Culture & Criticism Since 2003
This auto-biography tells the story of former porn star Traci Lords, and her ascent through the world of adult entertainment. Born to the name Norma Louise Kuzma, Lord’s path was set in motion during her early teen years, after she’d been abused. At 14, Lords ran away from her Southern California roots, looking to find an identity. But that decision would only cause things to grow more desperate, as her sexy and soft “girl-next-door” face quickly attracted the urban sex hustlers: In the blink of an eye, Lord’s life had turned and she soon fell victim to the drugs and fame that immerse the American sex industry. However, this system can’t bare the entire blame for Traci Lord’s fate, and she has the guts to readily admit it: “I was the center of attention for the first time in my life. I remember feeling important, even powerful. My sexuality had robbed me of so much, and now it suddenly gave me something that had eluded me in every aspect of life – control. I got off on the power my body held over an entire room of adults.”
Still, this hot taste for power would unleash storms reeling out of control, as Lords slowly realized she truly held power over nothing: “Then I fell apart. A stripper named Raven who found me in my dressing room felt sorry for me and took me home to crash on her couch. When I woke up the next morning I was a basket case. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I was strung out. Broke. Unemployed.”
Lords went from a centerfold spread in Penthouse to the stage, appearing in countless adult videos, becoming the ‘centerfold’ of every lonely man’s fantasies. She was a star, certainly, but a star who was buried in dark and musty secret mirrors of sorrow. Her fast track encouraged her to developed a predilection for cocaine, and sexual addiction consumed her. Day by day, breath by breath, Lords was dying — and she knew it: At the tender age of 18, Lords made a decision to save herself, and she left the lucrative adult video scene to embark on a legitimate acting career that is still going strong today.
Underneath It All is a gutsy book that pulls no punches — honest, straight-forward and blunt, it reveals the soul behind the skin as we come face-to-face with the demons that drive women to strip for crowds and fuck in front of cameras for a fee. Traci Lords made it out of that world and saved herself. But just how many others don’t? Her story forces us to ask the questions.
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Well, all that began when I was eleven, and continued for three years. It began while we were on a family vacation. In the beginning I thought that it was happening in my sleep, and it left me with the question — “did this really happen at all?” It really wounded me and made me doubt myself and lose my self-respect. Many things caused me to go into that world, but that [being raped] was the main thing: I was raped as a child by my mother’s boyfriend and it made me a needy girl. I became rebellious and angry and I was looking for attention. I had experienced violence and sex as a child and exploitation was all that I knew. Looking back, I was easy prey for that world.
I think I had a need to be in a community – -that’s what kept me in that industry. I was just a child. And children need to belong. I also had a need for money and drugs and attention. Ultimately, those things kept me there. And ultimately those things killed me. And then in 1986, after the FBI raided my apartment [as part of a child pornography investigation], I hit rock bottom. I knew I had to break away. I went into therapy and began to rebuild my life.
Well, because of the things that happened in my life, I’d had power stripped away from me. And afterwards, sex became a power trip for me. It was me acting out.
I plan to continue to stay with the formula of making every project better than the last. I’ve also just written and will be directing my first short film at the end of this year.
In 1986 I started moving into legitimate Hollywood. At that time I decided it wasn’t about the nudity, but about what people thought of it. I realized I’d have to keep my clothes on to be taken seriously. To answer your question — if nudity was an actual part of the film and not about exploitation, I’d do it. Will that happen for me in the next 20 years? I don’t know. It could happen.
The first thing I’d say is that there are a lot of other options. I have been working with the organization “Children of The Night” for the last twelve years. Their phone number is 800-551-1300: These folks deal with people from the sex industry and the street on a daily basis, helping them to realize that such decisions [like going into pornography] do not solve any of your problems.