Many famous people have been involved in the sex industry in one form or another — either as sex workers, clients, or outspoken allies. We want to acknowledge these individuals — some of whom have helped to expand sexual freedom while others have not. The short list below is only the start of what will become dozens, and then hundreds, of VIPs who made a splash in the realm of sex work, for good or ill.

While DSW staff will try to find the time to add a few new people every month or two, most of the expansion of this web page will probably come from our allies who take the time to send us info about famous people whose involvement with the sex industry is somehow noteworthy or newsworthy, whether living or not. If you have a suggestion to add to the list below, please send the person’s name, photo (not necessarily a head shot), photo credit, caption, and a short paragraph describing why the person (or group of people) is significant.

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Stormy Daniels

Stormy Daniels is a porn star, stripper, director, author, and ambitious entrepreneur. In 2018, she became involved in the very famous legal dispute between herself, U.S. President Donald J. Trump, and Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen. Daniels came forward with the information that she was paid $130,000 in hush money so she would not go public with the affair between herself and Trump. We applaud her bravery to stand by her convictions and speak the truth despite scrutiny and stigma. Her book, Full Disclosure, is available now.

“The deck has always been stacked against me, but I own my story and the choices I made.”  — Stormy Daniels

Photo credit: Ethan Miller, copyright Getty Images 2018

Margaret Cho

Margaret Cho is a comedian, actress, writer, producer, singer/songwriter, and passionate advocate for anti-racism, anti-bullying, and pro-LGBTQAI+ rights and visibility. She has also been public about her experiences in the sex industry. She has a varied and extensive collection of projects, accolades, and side projects. She is also the executive producer of Mercy Mistress, a web series that delves into the world of BDSM, kink, and sex workers.

Photo CreditPixie Vision Photography

Janet Mock

Honolulu native Janet Mock is a fearless advocate for transgender visibility and rights. Not only a successful editor and author, she has appeared on many talk shows to advocate for her experience and the experiences of others. In terms of her heroism for sex workers, especially trans sex workers, she worked in the sex industry in order to fund her transition and has since gone on to write a book about her experience entitled Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love, and So Much More. She is a beacon of intelligence, confidence, and a symbol of transcending stigma to fully express herself.

“I believe that telling our stories, first to ourselves and then to one another and the world, is a revolutionary act. It is an act that can be met with hostility, exclusion, and violence. It can also lead to love, understanding, transcendence, and community. I hope that my being real with you will help empower you to step into who you are and encourage you to share yourself with those around you.”  ― Janet Mock, Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More

 Photo credit: Dia Dipasupil, Getty Images. Copyright: 2018 Getty Image

Jim Norton

Jim Norton is an actor, writer, host of The Jim Norton Show, and comedian who has been very vocal in his support of decriminalizing sex work. He understands the dangers of condemning an entire labor sector that fulfills the needs of many people from many walks of life, including those living with sex addiction. Norton succinctly breaks it down in his opinion article for Time Magazine: “By keeping prostitution illegal and demonizing all of its parties, we (you) are empowering pimps and human traffickers and anyone else who wants to victimize sex workers because they feel helpless under the law. Give sex workers rights. Give johns a break.” (The full article is here.)

Photo credit: Christopher Lovenguth Copyright 2014 Time Magazine

Dave Attell

Outspoken Queens-native comedian Attell is no stranger to the limelight. Known especially for his bawdy and often dark humor, his show Insomniac with Dave Attell garnered a cult following. Attell is not shy about discussing his love of porn, and even hosted a Showtime show entitled Dave’s Old Porn.

Photo credit: lenovo

Cardi B

Bronx-born rapper, former stripper, and internet sensation Cardi B has released several hits, topped charts, and accumulated several accolades. Throughout her music career she has been open about being a stripper before her music career was launched. By being open about her sex work history, she has been an icon for many strippers.

Photo credit: sandrarose.com

Amber Rose

Amber Rose is a model, singer, fashion icon, business woman, and former stripper. She created the annual SlutWalk in order to combat the war on women’s bodies and freedom of sexual expression. SlutWalk is a transnational movement that aims to reveal the hypocrisy of rape culture, name the evils of gender inequality, and overall give women and femme-bodied persons the support to fully express themselves without shame. The Amber Rose Foundation and MUVA also created OpenED, a series of lectures, panelists, and workshops to disseminate knowledge and empower attendees.

Photo credit: Alexander Tamargo WireImage Copyright 2017 Alexander Tamargo

Bill Maher

Bill Maher hosts his own show on HBO and is a famous stand-up comedian. His poignant comedy focuses on topics ranging from religion, politics, mass media, and political correctness. He is an ardent supporter of pragmatic, harm reduction policies such as the legalization of marijuana.

Photo credit: clture.com

Erika Jayne

Erika Jayne is the professional name for Erika Girardi, a singer with chart-topping hit singles, a star on Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, and a contestant on Dancing with the Stars. She proudly expresses herself artistically through her fashion and sexuality and has been slut-shamed for her choices. In a comment from another Real Housewife calling her a “hooker,” Girardi responds, “And being called a hooker … well, you know what? Hookers are kinda fabulous, in my opinion. So, if I have to represent for all the hookers in the world, I’ll have to do that.”

Photo credit: Nicole Weingart/Bravo

Dan Savage

Author, advice columnist, pundit, and LGBTQAI+ activist and advocate, Savage is known for founding the It Gets Better campaign, creating Savage Love (a podcast on sex, love, and relationships), and being a proponent for relaxing laws against porn and sale of sex toys. He is also vocal in his support of sex workers and is quoted saying in an article on theStranger.com: “I have good friends who do sex work — women and men — and they’re not human shields. Their lives are valuable and, like Fagen says, they’re not here to soak up male rage. They deserve safe working conditions and they deserve our respect — not despite the work they do, but because of it.”

Photo credit: savagelovecast.com