For those who don’t know, Sunny Leone is an Indian actress who initially built up her career doing adult films. Now, she is a successful Bollywood actress and socialite. She does a lot of good work for people in her spare time. She adopted a daughter from India and recently has been in the news for carrying the relief efforts for the Kerala floor. She gave money, donated 1,200 kilograms of food, and is supporting the relief fund with husband Daniel Weber.
Despite all her good work, all headlines about her read something like: “Ex-Porn Star Now Helping Kerala Crisis,” or “Sunny Leone Surprises Us All,” and most baffling of all, “Sunny Leone Shows That Who You Were Doesn’t Have To Be Who You Are Now.” She was a porn star, and they never let her forget it. And the headlines that are like the latter of my list are so condescending and…what do they even mean? Why do people have to bring up the fact that she worked in adult films every time she does anything?
When white men (who have committed fraud, rape, murder) do good deeds, they are celebrated for just that. When Sunny Leone does good deeds, they are conflated with her past. And I hate the tone of these headlines because they hold the implication that sex work is bad, and that people who do sex work must be immoral, with bad personalities, or that they need some sort of life change. But that doesn’t make sense- because Sunny Leone has always been caring about people and involved in social issues, whereas other actresses who are considered more “pure” and “wholesome” are not necessarily the ones doing good work.
We don’t know why someone does sex work. They could have been forced into it, they might have to because of financial situations, but they also could have chosen to enter that field. Yes, field. Because it is a service that people are paying for. You don’t condemn the millions of men watching porn, but you condemn the porn stars.
Recently, Nicki Minaj made a disparaging comment about sex workers, despite using their whole look and aesthetic to build her empire. She uses their clothes and vibe to come off as sexy and confident but then talked down about them, which was so distasteful to me. Some women, like Nicki Minaj, are privileged enough that they can capitalize off sex workers like that without anyone judging, but actual sex workers are shamed.
There is clearly a demand for this, and there is nothing wrong with being comfortable enough with your body to make money with it. To me, it shows that Sunny Leone is and always has been very confident and brave. It doesn’t have anything to do with how good of a person you are. I think Sunny Leone is trying to do a lot of good work for people who need it, and I commend her for not listening to such headlines. I just hope one day, she can exist as a whole human without only being known and judged for being a sex worker.