In our latest interview from the Naked Series, we sit down with Valentine to discuss polyamory, scars and queer porn.
JACY: Well, how does it feel to be naked in front of a stranger?
VALENTINE: Comfortable. I think I feel more comfortable naked than with my clothes on (haha.)
JACY: I think that’s a pretty rare feeling. Have you always felt this way?
VALENTINE: Uh, no. I used to struggle with body image and I had a lot of insecurities. But I think there comes a point where you’re so practiced in being yourself that you accept your flaws.
JACY: How do you get to that point? 'Cause it’s easier said than done.
VALENTINE: My mentality changed when I became an exotic dancer with a not very typical look. I knew I wasn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea but it was important for me to have that representation. It was also important for me to move my body and to be seen as someone with sex appeal. As a curvier person, as a person of color, as a person with scars and tattoos.
JACY: Tattoos and scars. Can you take me on a walk through?
VALENTINE: Sure. Let’s see - I have a cut here from when I was a wild land firefighter -
JACY: - Wait, what?!
VALENTINE: Yeah, I was a firefighter stripper. I got the scar when I accidentally put a tool through my shin. I also have a scar on my hand. When I was younger I fell down some stairs and landed in a pile of glass. My mom and I were just talking about this because my dad actually fainted when I was getting stitches.
JACY: ... Men don’t have as much experience with blood I guess.
VALENTINE: Haha no, blood and I are (crosses fingers) like this.
JACY: Let’s talk tattoos.
VALENTINE: Okay umm... I have a lot of them. (haha)
JACY: You mentioned your parents. How do they feel about your dancing?
VALENTINE: They don’t really know. I’ve curated my life in a way that is very ‘pick your battles’ based. There’s things worth challenging like being queer, or seeking acceptance, but I see no benefit in telling them about this part of my life.
Queerness for my family was really tough growing up. They are very religious. I’ve had a partner for six years now and you can only call someone your friend for so long.
They’re compassionate people but there’s limits for that. Having had that partnership and being able to talk about it to a certain extent is great. But when I was developing another partnership and we started to discuss polyamory they were just like... ‘What?’
JACY: Minds blown I'm sure.
VALENTINE: Well, it took a while. I didn’t throw it at them all at once. There was definitely a bit of like... ‘That’s weird, and I don’t necessarily agree with that...’
JACY: Tell me a little bit about polyamory. Can two relationships at very different stages in development coexist?
VALENTINE: It’s definitely a lot of work but I'd say it's really all about intention. It’s about transparency. It’s about what you’re bringing forward to the relationship and I think that dynamic can shift from person to person.
JACY: I love that you brought up intention. That word's been so important in my life.
Alright, tell me about some of your other interests.
VALENTINE: So being a firefighter for many years, I did a lot of traveling and it made me appreciate having skills for survival. I can build a fire, read a map, calibrate a compass - those things are good to know.
Aside from that, I’m really into being creative. Modeling's been good for my mental health.
But lately I’ve been kind of quiet. I haven’t been doing a lot of the things I usually do because they don’t feel nourishing right now. However there is an event in town that is curated by sex workers for sex workers and that's like... Holy shit.
It’s not just about dancers or the adult industry - it’s about everyone. I went to that event a couple weeks ago and after being so sad for so long it felt great to be around all these beautiful people and around this energy where everyone is just working really hard to be their truest selves. Queer, straight, nonbinary, trans - everyone was just there to show up for each other.
We’re losing safe places for people to work and accessibility is not really there so having that party is a visibility and the energy of everyone was empowering.
JACY: Empowerment. That’s not always associated with sex work but has that been your experience or is it difficult?
VALENTINE: It’s been difficult in personal relations. I’ve had partners and lovers who think ill of me because I do sex work. It’s really hard to date people and have them understand the definition of work. It’s really hard for people to not take it for granted or think ‘Well you’re a sex worker so I should be able to go have sex with whoever I want.’
You want to share these things with partners who seem willing, but then they regress. I feel like I have this really amazing thing that I should almost just keep to myself. It makes me want to be more selective as to who I share my time with and honestly connecting with other sex workers feels safest right now. There's a unity within the sex working community that comes from a place of survivorship.
JACY: Because danger is so possible?
VALENTINE: Yeah. It's figuring out - 'How do I navigate literally using my body for income while keeping it safe? Am I going to get twenty dollars or am I going to get five hundred and what do I have to compromise for that?' Also being in situations where I'm being touched all day by strangers - all I want to do is come home and be held by someone who understands and isn't going to use it against me.
There's a deep understanding of fighting for your safety and fighting for your worth among sex workers. To further complicate things there’s being a person of color as a sex worker, being non-cis as a sex worker... Those things become even more complex. You really need to know a certain type of person who can navigate that with you.
And I’m finding there’s just a lot of internalized shame in people. I’m someone whose hard headed around that because I’ve had to fight really hard for myself and visibility. I can’t walk into any studio and be like 'Oh, I'm traditionally attractive... Hire me.' I’m a particular kind of person for a particular kind of people. That's a hard thing to combat too.
JACY: So you’re already seeking studios and partners who feel like a safe place and a fit for you personally. Do you think working in queer porn and having more women on set there’s a softer nature to the industry in terms of respect?
VALENTINE: Oh yeah, 100%.
There’s a lot of companies with trans folks, non-binary people on set and that immediately makes it feel safe like my expression isn’t going to be judged. There are still female directors who aren't quite getting their impact though, especially with people of color. That’s something that’s still kind of hard. I was in Berlin and I spoke on a panel of people who were POC in the industry and the biggest thing that hit home when asked how producers can create a space for people and it’s like, HIRE THEM.
VALENTINE: If you want to have more diversity in your portfolio, give jobs to people you want to see represented in your work. It’s that simple.
JACY: So as we near the end, you’ve got such comfortability in your skin and that’s not immediate for everyone. Do you have any advice for people?
VALENTINE: I would say market yourself as though it’s normal. A lot of what people think of as normal is still taboo in some ways or other places. Having tattoos isn’t quite the old lady yelling ‘You’ll never get a job! ’ anymore, but there’s still some walking through the world having to justify yourself.
If people normalize things, others will slowly start accepting whatever it is. Which in itself creates room for more expression. I don’t know. I feel like I have such a skewed perspective but I’ve just learned not to let what people say affect me. And I've learned how to accept rejection from opportunities.
The only advice I have is if opportunities aren’t there, create them.