Don't Judge Chloe Cherry

Don't Judge Chloe Cherry

Story by Sandra Song / Photography by Ashley Olah / Styling by Ella Cepeda and César Álvarez / Makeup by Alexandra French / Hair by Malcolm Marquez / Nails by Saccia

Chloe Cherry wants a Shirley Temple with the tiniest splash of vodka in it, but Tramp Stamp Granny’s in Hollywood doesn’t have any grenadine.

“Which drink tastes the least like alcohol then?,” she asks the confused-looking bartender while fidgeting with the rainbow beads strung around her neck. It’s an odd request, after all, to order what’s typically considered a “kids’ drink” at an upscale cocktail spot where everything is all sours, spices and salt rims. But she hates the bitterness of booze and would always prefer cute, girly and super sweet, as she explains. It’s an ongoing theme in her life it seems, reflective of her chosen moniker and, for right now, her desire for a pink 7Up served with a maraschino cherry.

Over the years, the 24-year-old has done almost everything. She’s been a dancer, theater kid, model, artist, musician, porn star and, most recently, a fan favorite on HBO Max’s hit show Euphoria. The latter has made the past four months an absolute whirlwind for Cherry, who’s spent the majority of this time shooting editorials, walking for the likes of LaQuan Smith and GCDS, and attending glamorous Hollywood events, all of which she’s been documenting on her Instagram, @perfect_angelgirl.

All of this made me (wrongly) assume that she was a fellow partier, despite quickly learning that it’s pretty much impossible to pin her down with a label. Because while Cherry may be a newly minted “It girl” in a sweater with the words “Main Character” bedazzled across the chest, she’s also an unapologetic homebody who only smokes weed and can’t stomach more than one drink a night. Let alone introduce herself by jabbing a needle into her thigh, as her character Faye does on Euphoria.

She’s a far cry from Faye in many ways, with the most obvious difference being that Cherry isn’t a heroin addict. Even so, they’re both kindhearted eccentrics, effortlessly funny with a deadpan drawl and droll one-liners, which brought a little levity to a heavy coming-of-age tale centered on addiction and self-destruction.

For the record, Cherry ad-libbed some of Faye’s most iconic quotes, including the infamous “do you and your son fuck people together?” line — something showrunner Sam Levinson encouraged her to do, providing some guidance while mostly giving her the freedom to spitball. Maybe because he knew from the start that she’d bring a fresh perspective to the second season, seeing as how Cherry described her character as “the only person in the room who can see how ridiculous the situation is.”

As she explained, Faye was thrust into the Euphoria universe as an outside observer who didn’t grow with the other characters. This distance allows Cherry to inject another small part of herself into the series through refreshingly blunt commentary à la the 1988 cult comedy series, Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Sunglasses: Pierre Cardin (Please Do Not Enter)

Quick to praise Levinson as an “incredible director,” Cherry said he made the “greatest experience” as the main person who helped her through the process. Needless to say, she’s just as eager to squash any speculation surrounding Levinson’s working relationship with the cast and crew, which included whispers of an on-set feud and accusations of creating a “toxic” environment.

“I just don't like anybody hating on him,” as Cherry said. Her expression sours while referencing a recent TikTok she saw about the rumors. “He’s super professional and helped me a lot. All my interactions with him have just been really lovely.”

Cherry talks about Levinson as if he’s a guardian angel of sorts, which makes sense seeing as how he appeared to her in the middle of a “strange existential crisis where I didn’t know what to do with my life.” Contrary to popular belief though, he didn’t cast the former adult star after watching a Euphoria porn parody where Cherry played Jules. Rather, it was an Instagram Story she filmed at the mall that ended up catching his attention almost a year before the parody was even filmed. But thanks to the pandemic halting production, she figured the hit show would be perfect for a parody — a staple in porn — because “after I got cast, Euphoria was heavy on my mind and OnlyFans was the way I was selling my content.”

"I always say porn isn’t real sex. It just looks like sex, so we call it sex."

However, Cherry wanted to make it clear that her days in adult film are officially over, since porn is “really hard on your body,” to the point where she “never really planned on doing it past the age of 20.” Because like most people in porn, Cherry saw the industry as a stepping stone that afforded her the opportunity to move away from a very conservative area of Pennsylvania immediately out of high school and pursue a wide range of creative endeavors in LA.

As the child of two fine artists, Cherry has always been interested in creation, but felt like she hadn’t inherited any “actual technical skill” from her parents. In high school, she was introduced to collaging, and found it a “soothing” way to process and reflect upon anything from “a person I liked” to “a person I hated” to a song lyric. Showcased on her @perfect_angelart Instagram, Cherry’s maximalist pieces are much like her: a mashed-up mixture of visual references and disparate mediums. Yet it’s still just one of many artistic outlets for Cherry, who’s also begun to dabble in pop rap, modeling and, of course, mainstream acting, which makes her one of the few adult performers able to leave the industry because they actually “made it” in Hollywood.

“It’s surreal. It just feels like now is the perfect time to leave,” she said, though she added porn is less about pleasure and gratification than it is about angles, lighting and performance.

“I always say porn isn’t real sex. It just looks like sex, so we call it sex,” she said. “But people aren’t doing things to pleasure each other. It’s for a third party that's not even there, so it's never going to be anything close to ‘normal.’”

Dress: Edwin Mohney, Rings and earrings: YVMIN (Please Do Not Enter), Sunglasses: Balenciaga, Sneakers and socks: Chloe's own

“Besides, my sex drive is really average,” she said. “I’m not super hypersexual and never was.”

Part of this comes from Cherry’s parents never framing sex as a negative thing, meaning she didn’t grow up associating sex with concepts like “sin” or “shame.” Instead, it was merely “something that exists,” which makes it strange to think that “people think I’m a bad person” because of her past work.

In this sense, Cherry sees some parallels between the judgment she received as a porn star and the derision directed towards those struggling with substance abuse. But she also noted this only serves to create a self-fulfilling prophecy, with people like Faye feeling like “they’re always going to live up to their labels.”

“It’s like, ‘Oh, well. Everybody's saying that I must be a horrible person, so then I guess I am a horrible person,’” she said. “When people treat you like you're a bad person, it just makes you think you’re that.”

As Cherry continued, both she and Faye are just trying to do “our best and learn about ourselves.” But even so, it’s been a process hindered by the “people who make terrible assumptions about you just from one thing.”

She explained, “Because they think it means all these other things. But the way we think of ourselves is really shaped by what we’re born into. Like, what if Faye was born into what Lexi was born into? She would be like Lexi, you know? She's just doing the best with what she was given.”

Bow: VEX, Underwear: Serpenti

Her big blue eyes begin to survey the room, looking at all the people in their linen jackets and lace tops, dancing to the live piano music beneath the rotating disco ball and a row of candy-colored lights. You can tell she’s thinking about the character she’d grown so close to over the past year.

“I imagine that it's one of her first times really being out there on her own,” Cherry finally said with her brow slightly furrowed. “She's really just trying to navigate the world and it's very difficult for somebody who was raised in a not-normal [situation].”

This kind of empathy is what makes Euphoria so powerful though, she said, because it’s all about “giving you this other perspective.” It shows you that addiction isn’t a moral failing or some black and white issue, but a complex and misunderstood ailment encompassing feelings of shame, guilt, pain and desperation, all stemming from an individual trauma invisible and unfathomable to anyone but yourself.

A lot of people I know, myself included, have struggled with substance abuse. For us, it’s made the show a difficult and triggering watch, so uncomfortable because it really is an incredibly raw, gritty and nuanced portrayal of addiction, which is something we don’t see or speak about very often. However, that’s what also makes Euphoria important as a “warning tale,” Cherry said — a story about “the many reasons why you shouldn’t do drugs,” which also touches on the limitations of treatment, the lethal silence created by stigma and how the system continues to fail addicts, over and over and over again.

Yet, we still have groups like D.A.R.E. — these anti-drug organizations proven to be pretty much useless — issuing scathing, unhelpful and narrow-minded criticism of the show, arguing that it "chooses to misguidedly glorify and erroneously depict high school student drug use, addiction, anonymous sex, violence and other destructive behaviors as common and widespread in today’s world."

As Cherry and I agreed though, these issues are common and widespread in today’s world, and they’ll only become bigger if we continue to approach these conversations with ignorance. After all, teenagers have always been seduced by anything considered “taboo,” with the inefficacy of things like abstinence-only education serving as examples of how silence and shame will do more damage, as compared to the way Cherry’s parents treated the topic.

Green ring: Wasee Jewels, Gold ring: Mondo Mondo, Sunglasses: Pierre Cardin (Please Do Not Enter)

Acknowledging the nuance of these situations, Cherry said the importance of Euphoria’s message can potentially be interpreted as glamorizing drug use, especially when young fans forget it’s “supposed to be entertainment but also a warning about what not to do.” And though she recalled how “cool” a friend’s 13-year-old sister said the show was, Cherry quickly added she also has faith in the show’s potential to result in a net positive, reiterating its use as an alternative viewpoint of substance abuse that humanizes addicts and encourages others to meet them with understanding instead of hostility.

It’s then our conversation turns back towards the idea of judgment, which Cherry noted she’s still experiencing in a less overt way. Though she’s far from an addict and no longer a porn star, her heightened visibility has led to a sharp uptick in “weird comments” about her appearance, specifically her lips, which she said “hurt a lot because I had no idea.”

“Nobody in my life said, ‘Oh, your lips are so huge,’” she said. “Like these lips are actually on my face, you know?” She paused for a moment before adding, “But people get tattoos all the time and do weird shit that's ‘unnatural.’ So why can't I do something that's ‘unnatural’ because I like how it looks?”

"Why can't I do something that's 'unnatural' because I like how it looks?"

Shaking her head, Cherry continued to ponder why “people think that it's okay to say that about someone's looks,” which also brings up the complications surrounding her recent crowning as the internet’s “bimbo icon.” As she explained, she feels strange about any unsolicited discourse surrounding her lips, while also pointing out that women are the ones who mainly face this kind of scrutiny.

“Everything you associate with them is what they look like,” she said, musing on how jarring the hate comments have been, especially in comparison to the “really nice” and rarely critical messages she’d get from her adult film fans. Granted, she went on to say she understood why the commentary had suddenly shifted from compliments to criticism following the show’s premiere, mostly because “teenagers have the time to obsess over things.”

Cherry continued, “And I learned this when I was a teenager. Adults don’t have the time, but teenagers actually do, so they make a bunch of fan pages or share all your photos with their friends.”

It’s an odd form of projection she’s still getting used to, but it’s also forced her to think about her identity and be more conscious of what she does moving forward. As she said, her main takeaway from this experience is that she doesn’t want to be defined by one thing, whether it be a “former porn star,” “the girl with the lips” or, even, “Faye.” She is just Chloe Cherry.

Bow: VEX, Underwear: Serpenti

Welcome to "Sex with Sandra," a column by Sandra Song about the ever-changing face of sexuality. Whether it be spotlight features on sex work activists, deep dives into hyper-niche fetishes, or overviews on current legislation and policy, "Sex with Sandra" is dedicated to examining some of the biggest sex-related discussions happening on the Internet right now.

Photography: Ashley Olah
Styling: Ella Cepeda and César Álvarez
Makeup: Alexandra French at (Opus Beauty using MAC Cosmetics)
Hair: Malcolm Marquez at (Opus Beauty using Irresistible Me)
Nails: Saccia (at Opus Beauty using OPI)


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