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Before I Was Adult Star Tasha Reign, I Was Rachel Swimmer From ‘Laguna Beach’

My town is known for creating wholesome reality stars, but I’m the only one who took to the Hills to become the princess of porn

Tasha Reign is a porn legend. A 10-year industry vet with a list of AVN Awards and nominations a mile long, she’s been a Penthouse Pet, a feature dancer at conventions around the world and a consistent favorite among fans who find her personality to be irresistible in an industry where many of its biggest stars seem icy and untouchable. 

Beloved by many and read by millions — she’s written for OC Weekly, HuffPost and, of course, MEL — Reign is iconic not only for her illustrious career, but what she means to the adult industry. One of the first people to speak up about sexual harassment and assault on set, she’s an activist for performers and their rights, working to shed light on an issue that’s plagued porn for years but is only now being seriously discussed. And though she’s rarely given credit for doing so, she’s continued to advocate for consent and performer’s rights ever since, making headlines by educating frat boys about consent, speaking out against harassers like Ron Jeremy and campaigning against the unlicensed distribution of porn content. She’s even creating petitions urging Congress to recognize independent contractors in the sex industry as small businesses so they can receive COVID relief funds and was heavily involved in efforts to stop California’s controversial Prop 60 from passing. 

Also an entrepreneur who quickly realized that independence from porn studios spelled success, Reign was an early adopter of sites like OnlyFans, where performers have greater control over the direction and distribution of their content. She now owns and operates her own company, Reign Productions, where she happily works as the CEO, director, DP and talent, an entirely self-made business model that — like her advocacy — was way ahead of its time. 

But before she was Tasha Reign, she was Rachel Swimmer, a decidedly homelier young brunette with a rocky home life who just so happened to appear as a minor character on the third season of Laguna Beach, MTV’s magnum opus about rich teens with poor manners, low-rise jeans and enough post-pubescent drama to keep millions of viewers glued to their screens. Set against the beige glitz of mid-2000s Orange County, Laguna Beach was the first-ever show to combine the genres of reality TV and drama, a heady concoction that served as fertile substrate for subsequent monstrosities like Jersey Shore, Keeping Up With the Kardashians, The Real Housewives and pretty much every other reality show where women yell at each other in restaurants. And while parts of the show were “enhanced” for maximum spectacle, the love triangles, raucous parties and drama were all real, giving it what Vox called a “dumb, enduring brilliance” that “changed the texture of television” forever.

Thing is, though, people hated Tasha’s season. The New York Times called it “like, so lame” and reviewers dubbed its narrator, Tessa Keller, a “wet blanket.” Whereas its first two installments saw massive booms in viewership and many of its cast members like Stephen Colletti and Lauren Conrad found success in Hollywood or with spin-off reality shows, Tasha’s season tanked due to dull characters, subpar interpersonal strife and flaccid ratings. None of her fellow castmates edged their way into the public eye again. 

In fact, the only person to make it big after her season was her. 

This is the story of how a troubled teen from Southern California’s conservative bastion used MTV’s guiltiest pleasure to launch a legendary porn career. 

* * * * *

There comes a point in every young starlet’s career where their fans become obsessed with their backstory. They want to know who they really are and where they came from; I guess a little peek behind the curtain makes them feel closer to their idols — like they’re a part of their lives. 

But whenever people ask me where I’m from, I tell them I wasn’t born in the real world. Far from it. I’m from Laguna Beach. 

For the uninitiated, Laguna Beach is a white, upper-class bubble in Southern California where huge yachts, fancy cars, 10-bedroom houses and Republican ballots are the norm. The people are spray-tanned, the lifestyle is lavish and the premium people place on wealth and social status is real. People’s lives really are centered around parties, dating and shopping, and you can see it live and in color on the show Laguna Beach

But growing up in Laguna as a teen in the early aughts, no part of me felt like the perfect, airbrushed people America saw in the first two seasons of the show. In reality, my home life was unstable, and I often felt alone. 

My dad and I were close, but I barely saw him after he and my mom divorced. He owned three restaurants and was a real-estate developer. And so, he was always out schmoozing for work or spending time with his new family. I was so jealous of them; I only got him Wednesdays and every other weekend, but they were with him 24/7. I felt passed over sometimes, but still, he was the closest thing I had to a stable presence in my life. He was encouraging, supportive and kind, all things that really mattered to me because his wife — my stepmom — was an alcoholic and drug addict who once attempted suicide in our garage. She was the craziest person I’ve ever met, and I don’t say that lightly. 

My real mom wasn’t a walk in the park, either. Though she played Guitar Hero in the basement, let me have parties and would gladly pick me up from the side of the road, piss-drunk at 2 a.m. — often in her vintage Volkswagen convertible — she got involved with a couple shady guys and started drinking heavily to numb the pain of my dad’s success. She was an interior designer and had always done well for herself, but there was something about how easily he’d found another family and a good job after their divorce that really got to her. She became emotionally abusive to my younger sister and me, and she started dating a weird guy who became increasingly aggressive with me. He was an alcoholic as well. They enabled each other. 

One night in eighth grade, I was having a few people over at the house, and he got so drunk and angry that he yelled at me and slammed the garage door down, shaking the entire house and humiliating me in front of my friends. That wasn’t the first or last time he did something like that, but it’s seared into my mind as the moment I knew I had to get out. 

Teen Tasha (middle)

I went to Laguna Beach High for my freshman year, but I begged my mom to send me to boarding school for 10th grade. I got into Robert Louis Stevenson in Pebble Beach, California and lived there for a year in a dorm room by myself when I was 15. Had I stayed home, I would have witnessed the first two seasons of Laguna Beach being shot before my very eyes, but alas, I was six hours north, experimenting with drugs, boys and a newfound independence that honestly didn’t feel any better than being at home. 

I’d watch the show from time to time from my dorm room, but I didn’t follow it religiously. My interest in it was sporadic — when I saw Kristin Cavallari melt down about Stephen Colletti or someone get called a “slut” for the 300th time, my predominant feeling was just, “Oh, yeah, these are people that I grew up with. They’re my friends’ older brothers and sisters, and they’re famous now. Cool.” The drama didn’t scandalize me like it did other people. Growing up in Laguna, it just seemed par for the course. 

What did get me, however, was that it all took place in my hometown. I knew all the restaurants they were at, I’d partied at all the same houses and I’d had all the experiences the cast on the show were having. That created an incredible sense of nostalgia in me. By the end of my sophomore year in Pebble Beach, I knew it was time to come home. 

The original Laguna Beach cast

By the time I got back, Laguna Beach had become a regular part of our culture. It was no longer the same salacious, shocking reality drama that scandalized the town — it was just something that sort of happened if you went to Laguna Beach High. It wasn’t necessarily “cool” to be on the show, either (at least nobody showed it if they thought it was). It was kind of the same feeling as when you go to a concert but everyone there is too cool to dance and go nuts. Laguna people have this sort of “larger than life” attitude, sometimes. We’d rather act like your big news is small fish for us — we think it makes us “cool” (but it really doesn’t). 

Because of this, I wasn’t really interested in being on the show, nor did I think I’d be cast when I enrolled in Laguna Beach High as a junior in 2006. But when I noticed that the casting directors were sniffing around campus one day, a small part of me lit up — what if they picked me

In case you’re wondering, here’s how they cast the show: First, MTV would ask the cast from the previous seasons who the “up-and-comers” were, which was basically code for “tell us who has the most drama.” Then, they’d use that intel to probe us further. I remember the day that Lexie (a main character on the show), Tara (another minor character) and I were asked to come in to “talk.” Apparently, we’d been singled out as “popular” and “drama-driven,” which was fine by us, because by the time they started conducting interviews, we’d all become way thirstier for our shot at screen time than we expected to be. The questions they asked us were strange, but kind of fun to answer: “How do you think you’re perceived at school?” “What do you do on the weekends?” “Do you have drama with anybody?”

They must have liked my answers because I got a callback a few weeks later. I remember exactly where I was — at school, walking in-between classes, holding what I can only assume was a freshly released, hot-commodity flip phone. My mom, in classic fashion, didn’t seem to care. In fact, I think this was one of the few times she was supportive; she’d seen how the cast from the earlier two seasons had made it big in Hollywood and reality TV, and she thought it could be a major opportunity. 

They told us our rate would be $10,000 flat for the whole season (which, in hindsight, was nothing). I didn’t care, though; I was going to be on freaking MTV! 

We shot every weekend for eight weeks during my junior year (never on campus, though — that wasn’t allowed). Most of the time, it felt very unscripted — after all, we were with our actual friends, talking about actual boys and doing what we’d actually do if the cameras weren’t rolling. If any of that felt subpar though, the producers would step in. They were constantly butting in with suggestions for restaurants for us to meet at or topics of conversation to discuss: What did we think about Tessa being at the party? Weren’t there any boys we could set up “ice queen” Lexie with to stir up some torrid teen romance? Wasn’t Cameron hot?

Actually, Cameron was a good example of what was real on the show. As anyone who watched can tell, that dude was a dick. He still is. He was a bully in high school, and he’s still a bully today. You don’t have to watch him for more than five seconds to get that vibe — on screen, he’s being 100 percent himself. We all were. The drama, as I’m sure you’ll remember from the Hilary Duff intro to the show, was totally real. 

More teen Tasha (right)

Nevertheless, your old girl Rachel only made it on like six episodes of the show, and not as a main character, either. I was “Rachel, Lexie’s friend,” and I would appear, sporadically, at parties, whispering, talking shit or just hanging out. (We were all wasted the whole time, by the way; any time there’s a red Solo cup in the shot, I can guarantee you it was filled with booze and MTV knew it). 

My boyfriend, whose family was super Christian, made sure to let me know how ridiculous he thought the whole thing was. He used to come at me about it with this harebrained statistic he couldn’t have possibly gotten anywhere else other than the depths of his own mind: “Eighty percent of people have been on TV, so it’s not really that special.” He wanted to make me feel like it wasn’t a big deal and that MTV was exploiting our valuable talents for getting wasted and fingerbanging on our parent’s chaise lounges. No wonder they cut me out! 

I didn’t find out how little I was on the show until it aired. They wanted to keep their main characters a secret during filming so we wouldn’t try to stage drama just to vie for screen time. Honestly, I was pissed. I’d shot hours of footage with MTV and given them some of my juiciest moments, but at the end of the day, I guess they felt that my life — and my monogamous teenage relationship — just didn’t make good TV. 

I barely even show up on their IMDb! Here’s one of the only places you can see my face in relation to the show without paying to watch a full episode:

Worse, America felt like our entire season didn’t make good TV. Our ratings were pitiful, viewership dropped off and few people seemed invested in the same affluent, white psychodrama storylines that gripped them in the first two seasons. There was something about our on-screen chemistry as a cast that just felt off — I think we were all trying to live up to Lauren Conrad and Kristin Cavallari, which, I’ve heard, came off as disingenuous. Who knows — I didn’t watch the whole show. 

But, I often wonder what would have happened if they’d have stuck with me a little longer or found out what I was really doing when the cameras weren’t rolling. Outside the parties and the shopping sprees, Rachel Swimmer was living a very different life than the sliver America saw on TV, and if they’d only caught a glimpse, I have a feeling they might have changed their minds. 

What people didn’t get to see on the show was a girl who was just starting to discover a sexuality that looked very different from the ones cropping up around her. I’ve always been a very sexual person, but compared to the more contained, slightly innocent sexual discoveries of my friends as teens, it became clear very fast that my interests were a little “extra” in that department. I wasn’t hypersexual or anything, but while others kissed, fingerbanged (poorly) and lost their virginities at prom, I was talking to creepy men on AOL, watched more porn than every teen boy in my zip code combined and became utterly infatuated with adult actresses like Tera Patrick and Stormy Daniels, who I thought they were so cool. (Ironically, I would be assaulted on Stormy’s set years later; she did nothing, and it became one of porn’s first publicized #MeToo moments.) They seemed successful, creative and in-control while also being incredibly feminine at the same time. 

Then there was Jenna Haze. Phew. I remember watching her in front of a fireplace doing a girl-on-girl scene when I was 16 and just thinking, “Oh my God, that is so hot.” I was jealous of her scene partner: Why couldn’t I be in front of that crackling fire, making sweet, sweet love to the woman I hoped one day would be my wife? 

The aforementioned Jenna Haze

I’d known I liked girls since I was a little kid, but it was around the same time I was in boarding school and on Laguna Beach that I realized that what I felt wasn’t exactly “normal” in my group of friends. Though no one said it outwardly — and I never told anyone I was bisexual to begin with — it was made clear by the conservative, Christian culture in our town and the kids at my school that being gay or queer was not a good thing to be. Plus, no one I knew in Laguna was outwardly gay, lesbian or bi, so I felt horrible about it. It ate me up inside, but at the same time, I couldn’t look away. 

To cope, I took solace in my favorite erotic pastime — watching The Girls Next Door on E! If your brain has wiped this show from your memory, allow me to reintroduce you. The Girls Next Door was a reality TV show about Hugh Hefner’s live-in girlfriends and their life in the Playboy Mansion, a wellspring of high-octane, polygamous drama and tiny dogs that spanned six whole seasons between 2005 and 2010. It was mesmerizing — they were all hot, they had what appeared to be hundreds of animals and they lived this lavish, fairytale-like lifestyle in a house that functioned as the epicenter of Hollywood’s culture and legacy. Everyone had big boobs and blonde hair; everyone ran around naked; and to me, it looked like the most thrilling version of a sorority there could possibly be. 

Had the kids at my school watched with as much intensity as I did, they probably would have called the women on the show “sluts.” In Laguna, it was acceptable for girls to have sex or fool around with one or two guys, but once they either appeared to enjoy it or pursue it themselves — or when they hit some arbitrary partner count — they’d be labeled a “slut,” which was, at the time, the worst thing you could be. I was in that monogamous relationship, so I never bore the brunt of that, but seeing my friends be tormented by sex-shaming, I became hyper-aware that containing — not exploring — your sexuality was the expectation for women. 

Thus, when I saw women like Holly Madison and Kendra Wilkinson get naked, pose for photos and use their sex appeal for everything it was worth, I felt free. I would press my nose to the screen, sigh and hope, with every bone in my body, that one day, I could do that, too. There was nothing on that show that didn’t cater to my gaze, and I became vaguely obsessed with it, adding Hef’s many girlfriends to my growing list of role models and career icons. I treasured the show as both masturbation material and source of ahem, vocational aspiration. But you’d never have known it from my 15 minutes of reality show fame. 

The original Girls Next Door

In 2007, I graduated high school and moved to L.A. My first stop was Santa Monica Community College, a feeder school for UCLA. By then, my obsession with porn stars and Hef girlfriends had developed into a keen interest in sex work, and I decided to give it a try. But as an 18-year-old who barely knew anyone in the big city, I was a little short on industry connections. So I did what anyone looking for a job back then would have done — took my ass to Craigslist.  

I answered an ad for “Playboy modeling,” which sounded right up my alley. But when I showed up for the interview, the stern, quiet woman I met made it clear that the job would involve neither of those things. I don’t remember exactly what she said, but she made it clear that the girls who worked for her “met with guys.” When she went over how much they got paid — a couple thousand bucks for an hour or so — the pieces fell into place: This wasn’t modeling, it was escorting. 

We all wish we’d made different choices early in life, but at the time, I was down to try it. I was already having casual sex — what difference did it make if I was getting paid? I wanted the extra spending money, and even better, I knew it would really piss off my snobby, well-to-do ex-boyfriend from high school. The gig seemed easy and natural, too; I just never thought there was anything strange about the job. 

I did it for about a year when I was at SMCC, and it was an alright experience. I didn’t love it, I didn’t hate it. One day, though, I had a client who was just so disgusting that I couldn’t go through with it. He brought some crusty toy bag with him that I refused to engage with, and he grossed me out physically in a way other clients hadn’t before. “F that,” I thought. I walked out. 

After that, I stopped escorting and went back to Craigslist. The next ad I answered was for a waitress at Silver Reign, a strip club in West L.A. (hence my future porn name). But when I showed up and the manager saw I didn’t even have enough job experience for that, he took pity on me and told me I could come back for a dance audition. 

It was very close to being one of those “Thanks, but no thanks” situations, but just as I was about to turn him down, I looked over his shoulder and saw something I’ll never forget. Across the room, a naked woman, bathed in a cascade of red and blue strobe lights, was undulating on stage. She was laying down, legs spread open, just vibrating. She looked so beautiful and so powerful that I came back a few weeks later in my brand new stripper heels to show the manager what I could do. I was 20 years old. 

I bounced around between different strip clubs for a while after that. I loved it, but what I loved most was the camaraderie and the understanding between the girls. I’d never been around women like that — hot, confident, unabashedly sexual — and I relished in the opportunity to exist in a world that seemed so different from the straight-edged, heteronormative place I came from. In the clubs, it was okay to like girls. It was okay to be sexual. I felt like I’d found my people.

It was also exhausting. The hardest part was pretending to be interested in what customers were saying. Day in and day out, I had to dress cute, bat my eyelashes and smile and nod while these men blabbed on and on about their families or their businesses or the weather, feigning interest and milking it like I was the most fascinated person in the world. That’s how you get your money — you lean in and listen. You make them feel wanted. 

One night, this creepy guy came into 4Play, one of the more upscale clubs on my resume, located just a few blocks away from Silver Reign. A real “hot shot” in the entertainment industry, he’d racked up a long list of #MeToo-style offenses that the girls would whisper about, and he’d often roll up to the club in his Mercedes in a cloud of Harvey Weinstein-like rumors so thick that it was hard to see through. 

He took a particular liking to me after he found out I was from Laguna Beach. He was from there too, he said. He was actually a colleague of one of my friend’s dads. One night, while pretending to care what he was talking about, I casually mentioned that it was my dream to go to the Playboy Mansion and meet Hugh Hefner. Without hesitation, he told me he’d be happy to take me up there the following weekend. 

I balked, but he was serious — I could tell he was getting off on the power dynamic of me “needing” him to take me there. He felt like him doing so would “rescue” me from the strip club, a place he thought I was “too good for.” I didn’t bother to tell him how much I loved my job, that I had sought it out on purpose or that it was my choice to be there. I also accepted the fact that I’d have to be his “date” in order to get to the Mansion, something I could stomach if it meant I got to live my dream.

I remember the day I met Hef like it was yesterday. I was wearing a skin-tight lavender and cream two-toned dress from American Apparel — that’s what all the hot girls wore in 2008 — and a pair of sky-high, tan Gucci heels. I had my hair and makeup done up real big, like I was going to a pageant. I felt cute. I felt like my life was about to change. 

We pulled up to the Mansion’s big, ivy-covered gate, casually dropping that we were “there for Hef.” I gasped as we drove onto the property — the house itself is stunning — it looked like a big castle surrounded by lush, green lawn, shady trees and beautiful landscaping. God, I was nervous. 

Quintessential 1970s Hef outside of the Playboy Mansion

My heart started beating out of my chest when Creepy Dude asked if I was ready to meet Hef. We found him holding court at the end of a long table, surrounded by many of the same people I recognized from The Girls Next Door. We were introduced, and the moment our hands touched, I knew the Playboy Mansion was where I belonged. The rest of the night was a blur, but I remember leaving with the distinct feeling that I could do whatever I wanted to. My dream was happening before my very eyes, and nothing could stop me. 

A few days later, one of Hef’s assistants invited me back to a Movie Night and a party called Fun in the Sun. By the time I transferred from SMCC to UCLA, I was up there every weekend. 

Quintessential early-aughts Tasha (to the right of Hef) at the Playboy Mansion

I made friends with everyone, but as more time passed, I realized I wanted to be one of Hef’s girlfriends (he had anywhere from two to 10 girlfriends at a time). They had extra privileges and a very comfortable lifestyle, and I saw no reason why I couldn’t join their ranks. But I also knew damn well from watching The Girls Next Door that getting into his inner circle was a competitive and cutthroat process. His existing girlfriends weren’t exactly welcoming, either. One night, after I wrote Hef a letter explaining how I felt, I remember Crystal — his widowed wife — making fun of me about it at the table in front of everyone. They were catty, and I was still young and submissive, so I laughed it off and let the girlfriends push me out. 

Around the same time, my dad passed away from cancer. The loss was indescribable. He was the only person who’d ever made me feel safe and supported, and while he didn’t know I was dancing in L.A. — no one from Laguna did — he was so happy to hear I was living my dream at the Playboy Mansion, and that made me feel secure in what I was doing. 

I was so distraught that I used the money he left me on a boob job, a nose job and a Porsche Cayenne, quite literally transforming into the women I idolized the most (who, coincidentally, were now the same women who were cock-blocking me from Hef). Yet, it almost felt like if I could become them, I could escape the pain of losing my dad. I dove face-first into transformation mode, blossoming into the version of myself you see today. I felt so much more confident, powerful and in-control, feelings I now realize were playing directly into a patriarchal system that taught me I needed to change myself in order to be attractive — and therefore valuable — to men. But did I care? Hell no. I felt hot. It helped me cope. 

While I was recovering from the surgeries, I spent a lot of time watching old Jenna Jameson movies on pay-per-view (remember when you could just buy your adult movies in your hotel?) I’d also just finished reading her book How to Make Love Like a Porn Star, and found myself as mesmerized as I was watching The Girls Next Door. It glamorized her life and also made porn seem seedier than I thought it was, but she was also able to do what she wanted to do on her own terms: run a business, create a brand, make money and even find love, all while staying true to her sexuality and femininity. At the end of my recovery, I had a new goal: if Playboy didn’t work out, I’d happily go into porn.

Nevertheless, I decided to give Playboy infamy one more shot. Hef and I had gotten close — no, not like that — and so, after my surgeries, I asked him if I could try out for Playboy Playmate. I’d modeled for Playboy’s college magazines and in more minor shoots for them, so I had some experience, but none of that felt good enough. All I wanted was to fall out of the magazine as a perfectly unfurled centerfold onto some overexcited man or woman’s lap. Save for a girlfriend, Playmate was one of the highest honors you could have in the Playboy universe, so I was thrilled when Hef agreed to photo-test me (which is kind of like a tryout before the real shoot). 

The shoot was mind-blowing. I think the photographer was Arny Freytag, who was the most famous and well-respected centerfold photographer at the time. Shooting with him was absolute heaven. I felt like I was peaking, like I’d never been so happy in all my life. 

But, a couple weeks later, I got a call from Playboy Studios. I hadn’t made the cut. I wasn’t going to be a Playboy model and I wasn’t going to be centerfold. All they could do for me, they said, was publish my photos online. I was Playboy’s “CyberGirl of the Month,” they informed me, their enthusiasm totally lost on me as the weight of the news sunk in. 

I was devastated. “Crushed” doesn’t even begin to describe it. But then, I remembered Jenna. “Fuck it,” I thought to myself. “I’m not going to wait around so somebody can tell me that I’m good enough to be a fucking centerfold in Playboy. I’m just going to be like Jenna Jameson. I’m just going to do porn, and I’m going to make movies, and I’m going to be a Penthouse Pet. And I don’t give a fuck.”

That anger I felt, coupled with grief over the loss of my dad and my newfound fascination with Jenna’s career, created this boiling point in which I found the drive I’d always needed to get into porn. I was ready. 

There was one problem: Hef. Though Playboy is famous for printing photos of hot, naked women and it was many people’s first fap material, Hef had never viewed Playboy as porn. In fact, he was actually extremely hostile to it, and sex work in general. If you were ever found out to have had sex on camera, stripped, escorted or done any of the other kinds of things I’d gotten into, you’d be banned from the Mansion and cut out from his life. 

The hypocrisy was real: He had women baring it all for him and posing for Playboy every day, but if they did something he didn’t have ownership over, he’d have them excommunicated. Today, their adult division is licensed to MindGeek — who owns Brazzers and Pornhub — but the magazine girls were always supposed to be “pure” pageant-types who looked and acted like they worked at Disneyland. He liked when they seemed innocent, but stripped down for him and his brand. It was the quintessential “nice but naughty” girl-next-door fantasy, and once I’d decided to go outside of that, I knew there wouldn’t be a place for me at the Mansion anymore. 

I believe I still have the letter he wrote me about it to this day. He told me I couldn’t come to Movie Night or Fun in the Sun anymore, and that I couldn’t pose for Playboy and do porn at the same time. I wasn’t welcome back at the Mansion, either. I knew he’d say those things and I thought his arbitrary rules were crazy, but still, it really hurt. At the same time, it gave me closure. It allowed me to focus on my career and do what I wanted. 

Just like when I got into escorting and dancing, I had to make my porn career happen myself. I didn’t know a single person in the industry, so I knocked on every agent’s door — even Jenna Jameson’s — until I found the one who booked Alexis Texas and Tori Black (a guy at L.A. Direct Models who I wholly credit with getting me to the place I am today).  

My first-ever job was a photoshoot where I had to spread my pussy lips open. It was kind of a big deal for me because I’d never done anything like that before and I fully understood the ramifications of what it could mean for my career and relationships. Unfortunately, the hair and makeup people didn’t calm my nerves. Though I was so excited to finally launch my career, they made sure to burst my bubble before the shoot by telling me my optimism was ridiculous. “It’s not like the guys make love to you,” one of the raspy older ladies said as she fixed my eyeliner. But the photographer made me feel more comfortable. He’d actually shot for Playboy, and was keeping it a secret from Hef that he was working on the adult side, too. That happened a lot, more than anyone cares to admit.

My first video scene was with a girl — Ash Hollywood — but I was so inexperienced with women and so fresh to porn that I barely knew what to do. I clammed up, and she very kindly offered to “do things to me” while I just sort of… lay there. My next few scenes were the same, and I ended up getting a call from my agent who told me that directors were saying I looked nervous and frozen on camera. That really shocked me. I’m a staunch perfectionist, and after growing up in Laguna, I’ve always had this thing in me where I have to give 110 percent; it’s how we “keep up with the Joneses” back home, a value I had drilled into me from a very early age. 

Because of this, I’d already completely committed myself to my porn career and becoming the next big thing, so I really pushed myself to learn to perform. I discovered that you really have to be loud. You always have to angle yourself toward the camera. And if you’re not attracted to your scene partner? Find a tiny thing about them you can get into. I can’t tell you how many scenes I got through by convincing myself I was in love with someone’s earlobe or voice. 

Me (right) and Ash Hollywood, my first scene partner of any kind

I knew I’d finally succeeded when I got cast in Asa Akira’s Hustler video showcase, which was a big deal because she’s huge and it’s all about highlighting one performer. It actually wasn’t one of my strongest scenes — though I’m sure a lot of people enjoyed it — but I remember walking away that day thinking to myself, “Wow, she’s a legend. Am I a legend, too?!?!” I felt like a big-name girl, but, as you know, there’s always someone newer and younger than you in porn. Even when you’ve made it and you’re signing people’s titties at the Exxxotica Expo or feature-dancing with Kayden Kross, you still feel a little insecure. 

I also was a little insecure when people from back home started to find out I was doing porn. I joke around that I had one of the worst coming out stories in porn for good reason, because as soon as people started seeing me on sites like Brazzers and Girlfriends, I lost everyone — and I mean everyone — that I knew. My friends, my family, my hairdresser — anyone I’d ever known and loved immediately stopped talking to me and cut me off, leaving me to question whether I could ever come back to Laguna at all. 

In hindsight, it might have also been me that drifted away from them and isolated myself in my sexy new L.A. world — and it’s totally possible that that’s why they disengaged, not because I was doing porn — but whatever the reason, there was a good half-decade where I was killing it in porn, but felt completely alone in my personal life. That’s why it’s always complicated when new performers or girls who want to get into the industry ask me if your family disowns you when you go into porn. Some peoples’ don’t, obviously, but in my case, the answer is a resounding and depressing “yes.”

Then, one day, I woke up and just decided to get them all back. I didn’t care what it took or how long I’d have to wait to weasel myself back into their good graces — I just wanted my friends and family back. I started trying really hard to talk to them all again, and made sure to prioritize my relationships with them over almost everything else. After a while, it started to work, especially as porn and sex work became gradually more normalized in culture. Now, I can confidently say I have everyone back that I lost. Lexie and Cami from the show are still my best friends today, and my relationship with my mom has never been better. She actually helped me pick out part of the “Tasha” portion of my porn name. “Tasha sounds sexy,” she told me. “Go with that!”

Now, when I go back to Laguna, I feel like a legend. I really am the only well-known adult star from my town, so I think people are really entertained by it. It used to be painful for me to go home, but now it’s fun. 

Laguna still feels like a surreal place to me, but after everything I’ve gone through to get to where I am, everything seems kind of surreal. 

Who knows? I might even make a reality TV show out of it.