Journalism is a strange profession. A few weeks ago, I was interviewing two entrepreneurs inside a barn while goats chomped at my notebook. And about a week after that, I was standing, pen primed and ready, in front of a New Jersey born and bred porn star.
Porn stars don't immediately come to mind when you think of women who are breaking glass. It's certainly not the audience Sheryl Sandberg had in mind when she started telling women to "lean in." But when I found out she was one of the exhibitors at the Exxxotica Expo in Edison on Oct. 4, I knew I had to speak with her. She's a Jersey woman in business. Just so happens that business is porn.
I'm not going to lie: I had my preconceived notions about how a porn star would look and sound and act. Joanna Angel proved me completely mistaken — and apparently very judgmental.
She's 32 years old and speaks — at least during our interview — like a business woman, about budgeting and marketing and growing her company, BurningAngel Entertainment, which is now based in Los Angeles. She has a love for what she does, and she had stern words for anyone who accuses her of being exploited.
"I say, 'I don't care about what you think,'" said Joanna, who grew up in Bergen County. "I have too much work to do to worry about what other people think."
"I don't care about those people, and they don't care about me," she added.
Joanna and her roommate, Mitch Fontaine, founded the company during her last year at Rutgers, where she was finishing up a degree in English, with a minor in cinema studies. It was just an idea, one Joanna thought would never come to life. But it did, and now the company has produced about 95 movies, runs several websites and has won multiple awards.
And Joanna isn't just the talent; she directs movies and manages the day-to-day operations, too.
"This industry is not for everyone," she said. "I've seen this industry chew people up and spit them out because you've got to be strong."
"But I have found a home here," she added.
I struggled with the idea of putting Joanna up on this blog. Female empowerment and porn do not necessarily go hand in hand. But after speaking with her, I realized she is a woman in business who is secure and confident in the career choices she has made — even though those choices are controversial by any standards. The people in her life who care about her accept what she does, and no other opinions matter.
That's pretty empowering.
"My mom will say, 'I've never seen you happier,'" Joanna said. "On my worst days at work … I still don't wish I'd chosen another job."
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