Adult Film Star Joanna Angel Talks About Building an Empire [INTERVIEW]
Burning Angel founder Joanna Angel has made a mark in the adult industry that can only be described as inspiring. This self-made super star began her career as a student at Rutgers University, and in just ten years has created an empire. She is a performer, a producer and a director, one which has inspired girls all across the country to follow along in her footsteps.
Her self-extension – Burning Angel – stands out among the multitude of adult sites in that it acts as so much more that such. Along with the obvious adult entertainment provided there is a community within Burning Angel that includes pictures, interviews with both interesting musicians and fans alike, as well as a full store containing accessories, clothing and of course, an adult toy line.
Entering the industry on her own terms, Joanna has always been her own boss, and without realizing it created a niche in the form of ‘Alt’ or ‘Punk’; the idea of tattooed women being sexy. Of course, this was the case before she came along, but it wasn’t until Burning Angel was launched that the public really began to take notice. And it seems from that day they haven’t stopped.
You’ve been in the adult industry for about ten years. What made you start Burning Angel?
Well, I had an idea to start an adult film company with my roommate in college, so I did. [laughs]. I really didn’t want a boring job and didn’t want to work for other people. It all just sort of happened. I definitely didn’t think the company would become what it is today but we’ve been around for 10 years now.
It was a slow process. There were a couple of years in the beginning where we weren’t making much money. It took a little while for me to actually feel like I was in the adult film industry. That’s the thing with a lot of these start-up Internet companies; when Burning Angel went up I didn’t feel as if anything changed. I was still living the same life I was before. There was just a website.
Were you open to delving straight into adult films?
It was never a goal of mine. It was a spur of the moment decision that sounded like a lot of fun.
Were you more comfortable in front of the camera than you thought you’d be?
I was. Sometimes I’m a little jealous of all these girls I hire. I see the looks on their faces. They fly to LA, come and meet me for the first time; they’re all nervous and excited. I like to think everybody has positive experiences at Burning Angel. But I was working for myself when I started. When I took my first set of naked photos I just went to my roommate and he did them. It didn’t feel like anything big or glamorous so I wasn’t nervous.
A lot of these girls are like 19 years old and are from Kentucky or something. They come to Los Angeles for the first time, get their make up done and get outfits put on them. I didn’t have that experience. I literally walked into my roommate’s and said, ‘Maybe you should take pictures of me?’ He said, ‘Um, that’ll be really weird but okay, let’s do it.” [laughs] So I didn’t leave the room thinking oh my god! I just did an adult film. I felt very different; I was comfortable.
I was more nervous at the point that we didn’t know what we were doing. When I decided to do this website I wanted it to be good but didn’t know how to do that. Me being comfortable with my body was sort of the last thing I was worried about, which was kind of good. It wasn’t until a couple of years later that I did my first video. And again, I wasn’t nervous because it was my decision. I thought if we were going to make a movie then I needed to be in it.
I think in the beginning we were trying to make Burning Angel some artsy thing, but then at one point I was like you know what? I want to be an adult film star. I think being one would be awesome and I would like to go from being this nude model that everybody calls an adult film star to somebody who actually has sex on camera. I had a lot of fun with that. I felt exhilarated. I loved it a lot more than taking pictures. It was what I wanted to do.
What was it about the movies that made you feel that way?
Well, I’m not a model. I’m kind of geeky, awkward and silly. Plus I really do like having sex [laughs]. Modeling is a totally different thing. I don’t make sexy faces. I’m really short and don’t wear super fashionable clothes. Some girls are just models and I’m not.
A girl we shot, Asphyxia, she walks like a model and looks like one. I’ve taken pictures of her at bars from my cell phone. Some look appears on her face when a camera gets in front of her; it’s amazing. Some girls have that; I don’t. But I am trying to become a better model. I’ve been fortunate with that, but I don’t really feel like I’m good at it. I make it up as I go along.
Was it a conscious effort to be the queen of punk or ‘Alt’ adult films?
We just try to do what we do really. I wasn’t part of adult films at all so I didn’t understand that tattooed girls was a brand new thing. I was just doing what I wanted to do. It wasn’t until a few years later that we started putting out movies that happened. I didn’t even know what your mainstream adult film star was at the time. I do now, so I understand now why we’re different.
An interesting thing about BurningAngel.com is that it’s a type of community. You have videos, pictures, and also interviews with musicians.
Yeah! We’ve been doing that since we started. I love that.
And now you’re starting up webcam shows.
We have a chat room. People go in, hang out and the girls do shows. It’s fun!
Do you like webcams more than movies?
I like being in movies better. I get nervous with webcams. I feel like a lot of the younger girls are so much better than me at that. I’ll watch their shows and think wow; they’re so good at this.
Things aren’t planned on a webcam and I get neurotic about that. I think I just have issues when people tell me what to do. When I’m on set everything is planned out. But I really am trying to be a better webcamer because I know the members like it and that makes me happy. I really like talking with them; it’s a cool interaction. But for me, I like doing something and then putting it out there and having people watching.
Burning Angel puts out quite a few films a year, but you don’t star in them all.
We put out like 18 movies a year and I think I’m in like seven of them. I’m in a lot. People can only watch me have sex so many times.
Do enjoy the producing end of films?
Well, the cool thing is that I’m still producing when I’m performing. There are just days on set where I’m having sex and some when I’m not. Sometimes I get kind of bummed when everybody is having sex but me. It’s depressing. I joke with the camera guy. I say, ‘This is boring!’ He’s been shooting adult film for like 20 years and says, ‘I know! Welcome to the last 20 years of my life. I go home and my wife doesn’t even do me.’ But it’s hard; I’m just watching everyone have sex.
Performing, producing and directing at the same time is very hard. I’m trying to be relaxed, be the boss and be an adult film star at the same time. Now I try to enjoy the days when I’m the star as much as I can. Sometimes I just want to have sex on camera. I’ve been in total control of my career so it’s nice to have these people around me who know what they’re doing, which I do.