Gourmet chef and porn star with a military background, Jack Vidra is a model working in the adult entertainment industry nominated as Best Newcomer for the 2017 Grabby Awards, celebrating the adult erotic video industry.
Featured in movies from hothouse and tyrant studios, Jack has recently published an essay titled ‘Do something that scares you’, where he shares his pat h from joining the Marine Corps to becoming a chef and then an adult worker; a process that guided him to discover a better and more accept himself, able to appreciate the differences that make each one of us unique, physically and emotionally. His strength does not come just from the body, but through the body, it lets the soul grow and improve.
"Porn actors: despite all the validation that they get, they still remain so fragile. What being in porn, close to fetish and trans communities has shown me is that all of these people derived so much strength from their differences."
— Jack Vidra
— Photo: PhotoRSH
Simone Salis (host): Hello, I am Simone, the creator of Hoomans. This episode includes explicit—but non vulgar—talk about the life and career of a professional sex worker and the links provided include explicit adult content. I am glad I had a chance to record this conversation with Jack, and if you decide to keep listening, I hope you’ll find it interesting and liberating. But otherwise, if you can’t or are afraid, feel free to enjoy something else for today. I hope you’ll stay. And now, enjoy the show.
Jack Vidra (guest): That’s my issue is well, with other porn actors is that, despite all the validation that they get, they still remain so fragile. What being in porn and being close to fetish community, being close to trans community, like just all of these different aspects of my life has shown me like, all of these people derived so much strength from their differences, there is something out there for you. You know, if you’re just hating on yourself because you don’t fit a particular ideal that you think you should be, it doesn’t mean that that’s where you belong. I think what it’s really done for me, the biggest thing is that, you know, somebody could walk right up to me and tell me that, “You know, I don’t find you attractive and I think redheads are gross,” or whatever it is, I think, “Whew! Thank God I don’t have to please everyone.
S. Salis: I am Simone Salis and this is Hoomans with today’s guest, Jack Vidra.
S. Salis: Gourmet chef and porn star with a military background, Jack Vidra is a model working in the adult entertainment industry nominated as Best Newcomer for the 2017 Grabby Awards, celebrating the adult erotic video industry. Featured in movies from hothouse and tyrant studios, Jack has recently published an essay titled ‘Do something that scares you’, where he shares his pat h from joining the Marine Corps to becoming a chef and then an adult worker; a process that guided him to discover a better and more accept himself, able to appreciate the differences that make each one of us unique, physically and emotionally. His strength does not come just from the body, but through the body, it lets the soul grow and improve. When you ask to a kid want they to do when they grow up, if the answer is…. (Laughs). I don’t think the answer can be “a sex worker”. (Laughs). What did you… what did your childish mind have… was thinking for your future? What did you plan? What did you want to do?
Jack Vidra (guest): Well, I wanted to be everything. I think I originally wanted to be a cardiac surgeon; first thing I thought that I wanted, yeah.
S. Salis: Okay.
J. Vidra: And I actually continued on that path for a little bit. I went to a Technical High School and got a degree in nursing, even before I graduated high school. So worked in that field for a little bit. Applied for pre-med and went to pre-med for two semesters. Not disliking the, you know, curriculum or anything else but just disliking the living situation. Like I thought that I was going to be getting out of town and, you know, starting over and everything else.
S. Salis: Where are you originally from?
J. Vidra: Delaware, the very southern end. So my parents live in a huge farm and it was very, very rural on very kind of, you know, not backwoods but, you know, very kind of conservative and … republican.
S. Salis: (Laughs). Did you feel comfortable growing up in this environment with your famil?
J. Vidra: Yes, I knew that I always wanted. I knew I wanted more of a cosmopolitan environment and free thinking and art and culture. And that was… I knew I wanted to leave as soon as I was, you know, and I just was really unhappy being at home. I thought I was going to be leaving, so…
S. Salis: When was the first time that you were able to move to a great city, a big city?
J. Vidra: Well, probably once I joined the Marines after I… after I was really unhappy with that c ollege situation, just the recruiter called me up one day and said, “I’d noticed that you never took the ASVAB, would you like to try it?” and I said, “Sure!” So I took the ASVAB and up at 99 I got a 99, and so they were like, “Okay, you can pretty much do whatever you want.” I did pretty well my SATs but I never really thought that I was like, you know, at genius level. And apparently I just have really great common sense and spatial intelligence, and so the ASVAB was very, very tuned to my sort of intelligence.
S. Salis: Yeah, it was geared toward that and, you know, you were nailing it.
J. Vidra: Yeah, I really nailed it… so I thought carefully about it, did some research and then I thought, “I’m going to do it.” I never really thought that I would join the military, I just thought that it was an interesting choice and I wanted to prove something to myself. I wanted to do something hard.
S. Salis: What was your role? What did you do in the Marine Corps?
J. Vidra: I chose the job to be a nuclear biological and chemical defense specialist. So you basically…
S. Salis: Part of the infantry? No…
J. Vidra: Yes.
S. Salis: Okay.
J. Vidra: So you are a instructor and a technical expert to the commander on threat for biological and nuclear weapons capability of other nations. You teach everybody in your unit how to train and maintain their protective gear. You’d be in charge if anything did happen and you’d have to like lead the battalion through a decontamination. And so you have this massive amount of training; it was very, very difficult to go through.
S. Salis: Yeah.
J. Vidra: But it was actually kind of a great job because, although I had all this technical expertise, I really didn’t have to do a whole lot because there was a… there’s a lot of training and things like that, but there really wasn’t a lot of actualization of your job.
S. Salis: So you never went like on field to apply those…?
J. Vidra: All the time.
S. Salis: Oh, you were… okay.
S. Salis: But I mean, like, you know, chemical rounds never went off or a nuke never went off.
S. Salis: Yeah.
J. Vidra: So I never like technically actually had to do my job.
S. Salis: Right, thankfully. (Laughs).
J. Vidra: But that did afford me the opportunity to… because I was in, you know, like the headquarters and service company and we were in charge of all the training and maintaining everything. So every time there was a range, I would go. Every time there was like a weapon’s, you know, training, I would go and check it out. So I shot just about everything. I’ve jumped out of airplanes, I’ve, you know, blown up tanks, I’ve just…
S. Salis: Blown up tanks!
J. Vidra: Sure! Yeah, I went out with the gunner who was the weapons expert for the battalion and he would just be like, you know, “Hey, what are you doing today? You want to j p?” and I’m like, “Okay, sure.”
S. Salis: (Laughs). How long did you do that for?
J. Vidra: I did 4 years and I did… I did it hard and, you know, intense. I was really… I really loved it but I… and I… I got merits, so promoted twice and I excelled very quickly. And a lot of people thought, you know, “Oh, you’re into this forever. You’re going to be a lifer.”
S. Salis: Is that what made you think about changing path?
J. Vidra: That, not necessarily, just it was really difficult to have any sort of sense of identity as a gay man. It was really hard to have a relationship.
S. Salis: Which year was this? How long ago was this?
J. Vidra: I was in from 2002 to 2006.
S. Salis: So the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was…
J. Vidra: It was still Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell but, you know, being in an infantry unit in a battalion on the East Coast it was still very frowned upon, very talked down upon. You know, people would actively say, you know, derogatory things and… you know, if people were found out that they were engaging in, you know, gay behavior or gay sex or whatever like they were still kicked out. And they weren’t supposed to do that there were technically like, you know, sting operations almost to try and catch people in the act. So yeah, you had just this silly fear of something that you didn’t really feel like you needed to be ashamed of. And…
S. Salis: Right.
J. Vidra: … I really did not enjoy that and making up lies about, you know, imaginary girlfriends that I wasn’t seeing and stuff like that to cover my tracks.
S. Salis: If Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was not… if that didn’t exist, if it was 2017 say, do you think he would have stayed a little longer or you would have explored that path more?
J. Vidra: I think so, yes. I mean, I was just… I was really ready to have an identity, to have a real life, have a real, you know, romantic and/or sex life and, you know, not tiptoe around about things. I think it certainly has changed for the better but I mean, it… I don’t know. It would probably be very interesting for me to see if people still really feel like they’re not ostracized or…
S. Salis: I met recently a kid is, I think, he was 21. We were talking and I believe he’s also in a military base here in the United States and he has a relationship with a man from another battalion. I was really impressed by the… he openly talking about that and I was like, “How do you feel?” he’s like, “Great! I don’t hide it!” I’m like, “Okay, that’s luck; that’s something.”
J. Vidra: That’s awesome! I don’t know if it would have… I mean, it was received very well, by friends of mine that, had I guessed, figured it out one way or another. And they knew I couldn’t talk about it, they knew it was something that that would not be embarrassing to me. So a lot of my, you know, real good friends and close co-workers and things like that like figured it out over time. And some of them tried to get it out of me and just like, “You know, you can’t you can’t lie to me about this; you don’t have to. It doesn’t make a difference to me. Like…”
S. Salis: They wanted you to know that you could have like a personal connection and “No worries, enjoy yourself.”
J. Vidra: Sure, right. And they’re like, you know, if… and I have people to this day that are still friends with me on Facebook that are just like, you know, “I’m so thankful I had you as a good example because it really made me think that, if you can be gay, then I must have my perceptions all wrong,” you know?”
S. Salis: (Laughs).
J. Vidra: So I was like, “Well, thanks; in a way.” Yeah, that’s great but… mm-hmm.
S. Salis: Sometimes it feels reassuring to see that some stereotypes are closer to the norm to accept it, but that’s also the normalization of the queer and that can become a double-edged sword. But… so you… 4 years and your next step was what after that? How did you decide to leave what? What happened?
J. Vidra: I moved back home. I was trying to get a job in Washington because I had a… I had a really high clearance but I also, because of the job I was in, didn’t have communications or intelligence experience. So it’s very difficult to place me in an entry-level job with such a high clearance and no experience in those fields. So I was fairly like un-hirable by these companies because they couldn’t afford to hire me with my clearance and put me in an entry-level position. And it wasn’t working out and, you know, being back home with your parents again and they’re like, you know, “Oh you have to be in bed by midnight,” and you’re like…
S. Salis: (Laughs). Yeah, I had to do that for a couple years; my adult years, yeah.
J. Vidra: My mother would be like, “I don’t like you shooting firearms when your father isn’t here,” And I’m like, “What did I just do for a living?” (Laughs).
S. Salis: Yeah. (Laughs).
J. Vidra: But… so that didn’t work out and I just needed to change a pace. And some relatives that lived in Tampa contacted me and just said, “If you wanted to get out of there, come down here; get a change of pace. You can look for a job here.” And so I did and lived with them for about 5 months before I found a job in insurance. And I worked as an insurance claims adjuster for the next like 4 years. And so then I went from insurance to working in law. I worked as a…
S. Salis: What’d you do?
J. Vidra: I was a paralegal for a real estate company and…
S. Salis: And not officially… well, you were conscious of your sexual orientation and identity.
J. Vidra: Sure. I basically fully came out like as soon as I got out of the military.
S. Salis: Okay. Even to your family?
J. Vidra: Yeah, I told all my family and they were just so happy that we could finally talk about it. Like of course all my sisters knew my… you know, my parents were fine with it. They were just… they had such a…
S. Salis: That’s great.
J. Vidra: … like a lesbian sister as well. And she… when she came out, she… she drug everybody with her, you know, she wanted everybody to talk about it and wanted everybody to understand. And by the time I said it, I was just like, “I’m not doing that; like, I don’t really care. If you need to go have a cry, like this is my deal. I just want to tell you so you don’t think I’m ignoring it because…”
S. Salis: Okay.
J. Vidra: And they’re like, “Oh good! Thank God!”
S. Salis: So your sister educated everybody then you jumped in. (Laughs).
J. Vidra: Right. It was like, “Thanks for not even coming out story.” I’m like… (Laughs).
S. Salis: “I came out,” done.
J. Vidra: Right.
S. Salis: Everything was great. (Laughs).
J. Vidra: (Laughs). Everything was fine.
S. Salis: Yeah.
J. Vidra: And then we go and got ice-cream, right?
S. Salis: Yeah. When is the moment… When did you decide to become a chef?
J. Vidra: Well, that happened because I had a group of friends that we would always get together and have, what we call, ‘dinner club’. Started as like everybody trying a recipe and then it just kind of likes helmed into me being in charge of it, and so I would kind of dictate like what wine we would choose and then I would host dinners all the time. And it got so popular, I mean, everybody wanted to go and everybody was talking about it all the time. And we did not have enough
seats or space for everybody. Some people were like, “Well, you should start charging or something,” and I’m like, “Oh no, I don’t want to do that. I just… I want…”
S. Salis: “I want to have a good time.”
J. Vidra: Right, I want to have a good time. So I started like limiting things and be like, “Okay if you get here at 7:30, you can have champagne, and if you get here at 8:00, you get California.” So…
S. Salis: (Laughs). So there were shifts? (Laughs).
J. Vidra: Right, there were shifts. And it was like, “Oh, you’re late. You don’t get…” So it’s kind of… and that always made me really happy. My family has always really been involved with food. I had an uncle that was a chef and, you know, Christmases and family reunions are just food everywhere. It just became such a thing that people started talking about it. It got me thinking about it like, “This is what you should be doing. Like if you’re not loving the financial and law world, then you should… this is what you should be doing.” And I just push it off for so long because I was like, “I really don’t want to reinvent myself right now. I’d… like I feel like I have a good like, you know, fluctuation with what I’m doing.” And then the company restructured, I had to be laid off, and then I was kind of this weird impasse where I was like well, “Why not do it now?” you know? And I was seeing this guy at the time and he got a job in Chicago. So we did that and we made it work for like 2 years or whatever. I finished culinary school and then we ended up splitting up; he moved to LA and I stayed here. But yeah, you know, even if you have culinary school paid for, the only way that you can work to gain experience is to take jobs that pay like $10 an hour.
S. Salis: Of course, and from there then you actually…
J. Vidra: Yeah. So you go broke trying to gain experience. And, you know, it was very challenging because I’ve always worked, I’ve always had a little it kind of rapport built at my jobs. I’ve had, you know, some good experience and everything. Then all of a sudden, you’re the idiot again; like you don’t know anything and you’re having to… this is very challenging because I’d always worked, always had a little bit of clout where I worked and had a little bit of experience. And now, I feel like I didn’t know nothing now, you know? So it was very difficult to reinvent yourself. But it took it took a long time to… but I really pushed myself to gain experience. And I worked as many places as I could, I worked as hard as I could. And again, I moved up really fast and I had like an executive chef position within a year and a half; kind of unheard of, and it really…
S. Salis: That’s remark… I mean, I am not in the field and I was impressive right now! (Laughs).
J. Vidra: It was a really interesting opportunity because it kind of presented itself by default. But I took a job as a sous chef, and the chef that they hired just couldn’t handle it. And I was basically doing his job the whole time, and they were like…
S. Salis: You knew all the work.
J. Vidra: “Do you think that you could do this? You know, we know this is even, you know, a big order for you, even though you’re handling it. How do you feel about it?” And I took it on and I… you know, just because I so badly wanted it to work, I just ran myself in the ground working. I was like working like 80 hours a week, 90 hours a week. Worked in the restaurant for a little while, worked for a catering company for a long time, and then began the evolution that I’m doing now where I do high-end catering and parties and mostly work for myself; but sometimes sub out to other companies.
S. Salis: I am Simone Salis and this is Hoomans with today’s guest, Jack Vidra, chef and sex
worker featured in movies from hothouse and tidal studios.
So you have, at this point in time, you do have two parallel careers; one is the chef… it’s the culinary one, and the other one is… at some point, you decided, “I don’t want to just be a chef. I don’t want to just cook. I want to explore something different.”
J. Vidra: Right.
S. Salis: And that something different happened to be porn.
J. Vidra: Right.
S. Salis: And being a sex worker, right?
J. Vidra: Yeah. The stories are exactly parallel but, I mean, I… I’ve always been very sexually identified, I’ve always been very forward with that. I never really had a problem with my sexuality, I just kind of wondered why it was such a stumbling block to everyone else. Instigated a lot of sexual behavior in my, you know…
S. Salis: Growing up.
J. Vidra: Growing up with, you know, friends of mine and things like that. And they would be into it and then feel guilty, you know?
S. Salis: (Laughs). Well, yeah. Wait… wait a second, did you grow up religious?
J. Vidra: Yes.
S. Salis: And you have no guilt about sex?
J. Vidra: I really don’t.
S. Salis: That must be an amazing religion, can you tell me which one? (Laughs).
J. Vidra: I think I… (Laughs). No, we were…
S. Salis: There it is.
J. Vidra: Kind of like… not evangelical but I guess just it’s like a Christian, you know, and dominational.
S. Salis: Great. You didn’t have that sense of guilt, which is a great; it’s a great life.
J. Vidra: Either I’m a sociopath or… I don’t know, it eluded me, somehow. But I… yeah, I never… I never really felt like I had a problem with it. The only… the only problem I had with it was feeling like, “Why is this bad?” you know, “Like why is… why is it like shunned or why am I like…” I was of course like embarrassed to be caught jerking off or something. But…
S. Salis: Right, but, “Why is it a taboo?”
J. Vidra: Right.
S. Salis: That was your… but like the point is, “Where is the scandal?”
J. Vidra: Right, “Why is it dirty? Everybody’s doing it, everybody wants to do it, so what is the big problem?”
S. Salis: Yeah, “Let’s just be honest about it,” (Laughs).
J. Vidra: Right. So the thing with the poor, and I guess I always looked at it as something that you do when you have no, other options or something that people do because they’re abused or they’re…
S. Salis: That’s a stereotype usually.
J. Vidra: Sure, and that they’re, you know… that they had an abusive relationship or they have like construed ideas about sex and they don’t have a healthy approach to it or whatever. But I always thought like I am kind of an exhibitionist, I do like, you know, not necessarily like gaining the attention, but I like having…
J. Vidra: I like having the display, yes, I do enjoy that and I don’t necessarily do it for the attention, it’s just to do it to have done it, I guess. And really my first outlook to porn was like, “It’s going to be a check in the box. I’m not going to be successful at it. Like it’ll just be like something that I did.” Because every time that I talk to somebody, somebody had done it like, “Oh yeah, I did a scene a while ago,” and like they didn’t do it anymore or like they…
S. Salis: It’s just a one-off, that’s what it was.
J. Vidra: Right. It was just like an experience for them.
S. Salis: So what did you expect from it?
J. Vidra: Nothing really.
S. Salis: You didn’t start from attention. Was it literally just like checking something off the bucket list and going like, “Done,”?
J. Vidra: Basically what it came from was, I dated a couple people monogamously that just gave me a lot of, again, like gave me some guilt about the whole issue as far as like being a lot more sexually inclined than they were and a lot more visual and intense and always, you know, kind of like guiding the situation. I remember one ex told me that like, you know, “Oh I would never… I would never date somebody that was a stripper. I would never date somebody that did porn,” or whatever. And I thought like, “If that’s what you look at, like I will… I wouldn’t want to date somebody that had that viewpoint. Like, that’s really shallow.”
S. Salis: What was the reason behind that choice or just saying it?
J. Vidra: This is a lot of insecurity issues. I mean, like there was there’s a lot. The persona was very much intact but the… you know, the person inside was just clamoring for attention, you know?
S. Salis: What was your idea before starting to do porn? What was your idea of a person in porn? Because we talked about the CEO type usually, you know, trying to go past some earlier abuse in life or stuff like that. What was your idea? What did you think of sex workers? Did you think it was right, was wrong, was… well, I’m simplifying now but what was your point of view on it?
J. Vidra: I always looked at it as something that like… you know, where people come from being damaged goods and they had something to prove or that they’re dead inside or that they… you know, they don’t really know what central, you know, interaction feels like or whatever like that had been lost on them.
S. Salis: And there was also the view that your ex had.
J. Vidra: Sure, mm-hmm.
S. Salis: At that time, would you have dated somebody working in like the adult entertainment?
J. Vidra: At the time, I don’t know if I… if that would have been, you know, brought to my, you know, options list or whatever. But I’d like to think that I would never shut somebody out for that. I mean, like with the opposite thread, I went on a coffee date with a guy one time that said that he just broke up with his boyfriend because he caught him masturbating to porn and he considers that cheating.
S. Salis: (Laughs).
J. Vidra: And I put a $5 bill on the table, I said, “This is not going to work.”
S. Salis: (Laughs).
J. Vidra: (Laughs). “Everybody needs their ‘me time’ and I think I should go,” right. (Laughs). I guess it was always in the back of my head. I did some… I did some modeling when I was younger and kind of continued that throughout… just kind of give me a reason to work out. And it really accelerated a lot more when I got a lot of my tattoos. My older sister, Emily, actually did both of them.
S. Salis: She’s a tattoo artist?
J. Vidra: Mm-hmm, yep. So she’s always been an artist; she did both of these. And I had a really great photographer hired to take photos of them. And I had recently like gotten in really good shape and I was just kind of like, “Yeah, it would be fun to do a cool photo shoot.” And the photos turned out really well and they got published and I was just like, “Oh, well, maybe I can model.” So from there, I just was like, you know, exploring other projects and things like that. And somewhere along, the way the production team from Raging Stallion at Falcon found them and contacted me and just said, “Hi, would you ever consider doing movie?” I’m like, “Hmm, I don’t know; I don’t know.”
S. Salis: (Laughs). So you turned them away?
J. Vidra: I didn’t turn them away. I made contact with them and we’ve been in contact ever since. So I’ve known Steve Cruz and Bruno Bond from Raging Stallion for, I don’t know, 10 years now or something. Yeah, so they did come across my dash a couple times and I just, I thought about it. I just thought I wasn’t really ready yet, like it wasn’t really ready for everybody else’s reaction. Once I really mold that over, I thought like, “Why don’t… why do I care about everybody else’s reaction? Like if I can just do this, enjoy it, and own it then, I’m not doing it for anybody but myself,” you know?
S. Salis: No, shame in something you own. (Laughs).
J. Vidra: Right! There’s no, shame in something you own. And that’s why I’ve looked at every project I’ve ever done in porn as something that, “Is this good for me? Is this good for the other person? Does this presents a good message?” like, you know, “I would never do something that I think is derogatory or, you know, like glorifies abuse or something like that because that’s not the type of person that I am.” You know, there are a lot of weird fetishes out there and things like that but I’m, you know… if it’s not something that I would endorse, I wouldn’t be a part of it. So just because, even if somebody would like to see me that way, that I think like, “Well, that’s not me, so you don’t get to,” you know? (Laughs). I think everything that I do the people that I work with, like I’ve turned down many opportunities because I didn’t think it was a right decision; casting or directors or whatever, I just like, “Oh, I don’t want to work with that person. It’s not… you know, it’s not going to work for me.”
S. Salis: Part of the stereotype is also that you will do anything for… I believe so, like anybody would do anything for money in that field or is just like a passive… there is no, conscious choice, ethically or personally; again, the stereotype. But what I’m hearing right now is like, “I am this kind of person, have a certain set of values, and even in physical work, even in porn, I’m going to refuse…”
J. Vidra: It’s real!
S. Salis: “… what I don’t believe.” It’s real! Right, yeah. And you’re right; even… (Laughs).
J. Vidra: There’s a… there’s a slight degree of acting. And, you know, when you do some of the larger productions and stuff like that, there’s a lot of faking things for the camera because those shoots can sometimes take 9 hours.
S. Salis: 9! (Laughs). Oh my god!
J. Vidra: Yeah.
S. Salis: You know what? 9 hours, it’s… I have admiration edited is like 20 minutes, probably means there was way more filming than 20 minutes.
J. Vidra: Oh, so much more; so much more!
S. Salis: And I’m just like, “This…”
J. Vidra: Every time you see a shot, we filmed it 7 times.
S. Salis: I am so sorry to hear that.
J. Vidra: It’s exhausting!
S. Salis: I hope you have fun but… yeah! I was about to say heroes to me because I am too lazy… (Laughs)… for some exhausting job from what I’m hearing. (Laughs).
J. Vidra: It is physically, emotionally and mentally really demanding. Sometimes you just…
S. Salis: Is that what you expected? I mean, if you think about it rationally speaking, it makes sense to me, but I don’t know if I would have expected it.
J. Vidra: I think… I think it’s one of those things that I just kind of accepted as the challenge because I thought, “If it were easy, everybody would do it.”
S. Salis: I mean, everybody kind of does, on SnapChat. (Laughs).
J. Vidra: Right.
S. Salis: But not professionally.
J. Vidra: Right. But like, you know, when people… when people casually say like, “Oh yeah, I could get into porn,” I’m like, “You don’t know anything!” (Laughs).
S. Salis: (Laughs). “You don’t know my sufferings!” (Laughs).
J. Vidra: “You don’t know anything!” I’ve only been doing this for 2 years now. Like when I first started, like at Raging Star, they only had 1 camera.
S. Salis: Oh!
J. Vidra: That’s why every time you move, you have to like film the transition, you have to change the lights and everything. So not only are you trying to focus on what you’re doing, which is very physically demanding and like, you know, has a very specific look to like, if you’re actually certainly into it and actually certainly doing exactly what you’re doing, but then there’s 5 or 6 people moving around you.
S. Salis: (Laughs).
J. Vidra: You know?
S. Salis: “And cut!”
J. Vidra: Right.
S. Salis: (Laughs). “There we go. Finally, I’m done!” (Laughs).
J. Vidra: Right. I knew it was something that I always wanted to do. And I thought, you know, “Don’t do this because you need the money, don’t do this because you’re mad that you’re single now or don’t do this because you feel like displaced in your life or whatever. Like, do it when you feel good about yourself so you know you’re making the right decision.” So I waited until…
S. Salis: Hmm, that’s very self-conscious.
J. Vidra: Well…
S. Salis: That’s great! That’s great!
J. Vidra: I knew I didn’t want to be upset with myself that I did it, you know? Like I knew I wanted to make the right decision. So I was like I was doing really well, I was, you know, successful and I had like a place together and a good circle of friends and everything else, and I felt really fulfilled, them like, “Alright, now I can do it.”
S. Salis: (Laughs). That’s great! Again, usually stereotyped; unstable, needy….
J. Vidra: Sure!
S. Salis: …goes into porn. And you were like, “Okay, I am perfectly stable now, I feel satisfied, so I should get into porn.” (Laughs).
J. Vidra: “So I should do it,” right. Like I… but it’s always been to me… it’s always been something that I wasn’t going to chuck it all and, you know… and do porn and just completely changed my life. I mean, people would say like, “Oh, I love that you’re a chef, you should be doing that,” I’m like, “I can do both! I can do…”
S. Salis: Yeah. There is no law that says like, “No, you can’t.” (Laughs).
J. Vidra: Right.
S. Salis: “Either you have sex or you cook.” (Laughs).
J. Vidra: “Or you make food.”
S. Salis: “You make food.”
J. Vidra: I haven’t really found a way to do it at the same time, but… (Laughs).
S. Salis: (Laughs). That might be the next thing, it’s not just food porn; (Laughs) sex food porn. I’m sure there is a fetish for that. I read in your essay, “I wanted to do porn because I had always been afraid of it,” and that’s kind of what we’re talking about. There is… I was talking through a couple improvisers in previous interviews and there is Del Close, which is a theater director, especially here in Chicago known, an improviser who mentored like many Saturday Night Live people. And he used to say all the time, “Follow your fear,” that’s like stalk it; like go behind it. And this seems, to me, the kind of same powerful approach. Like identify what would you crave but you are afraid of and then try to pursue it, and eventually you’ll find out that it’s… it’s okay, it’s actually satisfying and empowering.
J. Vidra: I think okay it… it certainly identified very specifically the pinnacle of the thing that I was afraid to embrace. I was afraid to embrace my sex positiveness. I was afraid to say, unapologetically that, you know, I’d had these experiences and things like that, because I got tired of feeling like a circle of shame when everybody else was doing the same thing, “So why are we talking about each other,” you know? It identified like the position I wanted to take with my family, where I just kind of like, I wanted to feel like I had nothing to apologize for.
S. Salis: Mm-hmm, and you’re open through your work even with them.
J. Vidra: Always have been open through work. And… yeah, I mean, I only talk about it when I’m asked about it really.
S. Salis: Of course.
J. Vidra: Like I don’t really broadcast things. But it’s, I mean, nothing is a secret. You know, in my personal life, I don’t… everybody knows but like…
S. Salis: It’s not the main topic.
J. Vidra: It’s not the main topic, yeah.
S. Salis: It’s not what identifies you as a person.
J. Vidra: I mean, some people are really interested and, you know, kind of…
S. Salis: “Here I am!” (Laughs).
J. Vidra: Right. My roommate all the time is like, “God! I hate you sometimes!” you know? (Laughs). “How you can just pull money out of the air.” And I’m like, “Well, it’s not ‘not’ work.”
S. Salis: Yeah.
J. Vidra: I mean, it is work but, you know, things certainly have been easier for me in the past couple years than they happened before.
S. Salis: I am Simone Salis and this is Hoomans. You can listen to every episode on your favorite podcast app or with a full transcript available on hoomans.org. Today’s guest is Jack Vidra, gourmet chef and model working in the adult entertainment industry.
For whoever changes their career path or amplifies it and explores new fields, there is usually some fear when you start right away; like or anxiety, you don’t know how it works, it’s something new, right? And everybody else has being around for a while.
J. Vidra: Sure.
S. Salis: And they know what’s happening. How was it at the beginning? Like the very first time you walked in front of the camera, how did you feel?
J. Vidra: I think the biggest thing I was afraid of was looking like an idiot. I didn’t want to be the new guy he didn’t know anything. And, you know, if you’re going in this, obviously it’s not the first time you’ve had sex it’s, you know…
S. Salis: Right.
J. Vidra: … you just never been in front of a camera before.
S. Salis: But it’s a performance.
J. Vidra: Right.
S. Salis: It’s not just like a personal… yeah.
J. Vidra: It’s a performance. It’s like walking out on a to stage for the first time and not knowing you’re blocking. You know, like people are like… you know, “The camera’s over here,” you know? But actually, my first scene, they put me with a guy who had been in an industry for a really long time and we had actually had an interaction before and we had like hooked up before, so I really was not nervous about that. But he’s, you know, a big star in the industry and everything, so I was really nervous about looking stupid. He made my first experience really great. And while it was like his last scene with that company and he was kind of like done with it, he was very patient with me. And we’re still friends to this day; we actually just worked together recently. It was a… it was an interesting set of events that kind of let me know that I had… that I had come across some good people, you know? I get to the hotel in Vegas which they put you… they put eating this off strip hotel which is got like, you know, random people that are on vacation and business people; it’s a very odd, hodgepodge of people in Vegas. And so I’m nervous, it’s like, you know, 7 o’clock in the morning, I’m eating breakfast and just trying to be like, “Alright, am I thinking of anything? Do I need to like, you know, do anything?” And Adam Ramsay, who’s been in industry for a long time, is a psychologist now, he’s a doctor. And he was finishing his doctorate at the time he’s just such an interesting character and he’s a big porn star too. And he sat down the table right in front of me and he just said, “Hey, I think I know why you’re here.” He goes, “You clearly don’t look like everybody else in this hotel.” He goes, “I just want to let you know that you’re going to have a good day. Don’t be nervous.”
S. Salis: (Laughs).
J. Vidra: And he was…
S. Salis: How did he know? (Laughs).
J. Vidra: He just… because of the way I looked; I don’t know. But he just sat down right in front of me and he said, “Hey!” And turns out he’s just interjected into my life in really interesting ways; like some people in this neighborhood are really good friends with him and stuff like that. So it was really neat that it was just, he was like the ambassador. (Laughs).
S. Salis: (Laughs).
J. Vidra: That was really interesting just because I was like, “Okay, you’re going to be fine.” (Laughs).
S. Salis: It was also… yes, so nice, right?
J. Vidra: Yeah.
S. Salis: Because you’re anxious, he’s just like, “No, worries!”
J. Vidra: Right.
S. Salis: “I have experience.”
J. Vidra: Yeah.
S. Salis: “Everything is going to turn out great.” (Laughs).
J. Vidra: (Laughs). And I usually ended up doing the same thing for a really young kid that I found in the same hotel.
S. Salis: Everybody’s…
J. Vidra: It just looked like people on vacation and then, you know, the beautiful 23 year old with muscles, you’re like, “Eh, come here.” (Laughs).
S. Salis: (Laughs). How do you legally go on for 7, 8 hours? How do you physically go on?
J. Vidra: I mean, you’re not like actively, you know…
S. Salis: Right.
J. Vidra: … engaged in, you know, this… the filming for at that time.
S. Salis: Intercourse.
J. Vidra: Yeah. But you… they usually pick you up at 9AM. They’ll take you to the studio, you do your paperwork, they take some time like getting ready and putting things together, and then each of you, whoever’s in the scene, usually it’s just 2 people, so each of you will do photos and that takes like an hour something like that. If you’re an experienced model and you can get stuff together pretty quickly, that can be really fast. Then they’ll figure out how they want to start; they’ll walk you through like different things to do, different positions and where they’re going to be where they’re going to stop you. So they’ll give you a little lowdown and then every time you change positions, they have to move the lights. So there can be problems sometimes like… and you’ll work with different obstacles like, I shot in Vegas one time in July and it was 118 degrees in the studio, and they couldn’t run the air conditioning in the back because it would interfere with the audio. So…
S. Salis: So you could’ve ended up dehydrated?
J. Vidra: Oh, it was soaking wet and it’s just like falling off of everything and just… you know? We… they put 2 guys together that had really good chemistry, and we just kind of like, “You know, let’s just do this and forget that they’re here.” (Laughs). So we got through it without like dying of heat exhaustion. But yeah, it can be really difficult sometimes if you’re not working with somebody who this is a team player.
S. Salis: What is the kick that you get out of it? Like what is part of the process that you enjoy the most? Like it doesn’t… it doesn’t become routine for you?
J. Vidra: I mean, I won’t… I won’t lie to you, I mean, filming is really hard and it’s actually not very enjoyable. The experience is kind of nice because you get to meet interesting people, you get to travel. What I look forward to it is like, the filming makes you more relevant, it makes you more public and, you know, publicized. And people notice it and they… your social media is really important and that will open up a lot of doors. And Twitter, you can put anything up to like I think 2 minutes or so, but you can sell longer content on that OnlyFans platform. And some people are doing… I mean, I actually have an OnlyFans account and I make my own content. I’ve learned to edit video and put things together personally, and…
S. Salis: Look at that!
J. Vidra: So it’s…
S. Salis: (Laughs). You’re also your own producer.
J. Vidra: I… yeah! I really enjoy… that’s kind of like, I… you know, I’m always trying to push myself to learn new things even food and porn, I guess. It hasn’t been, you know, wildly successful for me. I’d probably make about $2,000 a month off of mine.
S. Salis: I’ll take that. (Laughs).
J. Vidra: Right? It’s not… it’s not bad, but some people are making 40, $50,000 a month off of it. It’s… right. (Laughs).
S. Salis: So how much do I need to work? (Laughs).
J. Vidra: It’s… I think a lot of them were being in the right place at the right time in half a specific niche.
S. Salis: Everybody has some sort of self-consciousness about specific parts of our bodies. For example, it might be my nose, it might be my ears, it might be my height, it might be whatever. And were you ever worried or self-conscious about some specific body parts? And how did your relationship with those, if that’s true, change when you started to publicly…?
J. Vidra: God, yes; oh god, yes! Well, I mean, that’s my issue as well with other porn actors is that, despite all the validation that they get, they still remain so fragile. And, I mean, growing up I felt very short, I had big ears, I have… my nose is kind of crooked, like, I mean, you can pick yourself apart when you’re a teenager. And then in your formative years you’re like, “Well, I’ve never liked my knees,” and like, “Nobody cares about your knees!” you know, like I mean, just silly stuff like that. And I have 3 beautiful sisters and they would pick themselves apart too and be like, “I hate my knees.” I’m like “No, you’re 5’9” and bib legs for days, like nobody’s going to be like…”
S. Salis: I know a person that had like calve surgery. (Laughs).
J. Vidra: Right, ugh!
S. Salis: But anyhow.
J. Vidra: I know. Like I mean, if it… if it really bothers you and it would make you happy to change it, then I’m not about to tell anybody that they shouldn’t have plastic surgery or they shouldn’t, you know, really focus on a particular muscle group in the gym. But I think what… I think the kind of like acceptance of myself and appreciating myself for what I am in porn, that’s giving me the vehicle to be like, “You know what? I’m not going to compare myself to these other people because like people don’t like me… people don’t like me because I am a perfect, you know, steroid-induced god, you know?” Like, I have flaws. I’m short. I have, you know, big ears. I like used to hate my nipples when I was a kid, like I just like…
S. Salis: (Laughs). What did they have that have you hated them?
J. Vidra: They’re just… they’re bigger.
S. Salis: They’re bigger, okay.
J. Vidra: And like when I was going through puberty and things like they were a little puffy just because of like, you know, your estrogen levels ebb and flow and stuff like that. I think what being in porn and being close to fetish community, being close to the trans community, like just all of these different aspects of my life has shown me like, all of these people derived so much strength from their differences and like being, especially in the fetish and the leather community and stuff like that. Like when people are really into specific body types or body parts or body hair or stuff like that, and you’re like, “Wow, I have been shaving my back for 10 years and somebody’s like, ‘Oh my god! Don’t do that, it’s so sexy,’” you know? Like to have a really great physical trait about you that people are like, “Oh my god! Never shave the hair on the back of your neck; I think that’s so hot!” You know, just seeing people appreciate something about other people that not everybody else does, I think is so beautiful, you know? And just to be like, you know, “I loved his big ears,” or, “I loved his, you know, like different color eyes,” or, you know, like just appreciating other people’s differences and seeing them as strengths, I think is what’s given the me the most kind of warm fuzzies about this industry. You know, there’s a big crutch in the gay community with people, you know, feeling body shamed and they feel like they don’t fit in or they don’t feel like, you know, they’re ever going to fit in with a certain culture because of their race or their weight or anything else, I just disagree with that because I feel like there’s something for everyone. And, you know, if you’re just hating on yourself because you don’t fit a particular ideal that you think you should be, it doesn’t mean that that’s where you belong, you know? It’s… you know, there is something out there for you. I mean, like I’ve just seen, you know, some people that can be like, “Well, we’re not going to call it a shortcoming, we’re going to call it a difference. You know, we’re just going to appreciate the difference about it.” It can be anything really. It could be, you know, a physical limitation or a disability and like some people… some of them someone will embrace you for that. And, you know, then you can drive a little strength by saying like, you know, “I don’t appreciate your, you know, your reaction or saying that I’m a freak because, you know, these people think I’m great.”
S. Salis: So you… this is something that you gained because of your choice of starting like adding this like alternative career path and otherwise…
J. Vidra: And not just in myself but also being less judgmental of other people. You know, you can you can be around these groups of people and not have to be validated all the time. And then, you know, even being around sex-positive people like heightened sexually, like they don’t… they’re not on all the time and they don’t… they don’t need to be validated constantly. And if you tell someone, you know, “I appreciate your energy and I’m… but I’m not attracted to you,” like having somebody tell you that they’re not attracted to you, doesn’t crush you. I think what it’s really done for me, the biggest thing is that, you know, somebody could walk right up to me and tell me that, you know, “I don’t find you attractive and I think redheads are gross,” or, “I don’t like guys with muscles,” or whatever it is and like I just… I think, “Whew! Thank God I don’t have to please everyone.” I feel like the more you open that sort of dialogue with people where they don’t feel ashamed to talk about things and that they can move quickly from missing out on validation, you know… you know, just appreciate the situation instead of, you know, constantly waiting for pat on the back. (Laughs).
S. Salis: Alright, Jack Vidra on Hoomans today. Thank you so much.
J. Vidra: Thank you.
S. Salis: Jack Vidra is a model, chef and porn actor who switched careers multiple times throughout his life. From the Marine Corps to a successful culinary career and one in the entertainment industry for mature audiences, Jack’s human and professional evolution defies stereotypes about sex workers through empowering choices that allowed him to better understand and embrace physical and emotional diversity. You can follow Jack on Twitter, onlyfans.com and his Instagram account under the username @JackVidra.