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- Kanye West appears on David Letterman’s Netflix show to talk Trump, TMZ, and Drake Friday 3:27 PM
Kendra Sunderland tells us what she’s gained from viral infamy—and what she’s lost.
This article contains sexually explicit material.
In January 2015, 19-year-old Kendra Sunderland became the most famous camgirl in the United States. A video of her stripping down and masturbating in the Oregon State University library went viral, earning the then-19-year-old the moniker “Oregon State Library Girl,” or “Library Girl” for short. The video garnered her an enormous fanbase among college-age males and blogs like BroBible, not to mention a public indecency citation with a hefty fine. But a few weeks prior to her infamous cam show, Sunderland hadn’t done any cam shows at all. In fact, she says, she didn’t even know what camming was.
A few weeks before filming the video, Sunderland was broke. She had just lost her job at the diner where she worked. She was considering dropping out of college, where she majored in human development. The way she tells it, a friend of hers from the diner had told her about the camming platform MyFreeCams. “He told me you’d make a lot of money, and you don’t really have to work very much, and people on there will buy you anything you want,” she says. (Her current manager, who Sunderland met while working at the diner, says that’s incorrect, and she had told him she was introduced to camming by her brother’s friend.)
Two weeks after signing up for a MyFreeCams account, Sunderland filmed her striptease (and then some) at Oregon State’s Valley Library, while students milled around in the background. Shortly thereafter, the video was uploaded to Pornhub, where OSU students found it and posted about it on YikYak, making Sunderland an overnight viral porn star, in the vein of “Duke porn star” Belle Knox, “Wall Street porn star” Veronica Vain, and Lebanese-born performer Mia Khalifa.
The transition from student to Internet porn celebrity has not been easy for Sunderland. Aside from the public indecency citation, which ultimately cost her a $1,000, she’s lost friends over the incident, as well as earned the censure of her former OSU student colleagues. “It’s the buzz around campus,” OSU student Clifford Harris sniffed to Oregon’s KEZI at the time. “Everyone is talking about it. And I don’t think it was a very appropriate thing to do.”
Sunderland’s parents, who both work at an Oregon hospital, weren’t thrilled, and she was also put in the unenviable position of having to explain to her grandparents both her criminal record and her new adult career.
But after the porn website BangYouLater magnanimously offered to relieve the charge (but not before releasing numerous splashy press releases about the infamous Oregon State Library Girl), Sunderland apparently decided to lean into her newfound fame. She says she’s pursuing many business opportunities in the vein of modeling, and her manager says she’s been camming on her own website, Playwithkendra.com, as of Valentine’s Day 2015. Although she’s been getting porn offers, she doesn’t want to pursue them, though, she says, “it’s not my decision at this time.”
I wanted to check in with Sunderland to see how she was dealing with her newfound notoriety. I caught up with her right before she was preparing to accept the check from BangYouLater’s headquarters in Montreal, which she said was her first time leaving the country. (I also told her to try poutine, but when I explained to her what it was, she didn’t seem too thrilled about the idea.)
You’ve said you dropped out of OSU because you didn’t want to go to college in the first place. So what brought you to Oregon State to begin with?
My best friend from high school applied to a bunch of places, so I applied there. She and I did everything together. It wasn’t really my choice. I told her, “Wherever you go to college, I’ll go.” So OSU gave her the most money, so I went there too.
Are you still friends?
No. We started going our separate ways toward the end of our first year. We stopped being friends just a couple months ago.
How did you decide what you wanted to study at OSU?
When I was in high school, I planned on being a counselor. So I planned on taking psychology and becoming a guidance counselor for teens. I lost interest. Near the end of my first year I got sick pretty bad and was going through a tough side. I kinda gave up on everything. I wasn’t into school much. So at the start of my second year I decided to change it to something different. I decided to try accounting, ’cause my mom told me I’d look good in a business suit. I didn’t get a chance to switch my major. I stopped going to school four weeks into the term. Once I got started with MFC, I decided I didn’t want to be in an office every single day and work with numbers. I decided to stop going to school.
Had you ever considered camming before?
“He told me you’d make a lot of money, and you don’t really have to work very much, and people on there will buy you anything you want.”
No, I didn’t even know what it was. I just knew I didn’t want to do what I was told to do after high school. I didn’t know about camming. I knew I wanted to be a model, though.
So how did you hear about MFC, and why did you decide to do cam shows?
A close friend of mine told me about MFC and Chaturbate. He knew girls that had done it. He told me you’d make a lot of money, and you don’t really have to work very much, and people on there will buy you anything you want. I told him I was broke and it was hard for me to find a job. I’d just lost my job at the diner. So I mentioned it to my boyfriend and I decided to sign up one night.
How did he feel about it?
He said no. He didn’t want me to do it. He didn’t want me putting myself out there like that. He didn’t want to hear what bad things other people would say about it. Things like that. We broke up shortly after.
What was your first show like?
One night I decided to try it out. I got dressed up, did my my makeup, waited till my roommates were asleep, then I went online. There were a bunch of viewers ’cause I was new and they would tip me. I had a lot of people saying nice things, like, “I could see you being the top 100.” They liked the way I looked, and said I was bubbly and fun to talk to.
“They liked the way I looked, and said I was bubbly and fun to talk to.”
How many shows had you done before the library one? Had you done a show in the library before?
I’d been camming for two weeks or so.
What gave you the idea to do it at the library?
Someone said I’d make more money being in a public place. I figured that made sense, and why not try it out. I didn’t think I could get in trouble for it.
Had you ever done anything like that before? Masturbated or had sex in public?
I’d never done anything like that before, no. I decided to do it at the library because I thought there’d be less people, and it’d be cooler in front of books. I was trying to look like a cute college girl or something.
Did you entertain the possibility that you’d get caught or get into trouble?
No, not at all. That’s why in the library video, my hair isn’t done and I’m wearing slouchy clothes. I have a problem of just doing stuff without thinking through the consequences and researching it [beforehand.] Like, looking back, I probably should’ve thought it through, just because of the [public indecency] charge, the trouble, the repercussions. A lot of things have changed because of it.
I’d like to talk to you about what’s changed, but first, how did you find out you’d gone viral? You were already out of school at this point for a few months, right?
“She thought I was dead or pregnant.”
I was using my phone watching YouTube videos and I was getting a bunch of friend requests on Facebook, so I was like, “OK, something’s up.” My ex-boyfriend texted me to check Yik Yak, and it had blown up about Library Girl. Everyone was posting about it and talking about how to find the video. Someone had put it on Pornhub. Then someone I had math class with at OSU recognized me and everyone posted my full name. It just blew up.
Did you know a lot of the people who recognized you from OSU?
No. When I first got there, I kept to myself. It was just me and my roommate. She was my only friend. As time went on, we made friends in the dorm, but at first, [when it blew up on Yik Yak], the majority of people didn’t know who I was. I was just the girl who worked on MFC, and then I was Library Girl.
Did people at OSU know you were camming in the first place?
At first it was just people I trusted, like my close friends. Then people started finding out about it. I told people the truth after my boyfriend broke up with me. I didn’t want to deny it.
How did you feel when it blew up? Were you embarrassed? Or were you like, “This is pretty cool, I’m gonna lean into it”?
At first, I was like, “OK, this isn’t happening right now.” I was with some of my good friends at the time, so I was able to lay back and not really think about it. I figured there’s nothing I can do about it now. I thought there was no point in being upset about it or embarrassed about it.
Then I stayed with my parents and laid low. I wasn’t on my phone much because it was blowing up. I wasn’t doing much besides talking with my parents and making sure they still loved me and stuff like that. Once the weekend was over, I was more serious about starting a career and doing business on my own.
What did your parents say during that initial conversation?
Well, my mom brought it up to me. She called me when she’d found out about it from one of her friends at home. She said we need to talk. She was just like, “This is what I heard from my friends, is this true?” And [when I said yes], she told me, “Well, I thought something worse had happened to you.” She thought I was dead or pregnant. So when she heard what happened, she was kinda relieved, because [she thought] this is something you can move on from. She wanted to make sure I learned my lesson, and she told me she loves me no matter what, and tried to get my mind off everything. My dad said I needed to be careful and think first before I did everything.
I read in the Daily News that they were upset and withdrew funding from you.
That’s not true. In the Daily News, [the reporter] made it sound like my parents quit funding me, but what had happened was I’d stopped going to school and then my parents stopped funding me, because technically my mom was paying me child support and you can’t get child support when you’re not in school.
You say your mom wanted to make sure you’d learned a lesson. I wanna make sure I understand: Did she mean learning your lesson about doing porn, or about doing it in public?
[My parents] wanted to make sure I learned my lesson about breaking the law. My mom says I should choose a different path and rethink my decisions and what I want for my life. She doesn’t agree with it, but she loves me no matter what. They’re not upset with me. They’re not proud, but they love me no matter what.
Do you have any siblings? What do they think?
I have four siblings: two older, two younger. I’m the stereotypical middle sibling, because I’m more of the troublemaker. My older sister is probably the person I’m closest with, and she’s been really supportive of me this whole time. My older brother contacted me asking if I was OK. My younger brother takes a lot of heat from people, so I worry about him the most, and what people will say to him. But he can handle himself. My [8-year-old] little brother is too young to know anything. I practically raised him. I was with him all the time. It just helps to have his support.
“I’ve lost friends. Losing my roommate has been really hard. My poor grandparents calling me has been hard.”
What about your roommate?
She doesn’t want to be a part of my life or my situation even more. She didn’t like me camming. She didn’t want anything to do with it, and she didn’t agree with it. She dealt with it, but once this all happened, she said I’ve changed, and we can’t just go out and have fun without people saying stuff. So I’ll probably move back in with my parents until summertime.
Did you expect OSU’s response? How did you find out about it?
At first, I didn’t think [the school would] find out about it, but then after a while I figured they’d see it. I expected them to say our university doesn’t condone that, and someone would investigate it. But I didn’t expect to be kicked off campus or the fine. Even when I got charged, I didn’t fully understand it until I looked it up. I knew you couldn’t walk down the street naked, but I didn’t think [what I did] was public indecency.
I found out [about the fine] when a police officer came and said he was gonna come question me, on the 27th [of January]. I didn’t have any warning and he called me on an unknown number and he said he was gonna come and question me. It all happened in 20, 15 minutes. Then he said because i was cooperating he wouldn’t take me in. He was nice about it. He said regardless of what you’ve done, you don’t deserve to be harassed, which I haven’t been yet. But I said if I felt unsafe I’d give him a call.
Have you continued camming since this blew up? I saw the stream you did where you hit on the pizza boy.
I was camming after the library incident. That
was from a while ago. I’ve tried to take them down, but as soon as they go down, new ones go up. I guess I knew that could happen. I knew someone could record me and post them. I do kinda regret what I said to the pizza guy, cause I knew he’d reject me. It was just acting. That guy has delivered me pizza a couple times. He’s not really my type. Now everyone thinks I offer [sex] all the time.
Why do you say that?
Because people send a lot of comments, messages.
What kinds of things do they say?
People who have mean things to say, they don’t take the time to message me or post on my wall. Most of my messages I get are [like], “Keep your head, you’re beautiful.” Some people say mean things and I see them, but I try to stay positive.
How did you feel about OSU’s response to your show? My understanding is that you’re now banned from campus for life.
I understand their thoughts toward it. I understand why they don’t want me on there. I haven’t gone back. The only reason I went back on campus is to go back to a basketball game and get books at the library, ’cause it’s near my house. I think [the reaction] seems a little bit dramatic, but I can see it from their perspective. They want to take precautions for the other students.
How did you feel about OSU students saying they were ashamed of the video, and that you’d made the school look bad?
I think the students are being a bit dramatic. I know I put OSU in the spotlight. But I don’t think I made the school look bad or anything. I feel like I got the school some attention. They might see it in the wrong light. But as they say, no publicity is bad publicity.
You mentioned earlier that you weren’t happy with how much your life has changed since the library video. What’s changed about it?
The worst thing is how fast things have changed, how I’ve changed as a person. I’ve lost friends. Losing my roommate has been really hard. My poor grandparents calling me has been hard. As far as they knew, before this happened I was still going to school, because I was too afraid to tell them the truth. Then they called me because they heard on the news I was arrested and kicked out of school. That was tough.
Mostly, I feel bad for everyone else that has to go through this, more than I feel bad for myself. The other people that have to deal with it, like my roommate and my ex-boyfriend, it really sucks for them. So many people are asking them questions about it and it sucks. Especially my ex-boyfriend. He’s always been there for me.
The one who broke up with you after you joined MFC?
Yeah, we’ve been talking a little bit more since all this has happened.
Are you seeing anyone now?
No. I get a lot of marriage proposals. It sucks because I’ll never know if someone wants to know me because of me, because of my video. It’s gonna be hard from now on to know who’s gonna be there to stick around.
Do you think that you’ve changed?
No. Maybe I act a little differently. I used to be the type to want to go to school and do my homework and then I became a different person and wanted to become a model. I guess that has changed my mindset.
“I always just kinda wanted to be the girl in the magazine that people were drooling over and fantasizing about.”
Given all that, would you still have joined MyFreeCams, even if you hadn’t been broke and out of school?
I think I would’ve talked myself into it. It was always my fantasy to do that type of stuff, so I feel like i would’ve started anyways, even if I did have a steady job. I’ve always wanted to call myself a model. I love to have my picture taken. I always just kinda wanted to be the girl in the magazine that people were drooling over and fantasizing about. I’ve always looked at girls in Playboy and the hot girls on the cars and even the girls in the Carl’s Jr. commercials and I’ve wanted to be just like that. That’s always been my fantasy. I’m just starting out, but we’ll see where this takes me.
What are your future plans now?
I wanna have a nice house, a place to call home by the beach. I wanna be close to my sister, so I think I’ll be moving down to California near San Diego to be close to her. It’s definitely been hard, because she’s the person I’m closest with. I don’t wanna go back to school. Once I stopped going to school, I wanted to go back to beauty school, but now with my management and everything going on, I don’t know how much good that will do me. I don’t think it will help me very much.
Are you concerned at all that doing the camgirl stuff will preclude you from pursuing future career options? I mean, you can’t really do a Carl’s Jr. commercial if you’ve been naked on the Internet.
I’m not worried about that. Right now, the adult modeling draws me in more than anything else. I try not to think about what could go wrong. It’ll keep me from chasing my dreams. I don’t want to live a life like that.
Are you going to branch out into porn?
I don’t see myself getting into porn right now. When I was on MFC, I felt in control, and I was the only one in the videos. I don’t want to shoot a video and be told who you’re gonna have sex with and how you’re gonna do it. I’ve heard it’s a hard business to get out of, and it ruins sex. Eventually I hope I can go back to camming. Maybe I will, maybe I won’t. I need to pay more attention to building up a career for myself in modeling.
Is there anything that you think people should know about you that they don’t?
I want people to know I didn’t put out those videos myself. I wasn’t trying to do any of this. People think I’ve been posting videos of Pornhub and that’s not true.
I don’t think it’s fair for people to judge me based on one thing I did. A lot of people have to put their opinion out there, and they judge me for it, and I don’t feel like I deserve to be judged. People are saying I don’t have respect for myself. I respect myself. I have respect for my body. I feel blessed to find MyFreeCams and have a job that I enjoy so much that pays me so much. People are worrying about what I’m doing, when they should be saying, “Good for you. Go live your life.” It’s sad that’s not the case.
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length, and this article has been updated for relevance.
Photo via Kendra Sunderland/Twitter
EJ Dickson is a writer and editor who primarily covers sex, dating, and relationships, with a special focus on the intersection of intimacy and technology. She served as the Daily Dot’s IRL editor from January 2014 to July 2015. Her work has since appeared in the New York Times, Rolling Stone, Mic, Bustle, Romper, and Men’s Health.