Hello Kristen, for those who might not know you please let us know you are and please describe yourself?
My name is Kristen DiAngelo and I am the producer of the documentary American Courtesans, a career sex worker, an activist, and an entrepreneur.
How did you decide that you wanted to make this film?
After a life time of being in the sex trade, I decided that it was time to give back. I have known many sex workers throughout my life and most were some of the most amazing people you would ever know. However, that is not how we are usually portrayed in the media. There seems to be the need to stigmatize and separate these amazing people from real life. I knew that if someone didn’t step up and allow the mainstream in, these stigmas would continue to propagate. And, as we know with the gay rights movement and the Blacks fight for equal rights, stigmas and stereotypes kill. This continues to happen today within our world, as no one sees us as human.
You interviewed about half a dozen women for the documentary. Whose story do you think is the most interesting or the closet to yours?
I think they are all equally interesting; each different and unique. Sex workers are truly and eclectic bunch. We are representative of society as a whole. We broach all socio-economic strata, we are all races and religions, and we are from every city in every state in the US. We come to this world for equally diverse reasons. So, I found each woman mesmerizing and powerful in her own way. It would be so hard to pick!
Why do you think that so many people look down on sex workers in general?
I believe the problem is 3 fold.
First, people look down on Sex Workers in general, due to lack of education. The horrific part is I can assure you those who look down on us have been in a conversation and while they were trashing us, one of us was who they were talking to. We hide, so when the stereotyping and stigmatizing occurs, we are afraid to correct it or try to rectify the problem. If we do, we risk outing ourselves and thus our safety. Hate can run deep and that is scary for each and every one of us. So we stay quiet and let them spread what they believe to be the truth.
Second, the media, having no better knowledge, and getting good ratings from the conservative right, continues at the level of both print and screen, to portray us a broken. There is no other dimension to our personalities. Either we are victims of a traffickers evil whims, money grabbing undesirables, or we are some crazed, drugged out blight that needs to be vanished from society. So, much like other subcultures of our society that have been long discriminated against, the media takes small parts of the truth, (as I said we are representative of all of society), and magnifies them as if that is who we are.
And the last reason is that when one of us steps up, does well, or begins to speak out, the feds/law enforcement then like to trump up some scandal to discredit us. That keeps us quiet and that keeps others from believing we are human and worth having the same civil rights as them. It works perfectly for them. We gain power and our voices begin to be heard, and then something happens to us. The lesson; we are safe only if we are quiet. We will be left alone, only if we know our place.
So stigma continues and we go on underground just hoping not to be hurt and hoping that someday we will have the same rights as others.
Were you surprised when you found out how many of the women you interviewed had the “typical” story that most people seem to think about sex workers, aka coming from a broken home or growing up abused?
We come from all backgrounds, all races, all religions, and all sectors of this country. I think that there is no story that is typical. My current analogy is that if you line up a 100 women who have been abused as a child… you might have 1 or 2 who are sex workers. Therefore, abuse does not make one a sex worker. If you line up 100 women who come from broken homes, you might have 1 or 2 who are sex workers. Therefore, broken homes do not cause one to be a sex worker. Sex work is a choice for most of us. It is an economic choice and we get here many ways, of course, I am separating sex work from sex trafficking which are two different things completely. It is a choice to go to work and be self-supporting.
Did you ever consider interviewing any male sex workers for the documentary?
I did contact a few, but at that time, no one responded and by the end we had so much footage anyway that it all worked out as it should. However, in the next film I so would like to have male sex workers involved.
American Courtesans has been shown in many film festivals around the world. Which one do you consider the biggest deal for your movie?
All were very important and in different ways. Film festival such as Ecu – The European Independent Film Festival, brought us a large European following. In Jakarta, we won a Human Rights Award. At home, we played in many states each of which brought awareness to our cause. And of course the Sex Worker film festivals were important because the backing of fellow workers meant that our community embraced the work and that drove us all the harder to make sure that the word got out there.
What would you say is the biggest misconception about sex workers?
I believe that the biggest misconception about Sex Workers that prevails today is that we don’t contribute to society. That we are merely a problem that the US would love to be rid of. However, no one ever stops to think of the economic impact of that. What would happen economically if we all just stopped working on the same day? The hospitality industry, hotels, would incur a significant loss which some might not recuperate from. Taxis, airplanes, restaurants, hair and nail salons, clothing and lingerie manufacturers and retailers, etc. And, at the same time, if we were to all apply for assistance in order to get back on our feet, well the net result would surely spin the US into a recession or even a real depression. So, we being non-contributing members of this country are so far from the truth.
What advice would you give someone that is thinking about joining the adult industry?
Make sure this is what you really want to do. I truly love being a Sex Worker, but there is a cost and the cost is high. You know the saying that everything has a price; you must be willing to pay that price? Well, it’s my belief that whether you are willing or not, you will pay the price. And you won’t know what it is until it’s too late to change your mind. You will lose friends and family due to the stigma. You will be treated poorly on many occasions, so you had better know who you are and not need outside approval. You will be targeted by those who hate us, and most in this industry at some point have suffered from violent experiences. If you haven’t, it’s only a matter of time. You will have no 911 to call in case of emergency, as we don’t count and you will be fooling yourself if you think we do. And, that’s not the worst part. The worst part is because people won’t understand; you will become isolated from the rest of society. No one will really ever get to know you as the only way you stay safe is if you stay silent. Now with all of that, most would say “why in the hell would anyone want to be a sex worker”. I can tell you that there are many reasons, and for many of us, it is exactly who we are. I am a care taker. I have a soft spot for veterans, and those who are handicapped and I can add to their life in a way that others can’t even imagine. I have a high need for intimacy; this profession allows me to have that fulfilled each day. I can touch people’s lives and hearts and make their world better in a way that most will never get to. I have seen the world, and my family didn’t come from money. I have had the privilege of sitting in front of some of the greatest minds of our time and hear straight from their mouth what is going on with the world, in their perspective. I’ve had an education that no class room could replicate. My world has gotten better for just knowing those that I have had the privilege of encountering. But as I said, before one enters this world it should be thought out carefully.
Who are some of the people that you really want to work with but haven’t as of yet?
I am so very excited to be starting up our educational portion of the American Courtesans Project. We will be going into medical centers, universities and other institutions to screen the film and then speak to those watching in order to begin educating people about who we really are. I currently have three appointments with educators in the Criminal Justice curriculum in SF coming up. We will be discussing screening the film in their classes and having us come in to speak. I can’t tell you how jazzed I am about that. I want to begin to educate our youth and I believe if we can do that, soon, our lives will change! So I guess it’s not any one person exactly – more of a type of person.
What sort of things do you like to do when you aren’t working? Any hobbies?
I love to bake and cook. I also love to garden. I am a bit adventurous so I’ve done some crazy things. I’ve rappelled down the side of the Iguasu Falls in Brazil, been lifted up by elephants trunks in the jungle of Thailand, and visited the small towns there where the women are sold out of Pattaya for next to nothing, so sad. I’ve explored the covered bazaar in Istanbul while speaking with gypsies about their lives. I’ve danced at all night parties under the city of Paris to bands that were out of this world. I’ve ridden camels from a camel rescue in Alice Springs as well as gotten to know a couple native Aborigines. With all that said, to me, paradise is waking up in the morning in my own bed, going down stairs to a hot cup of coffee and enjoying my garden with my two fur babies, Annie and Ruby; my favorite thing in this world is to be home and with those I love.
Are there any projects or special events coming up that you would like to promote, if so please do so?
The documentary American Courtesans of course! The film is now available on DVD/Blu-ray/VOD on most major providers. You will find it on iTunes, Google play, Xbox, Amazon, Comcast Cable, Time Warner and many more. We’re asking all those who watch it to please give the film an honest rating and review on whatever platform they watch it, and on IMDb. http://www.americancourtesans.com
Top picture is of Kristen herself. Pictures two and three are screenshots from American Courtesans and the fourth picture is the poster for American Courtesans.