Branding. It’s become the provenance of the EveryPerson with access to social media and a dream. You can wake up one day and declare yourself a makeup artist or a magician, and if you can build up the Instagram following to support your choice, that’s what you are. Which is all part of the glory of living in a post-Kardashian world, but what about the different and far more challenging task of re-branding?
In a social climate where one needs to achieve no tangible monetary or status-based success in the industry of their choice to declare themselves That Thing, and people will accept it and retweet it and celebrate you as that if you’re internet-savvy enough, they are also likely to keep you in their minds as That Thing, and ONLY That Thing. Branding is the activity of the masses, but successfully re-branding is the privilege of the few, so what are you to do if you’ve actually achieved huge success in one industry and then want to be taken seriously in another?
If you’re Raylin Joy, you throw out the old model of re-branding and carve your own path with grace and self-awareness, that’s what.
If it seems like I’m making an extra big deal of the challenges of re-branding, I am, and for two reasons. The first is because it hits home with me personally, having acted for decades and now doing other things, including still acting, and having the fantasy affirmation that I can “do it all” frequently met with confused real-world reactions that limit opportunities because of pigeonholing and, I suppose, my personal struggles with people’s obsession with branding in the first place.
My admitted bitterness aside, the other reason why I find this so pertinent to Raylin’s new career path is because her old one was porn, and no matter how enlightened WE are about the adult entertainment and recreation industries, if ever there was a career path that audiences, consumers, and society overall want to draw an impassable line in the sand around, it’s porn.
When I first heard about Raylin Joy embarking upon a career as a singer/songwriter, it was in a headline that came right out and identified her as “Porn Star Skin Diamond” first. As this headline probably will too — my impulse is to avoid it and call her Raylin, but the most incredible part of getting to chat with Raylin about her career transition is that she doesn’t care.
I wasn’t familiar with Skin Diamond before reaching out to speak with Raylin; I was more interested in the challenges of transitioning out of porn, and I was prepared to have to tap-dance around the topic, or to ignore the past completely, to let her take the lead but be careful not to ever say that name myself.
How refreshing and delightful then, in doing my research before our conversation, to discover that Raylin is not only still talking about her Skin Diamond persona, but she’s extremely proud of her work in porn.
As well she should be! Her list of adult industry awards and nominations is incredible, and she told me that getting into porn, for her, was not some cliché story of addiction or exploitation; not to make light of people on that path, but hers is a completely different narrative. Raylin acknowledges, “The way I got into porn, it wasn’t the usual way that people get into porn; I was just using porn as a way to explore myself sexually.”
She continues, “I was doing fetish and art nude modeling [in print and] in fashion shows and fetish clubs and such, and I got signed to a glamour modeling agency in London. I did my first cover shoot and got signed with the agency, and I had this offer to do a porn scene: a girl-girl scene in Paris. At the time I was still living in Scotland, so I was like, ‘I wanna go to Paris!’ I was already doing very risqué fetish fashion shoots — nothing hardcore yet, but I was playing with the idea, because I was very involved in the fetish scene in my personal life — that was kind of my jam.”
Born in the U.S., Raylin (which is her given name) had moved with her born-again Christian parents to Scotland, where they went as missionaries. Raylin says, “I really lucked out with my folks, because throughout my career they’ve been really supportive and loving, and if you’re a true Christian, then technically that’s what you’re supposed to do — that’s what Jesus said, if you’re really listening: Don’t judge people even if you don’t agree with what they’re doing, because that’s kind of an asshole move.”
Though they were supportive once she got into porn, Raylin’s upbringing didn’t exactly encourage that career path: “Since I was raised kind of religiously, with that idea that ‘[exploring sexuality] isn’t right, it isn’t Christian’ or whatever, that side was always kind of put on mute.” She had healthy sexual urges, and she says, “When I really started exploring that side, it was like, 'WOW!'”
Since then, she’s been really open sexually, and doing porn was a way for her to have fun and indulge her varied desires, and those of others: “I find it really fascinating learning about people and their fetishes, and how their fetishes can kind of be the complete flip side of what they are in their regular life. Through sex, people are exploring the things that they can’t usually explore in their day-to-day lives. Sex is like playtime for grownups, so it makes sense that you would want to learn about yourself through play in that way. I certainly encourage people to explore their fantasies and share them with their partners or seek out prospective partners who have similar tastes, because I guarantee they’re out there.”
What I found most remarkable about talking to Raylin is sex-positivity so organic it seems to have existed within her before that term was ever coined. It colors her every word, and she comes across as the embodiment of healthy connection to, and ownership and enjoyment of, her own sexuality.
That sexuality colors her music as well, partly because it’s such a part of her, and also because her cowriter and producer on her music project is her boyfriend, Ben Cole. They’ve been together for a little over a year, but they met three years before that, on the set of an adult video (he was on the crew). Timing was funky when he first asked her out, but once they were both single, Raylin says they went on one of those first dates she calls “the kind of cheesy date you’d see in a romantic comedy where everything’s perfect and we’re running around and riding bikes and telling jokes with strangers, and we’ve pretty much been inseparable since then, and writing music. I feel like the luckiest girl in the world right now.”
Writing music with someone is extremely intimate, and in fact, the first time they hung out as friends, they wrote a song together, clearly an indicator of things to come: “I had never been so comfortable around someone to just write a song with them right off the bat like that, and it was the best thing I had ever recorded up to that point. I had worked with a few producers prior to meeting him, but nothing was jelling — they were always trying to get me to sound like someone else, and I was trying to find my own voice. When I met Ben, he made me feel comfortable enough to just play around and vibe out.”
Ben is also Raylin’s leading man in the video for her first single, “Fire”:
The track (you can download it on iTunes) is probably not going to be the last to feature Raylin’s real-life boyfriend in the video. Raylin says, “He’ll be in the next video too. If there’s a love interest in a video, it’ll be him. Because we write all of the songs together, it makes sense.”
The two know how lucky they are to be able to be a couple that also works together professionally, looking toward building a future together that may involve marriage and starting a family.
Musically, Raylin describes her sound as alternative pop but with a rock vibe, saying “I grew up listening to mainly Deftones and Iron Maiden; it’s definitely rock-y. But then I also love dance music, Ben loves hip-hop; it’s a mix, and you’ll hear more styles in the next few songs we release. Primarily, pop music these days is a blend anyway — when you listen to pop music, it borrows from every genre.” She lists an impressive lot among her own favorite vocalists: Amy Winehouse, Billie Holiday, Sia, Alanis Morissette, Nina Simone, Alicia Keys, Aaliyah, and KatieJane Garside from the band Queenadreena. She’s even recorded a cover in tribute to the late Amy Winehouse.
Raylin is credited as Skin Diamond on the recently released Showtime series Submission, an explicit, erotic BDSM series that doesn’t contain the more hardcore elements of many of her porn scenes, but which does explore BDSM in ways that something like Fifty Shades of Grey never could, which is to say, authentically.
When I asked if she would continue as Skin Diamond, whether Submission continues and asks her to return or otherwise, Raylin remained upbeat, saying she’d love for the series to continue and to be involved if it did, but overall she’s “taking a break for now to focus 100 percent on music, acting, and writing. I think that it’s important to show that there are many different sides to people in general, so that was why I didn’t want to shy away from the porn side because that’s still me.
"That sexual side is still in existence; I’ve just gotten to a point where I want to keep more of it for myself now. I’ve given so much of my sexuality to the public for such a long time, and now it’s time to show them something else. I realized I was so focused on work, all the time, that I was living this Skin Diamond persona 24/7 and losing sight of who I was as a person.”
Some people can successfully live as hyphenates, or fully transition from one career to another smoothly, while some people are forever associated with one thing in the public eye despite their focus on another. Raylin’s doing something else entirely, owning all parts of her as she sets out to conquer the music world. She’s a sexy woman who is comfortable in her Skin, and not only is it business-savvy to play up that side of her in an effort to retain her Skin Diamond fanbase and have them get into her music as Raylin, but, and more importantly, it actually seems completely authentic to who she is.
All images via Raylin Joy.