You don’t hear a story like Joanna
Mens Mag Daily: Joanna I have to say, one of the things that has always intrigued me about you is your business sense. You started Burning Angel while still in college, right?
Joanna Angel: Yeah, I started it towards the end of college. It was my last year of school.
Mens Mag Daily: And you were running it by yourself?
Joanna Angel: I have a business partner; he was actually my roommate in college.
Mens Mag Daily: Was it a long road from inception to you actually turning a profit?
Joanna Angel: Oh geez (Laughs), I would say maybe four years and it wasn’t even a profit at that point. It was basically just breaking even. I didn’t pay myself a salary until about five years into it and it was a very small salary. To this day, I don’t make a huge salary but I make something from it.
Mens Mag Daily: That’s a little rough.
Joanna Angel: Nah, it was fine. I mean any business would have been the same. The thing with me was, I didn’t want to spend any of the money, and I wanted to put it all back into the company. It took a while; I just pretended the bank account didn’t exist. I wanted everything to go right back into the company. That’s what I wanted more than anything else so I lived very modestly and I made it work.
Mens Mag Daily: How did the idea of even starting this company come about? Did you see a hole in the market you thought you could fill, what was it?
Joanna Angel: I honestly just wanted to do something fun. I wanted a job that I liked and I wanted to work for myself. I didn’t know much about the porn industry at all and I didn’t know how people made money with it. I didn’t know that tattoos were such a rare thing. I was living in a world where all of my friends had tattoos. I just figured everybody everywhere had tattoos. It was like I was living in a different society. I don’t have a typical business mind. I was kind of thinking from a creative point of view. I thought creating a porn site would be fun. I like that it was taboo and something I didn’t know anything about. I wasn’t coming at it from a really structured business point of view. Even to this day, most of the decisions I make are kind of just instinct. You can have date. You can research your market and your demographic but I think all the best business ideas come from the creative minds. I don’t really believe in traditional business models and I think anybody that’s really successful makes those decisions from the heart.
Mens Mag Daily: And up to that point, you hadn’t been exposed to the adult industry at all?
Joanna Angel: No not at all, I didn’t know anything about it. I’m actually glad I went into it like that because by the time I learned about the industry I kind of already had a thing. My foundation and company was kind of established before I knew anything about porn. Things happened very organically. It’s kind of a blessing and a curse at the same time. A lot of people want to start a business or produce and they kind of copy what’s already successful and I’m kind of glad I didn’t come from that mindset. It kind my happened by accident, my ignorance was bliss. (Laughs)
Mens Mag Daily: You’re a trailblazer in your business, have a lot of people tried to copy you?
Joanna Angel: I don’t know, I don’t care. There’s a lot more people using tattooed girls now but it was going to happen eventually. Porn mimics pop culture. I don’t give a shit. When you’re putting something out there you’re putting it out there. As long as it’s nothing trademarked like my name then it’s free game. That’s the world that we live in. You can expect to be the only one and if you are the only one you can’t expect that to last forever.
Mens Mag Daily: As far as the adult aspect of that, were you comfortable with that from the beginning?
Joanna Angel: Yeah, I was excited about it. It was something weird and new to me. When we first started we only did photographs. We didn’t even have video yet. It was weird because people were calling me a pornstar and I just had a couple of topless photos on the internet. It was a very different time. By the time we were making a video I was very excited and ready to do it. I was doing it for my own company so it was like, “If I don’t do this then who the fuck is gonna do it?” I was just so excited to get the company off the ground. I was so excited that being naked or having sex on camera didn’t even phase me. I was just so driven and motivated. I didn’t see it as an obstacle at all. My first experience was a lot different from other girls’ first experience. Other girls usually have their first experience working for someone else. They’re going into this situation where everybody knows what they’re doing and they’re new to it all. With me, we were all new at it so it didn’t feel like I was entering the industry. You’re there experimenting just trying to figure out how the fuck it works. I remember the first shoot we ever did there were like six of us trying to turn the camera on like idiots. It was definitely a different kind of situation.
Mens Mag Daily: It’s funny; it seems like you having sex on camera was like secondary.
Joanna Angel: Yeah, it kind of was. I just wanted to make it work. I was excited and ready to do what I had to do.
Mens Mag Daily: When did the right angles and the right positions and all that stuff start to come into play?
Joanna Angel: I guess after I started meeting people in L.A. We were on the East Coast far away from where all the porn was being made. Once I had been on other people’s sets and I got a little experience with Hustler I started to learn all the things you need to make that professional looking porno. What I had was the ideas and the creativity which you really can’t pick up from other people. If you have that it’s a matter of finding the matter of finding the right camera person and stuff, it’s not brain surgery. When we came out to L.A. in 2006 or 200 we made a movie and then decided to make another so we started looking for distribution deals and stuff like that. I picked all that up along the way. (Laughs)
Mens Mag Daily: Was it different when you got exposed to the rest of the business outside of your company?
Joanna Angel: Yeah it was. It was something I didn’t expect. It was a long time ago. (Laughs)
Mens Mag Daily: When you started growing in the business how did they receive you?
Joanna Angel: I think if you show weakness people come in and take advantage of you. I know how to act and I didn’t come in with a big ego. I came in excited to learn and excited to meet people. People respected me back. There were a handful of girls who were saying I didn’t deserve the attention I was getting. I kind of understood where they were coming from because I had only made maybe 4 or 5 movies. I put my heart into those movies but there were girls who were working every day. I remember when the AVN nominations came out, a lot of girls felt I didn’t deserve to be nominated for Best New Starlet because I had only done a small number of movies. I understood it but that would happen with the new girl on the cheerleading squad or the soccer team. I was kind of happy I didn’t win that year because Best New Starlet is kind of a big deal. It should rightfully go to a girl that performs all of the time. A couple of people were nasty but I wasn’t out to make enemies. I was there to learn and grow my business.
Mens Mag Daily: Do you pick all of the girls who are under Burning Angel?
Joanna Angel: We have a model application on the website and sometimes we use girls who have agents and stuff but most of the girls we pick are ones who applied. It’s a very family like atmosphere. They’re not just applying because they want to do porn but because they want to work for us. It’s hard to say what I’m looking for; I just kind of know it when I see it. It’s hard to explain. We have beautiful girls that apply that just aren’t what we’re looking for. We like when girls have a social media presence and are excited about the opportunity.
Mens Mag Daily: Burning Angel is basically like a mini empire now.
Joanna Angel: I guess so, that’s what people say. (Laughs) It’s this world that I created. It’s not just a job, it’s my whole life. I still think we have a long way to go. There’s a lot I want to do in the business. I’m very thankful for what we have and where we are but I do want to take it further.
Mens Mag Daily: Where do you see Burning Angel going in the future?
Joanna Angel: It’s hard because when the company started I didn’t expect piracy to go where it went. If somebody would have told me that piracy would reach the level it has I never would have believed them. That’s something we have to struggle with. I love making movies and that’s what I put my heart into. I’d like us to do more stuff offline like open up a bar, a strip club, maybe even a retail store. I want to do more stuff with our name and our brand.
Article By: Jon DaBove