Women

How Sasha Grey Made The Jump From Porn To, Well, Everything Else

She was different from the start.

BY Luke O'Neil | Dec 14, 2016 | Women We Love


For decades, the stereotype about the adult entertainment industry was that it was a dead end for one's acting career. Not so for Marina Ann Hantzis, better known as Sasha Grey. From the early days of her career, when she emerged as a breakout star in the pornography world at age 18, Grey showcased a rare sense of agency, both in her performances and her approach to the business, that turned the negative stereotype on its head.


Shelby Duncan


Many performers choose stage names that reflect their personalities. "Sasha Grey"—a nod to Oscar Wilde's most famous character Dorian Gray—references a cautionary tale about our obsession with youth and beauty. It's ironic, but Grey's appreciation of irony is well-earned. She faced extreme situations from the outset of her porn career, seeming at times to offer commentary on the concept of porn itself. It was an approach that earned her mainstream praise, including plaudits like "the thinking man's porn star" and "the most sexually liberated woman in Hollywood"—or, as one Rolling Stone headline put it, "The Dirtiest Girl in the World." That latter quality served her well in the industry, where she was recognised with Adult Video News awards like "Best Three Way Sex Scene" and "Best Group Scene." In 2008, she took home the "Female Performer of the Year" prize, the youngest woman to ever do so. That win led to her crossover role as the lead in Steven Soderbergh's 2008 film, The Girlfriend Experience.

Since The Girlfriend Experience, Grey, now 28, has remained exceptionally busy, dipping her toes into several industries. She regularly DJs around the world and has appeared in numerous musical collaborations, including this year's Death In Vegas album Consequence of Love. She published a book of photographs, NEÜ SEX, in 2011. She just published The Juliette Society II: The Janus Chamber, the second in her series of erotic novels. This month, Grey also launched a collaboration with Los Angeles-based clothing brand Skim Milk based on her own designs.

I called Grey at her home in California to talk about politics, her many passions, and her transition from porn into mainstream entertainment.

ESQUIRE: You're certainly juggling a lot of different projects at once. Is there one that seems the most closely aligned with your identity?

Sasha Grey: It's really difficult, because I feel like everything I do feeds into and has connections with everything else. Between friends and family, when you sit around thinking, Well, what else would I be doing in life if I wasn't doing this? it always circles back to some form of art or creative discipline. So it's hard to say. I really enjoy writing, but depending on the project, sometimes you have to put it aside and go back to it later. Other times, I'm fortunate enough to focus on a project I'm working on, whether it's a novel or screenplay, and get it out fast. I guess I prefer being able to do that.

ESQ: Sometimes writing is tortuous and you need to step away.

SG: Yeah. And also in terms of budget. Sometimes you have to follow a project because it's something you really believe in and that you want to do, but maybe nobody has faith in you but yourself. So you have to take your own time, and since nobody is paying you for that time, it can be a really stressful thing to do. I've been working on this art project for a year now, and now people are finally believing in it. It's really fulfilling when you do struggle; it's probably the best moment.
 

Getty

ESQ: Most writers are pretty critical of themselves. Do you feel like you're any good?

SG: I always question myself. It's that stairway to knowledge feeling, that you always think you could make something better. I feel that way about many things I do. I've been trying to not let that hinder me so much. Last year was a very difficult year for me [Editor's note: Grey's father passed away], and if I learned one thing, it's you can't always be a perfectionist. Sometimes, you just have get something done, get it out there, and hope for the best. That's a really positive way of looking at things, and I'm much more cynical naturally. I feel like it opens up the door to a bit more fluidity in life.


"If I learned one thing, it's you can't always be a perfectionist."​


ESQ: You're DJing now, and you were in a band. What was your path into music?

SG: I've been experimenting with music since I was 16. A lot of that stemmed from my writing. Most recently I collaborated with Death In Vegas on their last album. We're going to keep making music together. Richard Fearless [the founder of Death In Vegas] is based in London, so a lot of the process was done through Skype and email. He would send tracks, and I would send lyrics. And he came out for a week to LA last year, and we did a few days of rehearsal and recordings.

ESQ: You've been involved in all these fields of entertainment. Which, if any, are the most similar to the adult entertainment industry?

SG: That's hard, because obviously it is so different. I would say just being a woman, and being a young woman who was always in control of the path and destiny and business decisions, that gave me a lot of confidence in how to deal with people. At the end of the day, it's all entertainment, porn or not. A lot of the same cliches and attitudes toward women exist within all these areas of entertainment. I think that confidence from having a lot of negative stereotypes thrown at me gave me a strong backbone on how to deal with people.

ESQ: Where did you stand on Prop 60 in California?

SG: Of course I was against it. I don't want to go into it too much because it gets lengthy, but ... it's not just about people losing their jobs, it's about people's privacy being taken away. There's already too much transparency when it comes to people's identities.
 

"A lot of the same cliches and attitudes toward women exist within all these areas of entertainment."​


ESQ: You've been a vocal advocate for women. What's your impression of the state of things for women in general under Trump?


Will Richter

SG: Considering what happened in Ohio this week, it looks like things might get worse. Am I scared? Of course. I don't think anybody should be afraid to use that word. For several years now, we've developed into a very comfortable position as a society, and we've allowed ourself to become uninformed, and just read BS online without verifying anything. Now more than ever we're going to have to step up, and a lot of those things will have to be done on a grassroots levels to make sure measures aren't implemented that take away our rights. And this is something that goes through my head every day when I hear the news. To me, the biggest things aren't borders, but education and healthcare—that's where money needs to go. Unfortunately in America, we want people to be more sick, because that means more money for corporations. And that's the thing that really gives me the most grief.

ESQ: Everyone is talking about fake news online now. Have you seen things that are just completely false about you online over the years?

SG: Of course. But fake news drives culture in so many ways. It's culture-driven news without substance. I've learned, because in the past my opinion was, Well, it's not true, I don't care. So I would ignore things. That's how I was raised: You pick your battles. You'll see beefs on the Internet, and they feel and read and look so manufactured. That's because in a way they are. But if you ignore things, at least from my experience, they can turn into something worse than what they were. So now, depending on the severity, I'll either have my management or my lawyer send out a notice. And if it's petty enough, I go to Twitter.

ESQ: Do you get in Twitter beefs?

SG: No! I don't have time for that.

 

From: Esquire US


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