate and communicate with an audience without the assistance of “professionals” is what allows modern-day celebrities a never-before-seen freedom and control over their careers. We’ve replaced managers with moderators and social strategists with social media, through which we can expertly publicize carefully crafted personas that we will present to the world from the comfort of our homes. Despite the editing, filtering, and overall gloss that goes into creating an image suitable for public consumption, the public face of today’s celebs are still infinitely more authentic than that which an agent, publicist, or manager would have presented to the world just a few short years ago in the hopes of securing lucrative contracts with studios and brands. In the not-so-distant past, aspiring celebs were under excruciating pressure to maintain a certain reputation that would conform to a projected ideal oftentimes in direct opposition to their own values and interests. Molding oneself in such strict alignment with the interests of people who literally see you as a walking orifice by which to line their pockets is a surefire way to lose yourself, and any porn star from the old regime will attest to the crushing pressure of keeping sponsors happy and pleasing the brands representing them. If that isn’t enough to burn you out, the percentage of your earnings that end up being distributed to everyone from agents to consultants to publicists will quickly sour your views on the industry. The camgirl has altogether rejected these notions and created a business model that is all her own. The generation before her learned the hard way that endorsements pay the bills: if you got dropped from the roster you might as well have been dropped off the face of the planet. Consequently, they depended a great deal on studio representation. Today’s theme is, simply put: “fuck ‘em”.

We’ve replaced managers with moderators and social strategists with social media,

The world is literally at our fingertips and one huge advantage we gain as a result of all this technology is the ability to connect with literally anyone who has an online presence. Human connections, whether real or imagined, are arguably the foundations of longevity, society and success alike. Any lawyer worth his salt will tell you that a defendant needs to be relatable to stand a chance at a Not Guilty verdict, and we all know that a salesman needs to be sociable and charming to sell his wares. No one knows this better than the camgirl, who understands that an erection does not always trump a connection. Being able to fulfill the all-too-human craving for closeness from worlds away is a daily occurrence in her line of work.

Today’s generation will learn how to operate a tablet and access a wi-fi network before they learn how to tie their shoes. Those coming up in this whirlwind of flashing screens will master the language of emojis before they learn their ABC’s and there is no precedent in place by which to surmise how we, as mere humans, will process this progress, no established groundwork as to how our comparatively primitive brains will adapt to these monumental advances in technology or how we will learn to occasionally tune out a world that never shuts off. With this digital revolution comes the pressure to adapt and, as always, survival is contingent on evolution. The very infrastructure of telecommunication has been swiftly uprooted by a progression so pronounced it has infiltrated every imaginable sector, from film to finance to farming, but perhaps none more so than the world of adult film, transformed almost overnight in the resulting wave of DIY everything. Here we have watched in awe as amateur camgirls with no prior industry experience thrive, grow and expand their content, fan bases and range before our very eyes. We follow their transformations from behind our screens as they build empires from behind theirs. Pornography’s rising stars are launching their careers in the comfort of their bedrooms, dominating a notoriously cutthroat and and all-too-often sinister trade that they are gleefully turning on its head. Self-made, self- taught and self-reliant, they are redefining sex work. A relatively new addition to an age-old profession, the camgirl has literally rebuilt the industry by knocking it on its ass and reconstructing it from the ground up. In a profession that has remained stagnant for far too long, she is a refreshing change of pace. Tenacious, vivacious, versatile and full of resolve, she has created a niche for herself that is nothing short of remarkable and she is trampling society’s notions of modern-day sex work.

Today’s theme is, simply put: “fuck ‘em”.

Today’s aspiring adult performers learn how to image and market themselves while exercising full control of their output, and they can do so without ever casting a glance at a script or a casting couch. Fully independent, they are their own publicist, producer, accountant, director, stylist, editor, and manager. In the Age of the App there is no longer a need for the old order and they are free to reject the suffocating hierarchy of worlds past. Modern-day entertainers assume the roles previously outsourced to strangers and as a result they are learning not only their best angles and which equipment and programs to use but also how to strategize , promote and finance their visions, and ultimately how to build a brand. A master of all crafts, the camgirl seamlessly maneuvers from filming to bookkeeping to networking, all the while setting her own boundaries and enjoying the freedom to control her shoots, sets, content , pricing and schedule. Today’s entrepreneurs of the camming world learn to master software programs and navigate multiple platforms and interfaces through which they can promote and sell their material as they establish and maintain a fanbase.

Self-made, self- taught and self-reliant, they are redefining sex work.

Empowerment. Freedom. Autonomy. Positive self-image. Not words normally associated with sex work. Camgirls are creating a new precedent and they are nothing short of pioneers as they smash through ceilings and use the pieces to pave a new path for the eager debutantes of adult film. In this new epoch of sex work, the power dynamic shifts to the performer as she defines her own parameters and pursues her own projects, obliterating barriers with ingratiating ease. Nihilating preconceptions and ushering in this new wave of self-employed starlets are sprightly and strategic women of all denominations, body types, skill sets and backgrounds. They are the new faces of the adult industry, faces that have been illuminated by the soft glow of a computer screen since infancy. They have rejected the status quo and made headway in an industry that has been largely inert for years.

Gone are the days where you would hope to be discovered by a talent scout at the mall or dream of being picked up by a modelling agency or signed by a label. Those seeking fame and stardom can find it all by themselves on platforms like YouTube and Instagram. It only takes one post to get picked up, gain traction and go viral. A video that you made years ago and forgot all about can be picked up by a celebrity or media outlet and change your life in an instant. Tonight you can go to bed as an average Joe and wake up famous. Welcome to the world of do- it -yourself everything, or, as Dave Chapelle so succinctly puts it, “Welcome to the age of spin”. From YouTube musicians to Instagram models to bloggers-turned-published-authors, gone are the days of grueling auditions and the dependence of your success on the approval of others. Succeed you will in this day and age as long as you gain the approval of the audience. Gone is the 15 minutes of fame that once took 15 years to cultivate. In this time of memes 15 years of fame is no rare feat as celebrities continue to reinvent themselves and stay in the spotlight, a spotlight they expertly shine on themselves as they maintain relevancy in 15 second spurts of perfectly executed soundbites and Snapchat stories. If you have a webcam you have what it takes to be the next big thing. Fame in the post-internet world never fully dies as nothing we put on the world-wide-web is ever truly gone. It’s always the right place at the right time on the Internet.

As fans, we now enjoy a decidedly more authentic access to our idols, who no longer speak through censors and press agents. Today we are provided a more intimate glimpse into the lives of celebrities each time they allow us to tag along on their coffee runs on FB Live or invite us into their homes by posting a Snapchat story. Writing fan letters that you knew would never cross the eyes of the intended recipient and getting a mass-generated generic response in your mailbox was thrilling back in the day, but woefully inadequate compared to the preferred fan mail of today: Twitter, on which we are regaled with the minute details of celebrity life and granted direct access to our idols. Extinct are the paid mouthpieces that used to speak on behalf of Joe Celeb, the days of handlers and fan clubs. We are all just an Internet connection and a mouse click away from finding out where our favorite celebrities do their banking or what brand of oatmeal they prefer.

It’s always the right place at the right time on the Internet.

What camgirls bring to the mix, what they instinctively knew before the rest of us, is that the allure of voyeurism cannot be overstated. By selling authentic, customized content, offering services such as Skype shows and texting packages like KIK, and by customizing promotions such as funds through which fans can make donations to help purchase the very imagery they will later enjoy ( from outfits to sex machines to a new pair of breasts), they are allowing viewers more involvement than ever before and a sense of contribution that you simply cannot get with “traditional” porn. Camgirls instinctively understand that connection is key.

Inaugural to the growth of the DIY celeb is the camgirl, the unlikely poster child of the self-made success story. A young lady belting out tunes to her webcam from her bedroom makes a hopeful starlet with stage fright and no connections in the industry realize that she, too, can skip the middleman and connect where it counts: directly with her fans. And it’s those fans that will make her famous by promoting her page, sharing her statuses and re-tweeting her messages, not the record labels or the media. This trend is particularly true for cam models, who enjoy the creative control to build their own brands. An added bonus is that she does not need to fit neatly into one genre or box; the only labels she will need are for the tags to her content , which she controls, shoots, prices and, if so desired, even “leaks” herself.

In the highly competitive flesh factories of the old school, studio actresses would often comply with requests they were uncomfortable with just to get their names “out there” in the hopes that once a fan base was established they could enjoy the “luxury” to control their output and select their own content as opposed to being at the whim of a director’s wishes. Camgirls have flipped this notion on its head. They are living proof that control over one’s career and a certain level of comfort is a right, not a privilege. More and more, adult actresses are standing their ground and refusing to compromise their integrity or adjust their standards to appease a third party. No longer willing to jeopardize their own goals to help build someone else’s empire, they have come to realize that they no longer need anyone but their fans in order to make a name for themselves. Free to pursue fetishes of their own choosing, they can easily pursue cross-promotional opportunities all by themselves and create their own content and communities. The camgirl understands that there is no longer a reason to settle for the smallest piece of a pie baked with the fruits of her hard-earned labor, let alone allow others to decide the direction of her career.

Today we all have our very own Truman show, broadcast in live time over social media for all the world to see. If the camgirl is any indication of things to come, we will soon see a social shift from dependency and the need for outside validation to a movement of self-sufficiency as we build our futures in our own vision, free to evolve, thrive and truly let our creative juices flow as we go.

Christine Andrews

Taken from MV Mag No 8 (nsfw)