Who’s Sovvy Now? Sovereign Syre Is A Boss Bitch

A version of this article also appears on Gamelink’s Naked Truth.

Sovereign Syre reminds us that we have to refresh the page now and then, and that what was true in 2005 may not be — and need not be — true now. An alt model since 2009 and adult performer since 2011, Syre uses her nom de porn (her father was Native American, hence sovereign) in all her projects, clothed or otherwise.

“All the ways porn was supposed to ruin my life,” she says, “it hasn’t. So there’s that.”

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In 2011 Syre had sent a naughty video of herself to her then-partner, the photographer JM Darling. “It was just too big for email, so I uploaded it to a tube site,” she says. “And then it went viral and got on Fleshbot [my former employer when it was owned by Gawker]. Someone told me about this and I said, ‘Hey, that’s me.'”

Syre has a degree in literature and knows how the internet works, but she was still surprised how fast the video caught on. It served to force an issue that she had been thinking about.

“We were thinking: ‘Art or porn?'” she says. “I found myself wanting to take it to the next level. ‘Are we doing this or not?'”

[The relationship negotiations between an erotic model and the photographer who happens to be her boyfriend are both typical and as diverse as colors in the goddamn rainbow but aren’t covered here. How the couple went from a photographic celebration of her individual sexuality to navigating the porn world is a different story and different conversation. Syre reminds us that porn sex is “work” and shouldn’t be confused with intimacy.]

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Porn won out, but Syre has always been an arty porn star. I seems front-loaded, like some performers are known for their tattoos or red hair or huge breasts — Syre’s porn performances are thoughtful. In her first Sweetheart Video movies with Nica Noelle, Syre was strictly a girl/girl performer. She later worked with Kink.com and, still appearing exclusively with women, then began a collaboration with Dana Vespoli.

“Dana Vespoli is a total artist,” Syre says. “I was relatively unadventurous and she made me feel like everything was OK. She;s always happy to create a space for me to be me.”

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Vespoli and Syre began their porn careers shockingly late — Vespoli in her early 30s and Syre in her mid-20s. Syre says this fact lends something to their approaches.

“I already had a skillset that I came to the table with,” Syre says. “Part of that skillset was simply the ability to say ‘No, I don’t want to do that.'”

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This makes Syre’s work with Vespoli over several movies, most notably the great “She’s Come Undone” and “Hollywood Babylon,” examples of porn’s new economy. Both movies were passion projects shot at the expense of the production and then distributed by Evil Angel, essentially an eclectic pornography collective administered by John Stagliano. They are also an acknowledgment that artistic freedom is more possible now that most performers aren’t making a hell of a lot of money in this business anymore.

“I’d easily do 20 normal girl/girl porn scenes for the opportunity to do three awesome ones,” says Syre. “She’s Come Undone,” which was essentially a 2-woman scene played out in a cheap (we can hear real-life dogs and traffic outside) motel room between businesswoman-with-a-secret Vespoli and escort-with-a-past Syre, was fresh, grim, and sexy.

And then came “Hollywood Babylon,” a “Sunset Boulevard” with more penetration.

“I wanted to do something uncomfortable, dark, and lovely,” says Syre of the movie where she performed her first through fourth boy/girl scenes (James Deen was the first through the gate).

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Vespoli and Syre shot the movie over several months, getting scenes where they could, when they could afford them, working around the schedules of Deen, Stephen St. Croix, and Ramon Nomar, and “Marriage 2.0” star Ryan Driller, each a sought-after worker in porn’s small male talent pool.

“We knew that making my first boy/girl scene would have some juice,” Syre says. “The first of anything really seems to matter in porn. And rather than Brazzers style, I wanted this first to be a part of something I really loved.”

A refreshing porn presence on Twitter, Syre’s conversations are as lively and erudite as 140 characters allow. Like the Twitter interaction between James Deen and Bret Easton Ellis leading to Deen’s casting in the Lindsay Lohan movie “The Canyons” (though it sank like a stone in theatres, Deen was a New York Times-lauded class act in that picture), Syre’s online cleverness led to an offer from Wisecrack (“Thug Notes”) TV to develop something for its channel.

“Wisecrack had received a grant from Youtube to develop more educational entertainment,” she says. “Someone referred me — ‘Oh, that’s a porn star; you should have her do a show.'”

I ask if there is any anti-porn backlash about she and her “Boss Bitches of History” co-host, Ela Darling.

“I think it should be made clearer that we’re porn performers, actually,” says Syre. “Some of the Youtube comments are confusing. We being porn stars might help clear it up for people so they get the joke.”

Syre and Darling have co-written four episodes of a program that spotlights emboldened female historical figures, including Cleopatra, Queen Isabella of Spain, and slave-turned-Montreal-arsonist Marie-Josèphe dite Angélique.

“I always liked Ela,” Syre says. “She’s nerdy and smart. I like her aesthetic. Although she is more whimsical and I’m more into stuff like 1800s autopsy novels.”

Syre says the “Boss Bitches” idea germinated for about a year, that she and Darling wrote four episodes over two months, and that the four were taped in November, 2014. The first two episodes were released in June and the next ones are almost finished. In addition to writing and starring in the episodes, Syre and Darling furnished their own costumes.

“We will see how the first four do in determining if we’ll do four more,” Syre says. “But it was a lot of fun to plant the flag.”

I can’t help but think that a porn world before social media, tube sites, and rampant piracy, one that didn’t force performers to seek outside streams of revenue, to find such reward in connecting with fans (including both intellectual stimulation and Amazon wishlist fulfillment), and one in which more money often meant less freedom, that multimedia artists like Syre would have to change names with each non-porn creative whim.

“I’m very happy to say that the fans have followed me,” Syre says. She is working on a graphic novel about the period of the Conquistadors and is dreaming up ways to raise money for “an interracial slave uprising porn.” It’s an odd name to bring up, she says, “but think of Kim Kardashian. Her sex tape isn’t even what she’s known for anymore.”

It is no longer 2005. “Porn can help you if you have a thing,” Syre says. “It has only opened doors for me. Who are all these invisible people that are judging you?”

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