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Nostalgic Photos from the Set of a Wild 2003 Porn Reality Show

Imagine a cross between Big Brother and OnlyFans, add ten wannabe adult performers, and you're getting close to Pornstar Académie.
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In 2003, a new online reality show aimed to unearth Canada’s next top porn star by herding ten wannabe adult performers into a Big Brother-style house complete with its own camera crew and directors.

The show was called Pornstar Academie and photographer Naomi Harris was sent on an assignment to Montreal to document the exploits of these randy amateurs in a series of intimate, behind-the-scenes images.

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The French-Canadian contestants—whittled down from 700 applicants—spent their time live-chatting with viewers (who had to pay $35 to enter the website and vote for their favorites) and shooting content, which ranged from flirty to full-blown sex.

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Daisy licking Vanessa. Photo by Naomi Harris.

Montreal—which would later become the home to Pornhub’s parent company—was already a major player in porn. The show’s creators were hoping to draw on the colossal recent success of TV talent shows like American Idol and ultimately have the show broadcast on TV and distributed on DVD.

“This was Survivor meets Temptation Island meets Big Brother, all rolled up in a very Quebecois bow,” Harris says. Around the time of Pornstar Académie, the traditional dividing line between adult entertainment and entertainment was dissolving, making way for the sexed-up reality we live in today.

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Photo by Naomi Harris

Harris, originally from Toronto, was living in New York back then. She describes her works as “bright” and “poppy”, and adds: “I want to smile—the world is a sad place as is. So even if it's a dark subject matter, I still want to bring a little humor to it, if I can.

“I had an artist rep once say to me, ‘Shoot the way you shoot, but shoot good looking people–like young, hot, good-looking people.’ But those aren't the people that interest me. I'm more drawn towards real people, people with interesting lives and stories.”

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The contestants enjoy a dramatic game of Twister. Photo by Naomi Harris.

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(Foreground) A guy vacuuming (background) priceless art. Photo by Naomi Harris.

The hundreds of applicants to the show included people from all walks of life, including an asphalt delivery man and a guy with “PORNSTAR” tattooed on his stomach, whose stage name was ‘Ray Gun’ (sadly, Ray Gun failed the ‘wood test’). Harris remembers the contestants were sweet, seemingly very young, and that a lot of them, being French-Canadian, didn’t speak English. She visited Montreal for two weekends to put together what would be a cover story for the now defunct Canadian men’s magazine, Toro.

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Jay chatting to fans online. Photo by Naomi Harris.

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Cut-off denim guy running the props dept. Photo by Naomi Harris.

In the house, the process Harris observed was “much more involved” than it would be today, with bulky cameras shooting video that had to be manually uploaded, and webcams straddling computers. The eventual winners—Rocky Mountain and Vanessa—went on to get starring roles in a feature-length porno.

“It’s the story of a girl who is living in a foster home and comes back from school one day to find her foster parents sleeping together,” who then goes on a journey of sexual exploration ending in her losing her virginity, the film’s scriptwriter, Fred, tells the original author of the Toro article. “At the beginning, she’s really innocent and so it builds momentum throughout.”

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One of Pornstar Academie's directors rocking cut-offs. Photo by Naomi Harris.

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Vanessa and Jake rise and shine. Photo by Naomi Harris.

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Vanessa awaits a delivery to the house. Photo by Naomi Harris.

Harris’s shots of Pornstar Académie offer a glimpse into a kind of proto OnlyFans–a time when plenty of people still didn’t have cell phones, let alone smartphones. We’ve come a long way since then—goon caves, pay pigs, and piss goblins are all slightly squalid testaments to that—but in a not insignificant way, these shots feel almost overpoweringly evocative of a cultural moment lost in the eddying mists of time, somewhere in the gap between Playboy and Pornhub.

@niche_t_