Johnny Trejo is an ex-porn performer who worked in the industry between 2003 and 2005. Since his conversion, and turning his back on the porn, Johnny has been actively serving the Lord in a number of ministries geared towards reaching those in the sex industry, and he has agreed to share his story with us.
Thank you, Johnny, for allowing me to interview you. You have quite an amazing testimony. First off, how long were you involved in the porn industry, and approximately how many movies did you make?
Well, I didn't start getting interested in it until 2002, but I was beginning to get involved in 2003, mostly doing amateur stuff as an amateur male performer. I performed with girls who not only were performers themselves but also strippers & even prostitutes as well. I was mostly doing like the guerrilla-style scenes where they shoot in motels for scene content. That's considered the lower end of porn. When it comes to the lower end of the porn industry, prostitution with the girls off the street comes into play. I was paranoid because, when I got tested, I wanted to know if I caught anything. Thank God I didn't.
At what age were you first exposed to porn?
I was exposed to Playboy when I was 3. I was asking my grandpa if I could go to the market with him, and he had stashed in the back seat his Playboy magazines. Eventually he got in trouble from my grandma & he had to throw out the Playboys. It was weird because as a kid growing up I was watching the Playboy channel & it made my heart race like it was beating out of my chest, and made things bigger on my body. I just couldn't understand why.
A few years before my grandma & grandpa came to know the Lord, Grandpa had cancelled his subscription to Sports Illustrated Magazine. By then he had long ago cancelled the subscriptions to Playboy Magazine and Playboy Channel.
Even in my pre-teens I would see the Cinemax and Showtime channels around 10:30 or 11pm on Friday/Saturday nights. We called it "Skinemax.” These were the ones to see when you wanted to see naked women on TV. I didn't know at the time it was soft-core porn. The way I saw females, especially in school, was kinda like how men would check out women. Thank God my grandpa doesn't enjoy that crap anymore.
Was there something in particular that made you decide to get into porn? I know in your testimony, you mentioned Howard Stern sort of contributing to that. Could you go into a little more detail about that?
I think it was in my early to mid-20's when I would constantly get teased by my male co-workers at work, why I didn't have a girlfriend or how come I'm not married. Some would say that they wanted to take me to TJ (Tijuana, Mexico) to get women. It was a constant ribbing, and the type of young women I was attracted to, I just didn't know how to talk to, or I would get shot down.
Not only was I influenced by listening to Howard Stern & watching his TV show, but in a way I would learn about the different porn stars or females that would go on his show, and how to talk & act with these types of women. I would also watch this new show on Showtime called "Family Business" that really had put the thought in my mind about entering this industry. It was a in a way a reality sitcom about Adam Glasser, aka “Seymore Butts,” a single father who is a producer & director as well as sometimes a performer in his own porn videos. The show showed how he conducted his business & how he tried to separate the porn biz & his personal life.
So "Family Business" and Howard Stern were the beginnings of me wanting to get into the business, and also my addiction to porn.
It figures. Howard Stern really does a good job promoting the porn industry. If you don’t mind, what was it like growing up? How did you view sex, and what was your relationship with God?
I was raised in a Christian home. My stepdad was involved in ministry. I learned about the Bible when I was young . My mom & dad tried to instill morals & discipline in us kids. My dad disciplined us, and when he did, he did it too hard. I have forgiven my dad long ago, and we are best friends.
I thought I was a Christian because I lived in a Christian home and went to church.
I felt like I wanted to dig deeper into the Bible and to get to know Jesus. A street preacher and pastor from Long Beach helped my mom get back on her feet. Just hanging with him and getting to know him as he transferred to the LA Mission really inspired me to seek the Lord, and one day seek the work of the ministry, when I was a freshman in High School.
So, then, would it suffice to say that the stuff you were seeing on cable was sort of becoming more of an influence on you than your Christian upbringing?
It was a compromise. I felt guilty, but then again I wanted to know what beautiful women looked like naked. But I felt nervous also because I could have gotten caught watching it.
Yeah, that makes sense. So let’s talk about your time in the industry. I know that it is a lot more difficult for guys to break into porn than women. How did you manage break into the industry? Did you work with a particular agency?
Well, before I went all the way into the industry, I went to my first porn convention in LA back in 2002. I asked everyone how a “guy like me” would enter the business. I always got the same response: "Find a girl and go to an agency, see if you can be comfortable naked.
At a particular signing in Hollywood, I asked legendary director Jimmy Holiday and his go-to girl how would one enter the business. They told me get a hot-looking girl, and go to World Modeling Agency and talk with Jim South, and tell them Jimmy sent you. That night I got to meet my new friend who was male performer and we talked about the business for about an hour and a half. So instead of going with the agency, he took me under his wing.
What was your first porn shoot like? I know that for myself and so many other women, our first porn shoot is an absolute nightmare. Would you mind describing what that was like for you? Do you think that the experience is different for males than females?
It was nerve-racking when I had to perform with others in the room. For starters, men have to be able to have a certain look. You have to be in shape to be appealing to the women, and have a certain appendage size, and be able to perform in front of other people (in front of the camera). It put pressure on my mind be able to perform.
So, Johnny, do the guys in porn REALLY love what they are doing?
Those who have been in the business for years see it as a job, and a lot of the guys act like jerks, like they’re looking out for #1. There is no looking after others. That's why my friend took me under his wing. But for the guy who is all gung-ho, he will take the Viagra and abuse it to where that's what he depends on for sex, either on-camera, or off-camera in his personal life. Other than that it depends on the guy.
Guys would initially be like, who wouldn't be with a hot girl or 2, a hot experience, but when they get on set and are ready to perform, they don't last too long and they find out all too well.
On set, you are like a trained dog and the director is giving you instruction what to do. Then, the girl also is expecting the guy to perform too, and if the woman who gets a guy who can't perform, that rumour spreads in the industry. For me I always got that I'm too shy and I needed to be more aggressive.
So, let’s talk about the porn lifestyle a bit. What was it like when you were in it? I know that you used to go to a lot of parties. What was that like?
Its was exciting to a point. I got to be around beautiful women. Some were already high or drunk. At the parties, it was not only drinking, smoking, or getting high, but there was a lot of networking, and even (new) girls just coming in. It was like a meat market. The guys finding these girls would pimp them out and get a percentage or a finders fee, like the agencies.
The guys acted like jerks, but there were some who were down-to-earth. But getting to see them in a way as a person was quite a sight because they were human like you or I. The thing is, though, they didn't know how to conduct themselves, and I'm talking about the women who had ex-boyfriends, sugar daddies, and even girlfriends. Some were drug addicts/alcoholics or they had kids staying with family. You can tell that when people are not high and sober. It’s like they look like an outer shell of themselves (when they are high).
What about drugs? How many of the performers, would you say, used drugs? Did you ever get into the drug scene?
I never got into the drug scene, but I know that some girls were either high as a kite on marijuana, or they were into prescription drugs. When I entered porn, crystal meth was being used. During conventions or parties, the girls would take whatever to get through time. I haven't seen it, but I've seen the affects of someone on something.
In your testimony, you state: “There were times when I would see the girls at the clinic all tired and worn like they were abused.” I know that you are talking about the AIM Clinic, where the men and women used to get tested. Could you expand on this?
When I was at the AIM Clinic, I would see girls who looked like they have been through the ringer. I would be talking to some of the girls who looked like they were young, but they looked like their whole body hurt and they still had to go in to be tested. I overheard some girls saying they worked all day on set, and some were still waiting to get cleared from their STD so they could work again.
The interesting thing about AIM was that you would have people who looked like people not certified to draw blood. I have talked with Sharon Mitchell (co-founder of AIM) a couple times about the industry. I expressed that I came from a religious background, and she said "Oh you'll be fine. Don't let that be a concern.” Then she suggested I get a prescription of Viagra at my nearest drug store.
I know that a lot of women in porn suffer from depression, loneliness, and anxiety, but what about the guys? What is it like for a guy emotionally being in the industry?
Well, I can’t speak for other guys, but for me, I would get headaches right before I performed. Sometimes the shame would get to me, too, like when I'm around family members, but I would act like an idiot trying to bring my exploits to work by bragging about what I did over the weekend. It was a constant pressure to perform.
What was your attitude towards women when you got into porn? I know that when I was in the industry, most of the men seemed to have serious issues with women. Would you agree?
I agree that men do have some serious issues with women. One thing that stuck with me, when I went in for my first STD/HIV test at AIM, was that the girl behind the desk, whom I'd seen in a video before, was also a performer. She told me, "when you get on set, and whoever you’re working with, treat her with respect!”
I didn't even look like myself anymore. From what I was told, my whole demeanor was changing into something colder. Even my friend, after one sex scene, asked me if I really wanted to do this because, as he said, these people in the business are like vampires. They would suck me dry. And do I want to turn my back on the Lord doing this....
Do you think that being in the porn industry changed your attitude towards women at all? What about your attitude towards sex?
My whole outlook on women was nothing but body parts. Porn was changing my outlook on life. When I got too meet them while they were not performing, or playing up to the camera, or not signing autographs, they are exhausted and strung-out, and chain smokers. Or they are little girls with dolls in their suitcases. It’s sad because some of them still act like overgrown kids.
So, Johnny, what exactly made you decide to leave the industry? Was there something in particular?
Well before I left I tried getting back into going to church again. What happened was that one of my aunts collapsed in the shower. She was bleeding internally, so my uncle had to do CPR on her while the ambulance arrived. She died for a few minutes, but they brought her back to life and rushed her to the hospital in Irvine. Something in her stomach made her bleed inside to where she had to go into surgery. My grandpa had to take me aside & talk with me about bringing this junk into the family. He said that if I was going to bring it in, then I should go somewhere else. He also said I was bringing shame to the family, to where not even my own cousins or family members wanted to be around me.
I was not only losing who I was as the John they knew, but I was also losing my self-respect, and the respect of my family. They were praying for me to come back and get out of this lifestyle. My aunt didn't know how to approach me, so she went to her pastor. She wanted to reach out to me, so he gave her a pamphlet for my grandpa to give to me. It was a pamphlet about a local church. And I thought "Oh great a trip to Costa Misery!” I said that I'll give it a try.
My grandpa wanted me to go, so the following week he went with me. When we got there I met the men’s group leader. I thought someone told him I was coming, so my heart was racing and I felt convicted. When it was time for the men’s group, it was men's purity. When I wanted to share why I was there, I poured it all out about what I was involved in and my addiction to porn. The Lord broke me to where I was crying and sharing in what my sin was.
Even before the whole thing with my auntie collapsing in the shower, nothing was going right. I was addicted to porn, and I had tapped into my saving not only for testing, but also paying for sex as well, and also spending it on crap. But that night, after the first night of Men's Purity in Sept. of 2005, my grandpa & I got into his truck and he said "If you want to come back [to church] we can. It’s up to you." I said "Yeah, I want to come back.” I felt like something different, and that night I had to give it to the Lord, and I prayed and rededicated my life back to Him, and acknowledged my sin and asked for forgiveness. I felt in my heart clean, and it was of the Lord, who had to change me from the inside-out.
I called my friend who took me under his wing and told him “I'm out!” He laughed at me and said "You'll be back. They always come back.”
Was it hard leaving?
No, it wasn't, when I decided that this wasn’t me anymore, after breaking down. The whole Men's Purity was what I needed for the Lord to break me. I knew what I had to do and it was the wisest thing to do, because not only did my physical life & health depend on it, but also my life spiritually. Instead of doing the 12-Step thing, I did the 1-Step, and that's running to Jesus.
How did your time in porn affect your relationships with women? What about now?
It was difficult, because I had to re-learn on how to treat women, and how to look at them in a different way, especially Christian women, because that's my sister in the Lord.
When I got out of porn I started to 'ugly' myself by growing a beard & my hair out. I even stopped exercising and I gained weight. It was my way to forsake the porn life & not be able to be associated with it. But what was cool is that people didn't see the outer but they looked at my heart, even if the outer shell looked like John the Baptist (lol)
I'm still learning about women, and anything I learn now, I take it to heart, even from other Christian women. But now I'm in a new relationship with an awesome & beautiful woman. It’s still new, so we are taking things slow. And this could be the one, and she supports the ministry I'm involved in and she cares.
Please tell us about the ministry that you are doing now. I know that you are volunteering for the Pink Cross Foundation, but for a while, you also worked with a ministry called “After-Hours Ministry” and also “Ladies of the Night Ministry.” Could you tell us a bit about that?!
I was involved with a pimp & prostitute outreach ministry based out of Hollywood, formed by a husband & wife team, called After Hours Ministry. I have learned so much, not only about how to reach out to the sex industry, but to see the other side of human trafficking in Los Angeles/Hollywood. It was a lot of spiritual warfare, and it still goes on before, during, and after outreach. Even though I'm not with the prostitute outreach ministry anymore, I still love my sisters and brothers and have learned so much from them.
In October I went to Hollywood to support my friend who was doing Colombian Folklore Dancing with her family in a Latin America Folklore dancing of different cultures of Latin America. When we were out we saw ladies on the street. Seeing these girls on the track, it really burned inside of me to reach out again.
My friend Lynnette came up with the name "Ladies of The Night Ministry" that would reach out to girls in Orange County. So the week after the event in Hollywood, I prayed and started getting supplies for an outreach ready. Shortly after that, men would contact me and inquire about being part of this ministry. I shared with my friend & told her that we need more sisters to come alongside & do ministry like this, because otherwise you would have men trying to minister to prostitutes. So I put Ladies of the Night Ministries on hold. This type of ministry is not for everybody.
The Lord opened the door again back in January of 2011 to speak at a Cal OSHA meeting with Shelley Lubben. I was blessed to do it and to be able to be part of what the Lord is doing and growing the ministry of the Pink Cross Foundation. I got to be able to speak about my history in the porn industry and share my experience in that type of ministry as well.
I know that a lot of men think that being a male porn star is exciting and “cool.” What would you say to that?
You men who are viewing porn and think its “cool,” and want to do what these guys do on camera, I say this: You’re in for a rude awakening, my friend. Not only do you have to be tested now by certified medical staff, but you have to be aware of the health & safety practices. You have to be able to obtain a certain look as a performer. You have to be in constant shape, and learn how to take orders like a trained circus animal. Be ready to see your shame be brought to the light of family or friends, even girlfriends or wives, and to be exploited for all to see. If you have kids, try to explain to your son or daughter what daddy does.
Thanks so much for your time Johnny!
It was a pleasure!