Meet the mystery man behind a new reality-TV porn show

Thousands have applied for a shot at adult stardom -- and $1 million -- on a new Web series hosted by Belle Knox

Topics: Pornography, porn, Sex, Love and Sex, Editor's Picks,

Meet the mystery man behind a new reality-TV porn show

In hindsight, it was inevitable. What else was this cultural period of sex tapes, selfies, sexts and the the democratization of Internet porn leading up to, if not a reality-TV competition for adult stardom? But of course.

This moment has arrived in the form of “The Sex Factor,” a Web-based series promising a $1 million prize and “instant” superstardom. It will be hosted by Belle Knox, she of recent Duke University fame, and judged by porn stars Keiran Lee, Tori Black, Lexi Belle and Remy LaCroix. The contestants, eight women and eight men, will have no prior experience in the adult industry. They will be put through a series of adult challenges — from nude modeling to sex on camera — and the viewers will decide the winners via Twitter. It’s “The X Factor,” only with explicit sex and no Simon Cowell (although one of the judges does have a British accent).

Now, how is the series being funded? Who is in charge? Where exactly is it being filmed? No one really knows. As of now, the show, which is scheduled to premiere later this year, only exists as a website, a Twitter account and a promotional video. To my surprise, talking to “The Sex Factor’s” producer only raised more questions. He gave me only his first name, which he requested that I leave out of this article, and declined all questions about himself. But this mystery man did agree to an interview about the show. I spoke with him by phone about this project, which he calls “an Ivy League crash course” on adult stardom, the demand for X-rated reality TV, and why relatability is more important than looks in porn today.

First of all, what is your role in this project?

I’m the owner.

Does that mean you’re funding the project?

Uh, [those are] sort of private type of details. Unfortunately, I can’t release that kind of information.

Did you come up with the idea for it?

I did. I came up with the idea and developed the concept.

Where did you get the idea?

Reality TV is an interesting phenomenon and nobody has done anything interesting from a reality perspective as it relates to adult. While they stage reality porn — like a girl’s walking down the sidewalk and a car rolls up and says, “Hey baby,” those type of things — there’s really nothing that is true reality. And this is what people want to see. They want to see a mainstream pop-culture adult brand that is genuine and has people just like them performing and learning and sort of taking this Ivy League crash course in how to become a porn star from five of the top 10 stars in the entire world. It’s a very unique experience, both for the contestants and the viewers, as they’ll really be along for the ride, no pun intended.

What are you looking for in contestants?

In contestants, we’re really just looking for marketable, reality-TV personalities. There’s really nothing specific as it relates to what size or color you are, that doesn’t matter. It also doesn’t matter necessarily how hot you are. It just matters if you’re exciting and marketable and people can relate to you and you can develop an emotional attachment with the viewers. Of course it’s going to help if you’re good-looking and look good naked, but at the end of the day it’s about whether you can relate with the fans.

What will the content of the show actually be like?

The first two or three episodes are going to focus on introducing the concept and then also the open casting call that we’re going to host in-person here in San Francisco. Then, during that time, we’re going to get a lot of contestant back stories, we’re going to do interviews, see how they play with the audience and see what the fans think of them. That’s going to be a huge determining factor in who the eight finalists are — eight guys and eight girls.

There’s only one winner, right?

Two winners. One male and one female.

Does the prize get split between them or do they each get $1 million?

That’s to be decided.

Once you’ve decided on your contestants, what will you have them do to compete for this title?

There will be various challenges. It’s gonna start out slow, maybe with some nude modeling. Then it’s going to progress to adult scenes, all the way up to fully explicit sex and beyond.

Will they be having sex with each other or professional porn performers?

A combination of the two.

What’s the judging process like?

It will be a combination of the four judges’ feedback with the viewers’. They’ll be analyzed on a bunch of categories that we’ll announce later.

What does it take to make a popular porn star these days?

It’s all relatability. If people look at Remy’s Twitter, she really does a great job of giving her fans an inside look into her life: Here’s where I am, here’s who I’m with, here’s how I’m feeling. It’s just a question of being genuine and relatable. The fans want to get to know you, rather than in years past, whether it’s just tube sites, DVDs, VHS or old school magazines, you were worlds apart from these performers. And now with social media and in this millennial age of porn you have to be cutting-edge and have that access, otherwise you’re not going to be successful. So that’s how we’re trying to change the paradigm.

Have you gotten more female or male interest in being on the show?

Male, but a significant amount from both.

How many people are going to be willing to make this seemingly huge leap — they’re not going to do just one film, they’re going to commit to a whole reality show about it?

Thousands. We’ve already gotten thousands of inquiries from people who want to apply.

Why do you think they’re applying to the show rather than charting their own course in porn?

Because it’s very difficult to be a successful porn star. It’s very easy to get into porn, you can definitely find production companies that will pay you 1,000 bucks or 2,000 bucks and then it’s out there. But with regards to building your brand, and becoming a superstar, a global phenomenon like Tori Black, it takes a six-year body of work, a ton of talent, a lot of hours. This opportunity is unique in that these people are going to become instant superstars. We’re facilitating an environment by which we manage everything for them. By opting into that, they’re taking a huge risk, but in return we’re giving them a huge reward.

Tracy Clark-Flory

Tracy Clark-Flory is a staff writer at Salon. Follow @tracyclarkflory on Twitter and Facebook.

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