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November 09, 2017

Rolling Stone Gives Adult Entrepreneur Ela Darling Her Due

LOS ANGELES—Just about everyone in the adult entertainment business has heard of Ela Darling, the self-described nerd actress who took her interest in virtual reality (VR) technology and parlayed it into one of the first VR production studios, VRtube.xxx, which she created with a partner; the first to create a regular live-cam show in VR; and then to partner with Cam4VR to create an all-VR cam site where any adult actress can provide live VR shows to her fans. And now, thanks to Rolling Stone journalist Sophia Jennings, the rest of the civilized world will know it as well. In her article, which went online this morning, Jennings traces Darling's background, from her acquisition of a master's degree in information science at 21 from the University of Illinois, through her year as a Boston librarian, to her dabbling in Boston's Harry Potter-inspired music scene, and finally to her entry into the L.A.-based porn community in 2009. Couple that with her presidency of the adult Performer Advocacy Committee and her run—as a Democrat, of course—for the state Assembly seat for North Hollywood (she came in second in the 2016 election) and it becomes clear that this is one tech-and-politics-savvy woman who's going places in society, despite all of the barriers that society usually throws in front of a "porn star." Or as Darling herself puts it, "I have a very palatable persona. I'm a porn star and a sex worker. But I have a master's degree, and I'm a feminist, and I'm very articulate." Jennings recounts how Darling first got interested in VR: She got to try Blue Marble, a VR demo program for the Oculus Rift in 2013, where she got to see, in virtual reality, asteroids destroying the earth while David Bowie's "Space Oddity" played in the background. From there, she answered an ad on Reddit looking for an adult actress to take part in a VR project in the Washington, D.C., area and found James Ashfield, a physics student who had her do what may have been the first on-camera virtual masturbation scene in his dorm room. Once the free show was over, the pair began talking, because Darling had a lot of questions about the mechanics of VR. "'I had been expecting someone who was uninterested in the technology,' Ashfield told Jennings. 'Who would be trying to finish her work as quickly as possible.' Instead, Darling asked Ashfield how his cameras worked, how the experience would be structured and what the market looked like. She wanted to know everything." From there, Darling and Ashfield created The Dating Simulator, "a VR experience where viewers talk to Darling as though they're on a date," but that proved unsatisfactory, so together, they created VRtube.xxx, which went online in early 2015 with Darling as its main on-screen personality—and which in turn led to the company partnering with CAM4VR to bring that same technology to the masses of porn fans worldwide. According to Jennings, on the CAM4VR site, "The talent can then get as close as 6 inches from their camera, closer to a conversation in bed than a performance. The software then immediately stitches their content, allowing the talent to focus purely on their viewer." "I care more about catering to the performers and making them successful than I do about making some dude with a boner jizz," Darling told Jennings. "When you take care of the performers, they will make a better product." Darling wants to make her product useful for, and accepting of, all sorts of participants: "[P]eople of color, people of different body types, with injuries, with disabilities, I want my product to be inclusive as possible." She even sees VR as a benefit for people who have been traumatized and in need of psychotherapy: "[Imagine if] you could book an appointment but not have to leave your house. You could do it in a place where you're comfortable and feel safe." But the medicinal applications are only the beginning for Darling, who has plans to create more non-adult VR platforms, all based around the idea that intimacy and communication are important societal goals. And if anything is abundantly clear, Ela Darling is just the person to do all that. AVN contacted Darling to ask for her reaction to the Rolling Stone article, and she was quickly forthcoming. "I'm really proud and thrilled to have been featured by Rolling Stone, especially having gotten to work with an amazing writer like Sophia Jennings and the brilliant photographer Lindsay Byrnes," Darling said. "The entire team was excellent. I'm particularly pleased that they depicted me as a whole person and a tech innovator with a complex background rather than just a person who gets naked. It came out better than I ever hoped and I'm incredibly honored to be featured in such mainstream press like this and last Sunday's New York Times. "It's also really nice to be in a magazine that I can show my mom and dad," she added with a grin.

 
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