Danielle Leder is a woman in a man’s business, but she's quick to cop to being as perverted as any guy in the game. As editor-in-chief of the erotic magazine Jacques, Danielle has put a modern spin on the classic 70s porn aesthetic. The girls of Jacques are shot totally on film, untouched by Photoshop, and sport more than just a little bush.
In 2008, Danielle founded Jacques with her then-husband, Jonathan Leder, when she was just 22-years-old. Upset by the silicone revolution in porn during the 80s and 90s, the Leders set out to make a magazine that filled the void of classic, throwback porn. The magazine started with a small circulation of 1,000 copies but quickly escalated—the second issue was distributed by Barnes and Noble and Borders. The couple quickly gained noteriety. They were profiled by the New York Times as the flannel wearing pornographers from Williamsburg, Brooklyn. In 2012, Jonathan left Danielle for one of Jacques' cover girls and the magazine went on an indefinite hiatus.
After separating from her husband and moving to Kingston, New York, to get her life back together, Danielle made a committment to herself to bring Jacques back from the dead. Last month, she released the "Betrayal Issue"—the first new one in two years. I hopped on a four-hour bus ride upstate to visit Danielle in Kingston and talk about the magazine’s ressurection.
Danielle lives in a beautiful, Civil War-era house, with floors that she'd freshly scrubbed with vinegar in anticipation of my visit. I took off my shoes and walked across the damp floor, smelling pickles. The house was scattered with children's toys, and framed porn hung on the walls. There were a few cardboard boxes open and half-full, as if Danielle still hadn't quite finished moving in. Her house was the farthest thing from a bunny ranch I could think of.
You can only notice signs of Danielle’s past life if you look closely. Polaroids of her son and daughter are taped up on the refrigerator. In her sun room, Danielle pulled out a photo album and we looked at photos of her, grinning in a marble bathtub with her son.
She paused. “I would like to imagine myself doing something else besides porn," Danielle said to me. "But no one else can imagine me doing it.”
We sat down, cross-legged on her couch, and Danielle told me about the sacrifices she has had to make for her art, how it is to be a woman in the porn world, and her secret plot to take over Playboy.
VICE: What’s it like to be a woman in charge of a porn magazine?
Danielle Leder: It’s weird when everyone makes a point to go "It’s a woman! It’s a woman!" Yeah, I'm a woman. But I am also the most perverted person you’ll ever meet. I like women. I like making us look a certain way. I like to perceive the female form.
Why did you pick betrayal to be the theme for the new issue?
They all have themes that inspire me. The last one was the "Voyeur Issue." It was actually based on my neighbor upstairs. She was totally voyeuristic. She could only get off watching her husband have sex with other women. Now, it’s betrayal, because I was betrayed by the man I held the absolute closest—my husband.
How did he betray you?
He ran off with my last cover girl and then used Jacques money to make a film I co-wrote with him. It’s based on my life as a stripper in Tampa, Florida. Ultimately, after he got caught, we went up to Woodstock to work out our relationship. I started to grow strength and realized I didn’t need him anymore.
How did you get married?
I got pregnant with our first child, and I ended up having a miscarriage. I was completely devastated, because I was never supposed to be able to get pregant in the first place.
Endometriosis. Like, third stage. It is an overgrowth of tissue that blocks everything.
Instead of thinking, OK, now I can have children—but this is not the man I should have children with, I just needed to have another baby. So I got pregnant with my son Jack. That was a crazy pregnancy. Do you believe in ghosts?
After the miscarriage, I was super upset. I actually held our—I don’t know, baby—in my hand. It was a little bit bigger than a peanut. One night I had a nightmare, where I remember a weird, white creature over me. Then he was sitting in the corner making this gesture with his hand like, You’ll thank me in the morning. I woke up screaming. I could hear his feet running out of the room. When I got back from Paris, I found out that I was pregnant.
So you think a ghost impregnated you?
I’m not saying that. Maybe it was a premonition. Who knows.
So then you had your first child, Jack, and created your magazine, Jacques?
I lost a lot of blood when I gave birth. Exactly 11 days later, I was in the bathroom and passed a blood clot larger than my fist. We went to the hospital, only to find out that I still had placenta attached to my uterus.
I ended up in the ICU. The average person has six liters of blood in their body; it was estimated that I had a liter and a half. I came home and was confined to bed. So, I was like, Fuck it—we're starting a magazine. I laid in bed and began a mock-up of Jacques.
You’ve been in a long fight with your ex-husband to gain sole ownership of Jacques. Why is the magazine so important to you?
He has taken absolutely everything [else] from me.
So you are trying to get what you can back?
Exactly. Jacques is everything. It’s all I have left. It really truly is. What else could I do? Go back to being a stripper?
What gave you the idea to join the porn business?
I have always been a sexual person. I was doing an interview yesterday and someone asked, “What happened to you when you were a child?”
That's where it started. My father taped over my Mary Poppins tape with porn by accident. One minute I am watching Mary Poppins and the next, there's this beautiful brunette with a short bob in bed with a hairy guy. I grew up and would get caught letting boys look up my skirt. When I was 18, I started working as a stripper in Tampa. I’ve always been a perverted little creature—what can I say?
The porn that you produce in Jacques has been seen to be female friendly. A lot of girls are reading it.
Because I showcase us as we really are. I don’t do retouching. To me, if you are a real photographer, you shoot everything on film. I look at other magazines and I know that's not what that girl looks like, so it gives people unrealistic expectations of women. It’s really important to change that—so maybe that's what women like.
What is in the future for Jacques? What should readers expect from Danielle Leder?
I am either going to end up running Playboy, or I'm going to bury them deep into the ground. And it’s not that it’s going to happen right away—it’s probably going to take a few years—but I am going to do it. Most of the press that I have ever gotten directly compares me to Hugh Hefner and Playboy.
People like me and Hugh Hefner and Bob Guccione are really passionate about this. I'm not just some guy who started a nudie magazine because I like to fuck girls or want money from investors who would only invest in Jacques because they want to hang out with pretty chicks. That’s not why I'm in this. That’s what makes me different from all of the others.