Adult Performers Who Found Success Outside The Industry

The following references addiction and sexual assault allegations.

A lot of Hollywood stars have taken their clothes off for various roles. It comes with the territory, right? What's more, a number have opened up about stripping for money before they became famous. Cardi B worked in a strip club when she was younger, as did Kelly Ripa's hubby Mark Consuelos. Channing Tatum turned his story of his time as an exotic dancer into the "Magic Mike" movie franchise and a $125 million empire. The performers featured in this particular article, of course, didn't just disrobe.

These celebs worked in the adult entertainment industry and made the transition to film, TV, and other media projects. Jenna Jameson, one of the best-known X-rated film stars, shared with in 2007, "I never aspired to be a mainstream star, and it just kind of happened." Former porn star Traci Lords, Johnny Depp's co-star in "Cry-Baby," told People in 2020, "Who knew that Wanda Woodward would be really the most iconic character that I've ever played?" And naturally, Stormy Daniels is on the tip of a lot of tongues these days.

While there is much to celebrate in this wide-ranging list, including Simon Rex's lauded comeback in 2021, some of these actors have encountered scandals, addiction struggles, bombshell headlines, and accusations of sexual assault. So, buckle up. This is going to be a very bumpy ride.

Jenna Jameson went from porn queen to Hollywood player

Jenna Jameson is one of the world's most famous adult entertainers. In a 2009 appearance on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," the Las Vegas native admitted she had aspirations of being a talk show host. "I always felt like I needed to be in front of an audience, and I wanted to touch people's lives," she told Winfrey. "You know, I may be touching them in a different way." Jameson started making bank as an exotic dancer, then she stripped down for gentlemen's magazines like Playboy and Hustler.

Jameson made her adult film debut in the early '90s, and quickly became the industry's breakout star. Within a few years, she landed a 15-picture deal with Vivid Entertainment. Jameson's first mainstream role was a stripper in Howard Stern's raunchy 1997 comedy "Private Parts." The actor appeared in a few episodes of "Nash Bridges," playing — you guessed it — a porn star. She also has a sexy cameo in Eminem's 2002 video "Without Me." 

Jameson scored another hit with her 2004 memoir, "How to Make Love Like a Porn Star," which topped the New York Times bestseller list for several weeks. In 2008, Jameson accepted the AVN Crossover Star of The Year Award — the skin flicks equivalent to an Oscar. Confirming reports she was planning to retire, Jameson said at the ceremony, "Honesty is key. I will never, ever, ever spread my legs again in this industry — ever!" In 2013, TMZ noted the "Zombies Strippers!" star was back in the adult entertainment game.

Veteran adult film star Ron Jeremy became a pop icon

One of the porn industry's most prolific stars, Ron Jeremy landed in the Guinness Book of World Records for "Most Appearances in Adult Films." With more than 2,500 performance credits over the course of his 40-year career, his trajectory isn't what you might expect. The award-winning actor's entrée to X-rated movies came when his photo appeared on Playgirl's "Boy Next Door" page.

Nude modeling jobs poured in for the swarthy, well-endowed star nicknamed "The Hedgehog," and film roles were close behind. "I was naive," Jeremy told Salon in 1997. "I thought it might help me get real acting jobs." Eventually, it did. In 1999, Jeremy appeared in the action thriller "The Boondock Saints," and he had a role in 2000's "Reindeer Games." The actor also appeared in music videos for Kid Rock and Moby, and he spun the "Wheel of Fortune."

In 1995, Jeremy recorded a hit rap song of his own, "Freak of the Week," featuring Dr Dre and Sir Mix-a-Lot. "He has become a pop-culture icon," said Adam Rifkin, who cast Jeremy as a cameraman in "The Chase," in his chat with Salon. "You've got to reinvent yourself once in a while," the actor told Vice in 2014. As of this writing, it seems the former adult entertainer may be out of next moves. In 2023, Deadline reported a Los Angeles judge found Jeremy "incompetent to stand trial on multiple rape charges" dating back to a 2021 indictment.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Sasha Grey starred in an Oscar-winning director's film

Dubbed by Rolling Stone in 2009 the "reigning princess of porn," Sasha Grey officially walked away from the adult entertainment industry two years later. After more than 200 films in the can, Grey turned out to be exactly what Steven Soderbergh was looking for to play Christine, a high-end Manhattan call girl, in his film "The Girlfriend Experience." "With Sasha, you can within seconds see her do anything you can imagine with her clothes off," the Oscar-winning director told The Guardian of Grey's performance. 

Grey appeared in a recurring role as Vince's girlfriend on Season 7 of HBO's comedy "Entourage." "This girl is very young Hollywood. She's living for today, and not really worrying about tomorrow," Grey told Collider. The actor also starred in Mark Pellington's 2010 drama, "I Melt With You," the story of a group of college friends on a summer reunion. Grey plays a free spirit named Raven, alongside Thomas Jane, Rob Lowe and her "Entourage" co-star Jeremy Piven.

In 2011, she published NEÜ SEX, a book of photography. "Documenting myself has almost become a necessity," she wrote of her motivation for the book, per Vice. The artist has toured internationally as a DJ since she was old enough to drink. In a 2016 interview with Miami New Times, she said of the traditionally male-dominated field. "Now is a good chance for women to stand out. If you want to challenge something, you've got to be among the best."

James Deen was handpicked for The Canyons

James Deen is one of the few male actors to become famous in the adult entertainment industry. With more than 1,600 film credits, GQ's "well-hung boy next door" was named AVN's Male Performer of the Year in 2009 at age 23. Deen says he knew he wanted to make X-rated films after seeing his first issue of Hustler. "They were asking everybody what they wanted to be when they grew up, and I said I wanted to be a porn star," he told GQ. "They thought I was being a d**k. I was like, "I'm not being a di**k, it's just what I want to be."

In Paul Schrader's "The Canyons," a 2013 feature film that stars Lindsay Lohan, Deen landed the role of Christian, a young man wrestling with sexual addiction, after the film's screenwriter suggested him for the role. After the film wrapped, Deen told The Hollywood Reporter, "I don't do porn because I can't make it in mainstream — I've wanted to do porn because this is what I've aspired to do."

Deen also popped up as himself on an episode of Showtime's "Happyish," dishing out advice about how to succeed in adult entertainment. According to BuzzFeed, in 2015, Deen's ex-girlfriend and former adult film co-star Stoya accused him of sexual assault on set. Since then, at least nine more adult film female actors have come forward with similar allegations. Deen denied the allegations to The Daily Beast, telling the outlet he was "baffled." 

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Traci Lords is a veteran of mainstream films and TV shows

Of all the adult entertainers who crossed over into mainstream films, Traci Lords is the biggest success story. Her road to fame, however, was a rocky one. The California teen ran away from home, posed for a Penthouse ad when she was 15, and dove straight into the world of porn. In a 1993 interview with The Washington Post, Lords said sex wasn't the draw of making X-rated films.

"For me, all porn ever was was drugs. I had no inhibitions or morality or sense of anything," she said. Lords got sober with the help of 12-step meetings, but getting over her skin flicks reputation wasn't easy. "In some instances my past has slammed the door in my face," she told the Tampa Bay Times. Lords first caught Hollywood's attention in John Waters' 1990 cult classic "Cry-Baby." The actor went on to appear on primetime TV shows including "Melrose Place," "Roseanne," and Stephen King's miniseries "The Tommyknockers."

Kevin Smith, who labeled Lords "an American Pop Icon," cast her in his 2008 comedy "Zack and Miri Make A Porno." On an episode of "Horror Queens," podcaster Joe Lipsett dubbed her performance in Waters' psychological thriller "Excision" "iconic." The director, who also helmed Lords' 2020 revival of his play "Women Behind Bars," told The Washington Post, "I would have never cast her in 'Cry-Baby' if she didn't have talent," he said. "Nobody looks like her, she can make fun of herself, and I've never minded a woman with a past."

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Stormy Daniels has a very full plate these days

Next to Donald Trump, Stormy Daniels is one of the most-mentioned names in political news cycles these days. As Intelligencer noted, the woman at the center of the former president's alleged hush money payoff is a veteran of more than 275 adult films. She has received numerous awards, including AVN's Best Actress Award for her titular role in 2011's "Partly Stormy." Judd Apatow's 2005 comedy, "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" was Daniels' first mainstream on-screen appearance.

"She's very nice and super smart and great to work with so we just kept asking her to be in all of our movies," the director told Conan O'Brien. Apatow offered Daniels cameos in "Knocked Up" and "Pineapple Express." The actor's 2018 tell-all memoir "Full Disclosure" was a record-breaking best-seller. In 2021, Daniels launched "Spooky Babes," a reality TV series in which she and her team travel the country in search of the most intriguing paranormal phenomenon. After Trump's indictment, one Twitter user baited the seemingly unflappable star, asking what "the whore" was doing that day.

Daniels responded, "Not sure why you're curious but... Just fed my horse and mucked stalls, signing photos and #teamstormy shirts and mailing them, booking crew/location for a music video I'm directing, floating in my pool and then my live show [on OnlyFans]." In 2023, the TV personality made an unexpected career move when she took on hosting duties for OutTV's gay dating show "For the Love of DILFs." According to LGBTQ Nation, the bisexual actor is "delightful in this."

Ginger Lynn almost landed a Martin Scorcese film

Ginger Lynn kicked off her career in adult entertainment when she was 19. After answering an ad for "figure models," she was captivated by the photos of Marilyn Chambers and other porn queens on the photographer's wall. "Those were the famous girls, and I wanted so badly to be famous," Lynn recalled, per Vice's "Sex Before the Internet" documentary. The Illinois native became one of the industry's biggest stars in the early '80s, before walking away in 1986.

Lynn started studying acting and landed a role in the "Vice Academy" movies. Another movie role followed in "Young Guns II," which stars Emilio Estevez. (A few years later, she would date Estevez's brother Charlie Sheen.) She's also in Metallica's music video "Turn the Page." Lynn revealed told Icon vs. Icon that she went up against Sharon Stone in the final rounds of auditions for the 1995 film "Casino." "It was the biggest role I was ever up for," she said.

Lynn returned to the world of X-rated filmmaking, inking her comeback deal with VCA Pictures in 1999.  Since then, she has continued to perform in mainstream productions. She had a cameo as Stifler's nurse in 2005's "American Pie Presents Band Camp." Lynn also recurred in a few episodes of Fox's miniseries "Skin." Looking back, the former skin flicks actor told Icon vs. Icon, "I hear about girls getting into the business today and it's so different. I was so fortunate to be in it during the heyday of porn."

Simon Rex won raves playing a role not unlike himself

Simon Rex wasn't an adult film star like most of the others featured here. When he was 18, his Penthouse model roommate got him a gig shooting solo porn videos to help cover the rent. "At the time, I was so young and dumb that I thought it was cool," he recalled to The Guardian. The model-turned-rapper rose to stardom in the 90s as an MTV VJ. He starred in a few of the "Scary Movie" sequels, and appeared on TV shows like "Cuts" and "What I Like About You."

As Yahoo! Entertainment reported, around this time, the X-rated videos Rex shot resurfaced, and Village Voice columnist Michael Musto added fuel to the fire by publishing a photo of his penis. In 2021, Rex was ready to quit acting altogether when Sean Baker approached him about playing a washed-up porn star in his movie "Red Rocket." "Just once in a while, you're a part of something special," Rex said in Esquire. "This is one of those things." The film earned rave reviews, with Monacle's Tim Robey calling Rex's performance "tremendous."

The actor's been lining up film projects ever since. He plays a crack-using necrophiliac in 2023's queer comedy "Down Low." Rex takes a serious turn in "Americana," which stars Sydney Sweeney and Halsey. "My whole life, I've been slipping on banana peels in Scary Movie and doing WB sitcoms, and I never really had an opportunity to do [dramatic work]," Rex said in The Daily Beast.

Sibel Kekilli starred in adult films before landing on Game of Thrones

Most people know Sibel Kekilli as Shae, Tyrion's lover from HBO's hit series "Game of Thrones." As the New York Post recounted, back in 2004 the German actor was promoting her film "Head On" when the tabloid Bild dropped a bombshell. "Why did the petite diva star in such hard-core pornos?" read the headline. The paper included an interview with the actor's father, who said, "The disgrace is too great for the family...I don't want to ever see her again."

Kekilli explained she made nine films to pay off some loans, each bringing in about $300. "I later understood that it was a mistake," she admitted. Kekilli received the coveted Lola Award for Best Actress for her performance in the film. For her turn in 2010's "When We Leave," Kekilli earned a Best Actress Award at the Tribeca Film Festival. When she received the call to audition for "GOT," the actor recalled to Complex, "If I hadn't done it, everyone would've called me insane."

After joining the cast at the end of Season 1, Kekilli eventually realized nothing had prepared her for the media attention she would receive. At 2014's "Game of Thrones" Epic Fan Experience at Brooklyn's Barclays Center, the actor was overwhelmed by the throngs of cheering fans. "I guess Beyonce or Madonna feels like that every time they get on the stage. Like rockstars. It's incredible, really," she told HuffPost. "I'm still confused and speechless and overwhelmed."