By Neil Harrison & Natalie Carragher
It’s difficult not to be a little envious of Carly Rae Summers. At a time when, for most of us, university life is fraught with worry about mounting debts and bleak employment prospects – not to mention coursework, exams and covering the rent – to encounter a confident young student with money in her pocket and a ‘five year plan’ is something of an anomaly. So, you might ask, what is her secret?
For the past two years Carly Rae (not her real name) has, alongside her studies, been making a name for herself in the adult film industry. Now in the final year of her degree and on the verge of graduation, the Manchester fashion student has recently been causing a stir on and around campus. She explains,
“I went through the whole of my second year and nobody knew anything. No one had a clue who I was, or what I was doing. As soon as I came into third year, one person found out, and then everybody found out. A good 500 of my Twitter followers are people from university. On nights out, I get people shouting ‘Carly, Carly!’ and having their photo taken with me. I get people staring at me in the street and I see people talking about me quite a lot – they’re so obvious about it! But I’m in the wrong industry if I’m trying to keep to myself. I love the attention so it doesn’t bother me.”
Brimming with self-confidence, yet relaxed and personable, Carly Rae speaks with fondness about her ‘adopted hometown’ of Manchester and of her time at university.
“It’s my home. I have no intention of leaving here. I’ll go home for summer for two months but after that I’m moving straight back here. I’ll be really sad to leave uni though.”
So, will the adult work continue after graduation? Or was it a financial fix just to get through her studies? Her response is characteristically candid,
“I want to be a fashion designer. I don’t want to be a porn star. I’m in porn at the moment because I like doing it but, of course, the money involved is a huge bonus. It pays for lots of shopping, but mainly it pays for my rent. In fashion, all the ‘real’ jobs I would go for after graduation are either unpaid or minimum wage. Porn is not something I could realistically give up right now because if I want to get a good job in fashion, any job I get straight away won’t pay enough for me to live off. If I can do porn to pay my rent, then any ‘real job’ I get will cover living costs and help towards my career – it’s my five year plan. I like to believe the fashion industry will be quite lenient about it. If I was trying to be a doctor or something there might be a problem, but I’m not.
“My university have been okay with me about it as well, I got in trouble for hashtagging them on Twitter, and so we had a little chat and a meeting with the head of department. But they’re fine with what I do. Occasionally my tutor will ask me if I’m okay. But I’m fine, nothing bad has happened to me, fortunately.”
Only when Carly Rae recounts some of her ‘dodgy moments’ (which, thankfully, include no real horror stories) does the gravity of her choice of profession become all too clear. For all the talk of shopping and career plans, the conversation takes a serious tone when she discusses an industry that, by her own admission, can be uncertain, potentially exploitative and dangerous.
“I drive long distances and I go on my own, so that’s a risk factor. It can be quite scary at times. The whole concept of going to a random place to meet a person or a group of people who you’ve never met before is quite daunting. But I’m a big enough girl to look after myself. I’ve been doing it a while now and never been in a position where I have been in real trouble. Touch wood!
“There’s always that moment of panic when I get there because obviously I don’t know who I’m going to be working with. I could get there and it could be some 80-year-old man. Fortunately, that’s never happened. But there’s always that moment of doubt. So, it’s horrible in that respect. But the big companies are a lot better than the amateur companies.
“I’ve never felt exploited though, mainly because I’m in control of everything I do. When my mum found out she asked, ‘Who made you do it?’ I said, ‘No-one made me do it, I don’t know why you would assume that.’ It’s not like someone put a gun to my head and said ‘You will make porn.’ Obviously, I’ve done porn because I want to, not because I’ve been forced into it. I made a grand last week. I can buy myself pretty things.”
With that, she leaves us wondering: is it really the prospect of unpaid internships and student debts that keep her in the industry? Does she genuinely enjoy the work and the ‘pretty things’ it affords her? Or, is it both? What is absolutely certain is that Carly Rae makes her own choices and is bright, honest and confident enough to stick by them. So, you can judge her, fear for her or envy her but she doesn’t care either way. That’s part of her charm.