Taboo-breaking, boundary-busting, free-spirited former porn star turned artist, musician and author Heather Hunter tells us a thing or two about Ron Jeremy, gay porn and her Cosby-esque childhood. Her debut novel, Insatiable: The Rise of a Porn Star (St. Martinâs) is out this month.
Rebecca Carroll: Why a novel?
Heather Hunter: Everyone asks me that question! Well, Iâve been a private person throughout my whole career, and this [novel] is my life. Thatâs why it took me 10 years to actually finish the book -- because Iâm still living it. I was battling over whether or not I should write it as an autobiography, and then decided I didnât want to because Iâm not a kiss-and-tell person. I respect peoplesâ privacy -- especially when it involves me!
RC: What did it feel like to write your life as fiction?
HH: It was really cleansing because I realized I could still tell my story through fiction -- I could just let my imagination go. There were points where it felt like going through therapy for free.
RC: Right, and it's fun, too, because itâs sort of like the best of both mediums. You can make it into an experience that you didnât really have, but that maybe you might have liked to. And so, tell me a little bit about your background and your upbringing. Where were you born and raised?
HH: I was born in the Bronx, raised in Brooklyn and Harlem. I come from divorced parents, but Iâm close with both. I had a great life growing up -- I can truly say it was like the Huxtables [from The Cosby Show] inside our home, but when you stepped outside and around the corner, you were in the hood.
RC: What were you like as a teenager?
HH: I was a rebel. I really wanted to go out and see the world, and I wanted to do it on my own terms. I think thatâs how I ventured onto this path -- my erotic path.
RC: Your erotic path? How did your parents feel about this erotic path?
HH: After I got out the house, no matter what I was doing as long as I was responsible and taking care of myself, they respected me. Today, my mom canât believe that Iâm this star -- she doesnât get it yet!
RC: What or how does she think of you?
HH: Well, she is very proud of me. She read the book -- and to me, sheâs the only person whose opinion matters -- and she gave me props. She told me it was a good read. She stepped outside of being my mother long enough to look at the book as just a book.
RC: Yeah, itâs got a nice flow. Youâve got a fiction tellerâs writing voice. So letâs talk a bit about the trajectory of your career. When you got out of the house, what did you do?
HH: After I got out of the house, the first thing that came to my mind was how to make money. I was still going to school -- the High School of Fashion Industries -- and I dreamed of being a fashion illustrator, but living on and around the streets it always comes down to by any means necessary. So I started stripping.
RC: How did you know how to do that?
HH: I come from hip-hop culture -- Iâm a club kid, so dancing has always been one of my first passions. And Iâm a trained dancer as well. So there was no difference in getting on stage and dancing versus being in a club -- the only thing was that I was taking my clothes off.
RC: Still, stripping is a real talent, a skill.
HH: Yeah, it is a skill, and I turned it into something really nice. I have no inhibitions -- Iâm an exhibitionist and pretty much a free spirit.
RC: So from stripping to what?
HH: Stripping really groomed me into being an adult star -- a sex machine. I was stripping from 16 to 18. By my 18th birthday, I was set up to do my first adult movie.
RC: What was that like?
HH: It was fun.
RC: Had you watched porn before?
HH: Yeah a little bit, not a bunch. I donât even watch that much porn now. I like gay porn!
RC: Because it's interesting or because itâs sexy?
HH: Well, Iâm bisexual and so it seems logical that a bisexual would like gay porn, but yeah, it excites me. I watch more nontraditional porn because I know so many people in the business and so a lot of the regular stuff is not as thrilling or exciting. But Iâm still a big stripper girl. I like going to strip clubs.
RC: So your first movie -- youâre 18 years old and you have to have sex with whomever; whatâs that like? Youâd already been sexually active?
HH: Very sexually active! I think I was a little nervous [with the first movie], but more nervous that I was going to mess up my lines. I wasnât sure if I was a good actress -- that was my biggest fear. The guy made it so comfortable for me though, and I think when youâre 18 years old, when youâre that young, you never think about much, you know? You kind of just going through life -- everything seems surreal, like a fantasy. I just wanted to fly. And it was fun. I can truly say that I had a great time. We had a birthday party afterwards, because I had just turned 18. Ron Jeremy was there and on the set -- he was in my first movie.
RC: Did you have sex with him?
HH: Oh no, never. Definitely not.
RC: Why âDefinitely notâ?
HH: I love Ron, but to me heâs like my big brother.
RC: It seems like porn has gone to this different level in the past decade or so; almost intellectualized in a way. What happened? People talk about it, we talk about it and write articles about it, much less than when I was a kid. Of course, I grew up in rural New England where porn was considered to be the nastiest thing ever -- my parents are very liberal, but the general sense within the community and environment where I grew up was that pornography was horrifying.
HH: When I first got into the business I didnât even know it was taboo. Only after my first movie did I realize it was such a big deal. But throughout my career Iâve advocated for society to become more comfortable with sexuality. I also think that pornography reached a point where mainstream economics wanted a piece of the action. So I think we now have this phenomenon where everyone is trying to erase the taboo of it all.
RC: OK, but to be fair, there is and probably always will be a seedy side to this business. People who are or have been in abusive relationships, who have psychological issues -- where are they in this movement?
HH: Well, Iâve been retired for like 11 years now, so Iâm a little bit out of touch with whatâs going on inside the industry. But yes, the seedy side will always be there, you know you have your advocates -- people trying to cleanse the adult industry, trying to make it an all condom-based industry. People who are on the seedy side often stay on the seedy side. I believe that the media and all of us have a responsibility to promote more education and knowledge.
RC: When I interviewed Savannah Samson, she told me that she was warned against doing a film with a black costar -- what was your experience like as an adult star of color?
HH: Well, I was the first African American to knock down the door to that world. It was a struggle, but I just didnât give up. I kept trying to break down those barriers. I call myself an erotic feminist.