Q&A With Queer Porn Star Jiz Lee

This interview was originally posted in 2009 on my blog Cinnamon Nutmeg while I was studying Asian American studies at UCD. She’s pretty rad and I thought I’d repost it since the blog is being closed and the interview was pretty popular with readers and Jiz Lee fans.


I found out about Jiz Lee through NoFauxxx.com, and right when I saw her my immediate reaction–besides “omg an androgynous Asian in porn?!”–was she looks super cool.

And I was totally right. I e-mailed her and told her about the article I was writing for my class, and she was very nice. I am so happy she agreed to answer my questions (which there were a lot of btw) because I was really curious about how she started her career and her thoughts on the portrayal of Asians in porn.

Here is the full Q&A (Also, NSFW).


AMY: How old are you and how do you identify yourself (race, gender, sexual orientation)?
JIZ: I am currently 28 years old (1980’s child – year of the Monkey). I identify as hapa, and as queer. My gender identity fluctuates between genderqueer/trans/dyke.

AMY: Why did you choose a career in pornography?
JIZ: Exhibitionism is erotic to me, and I enjoy a sense of power, validation, and excitement that comes from being watched. When I had moved to the Bay Area in the late 90’s, I saw dyke porn for the first time and realized there was a place for me to contribute to the genre. The first thing I saw was SIR Productions’ Hard Love/How to Fuck in High Heels which I caught in a movie theater with a bunch of other queers. Later on, I sought to find pornstars who were mixed-race/POC, and I came across a VHS copy of Sex: Flesh in Blood by transgender Asian American director Christopher Lee. It stars an all Asian cast including Jade-Blue Eclipse – an androgynous dyke with tattoos and punky hair. That was inspiring to me and helped add fuel to the fire of wanting to act in porn. I was so excited to see people like me on screen — and little did I know that I could also be that person to excite others.

jizlee

AMY: How did you get into the pornography industry? Who did you talk to and what was it like when you first started?
JIZ: It was a matter of being at the right place at the right time. I was curating a gallery exhibit and met up with a photographer I was interested in — Shawn, who is now my lover going on 4 years. We met at her apartment and talked about how I was also interested in modeling for her, and she wrote down Shine Louise Houston’s email address on a post-it. Shine was a friend of hers who was looking for models for her first film. Six months later, Shawn and I were co-stars in Pink & White Production’s The Crash Pad in a scene which won “Hottest Dyke Sex Scene” from the Feminist Porn Awards. It was great working with Shine and I’ve been in all of her feature films since then. Today there are more opportunities for queers to do porn. Madison Young is directing videos in SF, NYC, and LA. NoFauxxx.com is releasing their first DVD. Trannywood Pictures is a great place for FtMs to get it on. Every month, Pink & White Productions shoots for it’s website CrashPadSeries.com, which is a great opportunity for queers to try out porn. If you don’t see yourself (your skin, your gender, your size, your sex style) out there, apply! I believe that we each have to ‘be the change we want to see in the world’.

There wasn’t much out there when I first started — plus all the video companies and directors who had made the films that first excited me seemed to have vanish from the scene. So I was thrilled to work with Pink & White — I sensed I was going to be a part of a new and diverse queer sexual revolution. To this day I still recieve emails and messages from people who have just now seen The Crash Pad and want to share with me how amazing it was for them to see it. I’ve been fortunate to have done about 14 films and have been on a number of websites in the five years following my first scene. I hope to inspire people like me to apply and to get out there. Together we can make one big queer mixed-race porno snowball effect in the industry.

AMY: Is there anything that has happened in your career that you did not expect?
JIZ: I didn’t expect it to be considered a ‘career’! Porn is something I’ve done ‘on the side’ — my passion is in arts and technology. So being a ‘porn star’ was something that I didn’t really identify as until about a year ago, when I realized that people were interested in what I had to say about my experiences. Recently I was invited by Belladonna to do a casting call with her, and I’m excited to see where this ‘career’ will take me — so far it’s been fantastic to see a community build around queer porn, here in SF, and online as well.

AMY: What have you learned about the porn industry and the obstacles that Asian Americans and Hapas face in porn?
JIZ: I have to start by saying that I am an outsider to ‘mainstream’ porn. And to be honest I am not interested in watching films with Asian women paired with white men. It’s just not my thing, even though I have friends who date white men — I love my friends and their partners, I just don’t care to watch that kind of porn. Therefore I haven’t seen a lot of it and because I’m not a straight “G/B” model I’m not sure very familiar with that area in the industry. I’d recommend talking to folks like Asia Carerra, Mika Tan, Kasuni (formerly Kasumi), Tera Patrick, and Roxy Jezel, Lucy Lee, and DragonLily.

I can however speak to queer porn, and say that there are not enough Asian Americans/Hapas applying. There are few obstacles — and they’re usually our own fears. For example, our fears of our families’ disappointment, which many queers have already gone through just for being gay! Sometimes when we don’t see ourselves represented, we think we’re not wanted. However I’ve noticed in queer porn that that couldn’t be further from the truth! I’ve had virtually no obstacles working in the industry. The worse thing that’s ever happened is I was called ‘Oriental’ by a reviewer — however there were also a handful of reviewers out there who actually contacted me and asked if ‘Hapa’ is the correct word they should use for me, and ask what pronouns I prefer. That’s progress! It’s a new world for a lot of mainstream people. Hapas are a new demographic and I’m proud to help the media learn new words to describe myself and my community.

AMY: How would you describe the portrayals of Asian Americans and Hapas in mainstream pornography?
JIZ: Again, I’m not well versed in mainstream (read ‘straight’) pornography. What I do know is that Mika Tan is trying to cast for her own video (Year of the Cock) that stars all Asian heterosexual cast — that means straight Asian Male pornstars, which is almost unheard of in porn. I’ll be interested to see that. A few years ago, Dr. Hamamoto created his own low budget porn Skin-to-Skin that was documented in the film Masters of the Pillow. (Ironically, the only man Dr. Hamamoto could find wasn’t even Asian American — he was Asian Canadian!) Jeffery Lei produced a mocu-mentary comedy Dick Ho: Asian Male Pornstar that poked fun at the absence of any straight Asian male porn actors.

As for Hapas in mainstream porn, I think there’s a strange labeling that happens — if the Hapa actress looks Asian, she’s lumped into the Asian Porn category. (Prime example: http://www.gamelink.com/naked_truth.jhtml?id=hot_asians) If not, she’s put into whatever other category someone deams that she belongs in — ie: natural breasts, brunettes, anal, BBW, MILF, etc… it’s an interesting system that I’ve never quite understood. It’s flawed and what happens is Hapa folks are not counted. Neither are queers (notice the major categories are Straight and Gay (Men). So it renders us invisible. I think this is changing as more of us do porn. Categories expand or new ones are created. People’s interests change.

There was a controversial article about interacial porn in AVN (Adult Video News) recently but they were only talking about black men/white women. Porn in America is such a curious reflection of race, class, sex… I wish more people were writing about it and am sad that many of our most vocal API activists are not more sex-positive. I think there’s a big opportunity for Asian American Studies professors and students to tackle this topic. So I’m thrilled to have heard from you and am so happy to be interviewed!

AMY: What is it like being one of the few androgynous, Asian Hapas in porn? What has been the response from your viewers and fans?
JIZ: Fans have given so much love. And despite the fact that my social networking sites are listed under my own (pretty similar) name, they still manage to find me. I get tons of Myspace and Facebook messages from people letting me know how happy they are that I do what I do, how proud they are, and how they can get invovled. Some fans say they tell everyone about my work because they’re so excited to see someone more like themselves represented in porn. Occasionally there are some fans who don’t know the word “Hapa” so they ask me about it. When they find out what it means they are excited — and some are even Hapa themselves but didn’t know about the word. I also mention that the word was originally a Hawaiian slang, “Hapa Haole”, and meant “half-white” though now it is mostly used by people who are part Asian and anything else. Being from Hawai`i it’s important for me to keep Hawaiian culture/history going so people are aware.

AMY: There are many titles of porn that are based on race, such as “Bonzai Sluts”, “Horientals” and “Dragon Lily”. Asian porn star Mika Tan has said that the titles and themes of porn are simply to target audiences and are not racist. Do you agree/disagree that these titles do not perpetuate racism, and why?
JIZ: I agree with Mika that they target audiences, though I wouldn’t agree that they are not racist. See the AVN Article to compare the box covers about African American males, and what some directors/producers who are African American such as HJ from Justin Slayer Productions have to say about the titles. It’s very similar and the same concepts can be applied to Asian American video titles.

Jade-Blue Eclipse was once quoted as saying that she didn’t mind doing work that fetishized Asian American women for white males because it meant that there was a safe outlet for the mens’ racial curiousities. Here’s the quote: “Nor does she judge men who have a fetish for Asian women. She says she believes there’s a difference between play and real life, that the world would be a better place if more people could express their sexual fantasies in a safe space where nobody gets hurt. “With sexuality and fantasies, I think whatever flies is whatever flies,” she said.” (http://www.sfweekly.com/2007-01-24/news/a-twisted-tale/2)

For me, I’d feel a lot better about racially charged box titles (and the content within) if there were more Asian American female directors adding their own work to the options out there, like Tera Patrick and Mika Tan. The best representation is self-representation for porn production. If we don’t put our own images out there we allow others to create those images for us, and those images — though legit — are not always the most accurate.

AMY: I have talked to someone who works for C1R (Channel 1 Releasing), Chi Chi Larue’s adult film company, who says that the reason why there are not many Asian males in gay porn is because there are not many that apply in the first place. From what you’ve seen in your career, do you feel that this is an accurate reason for the lack of male and queer Asians in porn?
JIZ: YES! I think that more Asians and Hapas need to step up and apply and they’ll find they are definitely wanted. Kink.com has a gay Asian male TOP running BoundGods.com named Van Darkholme. (http://boundgods.com/site/model.jsp?modelId=15862). I have read Mika Tan blogging that she has been having a very hard time finding straight Asian male applicants for her new film. It seems that many people want to see Asian males in porn, however they don’t want to apply themselves. I think that it takes a lot of courage to apply, and I would applaude them for taking that step.

AMY: Growing up, did the portrayals of Asians in porn affect your ideas about sex and sexual identity? How?
JIZ: I didn’t really get a hold of porn until I was in my late teens, and it was always two white people – and always a man and a woman. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I saw an “Asian” porn and by that time I had already come to my own sexual identity. I do remember seeing escort ads in newspapers that featured Asian women and stereotypical Asian brush-stroke style lettering offering massage, etc… But I saw those as being stereotypical, offensive, and aimed at tourists. I grew up in Hawai`i where there is a majority Asian/Hapa/Pacific Islander population and I actually found many positive role-models among my friends and adults, even including a transwoman I knew as a teen, who was an out and proud sex worker.

AMY: How has your career affected your relationships and dating life?
JIZ: Working in porn has been great for my dating life. I am open in my relationships and am currently very much in love with 2 amazing people, who I also have appeared in films with. I have been with Shawn (aka Syd Blakovich) for four years, and have been seeing Dallas (her stage name) for about a year now. I also date other folks from time to time, however I share my emotional attention with Shawn and Dallas. Shawn lives with her wife of nine years, and I live on my own (which I prefer). Dallas also lives alone. If you have more questions on what it’s like to be in open relationships, I’ll be glad to answer them. It’s the best way for me to live a healthy and honest and loving life.

AMY: What is your favorite porno that you have starred in and why is it memorable?
JIZ: The Crash Pad is my favorite because things were very emotional between Shawn and I during that time. It was our first scene together and it was pretty intense. I love looking back at it like a scrapbook. However I have to say my favorite porn now is CHAMPION. Shawn and Dallas have a scene together which I think is SO hot! They are not lovers in real life, though I love watching them together on film because I know both of them so intimately; I know what it’s like to touch and be touched by each of them so to see that on screen is an incredible turn-on.

AMY: What do you see yourself doing in 10 years?
JIZ: I will probably still be working in the fields of art and technology, though I may be working on other projects… and hopefully still doing some porn! There’s also not enough older pornstars out there, so I am looking forward to filling that gap as well. In fact I’m already over the average age of mainstream pornstars who retire by age 25. Really though, I don’t really plan ahead too far into the future — I like to live each moment as it happens.

AMY: What are you currently working on or doing to help put out a positive image of Asian Americans and Hapas in porn?

JIZ: I hope my appearance in porn will inspire others to get involved — either on screen or behind the camera — to create their own sexual images. I want to give more interviews. I’ve also written about Asian Americans in pornography that have been published in online publications. I blog regularly on my website JizLee.com and work on promoting queer hapas in pornography as well as supporting sex-positive visual and performance artists, with an emphasis on API/Hapas, trans/genderqueer folks and people from marginalized communities. I aim to be vocal, to inspire and support others, and encourage sex-positivity in my local community and extended online networks.

Picture of Lee from Lee’s official site. To find out more about Jiz Lee, check out her official website JizLee.com which also contains her blog. To see her work check out CrashPadSeries and NoFauxxx. All NSFW.

Thanks again to Jiz for taking the time to answer my questions!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: