April Flores is redefining the concept of sexy.
In her own words: “A fearless voluptuous star with scarlet hair, proponent of the queer community, feminist, sex-positive activist, outspoken advocate of body diversity, glamorous art model, avid kink fan, sub and dom both, and all around powerful woman.” Flores has been making erotica in the Big Beautiful Woman category (featuring larger sized women) since 2000, carefully carving out a niche in the ever-changing world of online pornography.
The love of her life, noted photographer Carlos Batts, died suddenly in October 2013, throwing Flores’s life in turmoil. In an phone interview with Fusion, Flores opened up about being a new widow, being a feminist making pornography, and the lies society tells larger women.
Fusion: So how did you get your start in erotic entertainment?
April Flores: I had been doing modeling and my late husband had been shooting me a lot and he shot [former pornographic actress and producer] Belladonna and she saw my picture and liked my look. She suggested we shoot together. At the time we were compiling images for Fat Girl; we thought we should shoot [Belladonna] for the project, but she declined and offered me a scene in one of her movies.
I thought it was a one time thing - when would I ever be asked to be in a porno again? I wore a wig as a disguise. I had never really watched porn before, but she was sexy so I said yes.
From there, I got another scene and another scene. I had friends who were performing and directing, so it just flowed. I recognize my privilege of being able to pick and choose projects - I’ve been lucky to be very particular about what I choose. For me, [erotic entertainment is] a form of self-expression.
Fusion: Talk about Carlos and your legacy together. How does it feel a year or so after you lost him?
It feels horrible and very shitty. He wasn’t sick, it happened in just one hour. Losing my soulmate, my collaborator, my hero - it’s tragic. A year and eight months has gone by and I’m still pretty lost, I'm still in shock. We had so many plans. He was the artist, the director, the filmmaker - and now our roles have reversed, and I am the one on the physical plane, pushing these projects forward, and now he’s my muse.
It’s hard, you know, in addition to not having my best friend means I am exploring all these other venues very fast. I am a singular person again, we had a very integrated life together. We worked together, shot together, lived together…I have to live my life on my own again, and define how I can best continue our work together.
It’s really fucking hard.
I thought at the time [of his death], three years would go by and I would know [what I was doing], and I am closer to that time and I am still so fucking lost. I try to keep our love as our blueprint as to what matters to me. He was a mentor, but he is more of an inspiration.
Fusion: What are you expressing through porn that you felt like you couldn’t do in traditional modeling or acting?
April Flores: [Porn] feels very natural to me, it gets me off on several levels. It feeds my exhibitionist side. It’s a medium I can use to empower women - plus sized women, or any type of woman who has issues with her body. Size is a big thing in our culture, and I kind of fell into that as a medium. [Porn] just kind of came to me - but it just felt very natural and gratifying, and it’s the medium I use to express myself.
Fusion: Do you consider yourself a feminist?
April Flores: I do, yes. When I first started in porn, I took a long time to define feminism for myself, and took a while deciding what it meant after fucking to get paid. Everyone has their own reasons for why they do what they do and I respect that. I asked myself in 2005 or 2006 (or maybe 2007, I can’t remember) is there feminist porn? I googled it, because if feminist porn did exist I wanted to be a part of it.
So I found the Feminist Porn Awards put on by Good for Her, a woman focused sex shop in Toronto. The guidelines were really great: a woman or woman identified person are part of the production, the set has guidelines, I can’t remember all of them. But it’s great.
Fusion: Have you seen Hot Girls Wanted? The categorization of women - amateur, pro-am, Big Beautiful Woman (BBW), Latina, Black, teen - appears to be a large part of some of the issues we see in pornography. How do you feel about these categories?
April Flores: I’ve been avoiding watching Hot Girls Wanted, but I feel like maybe I should because this is the second interview that I’ve been asked about it. Pornography is an industry that’s selling categories and sex - well not even selling anymore, everything is for free! I had a weird relationship with the term BBW for a while but it’s a descriptive term. The porn is product, and they need to categorize all these things. Words only have as much power as is given behind them. [The labels] aren’t being derogatory, just being descriptive. There is a gray area where things can be very demeaning - like porn that describes women as animals. I did a scene and it ended up being for a movie called Whale Watching, which I would have never agreed to, but I signed the release, so…
Porn as an industry can show women in a negative light. The industry is slowly becoming more socially conscious - I haven’t been approached with a project I felt disrespected me in 5 years. But maybe I’ve just been lucky.
Fusion: How has your racial and ethnic background figured into your career?
April Flores: Race hasn’t really come up for me - maybe it’s because I’m so niche, I’m a fat person. But racism is so prevalent in porn, and it’s disgusting. I haven’t experienced it first hand, so I can’t comment on an a experience I’ve had. Maybe if I was thinner, and I was in the broader performer pool. I try to work with people and companies I respect - so my privilege in my career is doing that. A lot of performers aren’t able to do that, or they're being racially insulted on set, but they don’t have a choice they need to earn a paycheck.
Fusion: Let’s talk about breaking out of the niche. The Adult Video News Awards named you BBW performer of the year in 2014 and 2015 - and you are the first BBW sex toy mold with the April Flores' CyberSkin Voluptuous Vagina. Can you talk about that?
April Flores: I was the first sex toy, the first and second AVN award of BBW, first BBW on the cover of AVN Magazine…I’ve had a lot of firsts and I appreciate it. I was approached by a toy company and they molded a cast of my pussy! And that was cool. I was laid on a table - they have a whole process - you lay down, they cover you with vaseline, and they put this sticky gooey stuff on you and other material. It’s a cast, you stay still and relax, and they take the negative of your body and use that as the mold for your body. It was very easy on my part - I just laid there. My friends have told me funny stories like “someone was in the sex store molesting your toy.”
Fusion: Does the concept of body positivity inform your work?
April Flores: When I decided to be a fat woman in porn, I am [always] trying to make good decisions - the best decisions I can make. I know I am body positive and size positive even though the size acceptance people can be very against porn. But fat people are made to feel unworthy of happiness, sex, desire, beauty - everything. And my work is a response to that, [to] the idea that [larger women] can’t have happiness until we are thin. It’s all kind of melted into one thing.
Fusion: How is the sexuality of larger women policed in our society?
April Flores: Society and pop culture says that fat women don’t deserve happy marriages or a person that loves us, that we’re not considered beautiful or sexual. I think that society is scared of a sexually empowered woman, and when you put in a sexually empowered fat woman in the mix, no one knows what to do! In LA, there are beautiful people all around me, and when I go out in a dress with my curves and my fat I feel the stares. I feel like [proudly existing is] a statement into itself.
Fusion: But aren’t things changing? What about women like Melissa McCarthy, who did get to be a large romantic lead like in the TV show Mike and Molly?
[According to pop culture,] fat women should be locked in a room, crying [and eating] Ben and Jerry’s. You should not be seen in public until you are a size six. But fat women are always the butt of the joke. Melissa McCarthy works through humor and I get why - but she’s still the butt of the joke. Fat women aren’t the lead, aren’t the desired lead, and that should change. They should be seen as beautiful and desirable and all of that.
Fat women are fucking bad-ass. I think slowly things are changing but ideally I’d love to see it change faster.
MORE: Fusion explores the increasingly diverse ways people are consuming – and producing –porn, from GIFs to live “camming” to teledildonics. Watch our original investigative documentary, Miami Porn: Sex Work in the Sunshine State, a look inside the world of South Florida’s booming adult entertainment industry: