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Real People Money Diaries: Making It as a Male Porn Star

‘My first on-camera appearance was a blow-job scene in the middle of an actual frat party at UCLA. I made $400, I was stoked!’

In this series, we explore how different people make ends meet in an age of increasing inequality and job instability, by looking at what they do, how much they make, what the job is like and what their hopes are for the future.

Name: Michael Vegas
Age: 35
City: Los Angeles
Job: Adult film star, photographer, actor, model
How long: 10 years
Career goal: Direct movies and win awards 

Getting In

Getting started in pornography isn’t easy, so I found a way to put myself around the industry. Because when you become a familiar face, you become not just a stranger trying to get in, right? A decade ago, back when they were still doing porn parties, I showed up to those and made friends in the manner that I did. I’m a charming, handsome guy and I know how to get what I want — and I was there to make friends and to start trying to play the game. So it’s doable.

Back then, there was no real way to show off or create content and have it go somewhere for distribution, other than if you managed to basically make your way in and get hired by a studio still distributing DVDs, or producing online content on one of the big platforms.

Now the game is different, because the means of content production is in the hands of individuals and performers. Platforms like Pornhub and Clips4Sale and so forth allow you to distribute things that you can shoot yourself, and if you join the game by putting yourself out there, it shows an amount of seriousness — like, “Okay, I’m here to do the job, I’m here to be part of the industry. I’m not just another fuckboy to have sex with porn stars.” We’re a very guarded group of people because everybody wants what we have. 

First Gig

I still remember my first on-camera appearance. It was for Jim Lane — it was a blow-job scene with Amy Brooke in the middle of an actual frat party at UCLA. I made $400. I was stoked! 

Because I was able to do that, it instantly legitimized me in the eyes of that director. Then they’re willing to put in a word for you, and word spreads. The industry is always looking for new guys that aren’t annoying, that are handsome, that can act and that can do the actual job they say they can do, which is perform on command. A lot of people think they can! But there are a lot of fails. Unless you’re mentally able to do it in front of other people, with a camera going, like at-that-moment-right-then, it’s incredible how much pressure gets put on the male performer at that moment. The camera’s rolling, and it’s like, “Oh shit, wow, that really does affect your erection a little bit.”

Next, I got an agent: I was trying to legitimize myself, and I made sure to come at it from a professional standpoint instead of being like [deep voice], “Hey, I’m here to fuuuck.” It’s incredible how many of those people show up and try to come through that way.

Day to Day

I no longer keep track of how many movies I’ve done, but it’s more than 500. Over time, I’ve managed to get my rate up, so when I shoot for Brazzers, which is what I use as the standard because they pay big money, my flat rate as a dude is $900. My workload is always different: Sometimes it’s twice a day, sometimes it’s only once a day. Sometimes I can be done in three hours, including the drive there and back; other times I’m not done for 12 hours. I get paid a flat rate, not an hourly rate — it works on a per-scene day, dialogue plus the adult scene with a partner.

A lot goes into shooting a movie. There’s a lot of setting up and breaking down, the crew’s got to break for lunch and us as well. There’s also wrangling models and doing paperwork. It’s a whole movie production, but we’re doing what mainstream does in just a few days. You shoot movies in a day or whole vignettes in a day.

Other times I fly to Vegas, which is a 50-minute flight from Burbank Airport, which I live close to — it’s like a commute. I cover my food and stuff on the way there, but my flights are covered by Brazzers, the studio I work for when I fly there. If I need a hotel, they cover my hotel. Sometimes I work no days a week, which is nice, sometimes I work seven days a week… which is nice! 

Really, the reason I’m not working more as a performer is because I don’t want to punish my body that way. 

Getting Physical

The work can be tough — things get bent, bit, chafed and so on. It’s tough on the Johnson, so it’s nice to have days off. And you get a sore back: Having sex on pool tables is terrible — sex in all of the places where it’s like, “Yeah that’s my fantasy,” but when you try to do it, it’s horrible. We have to make it look good, though!

We don’t get insurance — we’re not unionized, so we don’t get benefits like that. You’re just not always able to take care of yourself the best way possible. I have insurance through my partner right now, though, which is great. She works for the ACLU and has pretty incredible insurance.

Other expenses include haircuts and grooming, dental work and dermatologist stuff. You gotta be camera-ready! When I had an agent, I used to pay him 10 percent of what I earned, and then every two weeks there’s a $165 STI/STD panel that performers take to test for seven STIs and STDs. That’s out of pocket.

There are car expenses, too. I drive so much because I’m driving all over L.A. I drive down to Orange County sometimes; I drive to Las Vegas sometimes. Wherever you shoot a movie, I go there, which is one of the coolest parts of the job — I get to drive to so many different places, I don’t have to take the same commute to work. I can take different routes and see different things. It’s nice.

Other Income

I do a bunch of other stuff, too: Mainstream acting and modeling. I’m also a photographer, a burlesque performer, a juggler, a fire performer and a clown, and I build things. 

From photography, I make $500 a day — that’s the other big paying job. That’s my most recent gig that I’ve picked up, and man, I’m so proud of getting there. It’s like my work has finally gotten to the point where I’m able to make good money with my camera because I’m great with it. There’s not a lot of places you can actually do that except in the adult film world. It’s so nice to be paid big money to shoot beautiful people in cool locations all the time. It’s a never-ending stream.

But performing is what I make the most money from. I don’t even know what fee I’m going to get yet, but I just picked up a directing gig, so I get to direct movies now, which is going to be really cool. Hopefully I stay within budget so I make something.

Making It

Here’s what I’m proud of recently: I’ve been living for the last decade in L.A. under my own means, and I’ve gone through medical emergencies, forced moves, unforeseen tragedies, thefts and all sorts of things, and I haven’t gone under — I haven’t had to do things of ill means, or beg or borrow for money. I’ve gotten close… I’ve gotten real close. I’ve known people who’ve had to. There are many forms of sex work, and some people do them because they choose to, other people do them as a means of survival. But god bless sex work for always being there.

L.A. is expensive, but now I’ve gotten to the point where things seem to have stabilized and I’m saving money more regularly. So I’m actually able to save money with this job, which is nice. Now I want to buy a house — I’m tired of paying rent. I’d rather be paying a mortgage. It’s within my grasp, I can feel it, probably within the next year or two.

The great thing about porn is that it’s never-ending. After people have jerked off to it, it gets old. And while they have favorites, they always want something new. It just keeps going.

Goals

One of my recent professional goals was to direct movies and that’s coming to fruition now, so it’s time to start setting new goals. I’d like to win an award with a movie that I’m going to direct, and make more money on my own productions and my own content that I’m producing, and spread more love among the world — to tell people they can be happy too, and show them the way.

In my life, I really get to be myself. I can express myself freely and openly and live totally open because I’m making money for myself off of things that people would, in another life, shun you for and ostracize you for. Now, I make money from the internet because of those things, not in spite of them. So I get to be whoever I want to be, and it’s one of the most freeing things I’ve ever experienced.

I love everybody. Everybody forgive yourselves, that’s my advice.