Lisa Ann on MILFs, Belle Knox, and what it’s like being the Internet’s most popular porn star

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Earlier this week, Pornhub Insights released a study of the platforms and operating systems favored by the site’s users. While the study revealed some fascinating tidbits about porn watchers’ technological predilections—really, you guys? Almost 5 percent of you are streaming porn on the Sony PS Vita? Are you in third grade, or just cheap and lazy?—it also revealed the most popular search terms for each platform, from the iPhone to the Blackberry:

Via Pornhub Insights

The undisputed champion? Gov. Sarah Palin (or should I say, Serra Paylin) herself, 42-year-old MILF porn star Lisa Ann.

Lisa Ann’s dominance in the world of porn search terms is not all that surprising: Earlier this year, she also came out on top (pun intended, sorry not sorry) in a Pornhub Insights post on the most searched-for porn terms in the United Kingdom, easily besting other popular search terms like “cumshot,” “lesbian,” and even her own category, “MILF.” According to Sex.com (NSFW), she’s also the second most searched-for woman on porn sites worldwide, ranking between fellow performer Alexis Texas and pop star Selena Gomez.

Although Lisa Ann’s popularity in the porn world is undisputed, especially following her star-making turn as vice presidential candidate Serra Paylin in the 2008 porn parody Who’s Nailin’ Paylin?, she’s also made waves in the SFW world as well, voicing a character in Grand Theft Auto and hosting her own fantasy football radio show, Lisa Ann Does Fantasy, on Sirius XM. (A diehard football fan, she also hosted a Super Bowl party at the New York City gentlemen’s club HQ NYC, which is where the Daily Dot first crossed paths with her.)

Most recently, Lisa Ann has started mentoring Belle Knox, a.k.a. the Duke porn star, who stars in the upcoming film School of MILF 2: The Education of Belle Knox (really NSFW). (Full disclosure: I have not yet seen this film, but I have no doubt this education will have something to do with sex.) The Daily Dot recently caught up with Lisa Ann to discuss her role in the “education” of Knox, the history of MILF porn, and what it’s like to be the most searched-for porn term in the world next to “cartoons.”

Congratulations on coming out on top. That’s quite an honor.

Thank you. It was funny, for the one with—I think it was the Windows Phone, it was almost like a tie between me and cartoons. You figure all the people who are giving their kids their phones to keep them entertained while they’re at the market or whatever, and the rest of it is kids who are keeping themselves entertained, you know?

There was also a similar study a few months ago, that said you were the most searched-for porn star in the U.K. What do you think it is about you and your work that makes you so popular online, over all these other porn stars?

Well, I’ve been around this industry for a long period of time, since the early ’90s. I’ve stayed relevant by continuing to shoot, trying new types of scenes, and growing my fan base in many ways. Every year I pick up extra projects I’m involved in that introduce me to new people. … I sign pictures in different venues, so I’m meeting different demographics. As with any celebrity, the more people who meet you in person, the more fans you build, because there’s something about meeting someone in person that you never forget them. And I travel two to three weekends a month … so I get myself out there regularly, which has kept me widely known and enjoyed.

So you think it’s mostly due to your self-marketing and building up your own brand.

Well, I think it’s marketing, but porn is really different than any other business when it comes to the back end. Your fans really do choose whether there’s still gonna be a demand for new scenes. So your fans keep you alive. You can do as many appearances as you want, and you can branch out as much as you want, but you gotta meet those fans. They’re out there doing the legwork, so I think my interaction with my fans is going well enough that they love me and want more of me.

How do you think the industry has changed since you’ve entered it?

I think because there are so many more different types of websites now and everything’s been broken down by genre, if you’re a teen or a MILF or big boob or big butt or what have you, that allows so many more people to come in and maybe do 10 or 20 scenes, but not necessarily get hired again after those 10 or 20 scenes. So I think more girls are getting into the business, but they’re not having as long a career as they would have had.

So girls have a shorter shelf life if they enter the business now than they previously did?

Yeah, definitely. I also think the industry isn’t as fussy about who they bring in, because we do need fresh faces all the time. So it’s just like anything else: There’s no guarantee your career is gonna kick. But I think if the girls think while doing scenes, “How can I stay up? How can I not be asked to come back and do more?” It could be something as simple as their look, whether they’re popular on the Internet, and that way we could read traffic and see whose scenes are generating traffic. It’s that cut-and-dried. Just look at a stat on a girl and see what kind of traffic she brings.

You’re mentoring Belle now. What kind of things do you tell her, and girls in general, about staying relevant in the industry?

I think the most important thing is to focus on a lot of different things, from feature dancing to adult bookstores to nightclub hosting to interviews to working on your Twitter and your Instagram. There’s constantly something productive to be doing to stay relevant. Keeping touch with companies you shoot for, making sure you’re promoting the movie you just shot. There’s always something. I just tell them to stay positive and active.

From left: Nina Harley, Belle Knox, Lisa Ann. Photo via Lisa Ann Productions/Flush

What kind of advice do you give Belle specifically?

For Belle, it’s been interesting. She got thrown into the limelight very quickly. I think most girls had a chance to understand their whole career before it took over their life. Everyone knew what Belle did in a very short period of time. Most girls are able to get away with doing a whole series of scenes before the whole world knew them as a porn star. I’ve taught Belle a lot more awareness of her body, her posing, her connection with the camera, her connection with people on set, how to interact on set, how to make yourself more comfortable in a new situation. On a set, you’re meeting new people every day, whether it’s a lighting guy or a scene partner or whoever, in an intimate, personal situation. There’s a fine line and a balance you have to strive for in order to be a relaxed, good performer and also be a strong businesswoman in this industry.

You also got very big very fast with Who’s Nailin’ Paylin. How did you feel when you heard about Belle’s story?

Well, I had already been in the business for a long time before Paylin. It was different. I was 35 when that happened, with 15 years in the business already, so for me it was just a bigger project than something I did before, but it was manageable at that age in that situation. Whereas for Belle, she’s 19. I remember just saying to her, “How do you manage something so intense at such a young age? It takes over your life.” And she wasn’t prepared. I don’t think anything can prepare you for that.

When she was first coming came up, there was sort of a backlash in the industry over her success. Have you been helping her navigate industry politics?

For sure. Again, when she became instantly famous, she didn’t know who was who yet. She had never had a walkthrough or met all these people at AVN or Xbiz. She didn’t know the business yet, and so much of the business is about introducing people to people, and explaining the history of how they got into the business, and learning about the people who were there before you. I have been helping her with that. The industry is hard on anybody who gains a lot of popularity quickly. It’s a very competitive business, so I think all the girls her age in the business were just, “How did this girl come out and get famous so fast?” and they made it uncomfortable for Belle. I also know some of the interviews she did, some of the answers she gave didn’t help her case. But that’s the simple mistake of a 19-year-old.

I was actually reading an article the other day saying that young woman/older woman pairings are actually one of the more popular subgenres in porn, particularly mother-daughter. Are you getting asked to book these jobs more often?

Oh, yeah. Uh-huh.

Why do you think that is? What’s the appeal?

We go through different ebbs and flows with what the fans want in that moment. Whether it’s season, whether it’s—who knows. But right now it’s a lot of mommy-daughter stuff, a lot of borderline incestuous stuff, a lot of stuff that a lot of us are just like, “OK, when is this gonna pass?” A lot of the girls do have kids, so they’re like, “I can’t do these scenes!” And I’m like, “I totally understand.” Mentally, even though you’re just acting and not doing something real, if you’re putting something out there, it can be a little traumatic.

How do you personally feel about shooting those kinds of scenes?

I enjoy it. It’s all about finding out if the girl is really into girls, if she’s comfortable or nervous, how you connect, and that kind of thing. If it’s organic when you’re together. Age doesn’t matter nearly as much as chemistry.

So when do you think MILF porn started becoming such a thing? Was it while you were coming up, or before, or after?

I’d say it was around 2005. That’s when we started shooting a lot more MILF, and again, the Internet demanded more genres, and that and teen were constantly searched on the Internet. Seeing that the demographic of viewers on their phone looking at Pornhub or tube sites is usually a teen, it makes perfect sense that they created this drive … And young guys love the older girl, and it just got bigger and bigger and bigger, and I think in 2008, when I did Paylin, that just pushed it to the next level, because Palin was another level of a MILF, and for a lot of fans, it was a double-edged thing. “Oh my God, I really wanna have sex with Sarah Palin!” “Oh my God, I really want to have sex with older women.”

Did you see Palin as, like, the ultimate form of MILF?

No, but I think a lot of fans did. I mean, she does have kids. (laughs)

You said in a recent interview that you’re thinking about branching out into other non-porn venues.

I’m not thinking about it. I already have. This is my second year doing my sports show on Sirius, Lisa Ann Does Fantasy. I did a host gig for Howard Stern on Tuesday which will be syndicated tomorrow. I’ve been living on two coasts for three years because I’ve been working in the sports world and growing this part of my career, doing interviews at games and at events. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and fantasy football and fantasy sports in general are really taking off and growing so fast. So I really lucked out by finding something that doesn’t affect me directing, producing, shooting. It’s something I can look forward to retiring and falling back on, though I’ll always be directing and producing. But I have no timeline on it, I just know there’s gonna come a time where I don’t wanna travel as much and I’ll want to settle down in my own place. It’s hard being on the road 19 to 20 days a month.

Do you find that you miss out on employment opportunities in the sports world because of what you do for a living?

Not so much. I feel like everybody’s been incredibly helpful and open. I’m aware of what my limits are, I don’t want to inconvenience anyone or make anyone feel uncomfortable. Fantasy is a great role for me because it works both ways: You’ve got fantasy sports; you’ve got a fantasy girl. And it’s a great demographic because a lot of my fans are men, of course, and they’re into sports, and they’re able to call my show and tell me who they should start and have communication with me on another level.

So if you plan on keeping one foot in the industry, where do you see it going? What do you think is in the future for porn?

Well, technology is what really defines the next change. The last change was the Internet. There’ll be an incredible demand for new things, created by fan power of what they want this month, this summer, this year. I don’t think porn is going anywhere. There’s more and more girls are getting in the business, and more and more people are able to do this with their friends, their family knowing. There’s a different level of acceptance now. I’m seeing it open up to people, and it’ll be easier to get involved with than ever, because now you just put your picture online and you’ll have an agent in five minutes.

What do you think is behind that different level of acceptance? What’s the driving force behind the industry opening up?

I think the world in general is opening up. You see regular television shows that show stuff that’s just as horrific as what you see in porn. Reality TV, husbands and wives fighting on television, haggling housewives that are too rich for their own good. There’s a lot out there that’s way worse than porn.

Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that Lisa Ann appears in a scene with Belle Knox in their new movie. The phrasing of this was unclear, and Belle Knox is the star of School of MILF 2 : The Education of Belle Knox.

Photo by Gary/Flickr (CC BY SA 2.0)

EJ Dickson

EJ Dickson

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.