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Alt-porn’s Leading Lady

Joanna Angel sets the bar when it comes to tattooed, punk-haired porn stars.

Alt-porn’s Leading Lady

Joanna Angel is way too smart to be participating in gangbangs. Then again, maybe she's too smart not to be....

            It would be easy to go the route of Angel as alt-porn's leading lady: The mousy Jewish starlet with black and pink hair, draped in ink, and way too much ass for them pants. The adult industry's biggest rising star, BurningAngel's CEO, and an AVN-award-winning punk princess. It would be easy to run that way because that's exactly what she is, the most important tattooed porn star since Belladonna.

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            For some time, adult films have been headlined by blonde hair and plastic surgery. That was the standard, to the point where saying, "that chick looks like a porn star" made complete sense. There was an archetype and not many other choices. But to be honest, the plastic cut-out I've been force-fed doesn't really pump my nads. Not like Joanna Angel does. 

            And she knows it.

            BurningAngel.com sprung up more than six years ago and, as well as being an erotic tool for those who flex on tattooed chicks, surfaces itself as a genre's commentary for hipsters and anarchists alike from coast to coast. Joanna, co-founder and star of the company, realized that porn shouldn't be limited to the archetype. She recognized the adult industry needed something different. Adult films needed girls like her. Adult film needed her. 

            Now BurningAngel has become a major player in the game: a successful website; a sister adult film company; multiple films, all written and directed by Joanna; a sex toy company; tons of hot inked models and starlets; a street team; and let us not forget, the company's star. An entrepreneur and self-proclaimed "smut peddler," who doesn't forget her roots as a feminist Jew and aspiring writer, Joanna constantly updates her website's blog, commenting on mainstream and industry culture, as well as being a featured writer in Spin magazine and Carly Milne's collection of essays, Naked Ambition.

            Lucky for us, Joanna wasn't too smart to dig porn.

An ambitious Jersey girl heading to Rutgers, land of STDs and people who don't like Don Imus very much, Angel had plans to read and write, and talk about reading and writing, and hate on people who didn't read or write. Far from hot pants, she was a smarty-pants.

            "I wish that when I was in college I would have taken advantage of it a little more, like Web design. I hate having employees that know how to work the site better than I do," Angel said. "I feel like I was kind of hippy-ish in college. I wanted to be this academic intellectual snob sitting in the middle of the green talking about literature. I felt like anybody that did anything practical was bad."

Now strapped with an English degree, it was time for Joanna to bounce Rutherford, N.J., and take on the Big City. She got an editorial internship at Nerve.com, a premier sex and culture webzine, and was waiting tables near her loft in trendy Williamsburg, Brooklyn. But it was certainly not all peaches 'n' cream; Joanna often found herself amongst her college friends and roommates scratching her head over a glass of screw-top merlot for a life plan.

"We lived in a college house, we drank a lot of beer, we smoked a lot of weed, did other things that probably shouldn't be mentioned in an article. The idea for BurningAngel just came out of nowhere," she admits. "We just thought, ‘Yo, we should start a porn site and you could be its personality.'  I didn't even intend on being in any movies at the time. Gradually it went from something we were just talking about to something we were realistically doing." 

            At first Joanna was just the face of the site; the peppy punk who would write columns and reviews while presenting naked rock chicks. But it wasn't long before Mitch Fontaine, the other behind-the-scenes founder and former roommate, was snapping away at our heroine. Her star quality and appeal was what would have Burning Angel pushing forward as an indie company in the adult industry, a figurehead for alt-porn. 

            "We started with no money. We didn't know anybody in the porn industry at all. We asked our friends to model and took photos with a digital camera our friend ganked off his father. The camera was like a super expensive thing to have at the time," she explained. "We were taking pictures of girls and then two girls together and I felt like I was exploiting them because I was asking them to pose in ways I was not. So I began taking some shots. That's how it started. I wouldn't even call it modeling: I took my clothes off in my bedroom and my roommate took some pictures."

As the motto boasts, BurningAngel is "Porn for you, not your dad."  In a society where both sex and body modification were becoming more acceptable and marketable, it was no surprise that pierced and painted rock chicks dressed in skivvies would be an attraction. As natural progression would have it, those photos soon turned to video and the creation of BurningAngel Entertainment.

            She admits that the whole process has been totally organic. "I learned more things as I went along, and as I went along the business grew," she said. Joanna was now writing porn scripts and performing heavily in BurningAngel productions. "We didn't always have the money to make movies with expensive plots, so even if it was just three sentences that led into sex, I would create them. Eventually I hope to make a really large movie where I get to write a ridiculously long script ... do my thing." 

            Just like everything else along the way, and already with an AVN screenplay nomination, that may become a reality before we know it. BurningAngel saw serious highlights that may grant them that big budget: The 2007 AVN awards saw Joanna's Angels 2 win for "Best Sex Comedy," and adult novelty manufacturer Topco produced a BurningAngel toy line based on the company's mission and molded exactly from its star's naughty bits.

            "I feel like some people in the sex industry have gone so high-end with their sex toys, and my fans aren't the type of people that are going to spend $200 on sex toys or a glass piece," she explains matter-of-factly. "But every girl would like to have a little vibrator or an egg. They're not intimidating, super expensive toys. And the black and pink packaging and styling are like my personal stamp."

            Joanna says she wouldn't fuck herself with any other sex toy.

"My ass has its own advice column on BurningAngel, ASSK Joanna, where you're asking my ass questions," Joanna noted when asked about her current role as a writer and indie personality. "I get to personify my ass. So if you have a question, you can talk to my ass about it."

            It's these characteristics, and not just her tattoos, that appeal to a large population of the consumer nation. She has an opinion about issues all over the spectrum, and unlike other personalities within this industry, there's a group of people that actually really care. 

            You'll find in the Queen Bee's blog a witty, articulate, sometimes crude, sometimes hilarious commentator; a real person, an East Coast lib, and a success story that has to be held as one of the big-time game changers in the industry. It remains to be seen if the industry will change her. 

            "I love New York, but as I'm beginning to spend more time in L.A., I m starting to like it a little bit better." We're at Exxxotica NY in her home state and that claim would cause controversy amongst her homies. "It sounds really cheesy but I am 27 and have started to appreciate things like nice weather, which you don't care about so much when you're 22. The weather really is perfect all year, and it's nice to have space. You don't have that in New York; New York is constant." 

            She comes to her senses.

            "But that's what I love about New York as well; I don't want to be relaxed.  New York definitely has better people, more soul." Phew.... "I don't even go out at all when I'm in L.A. because it's such a process to drive. The nightlife in New York is like nowhere else. I love going back to New York, going to a bar, and having a drink with a friend. The culture of New York is just a lot better."

            She'll dive into that culture this evening. As she admitted, she's been lost in Hollywood for work, so she'll catch up in said fashion. It's not uncommon for the heavy-metal dives of Brooklyn to be graced with her crew and her vodka tonics. But it's no secret the Wild West has been injected into her blood. She just got a new tattoo at the oldest parlor in L.A. It's on her arm, it's an angel, it's green, and it doesn't mean a thing.

            "People think because of L.A. Ink that every tattoo has this really intricate story behind it, and it is so stupid," she huffed. "You can get a tattoo because it a really nice piece of artwork. You do not need a tragic story to go behind your tattoo. It's not what it's about."

            Joanna Angel doesn't need to define her tattoos.  Obviously, her tattoos don't define her, or BurningAngel.

This article originally appeared in the December issue of AVN Online. To subscribe, visit AVNMediaNetwork.com/subscribe.






Related Content:

BurningAngel Entertainment
Joanna Angel

Comments

Posted 06/01/2009 by nate1222
I'm definately feeling Joanna Angel ALOT more than most other female porn stars. The chicks got brains and a strong sense of aesthetic. Her approach to the craft (visually) is a breath of fresh air.
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