Alone in the dressing room of an Ontario dive, Myriam Crépeau rifles through her huge suitcase—shiny pink platform stilettos, a schoolgirl kilt, an Alice in Wonderland outfit, a sex toy shaped like an ice cream cone, a bottle of lighter fluid—finally landing on the big black strap-on. She fastens it in place, tugs at her fuchsia fishnets, laces up her skate shoes, stops thinking of herself as Myriam. From the other room, a crowd chants, “Van-dal! Van-dal!” They are summoning Vandal Vyxen. They are calling her name. As she hits the stage to the sinister beat of Papa Roach’s “Getting Away with Murder,” she is going to make sure they never forget it.
Vandal Vyxen is that rarity: a distinctive porn star. With shape-shifting, rainbow-striped hair and a post-rave wardrobe, she stands out in a field crowded with the injected, tanned, and taloned women who star in a few movies before trying their luck at other vocations. While it is impossible to estimate how many women in Canada enter the industry each year, Jason Danilak of Edmonton’s Real Productions says he receives some twenty-five inquiries a month, and that’s just for one company out of several in the country, most of them based in Montreal, where Vyxen lives.
“They wanted me to wear black hair extensions,” she says of one of the last times she worked for a studio. “They wanted me to wear fake nails. They knew I wanted more tattoos, and they were like, ‘No, don’t do that.’” She proudly flashes her full arm sleeve, which includes a portrait of herself as the Grim Reaper. “Now the same studio wants me to sign with it. Funny.” Vyxen made it, on her own terms no less, which meant managing her finances as much as her image.
“It’s pretty much like other industries,” says Candida Royalle, a pioneer who has been shooting movies, first as a star then as a director, since the ’70s. “Once you give people the means to get things for free, they forget that the people creating—the books, the music, the porn! —have to make a living.” The death of the porn industry, which the media has been bruiting about for years, seems highly unlikely; still, the economic model is shaking down in a way that puts more pressure than ever on the stars to hustle. The result is a fresh wave of independent businesswomen (and men) who have taken the means of production into their own hands (insert inevitable pun).
“To be successful, you have to have your finger in a lot of pies,” says Capri Cavanni, originally from Vancouver and now living in Los Angeles. Although she can earn between $1,000 and $2,000 for a sex scene in LA, she must supplement her income with feature dancing and topless wrestling. In Canada, the pay per scene is about half that. “Let’s say a girl-girl—I’m not talking about niche or fetish, just normal—is going to be like, $400,” explains Vyxen, who is twenty-nine. “Boy-girl is $700–$800.” Forgoing a manager, she juggles the demands of live shows, a website, and film work, along with Facebook and Twitter accounts. Soon she will add webcam shows to her repertoire.
Jill C. Nelson, who wrote Golden Goddesses: Twenty-Five Legendary Women of Classic Erotic Cinema, 1968–1985 (and whose husband teases her about owning “the biggest porn collection in Burlington”), notes that even in the golden age of porn, many actors danced and performed live sex shows in San Francisco or New York. What’s new, besides the constant online brand maintenance, is the level of specialization. “They get hired to do anal, or BDSM, or whatever,” says Nelson. “It sounds like they have to go over the top to outdo or compete today.”
In this regard, Vyxen has found her niche. She is une squirteuse , as they say in her home province, une femme fontaine, blessed with the ability to ejaculate over an impressive distance. She has combined this talent with her interest in spectacle (she would eventually like to do makeup for horror movies), and the result is a show she has taken on the road to Vancouver, Toronto, New York, and Miami. She estimates that she does between fifty and seventy performances a year.
Perfected over years, the event features both fire and water components. The first time she did it with a pole-dancing friend, they hit upon the brilliant idea of setting off a circle of lighter fluid around the base of the pole, which Vyxen would then extinguish. However, things did not go exactly as planned, and the friend, dangling upside down from the pole, soon found her long hair aflame. It was a tense moment, but Vyxen, already poised to ejaculate, thought fast. “I forced myself to do it quicker and aimed right where she was,” she recalls. The other woman’s hair was only singed, and the crowd went wild.
Heroics aside, Vyxen displays impressive mettle. She figures that she only slept in her own bed forty or fifty nights in 2013. “It’s still going up and up,” she says of her popularity. In January, she flew to Las Vegas to attend the Adult Video News Awards, the porn world’s Oscars, where she was nominated for Best Fem-Dom Strap-On Release. “I don’t expect to win,” she said the day before the ceremony, “but I hope I’ll shake some of the right hands.”
Lisan Jutras completed a literary journalism residency at the Banff Centre in 2012. She is the Globe and Mail’s deputy books editor.Alëna Skarina counts among her clients MuchMusic, the National Post, and The Walrus.