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James Deen: The Porn Star Next Door

James Deen
James Deen
Photo by Ryan Orange

One of the fascinating Angelenos featured in L.A. Weekly's People 2014 issue. Check out our entire People 2014 issue.

Leaning back in a brown leather booth in a kitschy roadside diner on Ventura Boulevard, James Deen is pushing a pile of bacon around on his plate. "They gave me, like, an entire pig," he says.

Deen eyeballs the heaping load of pork, then takes a break from eating to explain his origin story. "Adult film is something I wanted to do my entire life," he says. "When I was in third grade and I was asked what I wanted to do for a living, I got in trouble because I said, 'I want to be a porn star.'?"

Porn is one of the few industries in which women routinely make more money than men. Guys, historically, have been little more than beefy, spray-tanned props. With the exception of cult heroes such as Ron Jeremy, most men in adult films never achieve fame.

Most men. But Deen has charted his own course.

Deen grew up in Southern California, a Pasadena native with a wild streak. After getting kicked out of both public and private schools for questioning his teachers' authority - "I was an asshole," he says - he passed his California High School Proficiency Examination at 16, then went on to attend Pasadena City College.

By 18, he was ready to take on the world of adult film. Armed only with photographs of himself - a relatively skinny Jewish guy with a swimmer's physique, thick brown hair and a smile that could weaken even the toughest of knees - Deen began networking. Within months, he was filming his first real sex scene. "It was terrifying," he says, "but very comforting. I was really happy with it."

Deen quickly found himself in high demand. He started shooting every day, and in 2009, he became the youngest man ever to be crowned Male Performer of the Year at porn's AVN Awards in Las Vegas.

Suddenly, he was being profiled in national magazines and on TV. But then something unusual happened: Deen started gaining an underground, hipster following. He wasn't just a guy who'd fuck you; like the original James Dean, he was a bad boy you never saw coming. GOOD magazine questioned whether he was single-handedly ushering in a new era of porn. By 2013, he was co-starring with Lindsay Lohan in a Bret Easton Ellis - penned film (never mind that the reviews were awful).

The Deen mystique isn't easy to pin down. Sure, he's attractive, and his equipment - while perhaps not the stuff of legend - is certainly impressive. But he's a guy who doesn't rely on vein-popping biceps or enormous appendages for confidence, who's as comfortable joking about greasy diner food as he is strapping handcuffs on a woman in bed.

And that confidence has made him a star.

James Deen: The Porn Star Next Door
Photo by Ryan Orange

These days, Deen, 28, is busy expanding his brand. In addition to shooting movies nearly every day, he speaks at colleges around the country about healthy sexuality. He films segments called "James Deen Loves Food," in which he espouses his love for all things epicurial, for porn site Woodrocket.com, and he's directing short, erotic videos depicting the Seven Deadly Sins, which he posts on his own website.

Yet, picking at his plate of bacon, Deen insists that he's just an average dude, doing nothing more - or less - than what comes naturally to him.

"This is a business. It's a job," he says. "I feel like I'm kind of a normal guy." 

One of the fascinating Angelenos featured in L.A. Weekly's People 2014 issue. Check out our entire People 2014 issue.


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