Boss It Like

How To Boss It Like… Ela Darling, VR porn pioneer

By Kitty Knowles 9 February 2017
Summary

These leaders are changing our world for the better. We find out how they get the job done.

There are a handful of business leaders and industry figures in Britain who are changing the world. From Cindy Gallop to Lauren Armes and Sally Gunnell, these smart people seem to get an incredible amount done, in an impossibly short space of time.

This morning we’re talking to Ela Darling who is undoubtedly a productivity guru.


Ela Darling has been a waitress, a model, a librarian, and even a member of the Dallas performing circus sideshow Circus della Morte.

She holds a degree in the psychology of criminology, and a Masters in library science, but in recent years she’s made a bold new name for herself: virtual reality porn pioneer.

Darling performed her first porn scene eight years ago, aged 22, and today she’s a domineering force within her industry.

The self-taught VR porn producer founded vrtube.xxx (NSFW) in 2014, and last year launched Cam4VR (NSFW!).

She’s the world’s first virtual reality cam performer.

As founder and President of the USA-wide Adult Performer Advocacy Committee (APAC), Darling is not only an innovator, but a prominent campaigner for performers’ rights.

A busy woman, with big ideas, The Memo asked Darling how she gets it all done.

What time do you get up, and what part of your morning routine sets you up for the day?

I typically wake up between 6-7:30 am. The company I work with, CAM4VR, is on the east coast so I have meetings that start around 8am some mornings.

Usually the thing that gets me out of bed is the sound of impatient paws tapping on the hardwood floor by my bed: my small handsome dog Gonzo informing me it’s time for him to go outside.

Then I grab a Soylent and kill whatever time I have before my first meeting of the day checking email, Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit.

Read more: What does drinking your lunch for 2 weeks feel like?

What smartphone do you have?

I have an iPhone 6, 128 GB. I think it’s Gold, but I haven’t seen its bare flesh in a very long time.

I am a scourge amongst iPhones. In some alternate universe, iPhone Plus phablets tell horror stories about me to small iPods and Apple Watches to scare them into good behaviour.

My phone lives in a durable, protective Speck case with a CAM4VR sticker on the back. It never leaves that case, because it knows what’s good for it.

What apps or methods do you use to be more productive?

I use Slack all day long to keep a consistent dialogue going with my business partner. We are both introverts who value efficiency so it saves a lot of small talk and discussions about minutiae.

I still haven’t found a productivity app that I like enough to use for longer than a week, so I take a lot of notes on my phone.

If I have a task I need to remember to do, I’ll schedule it in my calendar with an alert a few hours ahead of time so I don’t forget. I’m not great at remembering deadlines so this helps me be better.

I also do this to schedule annual reminders for things I hear in conversation: if I’m talking to someone and they mention their birthday or the date that they suffered a tragedy or loss, I mark it in my calendar so I will remember to give them extra affection on that day.

I take notes on my phone for a variety of things: I keep a list of makeup that I consistently use or that makeup artists introduce me to so I’ll remember what I like when I get to Sephora, a standard packing list for when I travel, and lists of bullet points I want to hit when I speak at events or give talks.

I keep a running to-do list and mark off completed tasks with the balloon emoji, a tiny celebration for small victories.

I’m also just discovering that I’ve been taking notes about weird dreams I have had. I’ve done this several times and completely forgotten about it until writing this!

How many people, outside of family, do you meet in a day? And broadly speaking, who are these people?

In an average day, I only see my business partner, some of the people I work with at CAM4VR via Skype, and the guy who sells me coffee.

I’m very introverted and I need a lot of solo non-social time to charge up for the days when I’m “on” as Ela Darling and meeting 20-100 people at a time.

Those tend to be people at events and conferences: VR parties, tech conferences, adult expos, fans, other entrepreneurs who want to collaborate on cool stuff.

When I’m in a social space, I can shine and dazzle, but it takes a lot of solitude for me to save up the emotional investment required to thrive in those spaces.

I get most of my social interaction online through secret Facebook groups. My closest friends are people who understand that my love for them thrives even in the absence of physical presence.

What book have you read, either recently or in the past, that has inspired you?

Right now I’m reading Anti-fragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, which is a lot of fun. I like the concepts he discusses and I like how this curmudgeonly persona subtly shines through in his words.

I usually try to read a good non-fiction book interspersed with fun young adult novels as a distraction.

Before I got into porn and VR, I was a Reference Librarian. One of my focuses was Young Adult Librarianship and I’ve held on to the spirit of that.

What advice would you give for people who are eager to get into your industry?

I live at the intersection of many industries and I have different advice for people depending on which aspect of my work they’re interested in pursuing:

If you are interested in VR Camming: talk to me! I am always looking for new adult cam performers who are passionate and enthusiastic about VR and I will soon be looking for some great new personas for CAM4VR.

If you want to be a porn performer: join the Adult Performer Advocacy Committee (APAC, a non-profit of which I am the president). We offer education and resources to new performers as well as a Model Bill of Rights.

This is a complex world with cultural standards and expectations that are hard to learn without guidance.

Talk to people like APAC about the opportunities and restrictions of the adult industry BEFORE you go down this career path or begin talks with an agent.

By performing in adult entertainment, you become a member of a marginalized class of people whose stigma is pervasive and unjust.

Do not embark casually upon this path. You owe it to yourself to do some research first and APAC is here to help you.

If you want to produce VR porn, particularly if you’re coming to the table without a background in porn, spend as much time learning about ethics, rights, best practices, and laws that govern porn as you spend learning about VR production and post-production.

You will do a service to yourself and the people whom you work with by taking time to understand the nuances in regulation as well as the complex and comprehensive societal stigma that plagues our industry.

Study the Model Bill of Rights and the Professional Code of Conduct put out by APAC. Learn about the OSHA regulations over porn in the state of California and participate in those discussions.

As I write this, I’m still recovering from a 23 hour day driving to and from Oakland to testify to the Cal OSHA Division about workplace safety standards in porn.

If you don’t understand those regulations, you could be heavily fined. Acquaint yourself with obscenity law and 18 USC § 2257 like your life depends on it, because your liberty certainly might.

When do you work until? Are you still sending emails in the night? Or do you have a wind down routine?

I don’t really stop working, exactly. I’ll take an hour away from my computer to run, work out, or go on a hike, but I am still accessible by phone.

I make dinner around 6 or 7 pm and get back to my laptop around 9 pm, but I’m still accessible by phone. I’ll take a day away from my primary work to do political advocacy, porn advocacy, or a porn shoot (very rare these days), but I’m still accessible by phone.

You might be noticing a pattern here. The only time I can’t be reached over Skype, Intercom, text, or email is when I’m driving, sleeping or showering, and I probably spend less time on the latter two than I’d like to admit.

The thing I loved about being a porn performer was that it was a reprieve from the consistently long hours I committed to in school which resulted in earning my Master’s in Library and Information Science when I was 21 years old.

The thing I love about VR and CAM4VR is the sense of pride, accomplishment and ownership I have over the work I do which makes long hours feel intrinsically rewarding.

If you could ask your idol one question, who would it be, and what would you ask?

Idolatry is one of the few sins I don’t commit.

I realised long ago that when I put someone on a pedestal, I separate myself from them and all the great things I admire about them, distancing myself from achieving the things I respect in them.

That said, the people I idolise the most are people I know or have met, like Nina Hartley for her lifelong commitment to educating people about sex and consent and her defiant insistence of her worth as a porn performer.

Or Jessica Drake and Lorelei Lee for their relentless political advocacy on behalf of sex workers.

Perhaps John Carmack for being one of the most brilliant minds of our age.

It’s the people in my work and social circles whom I’ve amassed respect for, in getting to know them and the work that they do.

Come back next Thursday for our next #BossItLike interview, and get in touch if you know a leader who’s also a productivity guru for us to talk to.