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PR and Porn Part 3: Joanna Angel, the Amateur

In the first two chapters of our week-long “PR and Porn” series, we spoke to top publicist Brian Gross about how he made his way in the industry and how his current job fits within the wide and colorful world of public relations. 

Today we are very fortunate to bring you the first part of our conversation with one of the most compelling personalities in the adult entertainment industry: performer, producer, director and Burning Angel Entertainment CEO Joanna Angel.

Like Brian Gross, Joanna Angel–a New Jersey native who grew up in an Orthodox Jewish home–didn’t simply wake up one day with grand plans to shake up the adult entertainment industry. In her own words, it was “a bit of an accident—an experiment.”

In his senior year at Rutgers, Joanna’s roommate/business partner Mitch Fontaine noticed that the world of adult entertainment was a bit…monochromatic. Where was the porn for those brave souls who didn’t care for spray-tanned, fake-breasted starlets? Joanna explains:

“My roommate brought up the idea. I knew nothing about porn, sales or web design…I was an English major. But it was like a fire in my brain went off when he said ‘lets start a porn site’, and it drove me to want to turn it into something.”

After a little technical prep and creative brainstorming, their site, Burning Angel, went live.

“When it started, a lot people (my friends, my family) said ‘What the f**k did you just do?’ I remember thinking, I have two choices right now: Either take it down, move on and never speak of it again, or make it the coolest site ever.”

“That’s how it started. The stigma against porn drove me to succeed.”

Burning Angel Entertainment had humble beginnings:

“I started with my own company. I wasn’t a run-of-the-mill porn girl who makes a name for herself and cashes in–I’ve put my own money into it since day one, and for the first four years I was spending and not breaking even.”

At first, the site’s content was limited to softcore pics interspersed with coverage of the New York/New Jersey punk and hardcore music scenes that Joanna loved.

“Even when the site sucked I loved it, and that was how the brand really started. By constantly talking about it, I figured out what I wanted it to be, and then over time I brought the site up to speed with the reputation I had been giving it.”

How did Joanna find girls to become Burning Angel stars? And what inspired her to turn the camera on herself?

“We just asked everyone we knew—it was a little embarrassing. Quite a few of them said no, and that’s why I ended up on the web. I never thought of myself as a sex symbol at all, and I didn’t think anyone had any interest in seeing me naked. But I figured I would do a few pics at first to help the site get off the ground, and then I realized ‘Whoa, people like me!’”

“The appeal of free labor really started my porn career. It was never planned out from the beginning.”

Slowly but surely, the site’s reputation began to grow. Joanna moved to Brooklyn while still in college–and after graduation she decided to treat her new project as a full-time job.

“I remember talking to a friend who said, ‘If you want to be good at something, you have to work on it for at least 40 hours a week,’ and that stuck with me. I would wake up every morning, sit in front of the computer and work to promote the company.”

Burning Angel soon hired its first employee, which forced the team to “run on a schedule”–and Joanna got a night job as an exotic dancer.

“Being a stripper helped me support myself when the site wasn’t making any money. It also made me more comfortable with my own naked body and helped me figure out what kind of people found me attractive.”

Then a strip club connection changed everything.

“I met someone at the club who worked for Vivid Entertainment and told him about Burning Angel. He was fascinated by it, and he was the first person who helped me understand that porn is an industry—people actually do it for a living, and they don’t need other jobs.”

“He told me, ‘You should take this to the next level,’ and he got me passes to go to the 2004 AVN Adult Entertainment Expo, this monster porn convention in Las Vegas, as a spectator. Going there was the moment that changed everything in my head. There were huge screens showing high-definition porn movies and there were long lines of people waiting to talk to the girls and get their autographs.”

“Something clicked—I fell in love with the industry and wanted to be a part of it.”

Now that she had decided to turn her hobby into a career, Joanna set about becoming a bona fide porn star.

Be sure to read the first two parts in the series and check in tomorrow as Joanna reveals the steps she took to promote Burning Angel and take her unique brand to the top of the industry.

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