My wife and I are currently in the process of moving down to southern California for her work. As is expected with a big change like that, we have been dealing with the normal transitional issues as they arise. One obstacle was our living arrangements. When moving (especially across the state), your new housing availability may not always match up with your current. For us, it wasn't so much an overlap as a gap. We had gone down early in August and found our new home easily enough. Unfortunately, it was still under renovation and wouldn't be free until mid-September. That created a slight problem for us considering my wife started her new job the first week of that month, leaving us with nearly two weeks of homelessness down in LA.
When looking at the cost of a hotel for two weeks, my eyes had rolled back into my head and I had nearly fainted from the cost. At roughly $130 to $200+ a night, we were looking at spending a few grand for half a month of residency - that's not even including the separate $35 a night parking fee every hotel in the LA area seems to enjoy charging. Cue Airbnb to the rescue.
I'd always shy'd away from the sharing site simply because the idea of staying in someone's house and sleeping in their unused bed didn't appeal to me. It reminded me some of those college couch-surfing days or crashing in a room at a friend's house, only you have to pay for it and deal with the awkward exchange of interacting with a host you don't know. Feeling like I was on the verge of being mugged virtually though, I bit the bullet and loaded up Airbnb.
The price difference was unquestionably better (less than half!) and I soon found myself excitedly searching for a place to stay for my wife and I. We ended up picking a guesthouse located in the backyard of a woman who lived somewhere in the general LA area. To respect her privacy I won't use her real name or exact location, but let's call her Kate. Kate kept herself only partially verified on Airbnb, but when we tried to book, she sent us a message asking for us to fully verify our account. We found it odd that she would require Verified ID of the guest while not offering it as a host (a requirement for Airbnb), but we did it anyways and asked her to do the same. She declined, explaining that she kept herself private while still requiring guest verification due to her career in entertainment, but that she'd gladly offer references if we felt uncomfortable.
That is the really interesting thing about Airbnb. While they offer the ability to verify your profile using a collection of social media sites or your real ID, the information is still kept entirely private. You can be anyone you want to be on the site, changing your name, age, sex, or location while still staying in people's homes or even hosting your own. The users are trusting the site entirely to manage the privacy side of the business and if verifying your true identity with Airbnb doesn't float your boat, you don't have to as long as you have hosts willing to let you stay with them or guests willing to stay with you.
Naturally, Kate's want to keep private even to Airbnb peeked my wife and I's interest and our minds quickly wandered through the possibilities. We weighed our options and considered the risks before deciding we'd be okay to stay without knowing her full identity up-front. We'd still have her address and the price really was THAT good. It wasn't as if she would be able to get away with murdering us in our sleep or anything. Once we were booked though, we obtained enough information from Kate to give us an idea of her full name. From there, a quick Google search was all that was needed to dig up the history of our soon-to-be Airbnb host.
As you've likely deduced from the title of my post, Kate wasn't some a-list actress offering lowly casuals the chance to unknowingly stay with a celebrity. No, Kate was an ex-pornstar and a hardcore one at that with a rather large collection of a few dozen mid-budget films under her belt (or whatever a pornstar may or may not wear). Pulling up her IMDB revealed a long list of crudely hilarious titles from the early 2000's that included a collection of standard raunchy terms like a2m, facial, and gangbang. If it could be imagined, she had seemingly done it and with her many videos came a good-sized fan base. It quickly became apparent why Kate liked her privacy. Who wouldn't when the majority of your fan base is busy making comments on various websites about the types of things they'd like to do to you? Oddly enough, while my wife and I were both curious about the opportunity of meeting an ex-pornstar in person, Kate's short foray into the adult industry ultimately wasn't even the most interesting thing about her. Rather, to me at least, I found her journey away from the world of adult entertainment even more intriguing.
Kate's official website's biography barely mentions anything more than a brief stint in "erotica", instead opting to focus on her education (college educated) and skills (an accomplished pianist, actor, producer, and director) among other things. To the average viewer not thinking to dig up her IMDB page, Kate was a single mother pursuing her dreams as an actress and physical fitness buff. She had written, directed, and starred in her own semi-biographical documentary and had also produced a few independent films, all while offering her time for various charities and helping to advocate women's self-defense and safety. On paper, Kate's transformation from adult star was impressive and when we finally met her at our check-in, we were both fairly underwhelmed at how normal she seemed. She was a woman with good credentials, looking to further her
career in entertainment as legitimately as any other hardworking actor
or writer might. And she was a fantastic Airbnb host.
I think part of the misleading expectation comes from the stigma attached with a career in porn. Our society tends to put labels on people and to be honest, even if you think you are above doing so, sometimes you can't help but get caught up in it when you learn something you're not very comfortable with about someone you may not know very well. As long as you aren't forced to face the reality that the individual you're stereotyping is also a person, you may never get beyond the simple labels and expectations applied toward them. That is one particular reason why I was so impressed with Kate. Not only had she attempted to break the bonds of her past career, she had done so with an attitude that showed without a doubt that she was confident in who she was and in what she wanted to be in life, regardless of what others expected from her. The woman who had greeted us was exactly opposite of what I had expected and I can't help but admit that I learned something from her because of it.
With my wife's and my move down to LA, I've been contemplating my future career choices. Similar to how I suspect Kate felt (but also still entirely differently, I'm sure), I've been questioning whether I might want to change the path I've taken so far in my life. Sometimes you go into something thinking you can make some decent money quickly before eventually moving on to focus on your real interests and goals. Then, after several years have passed and that itch to pursue your dreams rapidly begins to overwhelm your every thought, you realize how terrifyingly difficult it might be to switch. You've been typecast; perpetually stuck in a role you had only planned to fill temporarily. Your resume is full of skills, but not the kind you had thought you'd have at your age and you begin to question how you will ever be able to transition out of the little box-world around you when everyone writes you off as a skillset that doesn't quite fit their prepackaged expectations of what they need.
Kate taught me that the fear is only as paralyzing as you allow it to be. In reality, those people who write you off as inapplicable or those haters who tell you to go back to what you know best, don't really know what you are capable of nor do they know what is actually best for you. When you really do want to change your life and pursue something new, you can do it. And with the right level of effort and some good re-branding, you can absolutely successfully sell a new you. People may not choose you right away, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't give up. Kate spent nearly five years after her last adult film before she got her first credit as a regular actress. It may take some time, but if you are confident enough and persistent, there is always someone out there willing to give you a chance. And when you do get that opportunity, there will be nothing holding you back from moving forward with your life and starting anew.
So thanks, Kate, for being a great Airbnb host and for unwittingly inspiring me to continue pursuing my dreams.