Porn Industry Beams With Pride Over Stormy Daniels Coup: ‘We’ve Never Had Anything Like This’



Graphic: Ava Selbach

Before she became known as the porn star who sued the President of the United States, Stormy Daniels was a highly-respected and award-winning adult film actress, writer and director, with an exclusive contract at one of the industry’s top companies.
But since the Wall Street Journal first reported that President Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, paid Daniels $130,000 to stop her from talking about their alleged affair, she’s become a cause célèbre in the porn world.
“We’ve never had anything like this,” Brian Gross, a long-time publicist who has represented some of the biggest names in erotica, told TheWrap.
The 38-year-old Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, seems to be enjoying the kind of attention usually reserved for Hollywood starlets. Her appearance at the AVN adult entertainment expo in Las Vegas earlier this year, not only caused a spike in attendance, but also had media outlets clamoring for some one-on-one time with Daniels, according to Gross.
“There was certainly more interest from major news outlets like CNN, Washington Post and the New York Times, who have attended the expo in the past but were more aggressive this year trying to find time with Ms. Daniels,” Gross said.
In just the last few weeks, Daniels has appeared on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” and parodied on “Saturday Night Live.” By the time she’s done, Daniels could earn a mention in American history books — if she hasn’t already.
But Daniels’ unapologetic battle with the president seems to have struck a decidedly more personal chord among many in the adult film industry, who for years have felt shunned and ignored by both Hollywood and Washington elites.
“Whether she wanted it or not, she’s a major celebrity at this point,” Mark Kernes, a senior editor at AVN, the country’s largest adult trade publication, told TheWrap. “The feeling among the industry is ‘You go girl!’”
Adult star Joanna Angel, known as the “queen of alternative porn,” said she recently sent Daniels a text letting her know that her name was uttered in the same news segment as North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un.
“I don’t think that’s ever happened in the history of porn or the world,” Angel told TheWrap.
She said she was rooting for Daniels because, as she put it, “her vagina might have the power to put history back in the right direction.”
But some in the industry are cautious about Daniels’ prospects and the company she keeps.
“I’d like to see her bring Trump down,” Hustler publisher, Larry Flynt, told TheWrap. “But she doesn’t know what she’s doing.”
Flynt, whose First Amendment legal battles were portrayed in 1996’s “The People vs. Larry Flynt” starring Woody Harrelson, insisted he, too, is rooting for Daniels but said her story is “nothing new.”
“I’ve been outing hypocritical politicians all my life,” he said. “People are always fascinated with money and sex.”
Daniels was already carving a name for herself within the adult industry, both in front of and behind the cameras. She was one of the few people to land an exclusive contract with “Wicked,” one of the industry’s top production houses (she has since jumped ship to a competitor). She was Penthouse’s Pet of the Month in 2007 and has won dozens of AVN Awards — considered the Oscars of porn. Her most recent movies were nominated for a combined 17 AVNs, including four for Daniels personally.
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But no amount of awards could have prepared her for the tsunami of attention following reports of an alleged affair she had with Trump in 2006, then a real estate developer and reality TV host.
Searches for Daniels’ name on Pornhub.com exploded in recent weeks, from 500 a day in January to more than 2 million searches over a five-day period this month, according to the site.
The numbers have continued to spike each time Daniels made headlines. Her appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” caused an eye-popping 325 percent increase in U.S. searches and 258 percent worldwide, according to Pornhub. When Trump attorney Michael Cohen admitted he made the $130,000 payment, it caused another 250 percent spike in searches. Searches jumped to their highest level — up 536 percent in the U.S. and 489 percent worldwide — on March 7, when it was reported that Daniels would be suing Trump.
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In the process, Daniels has garnered a fierce following both within the industry and beyond.
“She hasn’t done anything shady,” said Adam Grayson, chief financial officer at Evil Angel, one of worlds largest adult studios in the world. “She’s saying, ‘You’re not going to push me around,’ and that’s good for any industry.”

Her story will be featured on one of TV’s most respected news programs, “60 Minutes,” on Sunday, despite reports of legal threats from Trump’s legal team.
“She’s helping legitimize porn as a business,” Chad Kawalec, marketing consultant and founder of the Brand Identity Center, told TheWrap. “She’s representing herself as a strong businesswoman and not a salacious adult film actor. And if she plays her cards right, which it appears she’s doing, she should be able to authentically extend her brand into more mass market acceptance and opportunities.”
Daniels hasn’t been shy about cashing in on her new-found fame. She recently left Wicked Pictures and jumped ship to Digital Playground, another leading studio in the adult film industry. She’s also gone on a strip tour titled, “Make America Horny Again,” which she kicked off on the anniversary of the president’s inauguration.
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“She’s a big name, she’s always been a big name,” Gross said. “But, obviously, this has introduced her to a much bigger audience.”

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