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In this episode of The Turn On, Erica and Kenrya talk to author D.L. White about avoiding the crutch of stereotypes, the perks of being petty, not being precious about virginity and using Pinterest to shape memorable characters.
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Kenrya: Come here, get off.
Kenrya: Welcome, welcome, welcome to this week's episode of The Turn On. This week, we are joined by D.L. White, pronouns she and her. Atlanta-based author D.L. White began seriously pursuing a writing career in 2011. She has a legendary love for coffee, fried chicken, and brunch, especially on the patio. Her true obsession though is water: lakes, rivers, oceans, waterfalls. You know what this just makes me think of? TLC. On the weekend-
Erica: Atlanta, waterfall.
Kenrya: On the weekend, you'll probably find her near water, and if she's lucky, on an ocean beach. While not writing books, she devours them. She blogs reviews and thoughts on writing and books at BooksbyDLWhite.com and Goodreads. Grab a book by D.L. White and put it in your face. I love that you have your hashtag. And, yes, put it in your face, always.
Erica: Put it in your face.
D.L. White: I do.
Kenrya: That's what she said.
D.L. White: I say that all the time. Your face wants books. Put it in your face.
Kenrya: And other things.
Erica: I do too.
Kenrya: Thank you so much for coming on.
D.L. White: Thank you for having me, I'm so excited to be here. When a podcast that I listen to a lot asks me to be on, I'm just fangirling and I'm just very excited.
Kenrya: Oh my gosh. It's so dope that you listen.
Erica: To who?
Kenrya: Thank you for listening and thank you more for coming on.
Erica: Yes, thank you for agreeing. So, what did you want to be when you grew up?
D.L. White: I wanted to be a teacher. And I got all the way to college, and I went to declare my major, and I went to those education classes, and I was like, "No. These look boring. What looks interesting?" So, I went through the course catalog until I found classes that looked fun, and I landed on communications. So, I have a degree in comm studies, and I do have a minor in teaching English as a second or foreign language, so I am kind of an English teacher, but I'm mostly in communications.
Kenrya: So how did you come to be a writer?
D.L. White: I think I just was always a writer. I'm an introvert, I'm not shy, but I'm very insular, I love being alone, I just sit in my room and read and read and read, and the stories just started building in my head. My earliest memory is when you would be in school and you'd have to do the spelling words, and the teacher says, "Use each word in a sentence" because they need to make sure that you understand what this word means, and I would take my sentences and write a whole story-
D.L. White: So, if it was 25 words, my story would be a 25-sentence story because the assignment was boring, so I was just trying to jazz it up. I was just entertaining me. And my teacher really liked it, and my mom was pleased with it that my teacher liked it. I was like, "You guys like that? Well, I'm going to keep doing it." And so I started doing it, and maybe I'm a people-pleaser, but I liked that I was doing something that other people seemed to really enjoy, and so I just kept doing it. And as I got older, I started writing longer stories and poetry and getting more involved. And then when I was in high school, our local college used to have an essay contest every year, and I would enter every year, and I won twice, I was like, "I think I might actually be good at this, so I should keep doing it." And so that's where it started.
Erica: Well, that's really dope. Who or what inspires you to write?
D.L. White: I don't know if I have one inspiration. A lot of times, I just hear something, and it clicks in my mind. Definitely, current events or the state of relationships between Black men and women are a definite inspiration. For me, there was a point in time where every news story was "Black women are unlovable," "48% of Black women will never marry," "Black men and Asian men are the most undesirable," and I just felt bombarded by that.
D.L. White: And to combat that, I needed to write something that was encouraging and uplifting and made me feel like I could love and be loved and I was lovable. In my stories, Black men love Black women; and in my stories, the Black women don't have to be thin and beautiful and Beyoncé-like; and in my stories, the men and the women, the couples, can't get enough of each other, they want more of each other. So, I think maybe my books are my way of talking back to whatever that stigma or that stereotype is that is still prevalent today; if you are anywhere on social media, you see it all day every day about how Black men hate Black women. And that just doesn't exist in my books.
Erica: When we talked about your book on the last episode, I clearly said, "They had lots of sex," but it's like good, delicious. You can tell, and now that you're saying that, it totally makes sense, but everyone's in good relationships, and-
Kenrya: They actually like each other.
Erica: It's a breath of fresh air. What'd you say, Kenrya?
Kenrya: And they actually like each other mostly.
D.L. White: Yes.
Erica: Yes. And it's just like ... it feels good.
D.L. White: Yeah. Enamored with each other. And I just feel like it's healthy for people to have good relationships with their parents. It's normal for Black people to be upwardly mobile, and upper to middle-class, and to have money. I think that it's easy to pile a bunch of struggle on top of people, and then write your way out of it. For me, it's more of a challenge to write your Black woman and your Black man, your mama's good and your daddy's good, but he's an asshole. Why? What's his story? What's his deal? What happened in his life? What made him that way? I want to write my way out of that because ... I don't mean that it's "easy," but I think it can be a little bit of a crutch to drop in some drama or something stereotypical and roll that into your story. And I just want normal, regular-ass Black people in love. That's what I want.
Kenrya: Yeah. And it gives you an opportunity to do something that I think you do really well, which is to go inside. Their struggles are so very internal in the ways that they react to the people around them and the ways that they navigate through their relationships are very much informed by the shit that they're dealing with inside, and that's just like all of us. That's the shit that makes it hard for us to be vulnerable. That's the shit that makes it hard for us to say what we really mean instead of what we think we're supposed to say.
D.L. White: Yes. Yes. Yes.
Kenrya: And that's hard to do. It's hard to do in real life.
D.L. White: And a lot of times, you'll see in the reviews, "I just don't understand why it took so long for her to say this and do that," and I'm like, "Because you're perfect? Because you've never been ..."
Erica: "Because it didn't take you six months?"
D.L. White: Listen, I am the pettiest, most immature person I know. I really am. I will do wrong for 12 years in order to avoid having to say, "I'm sorry," and if you want to read a book about perfect people, Disney has a whole line of books over here, but my books are about real people, and my people are petty, they're a little bit bitchy, they got stuff going on, they might have some other issues, and that all is all wrapped up in your relationships and how you relate to other people.
Kenrya: I know you got a day job. How do you balance writing with a day job?
D.L. White: I think that a lot of authors that have day jobs treat their writing like it's another job, and I can't do that. I call it a "lucrative side gig," and it pays for shiny things and vacations; on occasion, it can pay a bill and put some gas in the car. And I do okay. I'm not balling out of control over here, but I do okay. All my energy and my effort has to go to the day job because that's what makes it possible for me to write.
D.L. White: I could never write full-time because I would have an ulcer, worrying about how to pay these bills with this Amazon paycheck. I need security and stability, and that day job provides that. And then, typically, from Thursday night through Sunday is when I will spend time writing or reading or planning out stories. But if I'm not secure in my day job, I can't write. I can't. I just don't have that security and that stability for me to be able to dream. And for me to be able to step out of reality, I got to fix reality first before I can even start in the fictional world.
Kenrya: You writing somebody else's.
D.L. White: Yeah. I write "when I feel like it," and I just happen to "feel like it" a lot. So, a couple hours here or there, I'll start with 1k/one hour, one thousand words or one hour, whichever comes first. And once I get started, it's like a lawnmower, where it just goes until you shut it off, like sometimes I'm just literally falling asleep, typing, "One more word and we're done with this scene, and now we can go to sleep," otherwise, it'll wake me up at 3:00 a.m. So, it just sits in my head until I put it on paper.
D.L. White: I think really one of the other things that compels me to write is that the stories write themselves in my head, and they don't leave me alone until I write them down. And so I have to get to a point where I can concentrate on my writing, which means fixing my day job and fixing my day life so I can actually sit down and put time towards getting words on the page. But that typically comes on the weekends, Thursday night, Friday night, Saturday night's a good time for me to write, and then usually all-day Sunday I'm either reading or writing.
Kenrya: You have a system.
Erica: Yeah. And I think that's good because we do talk to a lot of people, and we're like, "Fuck the day job, let's ..." well, not "fuck the day job," but we're like, "I'm going to pour my energy into this passion." And my sister always says, "I'm not horny if my bills ain't paid." She's like, "I'm not a gold digger, but don't think you're going to come and try to make me feel good when my bills ain't paid."
D.L. White: Right, exactly.
Erica: And so you got to have everything in order before going to the next.
D.L. White: So much. And I used to know people that would be like, "My power is off" or "My gas bill is $400." What about that dude you're sleeping with?" "I can't ask him." Like, "Girl, he been all up and through you, and you can't ask him for $400? Child."
Erica: You have to push it.
Kenrya: I literally had to say that to somebody who called me and said their electricity was off. I was like, "But that nigga is up in your house. What are you talking about? How is it two grown folks in this house, including that one, and you all ain't got no damn electricity?"
Erica: You got to sell a kidney.
D.L. White: Eating your food, using your electricity, watching your TV, got his butt print your couch, but you can't ask him to go half on the electric? You're better than me because I would have been, "Hand me money now. If you want some of this, I need some of that." And I'm not a gold digger either, but you're not going to come up in here and use up all my stuff, and then leave me out in the cold.
Erica: Nope, not at all. So, tell us about your latest work, “The Never List”? I loved “A Thin Line.” When you said that they talk to you in your sleep, I found myself reading before bed, and then I'd wake up in the middle of the night, like, "Well, damn, I got to figure out, what's about to happen?" So, now I want to know about the next book.
D.L. White: “The Never List,” I started this book maybe 2016, and it's been so long that I do not know why I started writing this story. I think I just had an idea for something different. I can't write the same thing over and over. There are a lot of authors out there that are just writing the same book with different characters, their names are different and they live in a different city, but it's the same book over and over, and a lot of readers love that-
Kenrya: You are not lying.
D.L. White: I can't do it. I can't. I'm like, "I wrote this book already."
Kenrya: I space them out. If they're well-written, I'll still read them, I'm thinking of one particular series that I've been working my way through, and it's the same every time, but it's well-written and it's pleasurable, but I got to space them shits out because-
D.L. White: Those are the books that I save for the end of the year when I'm behind on my Goodreads challenge.
Kenrya: And you're trying to catch up.
D.L. White: Right. I'm like, "Let me read that" because I know it's going to be good, but I know it's like the previous 15 that this person has written. But it's good, I don't need to concentrate, it's not a new experience. So, I think I just had an idea for a different story, and I wanted to write a modern virgin heroine who wasn't shy and wasn't precious about her virginity, but she wanted it to be special. And the thing about this story was it was a little bit, a lot a bit, autobiographical in that I waited a long time to take that step because I wanted it to mean something to me.
D.L. White: And the longer that I held out, the easier it became to say no, until I was meeting men that were like, "When you going to let me hit that?" And I would be like, "No, that's just not going to work for me because I just feel like my vibrator's going to do a better job. I just don't feel like you're going to care if I cum. I feel like you're going to ... and then be like, "All right, I'm out," and that's just not going to get it from me. I want you to care about my experience, I want you to care about if I have a good time."
D.L. White: And so I think that in this book, Esme Whitaker is my heroine, she has really already had her glow-up. She's nearing 40, she went and got her MBA, she's got a new job, she's bought a house; life is great, except she's still a virgin. And it's not that she's precious about it, it's that she is waiting for that opportunity to meet someone great who's going to show her a good time and who's going to make sure that she has a good time. Because he's already had sex, so what's going to be important in this situation is that she has a good time, that she gets to explore, that it's a good experience for her.
D.L. White: When I was an older modern virgin, I would read a lot about first-time experiences and people would be like, "I wish I would have waited longer" or "I didn't even cum." I didn't want that, and so I didn't want that for Esme. And so this is just the story of her. The book opens with her meeting a guy that she met off of a dating website, and he ends up ghosting her, but she gets in a little snap fight with the dude at the table next door, and through the magic of fiction, ends up meeting up with him later, and they end up in a situation where they're on either side of a negotiation table, and they have to work together to bring this deal to a close.
D.L. White: And so he decides that in order to make this deal work, that he should help her satisfy items on her Never List. She ends up dropping her list, and he's reading it, and she's like, "Give me that" because she doesn't want to see that number one on the list is "have sex." And so he decides that he's going to help her satisfy items on her list, and for every item that he helps her cross off, she goes back to the dude who's trying to sell this company to say, "Okay, let's negotiate this item on the contract and that item on the contract" because they're in a little bit of a contract negotiation. I'm not explaining this very well.
Kenrya: You are. I just bought it.
Erica: No, this is great.
Kenrya: I literally just bought it.
Erica: I'm like, "Yo, this needs to be a movie." I mean a book, but you need to screen-write.
D.L. White: Awesome.
Kenrya: Yeah, totally just bought that shit, I'm going to read it.
D.L. White: So, the book is basically Esme and Trey working through her items on the Never List. Also, Esme and Trey working through this contract because Trey is trying to buy this little company. Trey is working through some things with his father, and his dad doesn't trust him and treats him like a little pup. The thing about this book is that, of course, she's a virgin, so the book is not going to open with them banging, so how do I create intimacy between these characters without writing sex?
D.L. White: And so that was the fun part. So, what can they do and how do they get closer? And how do you create intimacy with conversation and flirting and touching and oral sex and heavy petting? Until you get to the last quarter of the book and you're like, "All right, you're really going to do it" because they do, obviously, it's a romance, it's an adult romance, so they are obviously going to be having copious sex in the book, but that's not going to come until later, but I still want the reader to feel good and to get the good stuff while they're reading this book.
D.L. White: And I wanted it to be kind of funny and down-to-earth, and so there are some funny parts in this book. Trey and Esme really snap at each other. I'm a very sarcastic person, and so I can't write a book without a heroine that is ... I don't really write syrupy, sweet heroines; they're always a little bit snappy, a little bit sarcastic. She's always got something smart to say. And so they kind of bite at each other here and there, but it's not really mean, it's more lovingly. So, I had a lot of fun putting these characters together, putting them in rooms together, putting them in situations where you can tell that they really, really, really want to have sex.
D.L. White: But, first, they can't because there's a contract between them, it can't look like Esme slept with Trey to get concessions on this contract. Also, she's a virgin, and he don't know, so she got to figure out, first, how to tell him she's a virgin, and then convince him that he needs to be the one to take her over the rainbow, and then Trey has to agree that that's what he wants to do, and then they got to do it. And so that's “The Never List.” Totally, totally fun to write.
Erica: You sold me on this book.
D.L. White: I hope it's fun to read.
Kenrya: Listen, I'm going to read it. It's interesting, you were talking about she wants to make sure that she'll be able to cum, and you're saying you were reading and a lot of folks were talking about that, but I feel like most people probably don't come the first time they have sex no matter how old they are. I know I didn't. It was quite some time before I learned enough about my body to be able to direct somebody or take matters into my own hands in the middle of a couple situation to be able to cum. So, that's a high bar.
D.L. White: I know I didn't.
Erica: Yeah, I didn't.
D.L. White: And the dudes didn't care either.
Erica: And I think that it's great that you ... Because here's the thing, I feel like virginity, we have hang ups about it, and I like the way that you look at it, like it's not like it's this precious gem, it's that I want to make sure that the person I'm doing it with gives a damn and wants to make sure it's special for me, or not even want to make sure it's special, just make sure I cum.
D.L. White: It's supposed to be a fun, erotic, intimate experience, it's not supposed to be "Wham, bam, thank you ma'am. Can I have some water? I'm out." We are both supposed to have a good time. And, really, I feel like by the time you're in your mid to late 30s, you know what sex is about, and I would always tell the people, "I may have never milked a cow, but I know everything about the pasture. I know what I'm doing. I just need to go over that rainbow. Are you down or not?" And really by the time I had sex, I was like, "Let's just do it. I just don't even fucking care. Just go, do it. Do it!"
Kenrya: "Let's break the seal."
D.L. White: Because I just wanted to be able to say that I did it. I didn't cum, he didn't care, I didn't care, I was like, "Get out."
Erica: "Bring me some water on your way out."
D.L. White: "Bring me some water."
Kenrya: "I'm parched." Word. So, we know that you listen to podcasts like ours, but we also know that you sometimes produce your own bookcast that showcase your work. Can you tell us about that experience? Where'd the idea come from? What did you love about it? All of that.
D.L. White: So, I was listening to ... Christina C. Jones does what she calls Storytime. And she had a story that she wrote specifically for the podcast, and I was like, "That is such a good idea." And I had been thinking about doing it because I also write fan fiction, I'm a huge NSYNC fan, and I run an NSYNC fan site, and I was like, "I should record some of my stories and put them out in audio because I think people would really like to listen to them." But then I was like, "I can't make no money off of that." I was like, "Well, maybe I should write a book, and then release it via audio," because recording an audiobook is expensive when you're the author, like thousands of dollars.
D.L. White: But I could produce a bookcast and read it via podcast for little to no money. So, I decided to go ahead and do that. I had time and a microphone. This was right as COVID got started, and I just needed something to take my mind off of COVID and to keep me from looking at numbers and all of that, like let me just get real, real busy. So, I finished “A Thin Line,” and I put another book out in audio, and then I finished “The Never List.” And to practice, I took some of my holiday shorts, and because those are too short to be recorded in audio, I just recorded them for the bookcast so that I could practice reading out loud and being up and smile and awake and make this sound engaging and not like I am reading from a piece of paper.
D.L. White: I am really terrible about checking numbers and subscriptions, so I do not know how many people listened to it. I know I got one review from a person that reviews everything that I do. But I just don't ever check. I wanted to do it for the experience, just so that I could say it's out there. And I had the time. I do know that some people have listened to it, my cousin said that she listened to it; that's how she read the book, through the bookcast. It was fun. It was a lot of work.
Kenrya: Yeah, I was going to ask you, what was surprising about that process of reading?
D.L. White: I really thought it was going to be easier than it was. Just the editing ... After producing that bookcast, my sentences are going to be much simpler because reading the words that I write on the page out loud is a lot. I just would be reading like mess you, mess up, mess up, like, "Why can't I read this word?" Mess up, mess up. And then I would have to mark where my mistakes were so I could cut that out, and then download Audacity and then go back and just edit, and then find an opener and then close, and then find a really good way to open each episode and close each episode. It was a lot.
D.L. White: I think I probably will never do a full-length novel again on the bookcast, but I do want to do short fiction/fiction. My holiday shorts, I, of course, will probably always do on the bookcast. But this was 31 chapters. That book is 97,000 words. Probably never again. It was a lot. It was just a lot. I frustrated myself a lot. It was fun. It definitely took up the time that I wanted it to take. It was just a lot of work.
Kenrya: Yeah, makes sense.
Erica: So, thank you again for letting us read an excerpt from “A Thin Line.” I think I opened this, I was like, "I never not like a character," but Preston was irking my damn nerves. I was like, "You're an asshole."
D.L. White: Don't you want to punch him in the forehead?
Erica: Oh my God, he's such an asshole. I think you've heard, we talk about guys being mean because they like you. Preston's just an asshole, period. He's just a jerk all around. And one of the things that stood out to me in the book was your opening, where you were like, "Look, I wrote this a while back, I had to revisit it." So, tell me about that process and what pushed you to revisit it.
D.L. White: This book was originally a long fan fiction story, and after reading it, some of my readers said, "You should really un-fan fic this and publish it because it's good." And I was like-
Kenrya: What was it based on?
Erica: Yeah, what was it based on?
D.L. White: It was based on JC from NSYNC, and it's an AU, so alternate universe, so it's like this person, but if he was a lawyer. And I think that when I write JC, I write him as a sarcastic asshole, and I had been writing him so sweet and loving in previous stories that I was like, "You know what?" I called up my beta, I have a beta just for fan fiction, and we are huge, huge, huge fans, I said, "I really want to write JC as an ass, like a total ass." And she's like, "You should do that." She never tells me not to write a story.
Erica: Mission accomplished.
D.L. White: And so I started writing this, and I said, "So, the story should be that he's just this dude that is just pining after this woman, and they broke up a long time ago for a super, super petty reason, probably should have never broke up, and he's just been kind of trying to get her back, but kind of not, just really on her nerves. And I just want to work the situation to where they have to work together in order to accomplish a goal, and while working together, they just happen to realize that they still love each other." And the fan fic story turned out great. I don't think I ever finished it, actually. But I got that story to a point where I was like, "I think I'm ready to turn this into fiction." So, I made Preston Black and Angie Black and all their friends Black.
Erica: I was just about to say, it's amazing that you started with NSYNC and ended here-
Kenrya: Because it's such a Black-ass book."
Erica: It is a Blackity, Black-ass book.
D.L. White: It's Black.
Erica: Yeah. We keep saying we're going to visit fan fiction on this show, but that right there is just an example of how ... I mean, wow. I feel like you just made macaroni and cheese, like you took Velveeta and made it into some Black-ass, thick-ass-
D.L. White: Soul food.
Erica: With the crusty corner macaroni and cheese.
D.L. White: So, the original iteration of the story ended much earlier, when they're out at the banks of the river together on Christmas, that's where the original story ended. And I was just reading some authors, like Alexandria House. And for me, sometimes the story ends when they're like, "I love you," "I love you too," happily ever after, and the end. And when I read her stories, she goes all the way past that, to them together as a couple and ins and outs and day-to-day, and I was like, "You know what? I kind of want to take Preston and Angie past the "I love you" moment. Let's get real. Let's get down."
D.L. White: Because, really, they've been in love with each other since they were teenagers, so there's so much more to the story than they love each other, it's also that their friends can't know that they're back together, it's also that they have two separate lives that they have to bring back together, it's also that Angie's concerned about her dad because he has Parkinson's, and how Preston falls into the family, and how everybody in the friend group groups up together and they've left Preston and Angie out. I love big groups of couple friends, that kind of thing. So, it was just a meld of everything that I wanted in a story. And this is a long book, but it turned out exactly the way that I wanted it when I went back and redid it.
D.L. White: Originally, it didn't sell very well because there was so much build up, and then it ended at "I love you. Let's be together," and I just felt like the story should just go well past that. I took that story down, there were two books that I wrote that used to be fan fiction that just didn't sell well, and so I took them down. But this story just kept knocking at my door. It kept waking me up and thought, "You could do this and you could do that, and you could extend the story, and it could be about this, and you could add that," and I could not stop thinking about it. And so I started rewriting it in 2019, and then I finished it right as COVID hit, and I was like, "This is perfect. This is just perfect. Now I have a whole new book for you all to read. Go buy it and take your mind off of this infection thing that's going around." So, that really took me through, I think I re-released this the end of March 2020, right as COVID-
Erica: Just in time.
D.L. White: Yeah. And so I really needed that distraction. And then I went right from that into “The Never List,” and so it really helped me fill those hours because work sent us home early March and said, "Don't come back here," and so I just had so much time on my hands, I needed something to do. That was it.
Erica: Okay, so in the scene that we read, Angie refuses to tell Preston that she loves him, and he tried to persuade her to say it, that kind of thing, but it seemed like that, that little scene right there, perfectly summed up their whole relationship. If you had to just do a this-scene-is-the-root-of-the-book, this is what it is. How did you dream that up?
D.L. White: I am trying to think of where that came from. I haven't heard the episode that you're referring to. Is this when they're at the elevator at the hotel?
Kenrya: Mm-mmm (negative). It's when they're in the bed, and he's trying to make her ... they took a bath, and then he's trying to make her say it, and so he's edging too ... Yeah, yeah, yeah.
D.L. White: I mean I just really like writing sex. I mean I don't like writing sex, but I like writing sex where it's fun and it's banter and it's not all hot, sweaty porn utterings. And I do feel like that's their relationship, like they push and they pull. And Preston is really aggressive-
Erica: Can you tell Preston frustrates me?
Kenrya: She was so angry at him.
D.L. White: Preston, he's aggressive. But so is Angie. And Angie is very headstrong, she's going to do what she wants to do because she wants to do it, and not because Preston wants her to. But I think they also needed to come to a point where they give in to each other because it would make the other person happy. And I think that Angie, at a point, knows that it's going to make him happy to hear her say "I love you," but she also wants him to work for it.
D.L. White: I think the whole thing about this book was that it's one thing to have a character that has a redemption arc, where you know, at the end of this book, they're going to end up together, but how they get together is the story. I wanted Preston to work for it. I didn't want it to be easy. And a lot of people said, "Angie spent way too long being mad, and she was just so petty for so long."
D.L. White: And I was like, so, they broke up in high school, and he never went away. It's like just having something in your ear all the time for 15 years, never leaving you alone, he just never shut the fuck up, he just never went away. And after a while, that's annoying. "I don't want you around me. Go away." And she's there because her dad is sick, because she doesn't want to move away, but Preston never left. And so it's been so many years of this.
D.L. White: And after he's like, "Okay, fine, I love you," she's supposed to just lay down and spread her legs? It's been so many years of him just being a total ass to her, but she should just immediately go, "Okay, I love you too"? No. No. She knows how she feels, or she thinks she knows how she feels, and so I wanted Preston to have to work for it. I wanted Preston to have to win Angie back over. I wanted Preston to have to eat a little bit of crow. I wanted Preston-
Erica: And a little bit of puss.
D.L. White: And I really wanted Preston to have to work for it, and I wanted Angie to come to that realization that it wasn't all him, and that she played a huge part in, A, them breaking up, and, B, them being apart for so long because she could have just said, "You know what? You said what you said, and you lied, but it's a really dumb reason to break up, and let's just not break up," but she stood her ground because she's stubborn and she's petty, and now it's been 15 years and they're just now getting back together.
D.L. White: But I think that just is another situation where I wanted them to have to work for it, and I didn't want it to be a flowery, sweet, "I love you so much, my darling. I love you," I can't, I can't do that. That's not either one of them. They have those sweet moments, but that's not either one of them. They push and they pull each other, and they're abrasive and they're both very aggressive and headstrong people, and I wanted that to carry throughout the entire book.
Kenrya: I think that, ultimately, both Angie and Preston had a really hard time being vulnerable, from when they were teens to now, and it almost cost them what they wanted. Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation, where you had to force yourself to be vulnerable in a way that felt really uncomfortable?
D.L. White: All the time. I don't do vulnerability very easily. It's really hard for me-
Erica: Wow, Kenrya, look at your mirror.
Kenrya: Okay, first of all, bitch, I've gotten much better at it.
Erica: You have.
D.L. White: She called you out.
Kenrya: I worked at it. I worked on it really hard.
Erica: Yes, really hard. And I'm proud of you.
D.L. White: Yeah. I will admit to just not being very good at it. I'm not good at vulnerability because I feel like when I lower that wall, then people go, "Bam, you shouldn't have done that," and so I can't do it right now. Maybe I need therapy, I don't know, but I can't-
Kenrya: You know how we feel about therapy.
D.L. White: I can't do it. And so I feel like maybe that comes out in a lot of my characters, to where it takes them a while to come to the point where they really let all their defenses down, and they put their trust in this person that says, "I am going to take care of your heart, and I am not going to hurt you, at least on purpose, and we are going to have a happy life together." Sometimes, I look at relationships and I just look at these two people and I'm like, "How you know he's going to be there in 10 years? How do you know? How do you trust that?"
Kenrya: You don't.
D.L. White: When I date somebody, I'm like, "I might not know this dude in September." I just don't know that it's going to work out because I can't bring myself to that vulnerable place of hoping. It just takes a lot to wear down my walls, and I haven't met someone that's willing to do that work, and I haven't been willing to do that work for myself. So, I really can't remember the last time I was vulnerable. I mean I'm sure it's happened, but I don't remember the last time that I really put myself out there. It's probably been years.
Erica: So, that kind of leads into our next question. Which of the characters do you most identify with in the story?
D.L. White: In this story? (silence). I don't know that I identify with any of them. Jackie and Morgan are really happy-go-lucky people that just really lucked into great relationships, and Brandis and Keith found each other in college. But I don't think that I'm anything like Angie. Maybe Preston? And I really try not to write myself because that's very what they call "Mary Sue," but I really try not to write myself in stories, and I try not to put too many of my own characteristics into a story. Sometimes, some things do seep through and it does become a little bit of therapy while working my character through the situation, "This could be something that I could apply to my life," but I don't know that I identify with anybody. It would be Angie, if anybody, but I think she's stronger than I am. And I don't think that I would have ever given in to Preston, to be honest.
Kenrya: It would have been fucking forever.
Erica: And I think it's important that you note that that is strength, like being able to give in to Preston. Opening up can also be ...
D.L. White: Yeah, it is the ultimate. I do see vulnerability as a strength, and really being able to put your fear aside and put down all of your assumptions and your things that you're afraid of and just step out in faith. I don't have that. I don't have it.
Erica: Okay. Do you have a favorite line or passage from “A Thin Line” that you want to share?
D.L. White: One line that always makes me laugh, I don't know why, when she talks about, when Preston is talking, and she says, "I rolled my eyes so hard I could see yesterday." I don't know if you ever just rolled your eyes so hard at somebody because he's just such a blow-hard, like shut up. Oh my God. That line always cracks me up. Also, after Jackie has her baby and they're in the kitchen, and they're talking about how Preston has said, he's like, "I've never seen a fresh baby before." And she turns around and he's like, "Do you mean a newborn?"
D.L. White: Like, he is so smart and so accomplished, but he really just said "fresh baby." And then he's like, "Have you ever thought about having children?" And she's like, "I was never with a guy that made me think about having kids before." And he asks her, "Well, are you now with a man that makes you think about having kids?" She's like, "Well, your dick's in my ass," so ... I just love coming up with snappy little sayings like that.
Erica: Yeah, your dialogue is great.
Kenrya: Yes, always realistic.
D.L. White: I really love that. I love banter. I love writing a fight. I will write all of the fights before I will write any sweet nothings because I just love ... I don't know that I love conflict, but I love that tearing apart so that they can come back together. So, I'm sure there are others, but those are lines that make me laugh every time I read it.
Kenrya: Word. What are you reading right now?
D.L. White: Right now, I am reading a book called “Until Death,” it's by Delaney Diamond, who I think you had her on the show before.
Kenrya: Yes. We did “Queen of Barrakesch.”
D.L. White: Yes. Absolutely love her. Love her, love her, love her. So, I'm reading that because I just spent my weekend trying to catch up on everything that was coming out today. So, this weekend-
Kenrya: Tuesday. I love Tuesdays.
D.L. White: Okay. This weekend, I read “Mrs. Wiggins,” by Mary Monroe; and “Careless Whisper,” by Synithia Williams; and “Wild Women and the Blues,” by Denny S. Bryce. And all of them were absolutely fabulous. So, this one's not on any list that I have to read because I agreed to read it for a review or anything, I just love Delaney. I just started reading it, I'm at like 20% in. It's fabulous, it's absolutely fabulous.
Erica: Cool. Okay, so one of the themes in this book are young love, and so we like to have a few interesting questions, fun questions. So, describe your first crush.
Kenrya: My first crush? Let me think of who that was, besides Michael Jackson. I loved me some Michael Jackson.
Kenrya: Why your face look like ...
Erica: Because I like ...
Kenrya: Little Michael Jackson?
Erica: Yeah, I think of the Michael Jackson I knew, and I feel like we're about the same age, and so I'm like, "That Michael Jackson?"
D.L. White: Oh my gosh, like "Bad" Michael Jackson? I was into it.
Erica: I mean I would sing Jackson 5, but, okay, all right.
D.L. White: I think I was like junior high-ish when I was into Michael. I had posters and everything. I'm trying to remember my crushes. To be honest, I don't remember. I wasn't really all that into boys when I was younger. I was not a pretty child, so boys were kind of mean to me, so they weren't ever people that I would dream about.
Kenrya: Aww, fuck them.
Erica: Yeah, fuck them.
D.L. White: I think when I was in high school, I had a crush on a guy. He was Asian American. He sang, super smart. But I also, at one point, heard him talk some shit about me, and so then I was like, "Yeah, well, that's over."
Erica: "Well, there's that."
D.L. White: Yeah. I don't know that I really had a lot of crushes. I'm a very boring person.
Erica: Girl, honey-
D.L. White: The excitement in my life is in the books.
Erica: Look, whatever it takes to keep putting out those books, I'm fine with it.
D.L. White: Yeah, that's where it comes.
Erica: Okay, so tell us about your prom.
D.L. White: Prom? My mom's friend made my dress, it's a big pink, silky, satin thing. I went with a friend. It was fun. I remember we couldn't find a ride because our car broke down, so my dad couldn't drive us, so it was just a mad dash to find somebody to take us. And at the last minute, my friend, Alex, said, "Hey, we're riding right by your house, me and my date, we'll come pick you up." So, we went, we had a great time. It wasn't a romantic thing, we just went as friends. He ended up meeting the woman that he married, the next day.
D.L. White: I just had a really good time, went to prom, and then the tradition was to go to Shari's after prom. Shari's is like a Perkins, Denny's type of place. And so we went and, I don't know, had coffee and pancakes or something like that. It was so long ago. I just turned 47, so that's a lot of remembering. It was fun. I don't know that I would ever do it again, but I definitely am glad that I did it the one time.
Erica: Yeah. Okay, moving on, last fun question, not-so-fun, describe your first heartbreak.
D.L. White: Oh my goodness. I was older, I want to say in my 30s, and I had met a great guy off a dating website, and we just clicked. And I fell for him pretty early on, and he understood about the whole virginity thing and didn't really pressure me at all. We just instantly had a great time together. And I remember that I had decided I was going to tell him that I loved him. And it took a lot to work up the nerve. And I remember that we were laying there, and I was like, "I got something to tell you." And he's like, "Okay." And I said, "I love you." And he was like, "How do you know?" And I was like, "Because I know." And he's like, "Okay." Like, not at all-
Erica: "Well, shit, there goes that vulnerability thing."
D.L. White: Right. Like, not at all like I thought it would be.
Erica: "I tried." Oh my gosh, I'm so sorry.
D.L. White: And I was like, "Well, this was a bad idea. Also, two, keep your mouth shut and don't ever say nothing ever again. Wait until he says it first." So, we broke up soon after that because I think he wasn't ready for that, he didn't want what I wanted, and I think he just wasn't ready for that, and I don't think that he expected to hear that. I think it was about maybe three-ish months in. But I was older and mature enough to know how I felt, and I wanted to say it. I don't think that I regret saying it, maybe it was too early or I didn't read his body language or whatnot, but that one was a lot.
D.L. White: It took me a long time to get over that, to get over him. And he did try to come back later. And I wanted to give another shot, but we just never made that same connection again. But that was my first real heartbreak. I had a really hard time getting over him. It was like my first love, really, my first time falling in love and just feeling that warm fuzzy feeling. Really, after that, I think is when I just had a hard time really letting down that wall and just feeling like I could put my heart in the hands of someone again. And I don't know that I have ever really truly felt that for another person.
Kenrya: Thank you for sharing that.
Erica: Thank you for sharing that.
D.L. White: Yeah.
Kenrya: What's turning you on today, if anything?
D.L. White: What's turning me on right now is I have a new job.
D.L. White: Stability and security, and so now I can turn my focus back to the two books I'm trying to write to get out before the end of the year. This book I'm reading by Delaney Diamond is fantastic. She writes some of the best sex that I have ever read, so that's turning me on. Candles are turning me on. And really just spring, being in love with life, feeling the winter doldrums lift. I got my first COVID vaccine shot, so that's making me feel good. So, it's all coming up roses over here.
Kenrya: That's awesome. I think my next question is where can people find you? We know your website is BooksByDLWhite.com, right?
D.L. White: Yes.
Kenrya: And where else are you?
D.L. White: I'm also on Twitter and Instagram and Facebook as @AuthorDLWhite. I'm also on Pinterest as @AuthorDLWhite. I don't use it much, but I do a lot of storyboarding, so I will create a board just for a book, and so I will use that board to give me an aesthetic. “A Thin Line” has a board, where there's a model that I used to give me a feel for Preston and for Angie, what do they read, what do they eat, what do they drive, where do they live, what's their style, what kind of perfume does she wear, what kind of suits does he like? A lot of times, I'll just collect information, and that's what informs my characters. And so I'll see something, like, "That is so Preston. Let me save that," and so I'll throw it into Pinterest. And then, while I'm writing, I will use that as a reference.
D.L. White: Like, if I'm writing Preston's house, I'm looking at the image of his house that I have saved, and so then I can see the patio and the fire pit and the lake and the house and the furniture, and I can see Angie's apartment, and I'm looking at the bar that they always meet at, and Angie's parents house. I need that visual in my mind, so that's what I use Pinterest for. So, if anybody is ever interested in getting a visual of what I see in my mind when I write my characters, you can always follow me on Pinterest. And I can't think of anything else. I'm also on TikTok as @AuthorDLWhite. I don't post very much. But if I'm anywhere, I'm @AuthorDLWhite, so you're welcome to follow me wherever you find me.
Kenrya: That's awesome. And I love that. And I think that the fact that you put that level of energy and specificity into those boards really comes through in the books. Like, I can see your characters, I can see the restaurant where they have the drinks all the time.
Erica: I saw the house.
Kenrya: Yes. The fire pit, the lake. I could see all of it. Legit.
D.L. White: That's the idea. I like to be vivid. And if I can't see it in my mind, if I can't hear that character saying those words, then it's not authentic to me, so I want the imagery to be vivid.
Kenrya: That's awesome.
Erica: Well, I just followed you on Pinterest because ...
D.L. White: Awesome.
Erica: I love it.
D.L. White: I'm building one for the couple of stories that I'm working on, so those are kind of in flux, so it'll be interesting to see how they turn out.
Kenrya: And you said you're aiming to release two more projects before the end of this year?
D.L. White: Yeah.
Kenrya: That's awesome. And if you all want to know more about those and find out when they come out, follow her on IG and Twitter, and head over to her website, BooksByDLWhite.com. And that brings us to the end of this week's episode. We made it.
D.L. White: Yay.
Kenrya: Thank you so much for coming on. It was our pleasure.
Erica: Thank you, thank you, thank you for coming on.
D.L. White: Thank you for having me, it was a pure joy.
Kenrya: Yay. Same. And thanks to all of you for listening, we appreciate you all for stopping by, and we'll see you all next week. Take care.
Kenrya: This episode was produced by us, Kenrya and Erica, and edited by B'Lystic. The theme music is from Brazy. Hit subscribe right now in your favorite podcast app and at YouTube.com/TheTurnOnPodcast so you'll never miss an episode.
Erica: Then, follow us on Twitter @TheTurnOnPod and Instagram @TheTurnOnPodcast, and you can find links to books, transcripts, guest info, what's turning us on, and other fun stuff at TheTurnOnPodcast.com.
Kenrya: And don't forget to email us at TheTurnOnPodcast@gmail.com with your book recommendations and your pressing sex and related questions.
Erica: And you can support the show by leaving us a five-star review, buying some merch, or becoming a patron of the show. Just head to TheTurnOnPodcast.com to make that happen.
Kenrya: Thanks for listening, and we'll see you soon. Holla.
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In this episode of The Turn On, Erica and Kenrya talk to The Incredible Edible Akynos, international stripper and executive director of The Black Sex Worker Collective, about setting boundaries, the ways white supremacy perverts Black culture, sex worker representation in media and how we can all support sex workers.
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Kenrya: Come here, get off.
Kenrya: Hey folks. Today, we are talking to the Incredible Edible Akynos. Pronouns whore king, divine goddess sex worker. The Incredible Edible Akynos is executive director of the Black Sex Worker Collective, an international stripper, a world traveler, and a professional procrastinator. I love all of that. I also used to be a professional procrastinator.
Akynos: How did you get over it?
Kenrya: Man, I had one too many nights where I had to stay up and get shit done and freaked out because I have anxiety, and it was too much. So now my goal is always to finish things the day before they're due. I tell myself that they're due the other day and put them in my calendar that way. That is the only way that I eliminate the anxiety of being behind all the time. That's it.
Akynos: Got it.
Kenrya: Yeah. But all that to say, thank you for joining us today.
Akynos: Thank you for having me.
Kenrya: Yes, we're very excited to have you on the show.
Erica: So we're just going to dive right in, Akynos. What did you want to be when you grew up? As a little Akynos, what did you want to be growing up?
Akynos: It depends. When you say little, you're talking about five-year-old me or 16-year-old me?
Erica: Whatever comes to mind, yeah.
Akynos: Well, five-year-old me wanted to be a teacher, and my grandma was a seamstress. So I would always try to teach her rolls of thread. I'd like play teacher with the rolls of thread.
Kenrya: That's really cute.
Akynos: So at five, I was doing that. A little bit older, maybe a few years later I knew I wanted to be an entertainer. I wanted to dance and act and sing. That's always been there. Then by the time I got to my teens, I wanted to be a nude model. I wanted to be an adult entertainer. So I'm living all my life dreams right now.
Kenrya: Yes. So how did you get there? How did you make that transition from I'm out here teaching these little pieces of thread to, “This is what I want to do?”
Akynos: Well, I always wanted to be a dancer, and I went to school across from LaGuardia Performing Arts High School. I went to King, and I was in their performing arts program. So I've always been dancing. I've always liked entertainment. And at the time I was growing up in the '90s, the nude magazines were a big thing, the Hustler and Playboy and all those. Those were a really big thing, and I was always fascinated by those women on the cover. I always thought they were so beautiful and badass. I was like, "That's exactly what I want to do." I was going to school around the corner from the Playboy offices. I was always dreaming of going up in there and having a conversation with Hugh Hefner, as if he was even there, and trying to get into the mansion. But I was always told I was basically too short or whatever.
Akynos: But yeah. I'm not even five foot. I just say five foot because it's easier than trying to 4'11" and half and three quarters. So I just put five foot, but I'm just under five foot. But yeah. That's what it was. I was seeing all those nasty nude magazines on the newsstand when New York wasn't so PG13, and I just wanted to be one of them. I eventually would. Not for those magazines because they're white, but I eventually would. So all about the environment. The environment influenced me to be a whore. So job well done, world.
Kenrya: Which actually leads to my next questions. Can you tell us... We've obviously read quite a bit about your work, which is how we ended up asking you to come on the show. But can you tell our listeners and viewers what do you do?
Akynos: Now, I just do this organization now in the times of COVID and whatnot. But I'm a nightlife artist. I perform a lot in drag and burlesque shows here in Berlin and when I was in New York. So yeah, I'm a nightlife person, but I've also worked a lot in the adult entertainment business. So I've been in the gentleman's clubs and the strip clubs. I've been a phone sex operator. I've done a little bit of domination. In the final years of me doing the work, because I haven't worked in a while, I was a full-service escort. I still do some kind of sex work now. I'll take orders for custom photos and things like that. But I haven't seen anybody, person in a while because this...
Akynos: When you're doing the organizing, the Sex Worker rights organizing, it takes up a lot of time. So that's kind of where all my energy goes, and it's really hard to switch personalities and go from this office worker into this companion. And I just also don't have a lot of patience for the men anymore. So I just want to focus on fundraising for my group and helping the community deal with all the issues that they're having as a result of being in the industry. So that's my main focus now.
Erica: Okay. A modern-day Josephine Baker.
Akynos: I guess.
Erica: When you were speaking about leaving the US and Berlin. So badass. I love it.
Erica: So how did you get your start?
Akynos: In what? Whoring or what?
Erica: I think that it's so... Because we're talked to a few people, and I think I feel this way about seeing sex workers. I always saw them as, "Wow, they're badass. They're beautiful." They command a room. They're comfortable enough to show it off, and that kind of thing. But I was always the little weird kid from the Midwest who kept thinking about what her granny was saying in her ear and never took it there. But how'd you do it?
Akynos: How'd I get my start? I mean, poverty.
Kenrya: A lot of stories begin that way.
Akynos: Yeah, I wanted to just have a regular job. For a long time, I was also in office work, and I had a degree in computer science. I was studying administrative stuff as well, how to be an executive secretary, things like that. So anyway, I wanted to, but for a whole bunch of different reasons, I couldn't get my paperwork to... It's a long, tumultuous story. To get a job. The summer youth stuff. Long story. Eventually one of the easiest things for me to get into was just to walk into a strip club.
Akynos: So someone had approached me when I was about 17 about going into the strip club and becoming a dancer. So that was it. I just met some random dude in a train station that was like, "Are you a dancer?" And I was like, "Yeah, I am." But I really meant I was a dancer because I was studying dance at school. He's like, "Oh, you can come to this club." And it took 10 years for me to realize that when he was bringing me into the club to dance, I was thinking it was more like burlesque, like Josephine and whatnot. It took 10 years, I'm so slow, for me to realize that's what I thought I was walking into, but I walked into a fucking gentleman's club in the Bronx.
Erica: You're like, "Where are the feathers? Where are the..."
Akynos: Right. Yeah, I was. Yeah. But when I walked into the club I think one of my first nights, there was a feature dancer on stage. And I was like, "Yeah, I want to be her." That's what I thought it was all about, but it wasn't. It was string bikinis and very specific kind of exotic dance. So that's how it happened. Somebody just randomly approached me and brought me into a club. So basically I was trafficked because I was 17 at the time, and this guy was at least somewhere in his mid-20s. So I was trafficked. I say that jokingly.
Akynos: So I was trafficked into the strip club, then it's kind of a slow progression from there. So you're in the club and these guys are coming in the club and they've got different connections. They're like, "So do you want to do... You want to pose for pictures? Do you want to do a dance video?" It's like, "Yeah." They're paying good money. So yeah. So then you do that, and then I would have bouts of where I would go back into office work.
Akynos: That wasn't working out because when you're trying to do conventional employment because it's so built around patriarchy and just the male idea of what it means to be human, there's not a lot of room for parents, especially when they're women. So they kind of force you to either completely drop working all together or do something that's going to allow you more flexibility. So it wasn't working out because I had small kids, and the way things are now where people are getting support from the community was not like that in the '90s, early 2000s. That's just new revelation from society.
Akynos: So I would have to leave, and then I would have to go back to work. So I dabbled into the strip club, and then I found a phone sex operating place in New York City when they still had the centers. So it was this slow progression of back and forth. And then eventually I quit the last office job I had, which was still in adult entertainment, but the guy I was working for was super abusive. So I finally quit after working with him for several years, and I had already said it to him. I was like, "Once I leave this job, I am not going back into any other form of conventional employment. I'm just going to become an escort," and that's exactly what I did.
Kenrya: I'm always curious, and I feel like we ask everybody this question because we talk to folks who have really taken charge of their sexuality and how that relates to the rest of their parts of their lives. I'm always interested in what the prevailing attitudes toward sex were when you were growing up and how that jives or doesn't jive with your current self.
Akynos: Well, I'm from the Caribbean, so I didn't grow up with any sexual shame or anything like that. As far as the dressing and the dancing is concerned, you know what I mean? So there wasn't all of that. I dressed how I wanted for the most part. Growing up with my parents and I went to the Caribbean Day Parade and all of that. We danced. That was normal for me.
Akynos: But was there a lot of shame around being promiscuous? Yes. Because I was accused of that a lot when I was young when I really wasn't promiscuous. It's just that I had a very shapely body as a young girl. So growing up... Did you ask about growing up sexuality. What's that? What was the attitude when I was growing up, right?
Erica: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Akynos: Yeah? Yeah. So yeah, there was definitely shame around being promiscuous for women, but especially growing up with my dad, there was none of that cover yourself up attitude in my household. I was 14 wearing fishnets with bras and poom poom shorts. My dad would buy me that shit, so it was... Kind of had that kind of freedom. So yeah. No shame from what I remember unless they thought or heard a rumor that I was being sexual, then you're a slut.
Erica: Then they saved all the shame for that and heaped it on.
Akynos: Yeah, exactly.
Erica: When there was word of actual sex happening.
Erica: It's something that reminds me of just... We're from the Midwest, but have very southern roots. So you talk about twerking and kids in the front yard dancing and all of that. We're just dancing. we're having fun. But you have put your patriarchy, white supremacy on it to turn it into something it's not.
Akynos: They perverted it. It's pretty disgusting what they did with our culture where we're just having social fun, and we're doing this thing. They turned it into a whole monster that it wasn't, and that's what's so disappointing about that. It ruined everything. It was so much fun until they came into the room.
Erica: You ruin all the fun.
Erica: Okay. So you walked us through the different, I want to say different chapters of what you do. So you were doing dancing, phone sex-
Akynos: Graduated. I graduated to a whore.
Erica: And now you're like mommy whore, and you have this Black Sex Worker Collective.
Kenrya: Why does that freak you out?
Akynos: Because I've got one of my BSWC members, she's like, "Mother," and I'm like, "Girl. Girl, no the fuck I'm like your big sister."
Erica: Okay. So you have all your little chickadees that you're taking care of, and I want to know what's your favorite part about what you do? And what you do meaning now with the Black Sex Worker Collective.
Akynos: Yeah. I really like giving people money. It's very rewarding. It feels really good to be able to support people because when I was growing up and in the sex work game, I was super young. There was not a lot of support. So it brings me a lot of joy to be able to support people even if it's just like a small something here and there and not put them through all the fucking red tape that they typically would go through trying to get money, especially from the government.
Akynos: So yeah, it's really rewarding being able to help folks.
Kenrya: Actually, I want to back up a little bit. Sorry, I know.
Erica: No, no, no. Because you're probably going where I am.
Kenrya: Yeah, okay. How did you get started? How did you come to say, "You know what, I'm going to do this," with the Black Sex Worker Collective and tell us exactly what you do there.
Akynos: It kind of helps to be an entrepreneur because I've always been that, but I started organizing, I don't even know what year it was. In was in the early 2000s. So at least a decade I've been organizing, and I started organizing with one of the major sex worker orgs in New York, SWOP, Sex Worker Outreach Project. Basically because they have different chapters in different parts of the country, and for their New York branch or chapter, when I was trying to take over that, when they were... The leaders of that group, they were not able to keep taking on the work, and I was trying to come in and take that over. They wouldn't let me, white people. They wouldn't let me. They were like passing it on to each other.
Akynos: I also started college at that time too. So I was in my 30s. So this is my first time in a college art school because the first college I went to was all technical stuff. It was like computer stuff, secretarial stuff. So I finally went into an art school, a progressive learning environment, and that's kind of where I started discovering myself and learning the truth about my reality. "Oh, that's what I was experiencing, racism and it's because I'm a woman, and all that shit." So that's when that starting waking up.
Akynos: So I started thinking about all the stuff that I went through as a single parent, as a Black woman in the industry, and I was like, "There's got to be more people like me out there that really could use some help." So then I started developing the idea to start this collective. Then I tried to take over the SWOP, SWANK because there were two different groups that worked together in New York, and they were just like, "Nah. No. Just going to give it to this person." It's like, "Okay." This is like volunteer. It's like, "Okay then, bitch."
Akynos: So then with the help of one of the other activists who is a senior organizer, seasoned organizer that's helped build other groups and was like executive director of other groups and also a super genius, super smart woman. With her help, that's when I developed the Black Sex Worker Collective because I was talking about it for a while, and there were a couple of moments where I was like, "Oh, this would be a good time to start. This would be a good time to start." And then SESTA-FOSTA happened. I was like, "It's either now or never." So that's how that happened.
Erica: Okay. So you mentioned you like giving people money, and the first thing that came to mind was how now during COVID, there are all these programs to help people out, and the one thing that I do like about the DC area is that they recognize that there are a lot of gig workers, there are a lot of people with unconventional ways of making income. So they may not necessarily be able to produce the last three years of taxes and that kind of thing. So how has COVID affected the work that you're doing now in the Collective?
Akynos: If anything it's helped it. It affected it in a good way because unfortunately the best way to get help and attention to a lot of issues for marginalized people is when it's a tragedy. So thank you, COVID. Thank you. That's all I can say is it's helped us get grants. It's helping us build infrastructure. It's helping people donate. Right now it's a little bit quiet because unfortunately some Black person has to die before they're like, "Let's give some more money to these Black-led groups." Super quiet. We just actually got a big donation from another sex worker group, which is fantastic, but overall it's been kind of... People getting vaccines now. They don't give a fuck. They're just like, "The world is great." So until the next big tragedy happens, it's sad, but unfortunately that's how it happens, which I don't get. But I'm going to have the group just work on trying to get people to just do without there having to be this real reckless ass situation that happened. So it's actually been pretty good for us because that's the only time people really care unfortunately.
Erica: Unfortunately. So what's the most challenging thing about what you do?
Akynos: About organizing. Getting people to not support, not like public support, but kind of getting... Well, first of all, getting the general public to come to our events because they think that all they can do is they need to do is just give money. It's like, "Oh yes, I donated." Great, but can you come and listen to us because a lot of the issues that we're having is really societal issues. It's a microcosm of what is going on out there in the world. So they give money, and they think that's where it stops and that shouldn't be. So we need more than sex workers coming to... We have webinars and different events. It really should be more of the general public coming in to listen and to support in that way and to help us organize. So that's a really, really big challenge because so many people think that sex worker issues are isolated from what's going on in their life. It could be nothing further from the truth. So trying to get people to understand that that connection with sex work.
Akynos: I don't know what people's issues with sex, but when they see that, they just automatically think it's something separate. They're distanced and they're not making the connection. And they might give money because they feel bad, but they don't realize that they also need to show up to these events, listen, and then implement some of our strategies into just the regular world.
Kenrya: Yeah, because folks don't really truly realize that all of our liberation is linked, right?
Akynos: Yeah. It's crazy.
Kenrya: Folks, we are so used to being othered that other and other people just happens. We just fucking keep moving.
Akynos: Yeah, that's the problem. So trying to get people to recognize that link. It's rooted here. Come on. You can't be fighting for labor rights and think that sex workers is not in that argument. You can't fight for immigration and think sex workers are not in that argument. You can't fight for Black liberation and think sex work is... It's fucking crazy. It's like how do we get this message out? That's the most-
Kenrya: Like having you on the show.
Akynos: Yes, yes. Exactly. Yeah. Trying to get that message out. So actually I'm trying to put some artists together because I don't draw. I have a lot of imagination. But I'm trying to work with some visual artists to put a campaign out for May Day to try just link these issues together because people are just not... They're not really getting it.
Kenrya: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Wow. So we asked you on the show in large part to talk about what we were just talking about but also because last week we read a book called “Fans Only,” and it featured a Black woman who does sex work. I don't know if you read the book, but more broadly... Whatever.
Akynos: I can go pick it up.
Kenrya: Although it is a fantastic book and we had a really great conversation around it last week, but what it makes me wonder while we have you is what are your thoughts on the ways that Black women who do sex work are portrayed in media, books, TV, movies, all of that?
Akynos: It's getting better. So there's a lot of what I think is good representations of Black women sex workers in media right now. I liked what “Queen Sugar” had done with us when they portrayed that sex worker in one of the seasons. I think she got raped by one of the main characters' husbands or something like that happened.
Kenrya: Oh, in the first... I ain't even finished the first season, but yes, that was in the first season.
Akynos: So they handled that really well. Then there's a show called... Ah, shit. “The Damnation” on Netflix right now where they have a Black sex worker, and they're handling her really well. She's not like victim. She is falling in love with a client, which I don't recommend that shit. But it does happen. Sex workers do marry their clients.
Akynos: Then you have, oh my God. What is that fucking actor's name from “Son of Anarchy”? He played in a show where he was I think... Was he a minister or something? I can't remember the name of the show. I'll look it up and tell you in a minute. But there's a Black sex worker on there. Actually, I just posted her to the BSWC page. I need to go look that shit up. But they portrayed her really well. She didn't tolerate his shit. She had her rules. She stood her ground.
Akynos: So they're doing a lot better now with sex workers in media, which I'm really excited about, especially the Black sex workers. The stuff that I'm seeing now is really progressive, and there's none of that she got trafficked or she got beat up or she comes from this fucked up background. I can't really hate on it right now.
Akynos: I also feel like I can't remember it because I haven't watched it in a while. I also feel like “Harlots,” that series on Hulu, has done a good job. I think they have one Black sex worker in there. I'm really happy with what they're doing in the past several years with Black sex workers in mainstream entertainment, but the past portrayals have been depicting us as drug addicts with broken homes, whatever the fuck that shit is. America puts so much emphasis on men's existence. I can't. But they would portray us a lot from these broken homes or drug addictions or we were forced. Look, that can happen in any industry, and drugs addicts are not just limited to being in sex work. There's so many people that are coke functioning-
Erica: Wall Street.
Kenrya: I have walked into offices of VPs at magazines and caught them wiping off their noses.
Akynos: Exactly. Yeah. That's not a result of the industry. So it's very good that sex workers are really just... We've been speaking out for a long time, and it's finally building some traction. So those shit narratives, they exist. It's real. There are drug addicts. There are people that come from abused homes, women particularly. But how many women you know that haven't been sexually violated by somebody? So that narrative is changing.
Akynos: I'm really happy that they're giving a different perspective. I really don't want them to act like we're a monolith and we come... I want it to be some dynamic. I don't want it to be right from drug addict to oh, their lives are actually perfect because that is not true, especially when you're talking about women, whenever you're talking about trans people that are in the industry. No, there's no fucking way that our lives could be perfect. We all come from these really different backgrounds. So I'm glad to see that.
Akynos: I'm glad to see the way they're portraying us in mainstream entertainment now in the media as strong, powerful people that know what we're doing. So that's really refreshing. So a lot of the things I'm seeing now, and I'm paying real close attention to it. It's really brand new. It's like, "Yes, she's Black and she's taking no shit, and they're just portraying her as a person falling in love or whatever." So it's actually a really good...
Kenrya: That has a job.
Akynos: Yeah, that has a job. So it's a really good time right now to be watching Black sex workers on television.
Erica: That's dope. So when we started this, we're going through the typical where are you, what's the weather like, blah, blah, blah. You mentioned that you are currently in Berlin. How did you end up there, and yeah, how the hell did you end up from homegirl from around the way in Berlin?
Akynos: Berlin. The city of all seasons one day. Seriously, it's bright shining earlier, then... First, wait, no. I woke up to rain, then sunshine, then hail. Now it's calmed down and it looks pretty decent out there. I might be able to go for a fucking walk. This city's so weird. Winter it's fucking winter. It's dark. It's gloomy. But when it starts going into spring and summer, baby, it changes. It's just like I'm going to give you all the seasons. All the seasons.
Akynos: So the long story is that I travel a lot. I'm a world traveler. So it's particularly in 2019 when I left... No, this is 2021. So yeah, 2019. No, when the fuck did I leave New York? I've been here almost two years. So 2020. Top of 2020 I left New York. So SESTA-FOSTA had a lot to do with that. So I was working as a housekeeper. I had stopped really sex working because again, I told y'all earlier, trying to switch from one personality to a not... I don't have the capacity for that. Those people that can tap into all those personalities in the same day or same week are amazing. I can't. It's just too much.
Akynos: So I was working as a housekeeper since 2015, and SESTA-FOSTA happened. I was housing insecure, then SESTA-FOSTA happened. When you're an independent worker, when you're an entrepreneur, sometimes you could be working a lot. Sometimes you just ain't getting no goddamn money. So with the SESTA-FOSTA thing happened, that now limited my options of what I could do to get money in case I was having a slow month. For the most part, I probably never really had a slow month as a housekeeper, but sometimes there would be breaks in between.
Akynos: So it kind of just faltered me. I'm just like, okay. So if I need to make ends meet by seeing a client, now I have... Because they took down Backpage. Now I have no place to go because all the other sites that people were posting on never brought me any clients. They just never did or they were too expensive to post on the Eros.com, which was a big thing at that time. You could spends hundreds of dollars trying to get one client off that site, at least in my experience.
Akynos: So okay, this is not going to fucking work out. Then I had a big falling out with a client, my main client because I was making probably most of money with this one housekeeping client. Not a sex work client. He was a housekeeping client. Big falling out, some racist bullshit, and I was like, "All right. America's wilding. They've got this fucking new legislation, and they just turned this bill into law. They're trying to complain our work is trafficking. They took our major site," because Backpage at that time if you weren't making money from Backpage, you just were not making any money. I don't give a fuck what none of them hoes said. The big, what's the term I could use for them? The elite sites like Eros at that time, unless Backpage was bringing you money, Eros wasn't going to bring your ass no money either. So it was just Backpage was it, kind of the market. If Backpage was busy, you were getting money on Backpage, you could make money on all the other sites. So that's just how it was.
Akynos: So I was like, "Okay. Backpage is now gone. All these other sites are bullshit. I got my housecleaning, which is great. Sometimes it slows down, and I need to be able to pay my bills on time. And now this client just fucked me over." I was like, "Yo, fuck this." I was pregnant at the time. I was like, "You know what, I did the barefoot pregnant broke bitch. I ain't doing that shit no more." So I had to get an abortion. I had to get an abortion, which I don't care. I've had eight. I don't give a fuck. You do what you got to do. So I had to get an abortion. I was like, "Yo, I'm getting the fuck out of this city. I'm just going to go travel the world, and I'm going to figure out which city's going to take me."
Akynos: At this point, I had been to Berlin twice already. I come here for a festival one year, and another year I came here to visit because I was in the Netherlands for a conference. The conference was buying me a plane ticket, so I was like, "Can you just send me into Berlin?" They did. So I got a free flight to the Netherlands, into Berlin, then back to New York. I was like, "Yeah." I went to Berlin on vacation.
Akynos: So I did that, and then I knew a lot of Americans here. There's a lot of American artists here. They call them ex-pats. I call them fucking immigrants. Fucking Americans love calling themself fancy shit. You're a fucking immigrant, bitch. Please just fucking stop it. There's a lot of American immigrants here that are artists.
Akynos: So this was the one city, not the only one because there's also Australia, parts of Australia where I was connected to. New Zealand had good options for me and parts of Canada. But Berlin, I was like, "Okay. I know a lot of people here," and it was one of the easiest places for me to get my visa, next to Hong Kong. Hong Kong was the other place. I was like, "I could easily get into Hong Kong if I wanted to," because Canada was a bitch. New Zealand was also easy, but New Zealand is kind of like the shows are like sporadic. So Berlin was just like, "Hey girl, you said you want to come here. Come." That's how it happened.
Akynos: So I come here twice, and then by a third visit... When I was on my world tour, I went literally all the way around the world, and I landed back in Berlin. I was like, "All right. This is it." Everything just aligned. Unlike most people that come here right away, they can never get their own apartment. I got that shit within three months. It takes people years to find housing here, and I got it in three months.
Erica: Why is that?
Akynos: This city is wild. The housing situation here is out of control. Everybody wants to be in City Center. You go to apartment viewings and they'll literally be thousands of people looking at one fucking apartment because here they've got housing laws, number one. You got some places where the rent is still how it was 10-20 years ago. Some of it is inclusive. So some people will have an apartment that's 500 Euro a month or 800 if you want to get really high and everything is included, including it's warm. They got the cold rent, which is like the base rent. Then the warm rent, which is including your utilities and everything. So people are fighting for that. You would not believe.
Akynos: There was a big story I think last year where maybe like 800 people showed up to one apartment viewing because the rent was like 400 Euro. All inclusive. So 800 fucking people showed up to that shit. The city's just like everyone wants to be here now. Everyone is looking for affordable housing. A lot of us are artists or other independent workers. This city is wild, and now because they have that housing laws, they care about tenants here. They lowered a lot of people's rents through... I don't know how to say the general world, but I'll just try to explain it. They lowered a lot of people's rents like mine went down like 200 bucks because they're in war. The city's trying to figure out what to do with the rent with the landlords. So the landlords are pissed the fuck off, and they taken a lot of their apartments off the market because they're just like, "I'd rather not have the apartment on the market then have it for cheap."
Akynos: So a lot of apartments are not on the market right now, so people are fighting so fucking hard to get an apartment. But that's their fucking problem that they want to be in that fancy ass Midtown. They come where the fuck I'm at which in the middle of no goddamn where, but I'm still right by the train. Maybe your ass would have a fucking apartment too, fancy bitch. So that's how I got lucky. I'm the same way as I was in New York. Everybody wanted to be in Midtown, which is great, or they want to be in the city next train to the train, fantastic. But I was in East New York, Brooklyn because I had a two-and-a-half bedroom duplex. Bitches got one room for the price I was paying for my a two-and-a-half bedroom duplex.
Kenrya: Sharing the bathroom and shit.
Akynos: Hello. So I'm the same person I was then. So I'm further out, but listen, I'm in a two bedroom apartment, bitch. What you doing? You over there crying. That's what the fuck you doing.
Akynos: So I got really lucky, and I was also relentless. So being [inaudible 00:37:15] helped.
Erica: New York grit. So it may it happen.
Akynos: The New York welfare queen grit. When you've had to manage the welfare system growing up, you're just like, "Oh, I got this. You think I'm going to be spending five months, a whole year or two looking for an apartment? Watch this." And I would literally go see shit three, four times a day, have somebody helping me. "Yo, I can't be there. You go over there, and then you get me the application. I'll fill it out." Voila! Three months. Actually, I started looking and two weeks later I found this place.
Erica: See, and also I feel like when you're moving in the way that you're supposed to be, things fall in place.
Akynos: Things fall into place. So yeah, it was meant to be. So I'm like, "Hey yeah." People are like, "When are you coming back?" I'm like, "I'm not, bitch. I'm not. I got a whole ass two bedroom fucking apartment. One room's a closet. What are you talking about? I'm not fucking coming back there." You know?
Erica: She knows how she wants to be treated. I love it. I love it.
Akynos: Exactly, exactly.
Erica: So back to the book. In the book...
Akynos: Right, OnlyFans.
Erica: “Fans Only.” But in the book-
Akynos: “Fans Only.” Right.
Erica: In the book, there were two characters that went on this OnlyFans journey, and the relationship between the two of them suffered partly because of their decision to do this. It makes me want to ask you how has the work you have done and the work you do affect your relationships?
Kenrya: And vice versa, how do your relationships impact your work if at all?
Akynos: Oh, that is a really good question.
Erica: I probably didn't read it how Kenrya wrote it. She has and vice versa. My bad.
Akynos: Those are two very important questions. I'll start with the last part. So the work for me, it's really... Because I told you it's kind of hard for me to play multiple personalities, so when I was dating, it made it really hard for me to work, which is why I don't like dating when I'm working because I just want to be all up into my relationship.
Akynos: One of my friends had accused me of... She's like, "This is not meant for you because when you get into a relationship, you don't want to work." It's like, "Bitch, I'm actually a human being." And I don't know about y'all, but if you've ever been at your job and then you get into a new relationship, how much time you want to spend with your new partner. That's just how it is.
Akynos: So I would want to be just loving up on my partner, and I'm totally monogamous. So I just want to give all that energy and all that love to that person. So it would really impact me wanting to work because I just wanted to be a girlfriend.
Akynos: The flip side of that is that a lot of people, they can't handle it. They don't understand that the work sex is work sex. That shit is like a therapist seeing her clients only and being super intimate with her clients, and the going home and having to give her family a different kind of energy. So people can't understand that. It puts so much on sex.
Akynos: So yeah, it makes it very difficult. It's not the easiest thing to do unless your partner's super open. And unfortunately unless you're dealing with somebody that's like poly or whatever... As a monogamous person, I'm not going to get that. So I made a vow basically. Right now even though I'm not working, I'm like, "I'm not dating anybody." Most of these niggas aren't worth it anyway. So they can go fucking kick rocks. Unless they're paying me, I'm not dating anybody.
Akynos: But it's really difficult on both ends of that because people just don't... I get it. When you grow up into this environment where people put so much... They give so much to sex. When I'm having work sex, that is work sex. I'm not even there. Please. Well, partially. I try not to operate too much outside of myself when I'm working, but it's work sex. It's like give me a break, please. He's paying me money. That's it. Or even if I'm in a strip club, that's work energy. I'm giving them that actress part of me. But when I come to you, I'm giving you me in this whole other form. But folks, they don't understand.
Akynos: They don't understand that doctors are doing this. Listen, the gynecologist is looking in my pussy versus when he goes home and looks at his wife's pussy. What is it? Is it the same? It's not going to be the same energy. But people don't understand that. They don't understand everyone puts on a different face for when they're at work versus when they're in these other intimate relationships, whether it's with the children or their spouses or their friends. You know what I mean? So they can't separate that. So it's hard either way. I personally when I was working, I just kind of don't like it. If I'm working, I'm working with my clients. I just like to give my clients that energy. And if I'm with somebody, I just like to give them that energy. For me, there was no real easy balance. So I'm just single and cuddling my stuffed animal pig. Lonely life.
Erica: You described my life. So it's okay. I see you. I see you.
Kenrya: So we talked a little bit about the work that you do with the Black Sex Worker Collective. I'm wondering what can our listeners do? So you mentioned they can give money, they can come to y'all webinars. But what else can we do in order to really improve the space that Black sex workers are working in?
Akynos: I think it's super important that people look to having us in more conventional spaces. Because it's stigma when folks are thinking about including sex workers into different spaces is often very stereotypical. It's like, "Oh, you can teach a sex ed class." It's like, "Yeah, that's great. But do you know I could teach a business class too? Do you know that I do investing? Do you know that I understand financing? Do you know I understand advertising? Do you know I understand copy editing and things like that?"
Akynos: So yeah, sure we can talk about sex. We can teach you how to ride. Adult sex education. We can teach you how to suck a dick properly, but there's also these other things that we do that we're really capable of doing. So I think it's really important that they let go of their idea of what they think sex workers are. Just understand we're regular people, and there's a whole bunch of skills in there that we have. You have to try and bring us into those spaces because if society really cares about sex workers or if they really wanted to eliminate the industry, they'd do a much better job of doing it. They just accept that there are these people that are doing this thing that have a lot of skills, and where else can they be useful?
Akynos: We're all so talented. We're writers. We make clothes. We're artists. We're all these things, but then folks keep trying to pigeon hole us into these very narrow spaces, even when they think they're being helpful. They're like, "Maybe you can teach an oral sex class." That's great, bitch, but I also know how to clean the fuck out of a house. I also know how to travel on a dime. Come on. Because a lot of us tour. A lot of us have to tour. We have to become really resourceful because touring is really, really, really fucking hard. I also could tell you how to fucking travel and take care of somebody's fucking house when you're going to be Airbnbing someone's place. Think about that shit.
Erica: I love that because I do think that often it's, "Teach us how to suck a dick." It's like, "Yeah, but here I am I've lived and have figured out how to stretch this dollar into 20," that kind of thing.
Kenrya: And you're an entrepreneur and all the things that go into that.
Akynos: And I've done that. I've literally turned $1 into $500. Literally I have done that. But no one thinks that I do that because they're like, "Oh, all she does is fuck different men." Actually, yeah. But I didn't have to be a sex worker to do that. I was doing that shit long before I became an actual hoe. I was fucking multiple men a night before I actually started selling pussy. I was doing that for free. That's easy. Even your mother could do that shit. You know what I mean? There's so many other things that we do. It's a pity that people have these hang ups about sex, so they can't see past that. That just goes to show you how many people don't know how to fuck. That's all. They think that sex is just this thing, and it's about getting off. They don't think it's all these other things. It's how you smell. It's how you walk. It's your energy. It's how you interact with people. It's so fucking stupid. That's why so many women ain't fucking. Those motherfuckers don't know what they doing.
Akynos: These niggas think sex is just hard dick and pussy. No, my man. No, it's not.
Erica: It's a lot-
Akynos: It's a lot more than that. It's a lot of it that goes into it.
Akynos: That's why they're wack.
Erica: I'm a sex educator, and I really pride myself on removing the other person from the situation and focusing on yourself. Let's play with ourselves because at that point, when somebody show up, they're just there for the ride. I know a lot of people going, "You can join us or not."
Erica: Okay. So you have touched on... I was going to ask you what myths do you want to dispel about sex workers, but I feel like this entire interview has been that. But is there something that you touched on that you just got to get off your chest about sex workers? We don't, we do, we don't like, we like, whatever. Again, y'all are not a monolith, but yeah.
Akynos: Yeah. I saw this question earlier, and a thought came to mind. But now I can't remember it. Let me see. Myths about sex workers. What was I thinking about? Gosh. I don't know. We can cook too.
Akynos: I can't remember. Sex workers also know how to cook.
Erica: You will be laying in bed tonight and you'll remember.
Akynos: Like, "Damn, that was it. That was it." Yeah, I can't remember because I've been drinking. If I didn't dilute my fucking liquor, I could remember. But now I can't remember. But yeah, I don't know. There's so many things to... Look, I do interior design. Oh my God, my fucking roses, they're so sad because this house is so hot. Whatever. I cook. Sex workers do a lot of shit.
Akynos: Sex is not just intercourse. That's a myth. People don't understand that sex is not just intercourse. Y'all need to stop that, and once I think we can get past that, maybe we can start passing some legislation that legitimizes us in mainstream society so we can just get the fuck on with our lives. We just want to work, and we pay taxes. That's another myth. "You bitches didn't pay no taxes." Yes, the fuck I do. I've always paid my taxes. Always.
Erica: You probably pay more in taxes than some business owners, Jeff Bezos or whoever.
Akynos: Right. Hello! Yo, listen, part of why I've been so tired, why I've been working from my bed, I have been fighting with the IRS over some bullshit, a big ass tax bill they're trying to hit me with. So you know what, call me too if you want to know how to handle them because they send me a letter like, "Okay. You pay your taxes on time. So we're going to eliminate these fees." Yeah, you better, bitch, because they were... They were trying to run game over here. So I'm dealing with that. So yeah, we pay our taxes, people.
Erica: Okay. So macaroni and cheese recipe, how to get baseboards clean, travel on a dime, and fight the IRS.
Akynos: Yo, there's a big ass pot of macaroni and cheese sitting on my counter right now, and I'm actually going to Portugal for art residency and the work I'm doing now is around food history. So yes, sex workers cook, and we decorate. My whole house is pink.
Erica: I love it. Do you have any advice for Black women or nonbinary people that want to get into this industry?
Akynos: I think this industry is for people with a lot of life experience. When I became a stripper, I was super young. But when I became an escort, I was in my 30s. While I understand there's people that get into this industry at different stages of your life, I really think it's a grown person's industry. It's a young person's business really, but you have to kind of be mentally mature to be in the industry because what happens a lot of times is, and this is because of stigma. And this is because of the laws where they separate us and we can't really convene in some spaces legally, otherwise they'll call it brothel or whatever, and that's illegal in a lot of places.
Akynos: But I feel like you have to be super grounded, and you have to set rules. You have to have some boundaries set. Like what are you going to tolerate and what you're not. This is also good for your just personal life, just living.
Akynos: So if you've got shoddy boundaries, you're always going to find yourself into problems. And a lot of times too you don't know what your boundary is until you end up into a situation. Then you know a person can't really cross that line. But you still have to have a basis that you would work from.
Akynos: So people who want to come into this industry, I would say right that there, set some boundaries. Know who you are, know what lines if a person crosses that you're not going to deal with, speak to other workers where you can because that's a lot of it. I just actually got blocked yesterday on Facebook trying to tell somebody kind of sort of this. Set your rules, know what they are, say it with conviction because they can totally smell when you're vulnerable. That's with any industry. We can smell it, all of us. When somebody's vulnerable and especially if you're the kind of person that likes to take advantage of people, which I personally am not. There's a lot of people out there that when they see vulnerability, they don't look like, "Oh, they have to protect this person." They're like, "We have to use them." So you always got to remember that.
Kenrya: Yeah. So we always like to bring it back to books. So I'd love to know if there are any books or any resources that you would recommend that our readers get into or listeners get into?
Akynos: So I'm a burlesque performer, burlesque show stripper I like to call it. I hate saying burlesque performer because it tries to clean up the fuck what I'm doing. Like, bitch, you're a fucking broke down stripper because I'm a broke down stripper. I strip in burlesque shows now.
Akynos: What I try to do in my classes because I work from a oral history standpoint, and I try to make the connection that people always like, "Oh, let's go to these performance books." It's like that's fucking great, bitch, but really what you need to do is you need to study race, class, and all of that because it's still pertaining to the same industry.
Akynos: The work that I've done, thank God, got out of college, finally finished. But I did my presentation this summer. A lot of the intersectional work that I've done is about Black history basically. So a lot of racial history class and things like that.
Akynos: So you can go ahead and read all the hoe books you want, but you also need to read some shit about Black bodies. So one of the books that I like, which I didn't finish. Don't judge me. I don't finish reading shit because I like the social media. I like to learn from social media. But one of the books I really loved is... Let me take these god damn stickers off. Is this book here. This is “Fearing the Black Body” by Sabrina Springs, which I've got a lot of things here. A really good book to talk about where fatphobia comes from, and she talks about a lot of race science in one of the chapters. I think it's super important. No matter what work you're getting into, especially if you're getting into entertainment, and fortunately to some people's surprise, sex work is entertainment industry. It's the adult industry. It kind of brings some insight into your work, into why as Black women that look a certain way, why you're going to have to charge less. Or why you're going to feel compelled to charge less because this is why this is happening. It kind of gives you a more in depth understanding.
Akynos: Another book that I partially read is “The Delectable Negro,” which I don't remember the author's name. But it talks a lot about the racial violence of white people and how they would believe consume Black flesh and just give you some insight into your oppressors and probably makes you feel more compelled as a Black entertainer to take their money. Because if they could, at one point, they will eat your ass after they fry your ass. So those are my two books that I swear to God I'm going to finish reading before the summer ends.
Akynos: The other book that I didn't finish reading is “The Second Sex” by Simone de Beauvoir. Simone the Beaver basically. That's really what it is. It's a big-ass 800-page book that a friend loaned me a while ago. She's like, "Can I get my book back?" I'm like, "No, I'm still reading it." She's like, "What page are you on?" I'm like, "One." I'm not done yet, bitch. Calm down. You're not going to read this shit.
Erica: But one is after the Roman numerals. So you at least a few pages in technically.
Akynos: You're not reading this shit. I'm taking care of it. It's sitting in that corner catching dust, and it's beautiful. No one's touched it. It's great. I did have to read the opening chapter for something I was doing, and basically she kind of breaks down why you just shouldn't call women females, which I fucking despise with a fiery burning passion. I don't use it at all. Wherever female should go, I just see woman, period. But she kind of really breaks that down into a way you can really understand. One day I will finish reading that 800-page book. One day. It ain't going to be today though.
Erica: I literally buy books nonstop, and they-
Akynos: I like try to order more books. Bitch, you're not going to read them. Stop.
Erica: I wrote down your books. I'm going to order them, and-
Akynos: And you ain't gonna read them shits. One chapter.
Erica: The books behind me are going to suck their teeth when I bring like, "You guys have new friends." They're going to be like, "This bitch."
Akynos: I know. I read a lot of nonfiction books, but I want to really get into the Octavia Butler and some other books I saw. But they're going to sit there forever because I really love my nonfiction. But I swear to God I'm going to finish reading these both, I swear.
Erica: Okay. Well, it's okay. We won't tell nobody. Just between us and a few other friends.
Erica: So what is turning you on today?
Akynos: I love food. I love, love food. I'm trying to get better with my cooking. I did a food event here last September, which went over really well because the food here in Germany is trash. You got to go through so much hell to find your seasonings. I'm ordering seasonings from the UK. I'm waiting on an order to come right now.
Akynos: There's a bunch of hating ass bitches on my Facebook timeline because I ordered a Jamaican black cake from London, rum cake from London. They're like, "Bitch, you ain't never going to get them." I'm like, "Whatever, bitch." I just had a dream about eating that fucking cake today, bitch, and I'm going to be eating that shit on camera in your fucking face because they're like, "It's going to come next year." Whatever, bitch. My cake's going to be here next year, and I'm going to eat that whole fucking cake on camera right in front of y'all face.
Akynos: So I really like food. It's why I'm so thick now, and I'm trying to trim down a bit. Just because I don't like the way I look on camera when I'm performing, I don't like the way I look. It's fine for regular life, but when I'm on stage, it's like, "Ew, what's that?" But I do get turned on a lot by food. I don't like the act of cooking, but I do like the act of eating. I do cook. I invite people over here a lot. I won't go to anyone's house, but I will invite people over for dinner and I do cook for folks. So food turns me on a lot, and I'm trying to just learn a little bit more about how to compose some really good meals because I do like feeding people. So I like food.
Erica: Okay. So three questions for you. Finish the sentence. Well, three sentences, finish them. I am happiest when...
Akynos: I'm happiest when I'm eating.
Erica: It's so funny you said this. I was getting out the shower today, and I said out loud, "I really like food." I don't know where it came from. I was just like drying off like, "I like food." So yeah.
Akynos: Yeah, it might be an emotional issue, but I don't give a fuck. It's delicious.
Erica: Yeah. Everybody got a vice.
Akynos: Especially African. Oh my god, love African food.
Erica: I saw this tweet, and it was like you know how everybody's doing that African Ancestry and all that. They were like, "You know what, we just need to give everyone jollof rice from a bunch of different countries. And whichever they like most is their..."
Kenrya: That's where they people from.
Erica: ... That's where you're people from. Exactly.
Akynos: I'm Jamaican, so we're probably Ghanaian. Even though ancestry's also bullshit, and they will like... My first test was basically a Cameroonian and from Benin, and then they did it again, they revamped it, and it was like I'm from Nigeria. I was like, "No, I'm not."
Kenrya: They don't have enough. I've read that they don't really have enough information from various countries and tribes in Africa. So their results are not super accurate.
Akynos: No, no. You're first one-
Erica: So there's this company, African Ancestry.
Akynos: That's the one that I... Is that the one I used? No, I didn't use African Ancestry. Go ahead. Sorry.
Erica: I really like African Ancestry. I haven't done it, but I'm going to order it. Full up.
Kenrya: I'm just so worried about privacy issues.
Erica: So they say that they destroy it [crosstalk 01:01:43]-
Akynos: They be taking your DNA.
Kenrya: But I just...
Erica: Yeah, they're like you don't have to even put your real name to it. They destroy it once they get the information. So that makes me a little more... But yeah, I'm afraid I be walking down the street and see like a baby Erica. Then I'm going to have to size her up and be like, "I'm going to raise you because you need to..."
Kenrya: Even beyond cloning, although that's a big one, these other companies have been supplying information to the government. They've used that to arrest people's family members.
Erica: Girl, the way my family situation's set up, I be... Uh-uh (negative).
Kenrya: Half of Cleveland would be in fucking jail which is why...
Akynos: Was it the “Minority Report” with Tom Cruise where they just were like looking into the future arresting they ass. It's coming to that. Yeah, but I mean, I already gave my spit. So it's like whatever.
Kenrya: It's out there now.
Akynos: It's out there now. But I don't give a fuck. We're from Jamaica, so all of us are Gandhian. I don't really care. I know I'm from Africa. I'm African. There's no denying that. Especially when you see these coils, you're like, "Yeah, bitch. Yeah."
Erica: Same. They bleached out, but they there. They there.
Erica: Okay. So I need to...
Akynos: I need to... God, I can't say that. I need to go someplace else because that's going to turn into a whole ’nother conversation. I need to clean this fucking house though. For somebody that used to clean houses, I don't be wanting to clean this shit. I really should get a housekeeper, but I don't really want nobody in my shit like that.
Erica: I don't want nobody cleaning it. Can't nobody clean like me, but I don't feel like it.
Akynos: They can't. No, they really cannot. This is why I became a housekeeper. I hired some housekeepers when I moved into my last apartment in New York, and I was like, "What?" I had two of them. What did this bitch do?
Erica: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Akynos: What are you doing, bitch?
Erica: I totally understand.
Akynos: All these bitches say they can clean a house in two hours. No, you can't. It's at least a half day.
Erica: You ain't cleaning right.
Akynos: You can wipe down. You can wipe down a table with two hours, but you ain't cleaning this shit for real, for real. So yeah.
Erica: So Kenrya, she is a... Wait, the way it was going to come out was that Kenrya doesn't use bleach. Yes, she will get down with some old fashioned bleach. But I believe if your eyes ain't stinging, you ain't cleaning.
Kenrya: See, I got asthma, and I got a limit to what I can use to be able to fucking breathe.
Erica: But we smell all the different chemicals.
Akynos: I got into a debate about this with a friend. He's like, "That's how some people think the place is clean." I was like, "Well, then they can fucking hire somebody else because I'm not fucking doing it. I'm not using bleach." You can use hydrogen peroxide, but it will burn the fuck out of you if you don't handle it properly. But also, you shouldn't really let the stuff sit there to where you need bleach. That's why you're supposed to clean regularly, so you can easily get that shit off with some soap and water and some other kind of disinfectant products.
Akynos: They don't have a lot of access to bleach here. It's very difficult to get bleach in Germany.
Erica: Oh wow.
Akynos: Yeah. It's really difficult. They're fucking weird as fuck here. They even tried to sue me, but they sent me a letter like, "Oh, you tried to get Vicks VapoRub sent into this country. You could face up to $1,000 in fines, but we'll let you slide because we think you didn't know." Yeah, they fucking crazy over here.
Kenrya: For Vicks?
Akynos: Yes, girl. Camphor and fucking menthol. And Vaseline.
Kenrya: But what else is you supposed to put on your neck when you sick? What do you put on your lips when you ashy?
Akynos: You better use some fucking essential oils out this bitch because they tried to... Somebody tried to send me some, and they destroyed it. Really, bitch? You destroyed my fucking Vicks? So that happened. So I have seen bleach here, but it's not easy to find it here. But they do have a bleach kind of product that's a disinfectant thing that will bleach your stuff. But it's not like the bleach that you know in America. So count your fucking blessings. No, count your blessings. They are wild out here with the whole bleach situation.
Akynos: But yeah, no, I don't believe in... Because I used to clean with essential oils a lot. I would use bleach, but that's because if I went somebody's house, I was really bitches, wiggas is nasty. Not niggas, wiggas. Wiggas is extra disgusting. I walked into some places like just throw the whole fucking bleach, all the bleach that exists. Just throw all of it in this bitch because I'm going to be in here for the fucking rest of my life cleaning this shit.
Erica: Okay. All right. Last one. I like it when...
Akynos: I like it when I have easy access to money.
Akynos: Because I can do so much. I have so much competence. I don't give a shit about nothing. Like whatever, bitch. I got money in my bank account. Are you mad? That's too bad, I got money in my bank account.
Kenrya: And speaking of money, you are giving our listeners a special gift, right? They can get a discount on Black Sex Worker Collective merch if they use the code Juneteenth, right?
Kenrya: The site for your merch is Teespring.com/stores/thebswc. Right?
Akynos: Yup. And the link to the store is on the BSWC.org. So we're getting ready to do our Black Sex Worker Conference in June. So yeah, we can totally give a little discount on some of our stuff because I'm going to try... I'm a procrastinator, but there's a lot of... According to what they say, there's a lot of unresolved issues why you're procrastinating. So I've got a lot of unresolved issues. There's new merch that I want to go up, which I might not be able to get it into Teespring, but we'll see. Yeah, we're going to have some new merch just in time for our conference.
Akynos: So yeah, sure, people can get a little discount.
Kenrya: Love that. Thank you so much for doing that for our folks.
Kenrya: And more importantly, thank you for joining us.
Akynos: Thank you for having me. I love talking to humans.
Kenrya: It's been lovely. So for folks-
Akynos: It's different these days.
Kenrya: Well, that's real shit. For the folks who want to keep talking to you, where can they find you online?
Akynos: If they want to argue, they can follow me on Facebook. There's a lot of arguments break out there. I'm on Twitter @akynos. Actually, I'm Akynos everywhere. They can go to Akynos.com and all of my links should actually be there.
Kenrya: That's A-K-Y-N-O-S.
Akynos: N-O-S. Yeah. All my links should be there where I can be followed, stalked, and yeah. I get into more arguments on Facebook because it's easier to have a long-form arguments. I won't get into a big battle on Twitter or Instagram. I'll just block you. But if you want to argue, we need to have friends in common because if it's like not enough friends in common, I'm going to be looking at it like it's highly suspicious, especially if it's a man because I don't really add men to my pages because men are trash. I don't fuck with the patriarchy like that.
Akynos: But there are some men on my timeline, and I do go back and forth with them. But I'm getting older now, so I don't really have time. It's like I got other things to do. So I just don't respond to their fucking stupidness. They've been saying the same shit for fucking forever. Why am I arguing with these idiots? Nothing is going to change.
Kenrya: If folks want to know more about Black Sex Worker Collective, they can go to BlackSexWorkerCollective.org. They can follow the organization on Twitter @TheBlackSWC, and on IG @TheBSWC. Right?
Akynos: Yeah. The website I think is BlackSexWorkerCollective.org and the BSWC.org, which is a lot easier. And yeah, we're there. We're on Instagram and we're on Twitter. We're wherever pages are allowed. We even got a Clubhouse room.
Kenrya: All right. Well, thank you so much for joining us this week. It was lovely to have you, Akynos.
Akynos: Thank you for having me.
Erica: Our first guest of season one.
Kenrya: Season four.
Erica: Season four. I don't know why I said season one. First guest of season four.
Akynos: That's great. Thank you. Thank y'all for having me because I had to rush. I had to put my face on. So now I can record the video that you want me to record.
Kenrya: See, now you already ready. You can just go on and do that.
Erica: Now you ready. You all ready.
Kenrya: I like it.
Akynos: I'm just going to eat some chips. I actually don't want to do this. I'm tired. Alcohol made me tired now.
Kenrya: Well, it does like to do that. But I feel like it was probably worth it. You enjoyed. So thank you for coming on, and thank you all for listening. That is it for this week's episode The Turn On. We will see y'all next week.
Akynos: Thank you.
Erica: This episode was produced by us, Erica and Kenrya, and edited by B'Lystic. The theme music is from Brazy. Now you can support The Turn On and get off. Subscribe to the show on your favorite podcast app, then drop us a five-star review and you'll be entered to win something that's turning us on. Post your review and email a screenshot to us at TheTurnOnPodcast@gmail.com to enter. Our Patreon page is also live. Become a supporter today, and access lots of goodies, including two-for-one raffle entries. Don't forget to send us your book recommendations and sex and related questions. And follow us on Twitter at @TheTurnOnPod and Instagram at @TheTurnOnPodcast. You can find links to books, merch, transcripts, guest info, and other fun stuff at TheTurnOnPodcast.com. Thanks for listening, and we'll see you soon. Holla.
The Turn On
The Turn On is a podcast for Black people who want to get off. To open their minds. To learn. To be part of a community. To show that we love and fuck too, and it doesn't have to be political or scandalous or dirty. Unless we want it to be.