Within the past 2 months, 3 female performers died, leaving the circumstances surrounding their passing rather unclear.
Mercedes Grabowski, known as August Ames, who suffered from chronic depression, died of asphyxia due to hanging in December 2017, after being bullied on social media for refusing to shoot a scene with male gay actor. After being branded as “homophobe,” the 23-year-old actress had repeatedly tweeted that she “loved the gay community” but didn’t want to put her health in peril.
whichever (lady) performer is replacing me tomorrow for @EroticaXNews, you’re shooting with a guy who has shot gay porn, just to let cha know. BS is all I can say🤷🏽♀️ Do agents really not care about who they’re representing? #ladirect I do my homework for my body🤓✏️🔍— August Ames (@AugustAmesxxx) 3 декабря 2017 г.
Two days ago her husband, Kevin Moore, posted a statement on his blog, revealing the details of the day when she went missing and was found dead. Ames took screenshots of all of the bullying, including many tweets that were deleted after she died.
31-year-old Yuri Luv, whose real name is Yurizan Beltran, was found dead in her apartment mid-December 2017, following a drug overdose. Just a day before her death, she posted a picture on Instagram with a mysterious caption that read “Bye Felicia,” prompting speculation that she suffered from some sort of persecution.
According to The Sun, her colleague Nickey Milo said: "Beltran died of an apparent drug overdose… There were pills found near the bed." Her friends claimed that no one expected she would take her own life.
On January 10, 2018, 20-year-old Olivia Nova’s death was confirmed by her agent.
“We came to know Olivia as a beautiful girl with a very sweet and gentle personality,” a statement read.
The circumstances of her death are yet unknown; the coroner’s report is expected to take from six to eight weeks.
Porn star Olivia Nova (20) was found dead in Las Vegas. Cause of death unknown. She is the 4th porn star to die in the adult film industry in the last 3 months. pic.twitter.com/XrK6LE68JX— Breaking911 (@Breaking911) 9 января 2018 г.
‘Cyber-bullying, Pressure at Work’
Their colleagues have spoken out about the pressure exerted on adult industry actors after the death of the aforementioned performers. Odette Delacroix, aged 28, who has opened up about her battle with depression, confessed that porn stars face abuse and cyberbullying every day.
“The thing that made these girls — and also killed them I believe — was social media,” she said.
According to New York Post, Delacroix said that she knew all the girls, and shared her memories about them:
“August, like me, had struggled with depression and we’d tried numerous treatments. She also suffered a lot of online bullying after getting some minor cosmetic work done and the ageism left people worrying if she’s be aged out.”
“Yuri was also gorgeous and successful but she had told me that she hated how an 18-year-old would take her job — even though she would nail it and the other girl would show up high. “I know she had lost a couple of gigs because of that but she had just hosted a birthday party which lots of people went to and she seemed very happy, then the next thing we know she’s gone.”
Moreover, Delacroix mentioned that it’s not only the bullying that puts pressure on actors, the competition for work is so stressful that it is easier to find a role in mainstream acting than in porn.
“Porn is a tough first job — I took my time before I even shot a scene with a guy for instance — but with the younger girls they are pressured to do that in their third week in the job.”
She revealed that many actresses are under pressure to look young so that girls who are even younger won’t replace them, and avoid talking about their health issues:
“Plus we’re all afraid to talk about any problems we have because it’s so competitive. If I say I’m depressed, they’ll just use someone else.”
Actress Tasha Reign, chairperson of the Adult Performer Advocacy Group, has been struggling to improve working conditions for porn stars.
“You are somebody doing a legal job and you pay your taxes and are proud of what you do,” she says, “but you’re not being treated like an equal."
Reign believes that porn performers should be provided with access to adequate health care and substance abuse treatment:
“I don’t see any politicians advocating for sex-workers’ rights. Grassroots [action] is great, but we need people running for bigger positions saying, ‘Yes, we care about all women and adult actresses as well.’”
It is clear that there will be prejudices toward porn performers in society, which will inevitably deepen existing symptoms of depression or OCD, but Reign has been urging people to demonstrate humanity towards actors.
"I think it has something to do with feeling like your family and friends don’t accept you, and society doesn’t accept you,” Reign says. “It wears and tears on you."
Some industry innovators have already taken steps to ensure performers are safe, for instance, cam website ManyVids has hired an in-house support worker:
"With the passing of August Ames and the other beautiful, talented adult performers, we felt there was a need to provide adult-content creators with the tools to make them feel like someone is there for them," says ManyVids publicist Stephanie Princivil.