Why you should care
Because Tasha Reign wants to shatter the walls between adult and mainstream entertainment — and for you to feel good about it.
At home on the sofa, curled up with her Himalayan cat, a horror movie and Chipotle, she’s Rachel Swimmer, a newly minted UCLA graduate who loves Disney and animals.
But on tube sites and strip club stages, she’s Tasha Reign, a porn star and entrepreneur who has not only 120 films under her belt — including six as director — but her own production studio and sex toy line besides. Reign wants more than adult stardom, though; she wants to be a household name. So far, her mainstream credits include dishing sex advice for BroBible and OC Weekly, and voicing her opinion on financial discrimination against sex workers for Al Jazeera. She also recently auditioned for a big network reality show.
She intends to shatter the walls between adult and mainstream entertainment, and to “normalize porn.”
Of course, many porn stars try to go mainstream. Tasha Reign is aiming higher. She intends to shatter the walls between adult entertainment and mainstream entertainment, and to “normalize porn,” as she puts it. “I want to… make people feel comfortable watching it,” she says. “I want people to view me not just as porn actress but … as an intelligent, diverse, multifaceted person.”
Reign counts herself among a cadre of adult actresses adapting to a declining industry — which made an estimated $10 billion in 2012, compared with as much as $15 billion in the mid-2000s. Piracy and tube sites like PornHub and YouPorn have lowered the demand for actresses, and many have been forced to diversify. “Cougar” actress Tanya Tate started a PR firm that represents porn actresses, for example, while Jelena Jensen hosts a Vivid Radio show. Others take on mainstream projects to broaden their fan base, like appearing in Hollywood films or at cosplay conventions.
As the sexual awakening that started in the 1960s continues, “the porn industry is definitely blurring the line between what’s porn and what’s mainstream,” says Adella Curry, owner of Fine Ass Marketing, whose clientele includes Reign. Curry predicts a shift toward educational films that go beyond middle school anatomy. Jessica Drake’s Guide to Wicked Sex DVD series features live how-to’s on oral sex, approaching partners about threesomes and more, and many tube sites also include educational sections.
“I was just very attracted to how sexual and beautiful and powerful those girls were. They’re so brave.”
Twenty-five-year-old Reign has platinum blonde hair, feline cheekbones and kohl-rimmed, gunmetal eyes. The Laguna Beach, California, native Skypes from her agent’s large, high-ceilinged Las Vegas house, lounging in yoga pants and a halter top as she bubbles effervescently about her big blended family and free-spirited mother, who let her watch R-rated mainstream movie sex scenes on TV from an early age.
Reign dreamed of being a nude model after watching a documentary on Stormy Daniels, Tera Patrick and other porn actresses. “I was just very attracted to how sexual and beautiful and powerful those girls were. They’re so brave, and they bare it all, and people love it.” Plus, “I loved having sex with my boyfriend and posing. … That’s what I was born to do.”
At 20, she began stripping at Silver Reign in Santa Monica, California, where she got invited to the Playboy Mansion. After shooting nudes for Playboy, she moved on to hard-core modeling and was even named Penthouse’s Pet of the Month in May 2011. But she grew restless. “I didn’t feel like modeling was getting me anywhere that I wanted,” she told Miami.com. “I wasn’t building a name brand for myself.”
So she decided to transition to adult film. With no clue how to start, she Googled big-name porn actresses and traced them to their agencies. She showed up to one called LA Direct Models, asked to be a porn star and shot a hard-core girl-girl scene for Lethal Entertainment soon after.
Around the same time, one of her professors at Santa Monica College said that women should enjoy sex for their own pleasure, not men’s. The lesson resonated with Reign, who transferred to UCLA and graduated with a B.A. in gender studies in June.
Although her major helped her ease into porn, not everyone supported her. One stepsister “freaked out” over her first film and still refuses to speak to her; other siblings speak to her only rarely. “This is not who I am, just what I do,” Reign says, but admits, “For sure it’s a struggle.”
But all worth it for her career. “I’m passionate about my job,” says Reign, who works one to five days a week. A shoot often starts with solo and sex still photos, followed by intro dialogue and hard-core scenes. Each five-position sex scene requires considerable mental calculus: “Am I opening to the camera fully? Am I vocalizing?” Unless she’s “really into” her partner, and the cameras seem to melt away.
She created a line of neon-tailed anal plugs for bronies, a robust subculture of bros who enjoy — yup — all things My Little Pony.
Reign describes her biggest audience as young “vanilla-white guys.” But underlying her apple pie, frat-boy appeal is a message of women’s empowerment, she says. “She’s shooting scenes that get her off,” Curry says. Still, Beth Noonan, event manager for AVN Media Network, “would really like to see Tasha push her own sexual boundaries in movies,” beyond marketing herself as the “girly girl or a porno sorority girl,” she wrote in an email.
Reign has also begun monetizing her brand beyond porn. Besides directing and starring in Tasha’s Pony Tales, she created a line of neon-tailed anal plugs for bronies, a surprisingly robust subculture of bros who enjoy — yup — all things My Little Pony. While touring the country dancing burlesque, she schedules appearances at local sex shops to cross-market both products. Meanwhile, Reign’s movie and Reignbow Pony Plugs have drawn plenty of mainstream media attention.
Not all of it has been positive, of course. A photo Reign took with Bill Clinton in Monaco in 2012 went viral, cueing jokes from media outlets about how the former president had “out-Clintoned” himself. Rather than soaking in the limelight, Reign took to TMZ to explain that Clinton didn’t know who she was and called out the media for scandalizing the photo op. “I’m so proud of the movies that I make,” she told LA Weekly. “I don’t want any guilt by association.”
Next up, Reign, a vegetarian, is releasing a calendar featuring herself and other models in sexy animal costumes, donating proceeds to the Animal Rescue Alliance. She also hopes to pursue mainstream modeling and acting. Curry foresees her foraying into hosting, counseling or some other role to promote sexual education and positivity.
“I want women to not feel bad about their fantasies,” Reign says. “I want to promote women who take control of their destiny.” She seems well on her way — by taking full reign of her own.
Lead photo by Zack Canepari