Joanna Angel: Rutgers alum, tattooed porn star/director

By Justin Lesko

Belle Knox, a porn star-slash-student at Duke University, is currently setting the internet abuzz with her story. After a classmate recognized one of her videos and told his fraternity brothers she became the talk of campus. With her secret out, she posted the aforementioned xoJane story under a pseudonym followed by a public outing of herself on the website that markets itself as a place “where women go when they are being selfish, and where their selfishness is applauded.”  Most recently, Rolling Stone detailed the 18-year-old’s journey.

To some, a student at an elite university moonlighting as a porn star seems unprecedented.

Knox, a freshman planning on double majoring in sociology and women’s studies, can talk to Joanna Angel, a 2002 Rutgers graduate with a degree in English Literature and a minor in Film Studies. She might be one of the most successful Rutgers grads in the past 15 years but won’t see her 2006 AVN Award for Most Outrageous Sex Scene in the alumni yearbook.

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(Via: xoxojoannaangel.com)

In 2002, Angel began shooting porn with her roommate during her senior year on the banks of the Raritan. Like Knox at Duke, her fellow students knew of her work and she heard the comments they made as she walked to class or sat on the bus, she said at this year’s Exxxotica Convention in Edison. Her secret spread through word of mouth around campus, not through social media around the world like Knox.

The website she runs, BurningAngel.com, is a leader in “alt-porn,” featuring performers that would be more comfortable in a tattoo parlor than a tanning salon. According to an article from Business Insider published last September, the site attracts 30,000 unique hits per day and has 60,000 members, at a cost ranging from $29.95 per month to $95.40 per year. She was named to CNBC’s “Dirty Dozen” in 2011 as one of the world’s most popular porn stars.

Angel, born Jenna Mostov, told the New York Observer about her early days doing porn at Rutgers, which were very different from Knox’s productions on professional sets.

“I was working out of my laptop that was buried under a heap of clothes,” she said. “But it wasn’t much of an office. It was more of a hobby… I wasn’t really a sexual person. I was really kind of shy, and I was somewhat of a political activist in college. I wasn’t going down this road at all.”

She told Business Insider, “Burning Angel was a very small experiment at first. I never imagined it would become my career.”

She had not see pornography until her senior year at college, she told the New York Times in 2005.  Her goal at that time was to bring the porn industry to the East Coast via her office in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

“There are millions of dollars being made in L.A. every year on porn and I’d like to see some of that money coming to New York. I’d like to start an empire here.”

In the years that followed that interview, Angel has cemented herself as a leader in the industry as not only a performer but also a writer, producer, director and owner. She cautions others entering the business that her rise and position are not guaranteed, even to other empowered and educated women like Knox.

“The industry is not for everyone,” she told NJBiz.com at Exxxotica last fall. “I’ve seen this industry chew people up and spit them out because you’ve got to be strong. But I have found a home here.”

 

 

 

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