My Favorite Pornstar: Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
Kristel Penn: My name is Kristel Penn. I’m originally from Hawaii and now live in LA full-time. I’ve been in the industry for 11 years now. I work for Grooby and also run a boutique marketing firm called Ikigai Marketing. In Japanese, “ikigai” means “reason for being” so my approach is to help clients find where their professional and personal “ikigai” align and then provide advice and services based on that. I’m going to be upfront – it can be a bit life coach-y (I’m currently in grad school for counseling/psychology) and I may not be a great fit for everyone, but the idea is that I work in communities where people are using their bodies for work and it is important to me that any advice I share with my clients holds the complexities of that.
What else? I’m dorky – my Twitter feed is filled with pictures of my cats (affectionally referred to as Chompie, the intern, and the assistant), cheesy cover songs, and my adventures working at Grooby. I’m also very friendly. You’ll often see me bouncing around at events giving hugs to people haha!
My Favorite Pornstar: Currently you’re the Marketing and Editorial Director at Grooby can you tell us a bit about Grooby?
Kristel Penn: Grooby is the premier producer of trans erotica and one of the early pioneers of our genre. We currently operate over 30 membership sites, produce four DVDs a month, manage a free online magazine (Grooby Girls), and run the Transgender Erotica Awards (the TEAs).
My Favorite Pornstar: What does your role involve as Marketing and Editorial Director for Grooby?
Kristel Penn: We’re a small company, so all of us end up wearing multiple hats. My job responsibilities are generally focused on brand building and recognition (in and out of the industry) and supporting the communities we work in. Philanthropy is important to Steven Grooby and I’m really lucky he gives me the freedom and ability to Grooby’s resources to support and uplift others.
Another big part of my job now is to run the Transgender Erotica Awards (now in its 12th year). I’m the executive producer of the event, but I also secure and work with sponsors directly, handle all relevant marketing for it and manage our team of designers who work on this event in addition to managing their existing job duties at Grooby, and then I run the three-day event from start to finish. With the event growing in size each year, I find that my TEA responsibilities start earlier and earlier than the year before. In fact, I should probably start working on TEA 2020 soon…
My Favorite Pornstar: How did you end up working for Grooby?
Kristel Penn: A funny twist of fate. I was living in Hawaii at the time and having some kind of existential crisis. I was taking photos at the local newspaper and sitting on an unfinished manuscript (trying to write a novel at the time). Essentially, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life.
Then one day the then-girlfriend of a friend of mine asked if I was looking for a job and if I could use photoshop. I said yes and she explained it was for porn. I said okay and she explained it was trans porn. My answer was still okay. My first day on the job, I photoshopped out toilet paper from a performer’s butt for eight hours. It was painful, plus I was terrible at it. The next day while training me, Steven Grooby realized my forte was writing instead. He told me, “Yeah, we’re not going to make you retouch anymore.” From there, he put me on writing-centered tasks and I worked my way up through the ranks to where I am now. It started with content management for a few of our websites, then affiliate blogging, I later went back to school and got a Certificate in Marketing, and began focusing my efforts on brand building and recognition.
And now, here I am!
My Favorite Pornstar: Grooby is the creator of the Transgender Erotica Awards, the only event of it’s kind. Why do you think transgender is not as common within Southern America, Asia & Europe?
Kristel Penn: Although you’ll see a lot of companies shooting the same U.S. models, we do have a lot of trans content coming from outside of the States, including South America, Asia, and Europe (to note, Grooby operates over 30 membership sites and features performers from all over the world). There are trans people everywhere – but it is a different question if it is safe to be “out.” Some countries are more progressive than others and sadly there are countries where it is still physically unsafe for trans people to live authentically.
My Favorite Pornstar: We first met you at the XBIZ Executives Awards, where you won an award can you tell us about the award & why you think you won?
Kristel Penn: I won an XBIZ Executive Award a couple of years ago for Brand Ambassador of the Year. It was my first year being nominated and I didn’t expect to win at all because I didn’t think anyone knew who I even was. In fact, I was so confident I wasn’t going to win that I might have been awkwardly shoveling food into my mouth when I won. Yeah, not so cute.
I hope I won because people in our industry feel I am a good representative of Grooby and of our industry as a whole. My motto in life is “do good and be good” and I try to apply that to my work. I believe in being kind to others and sharing resources without expectation of something in return. I believe in using my privilege (where I have it) to lift up those around me.
My Favorite Pornstar: You’re also a published author can you tell us a bit about the books that you’ve written?
Kristel Penn: Dave Naz, who is a very very talented photographer, was kind enough to include me in two of his photography books. The second book, Identity, includes some beautiful portraits Dave shot of me and a non-fiction essay I wrote about my gender identity.
I’ve had my poetry, non-fiction essays, and short stories featured in various publications. I like to write about real life. I like stories that aren’t action-focused, but rather center around the tension and processing happening internally for the characters. A favorite published short story of mine was about a lunch between two exes and the very different processing each was having during the meal.
My Favorite Pornstar: There has been a stigma around transgender people do you think this is diminishing within the industry with the acceptance by AVN’s & XBIZ?
Kristel Penn: In some places, yes, I do see more acceptance of trans and non-binary people in the adult industry, but I will be frank and say that I believe this progress is far too slow for my liking. The industry is no different than non-adult in many ways – while we see more trans representation and acceptance, we still have a long way to go.
I really appreciate the growing inclusion of trans performers by XBIZ and AVN in their spaces and I hope that continues. XBIZ, for example, for the last few years has allowed Grooby to host a roundtable at their LA show where the trans industry is able to discuss relevant issues it faces.
My Favorite Pornstar: Where do you see the future of the adult industry?
Kristel Penn: I’m going to speak to what I hope I see as the future of the adult industry – I hope that’s okay.
I hope to see more community-building within our industry and more resources being allocated by companies to help support our performers. Mental health is an area of personal significance to me and I’d like to see more ethical and sustainable solutions created specifically for our industry.
I think our industry holds a wealth of information and I’d like to see more resource-sharing, not just for new performers, but for people in all areas of the adult industry. I don’t believe sharing resources hinders our success and profitability. If anything, I believe it makes it possible for more of us to be successful together.
More of Kristel Penn can be seen by clicking the links below.
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