A quick Google search of "Traci Lords" yields results ranging from a Warm Up to Traci Lords! exercise video to articles about her infamous 1980s career as an underage porn star. Lords went on to star as Wanda Woodward in John Waters's mainstream film Cry-Baby and write a New York Times bestselling autobiography called Traci Lords: Underneath it All. These days, Lords is designing a Traci Lords and Couture For Every Body collection for Pinup Girl Clothing.
With every venture, Lords's notorious past comes up in the media, because her name is synonymous with her personal history. After growing up in Steubenville, Ohio, Lords moved to California and started performing in porn at age 16 in 1984. She became one of the most popular porn stars in America, until two years later, the federal government busted the industry, arresting two producers and a talent scout for filming porn with a minor. Through the years, both the accused and most other porn industry insiders have denied knowing Lords's real age.
Thirty years later, Lords must deal with people still discussing her past and aims to use her notoriety for better. She has started working with the non-profit Children of the Night, which combats child prostitution, and speaking out against sexism, while promoting her clothing line. Recently, we sat down with her to discuss her charity work, clothing, and what happened when she met Donald Trump. This interview has been condensed and edited.
BROADLY: How was the clothing launch?
Traci Lords: The turn out was unbelievable. Hundreds of women showed up at the event—just done up, dressed to the nines in all the pin-up girl clothes, and it was really awesome. I had several really little kids, like five and six year olds, that were full on as Wanda and Johnny Depp from Cry-Baby.
Have you followed the debates?
It's such a traffic accident, isn't it? There's only one [Trump]. I remember meeting him years ago in New York City at Fashion Week, and I just remember his hair was the same. He's always been a wildcard, but the stuff that he's saying now is pretty outrageous. Anyone with a vagina should vote for Hillary Clinton. You cannot put this man in office. He's not sane in my opinion. Hillary is the only choice.
What are some of the issues you're most focused on for the election?
All this crap about women's rights—just the fact it's even an issue! The fact the reproductive rights are coming up again, it's ludicrous. It's shocking it's still on the table.
Have you returned to Steubenville since your childhood?
I went back when I was on tour for my album 1,000 Fires. I opened for a little unknown act called Moby back then, which was kind of a trip. I remember thinking, This is the place that I was so intimidated by. Recently there was another big controversy about the football players who raped the unconscious girl and dumped her and left her on the front lawn in Ohio.
It's hard for me to wrap my brain around [Steubenville and Brock Turner] when you see something like that, that people are so cruel to the victim. You hear about, "This poor young man, and he's gonna lose what he could have been. This is going to taint his reputation." But you hear so little about what this has done to this other person.
Why do you think that is?
It's just sexism. It's the same shit that's in this election. There's a lack of human decency. One of the biggest problems in America is flat out violence. From police officers killing African American men, to violence toward women, [to] violence toward transgender people, [to] violence toward homosexuals. It's so cruel. We should all be really, really pissed off and angry about this. I think until we raise our voices so loud and demand that it stop it's not going to.
Do you ever think about porn?
Totally out of sight, out of mind. I'm aware; things pop up. It's still startling when you're in a work meeting, and you're on Twitter, and a giant cock pops up. Pornography is the least interesting thing, I think, on the face of the earth. It's so fake. I'm not interested in watching other people have sex. I like to just have my own.
How'd you get started working with Children of the Night?
The psyche of a 15-year-old girl is really intense. You're at a really impressionable age. You're A) looking to escape—that was my number one priority. And B) I think it was trying to take power back, too. Already having been violated, I was like, "Well, I'm going to figure this out." It was never a thing like, "I'm going to run away from home, and I'm going to be a porn star. Woohoo!" It was much more complicated than that.
When I was 15 I wasn't thinking about, What's this going to look like in ten years. Or, Is this going to effect my job opportunities when I'm an adult? That's not what I was thinking about. I was thinking, Yeah, I want that fucking line of coke, and I'll take a vodka. I won't feel so angry anymore. That feels better. It's kind of nice feeling hot, feeling beautiful. Oh you like me? Everybody likes me. It's that kind of neediness.
I met [the founder of Children of the Night Dr.] Lois [Lee] years ago after everything happened. It was 1986 or 1987, and she had the original Children of the Night house out in Van Nuys. I became fascinated by her because here's this lady who used to drive around with the cops and try to save girls. She came up to me and was like, "I totally get what you've been through." I saw the other side of it through her eyes and the introductions to the girls who were at the house. It was a really emotional experience for me. As fucked up as I thought my life was, I wasn't being beaten by a pimp or cut with something, and I wasn't living underneath a bridge. They inspired me.
What do you do with Children of the Night today?
I've done everything as simple as go to a fundraiser because they want celebrities on the red carpet—that helps the donors to give because it's 100 percent non-profit. That check somebody writes means something. It's an extra bed in the house.
Would you give a girl advice if she told you she wanted to work in porn?
I don't know if I would give advice. Maybe my advice would go to the parents more than anything. The best thing I tell parents is to get them to be in school no matter what they do. I suppose there are girls out there that really think this is what they want to do. They want a reality show. It seems like there's always some kind of damage involved in that.