In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On producer Rashida Jones reflected on the mistakes that were made with the original documentary: “I think that many people within the industry felt like the movie marginalized and further stigmatized sex work, which was not our intention at all.” It’s perplexing to reckon her revelation with the litany of pushback the current iteration of Hot Girls Wanted has received.
Released not even two weeks ago, the latest installment of the Hot Girls Wanted brand is already suffering some harsh criticism and accusations from within the sex industry. Some sex workers have alleged that their content was used without their consent and that they weren’t fully informed of Rashida Jones’ involvement. The Free Speech Coalition even issued a formal denouncement. I reached out to the producers, the film’s media contact, and Herzog & Company for clarification and (by the time of this post, 10AM EST) I still have not heard back.
But they weren’t afraid to talk to Variety! In an interview yesterday, it seems the other two producers may have dialed back their sympathy for marginalized sex workers. “Criticism of the series, she [producer Ronna Gradus] said, is likely fueled by sensitivity over how the industry is often portrayed in mainstream media—and that performers who have spoken out against the show may be doing so because they feel they have to. ‘The industry is very defensive about people coming in and shining a light on the industry and doing stories about it,’ she said, adding, ‘The allegations that have come out are probably the result of pressure they are feeling to stand in solidarity with the industry.’”
Gia Paige is one of the performers featured in the series. Her legal identity was exposed in the series and she alleges that the producers used her footage without her permission after she backed out. She was kind enough to respond to my queries via email.
So, to start, could you walk me through the chain of events? How did the producers find you and what made you decide to participate in the documentary? Some sex workers have said that they weren’t aware that this was a Hot Girls Wanted production? Were you fully informed or did you feel mislead in anyway?
So, how this all started…Riley [Riley Reynolds, Paige’s ex-partner, who is featured in the first film and the miniseries] knew they wanted to film something to follow up on his progress and they had been bugging him for about six months to talk me into participating. I kept saying no. And then it came closer to them wanting to film and he would occasionally tell me that although he knew I was uncomfortable with it it would mean a lot to him. So I felt bad and ultimately decided to meet up with Jill [Bauer] to discuss boundaries. We met at a Starbucks with Riley and I told her that I didn’t like the last movie and I was only doing this for Riley. I told her I would only discuss me and him and the industry and they she was supposedly okay with that.
But ultimately, you decided to pull out of the series, correct? What lead to that decision? Were you under the impression that you had amicably severed ties with the producers? Had you been comfortable with the producers line of questioning beforehand?
I pulled out of production maybe twice while filming. They were not respecting my boundaries at all and at one point I even walked away from them to cry because I was starting to feel like it was a really bad idea and that I was getting played. They kept pushing me to talk about my family and I didn’t want to. My family has nothing to do with my job. They are fully supportive of what I do, my whole family is. But I don’t want to throw them up as a target on Netflix. If anyone was going to suffer the brunt of this shitty documentary it was going to be me, myself, and I. So, Riley told them I wanted to be cut out and they agreed but also pressured him about not having enough footage for his episode so they talked him into taking them to meet his parents in exchange for cutting my part…They agreed.
A representative from Hot Girls Wanted suggested that fair use is a reasonable argument for using sex worker footage without their consent. Did and do you understand what fair use means, and do you agree with that argument?
I didn’t really understand what “fair use” is, but it sounds an awful lot like “I’m going to hide behind a legal term to save my ass” to me.
Your legal identity was exposed, correct? How prepared for that were you? What have the repercussions been? Do you have any advice for sex workers that are outed?
Upon having my first and middle name (and my personal Facebook) aired on the show—someone found out my last name and has been sending me creepy emails claiming to have the same name as me. I shut down all forms of personal social media for now and I can’t shut down my work ones because I am an independent model and a lot of my bookings are done on there. It sucks. I feel really violated. I shared a lot of myself and it still wasn’t enough. And I share so much of myself in the Porn community. At this moment I don’t really have any advice to girls that have been outed. I’m sure in a few months I’ll have something insightful to say but for now just don’t trust anyone with your personal info. No matter how good their intention seems.
Would you be comfortable speculating as to why Riley decided to participate in the miniseries after the reception for the first Hot Girls Wanted went so poorly?
He did it purely to promote his website I guess, or so he says. I guess he got a lot of traffic off of the last one so it was beneficial to do it again. I don’t know if it was worth it to him now.
What did you think of the Hot Girls Wanted logo? Did you like it?
I don’t know if they’re lazy or what but to me I feel like they didn’t put too much thought into the logo. Could have been anything. Didn’t have to look like a wifi connection coming from a vagina.
Tits and Sass will be publishing two separate reviews of the miniseries later this week.