Interview: School's in Session with Lisa Ann and Belle Knox

CHATSWORTH, Calif.—It was a hot summer day, but school was in session at the AVN office. There to impart her considerable wisdom was performer/director Lisa Ann. In tow came her star pupil, the Duke University student who is head of the class in Lisa Ann’s School of MILF 2: The Education of Belle Knox.

Though separated by two decades in age, Lisa Ann and Belle Knox share at least one thing in common: being at the center of a white-hot mainstream media frenzy. For Lisa Ann, her enduring mainstream ride began thanks to a little DVD called Who’s Nailin’ Paylin, whereas Knox became a household name when her part-time job as an adult performer became a full-time obsession in the Duke University community—and then the nation at large.

It was that shared experience—as well as both being clients of publicist Lainie Speiser—that drew the two women together.

When Lisa Ann came to prominence, she recalled, “I was already 35 years old, so it was awesome. I was ready for it. I was so happy in what I was doing that it was just a bonus … my family was already completely aware of what I was doing.” But her experience gave Lisa Ann empathy for Knox’s situation. “At the time she was just 18—not just new to this business, but also a new student at a new school. I reached out to Lainie and asked, ‘How’s she doing?’ That’s intense. And I don’t know how someone can handle it at that age because I just managed to understand it at my age. There were people who stepped out of my life because it was too much limelight for them and I understand that. You’re just being pushed and pulled, and you have this fear that it’s going to end, so you’re running on empty at all times because you think your luck is gonna run out. So I’m trying to capture that with her, show her all the opportunities open to her in this business and see how far she wants to take it from there. I’m just here to be a guide and give her any information she might want to have and then she can take it from there.”

That guidance took concrete form with the project they were making the rounds to promote, stopping by the AVN office before heading over to Vivid Radio later in the afternoon. “Belle is in every scene,” the director said of her newest title, Lisa Ann’s School of MILF 2: The Education of Belle Knox. “And she also got to pick what she wanted to do, who she wanted to work with, and all the scenarios of the movie.”

Knox interjects, “And I have to say, the wardrobe was amazing.”

“I picked the wardrobe,” Lisa Ann added. “I had it all at the house before she landed.”

The title, distributed by Jules Jordan Video, is set to ship August 26 and street on September 2. ( to read a press release on the title.)

“The first day it was a boy/girl with Tyler Nixon, and he’s like a very romantic, passionate person,” Knox said.

“He’s a sweetie pie,” Lisa Ann. “So cute.”

Knox continued, “On the second day, not only was I with Lisa, it was also Nina Hartley there. So it was like three generations—two AVN Hall of Famers with me.”

In the third scene, Erik Everhard is brought in as a “sexercise coach.”

“Then on her fourth day, it was her choice,” Lisa Ann said. “She’d never been with three guys at the same time before, so she wanted to do a three-guy scene. We had Ryan McLane, we had Tony Martinez, we had Richie Calhoun—dreamy, right?

For the final set-up, the director and her star gang up on the pool boy, Lisa Ann saidd, “because I want to see what she’s learned.”

What was in the lesson plan? Not surprisingly, fitness came up first. “What people don’t realize is you do need to train like an athlete to have the endurance to do the scenes so that the directors can get the best of you,” Lisa Ann said.

Teamwork counts too. “When you get on set there’s so much teamwork happening,” the director continued. “There’s so much that happens that day live, and then there’s the post teamwork that comes then, with the editing and all these things.”

For Knox, her biggest takeaway “is that all the small things add up. I learned that if I don’t come to set completely prepared every single day, it adds up—the 20 minutes it takes to have to put lotion on my face, that cuts into everybody else’s time, so I learned how to be completely prepared for set.”

She added, “I also learned a lot about posing, just by watching Lisa when she was doing her poses, and also watching Nina do her posing. I learned a lot about posture and how to look in front of the camera. Because when you’re the new girl nobody really sits you down and says, ‘You’re doing this wrong.’ … Lisa did that this week for me.”

For Lisa Ann, this mentor role is not new. She has been working with an average or 10 to 15 girls since 2005. “It’s very unorganized but it’s very present.” She believes it’s important to cultivate new talent. “We get so many new girls in the business and we love to shoot them because they’re new girls—there’s that novelty. But we don’t care for their future, their career. And then when they’re not new girls anymore and no one’s shooting them, then they need to be good performers.”

One of the reasons she mentors performers is because she was treated so well back when she entered the business. “It was so much more of a family. I think if then I would have gone though what you went through,” Lisa Ann said, addressing Knox, “everybody would have been at my house sitting there with me, cooking for me. Porsche Lynn would have been there. … Nina Hartley would have been there, Julia and Janine have been there. … It was more caring, more protective, and I really feel it’s my responsibility to carry that because girls did it for me.”

For Knox, her entry into the business was harsher, due in part to the way her story unfolded in the media.

“I would always say in my interviews that I was outed, and I think that offended a lot of people in the industry,” Knox mused. “And it really took me a lot of reflecting and a lot of discussion with people to realize that it was completely delusional of me to believe that I could do porn and nobody would ever find out. So it was my own stupid fault for not thinking that people would find out. It’s been a reality check, so I definitely regret positioning it as ‘outed.’ It should have been, I chose to do porn and I really like doing porn, so get used to it. So I think that that’s something that I really positioned myself wrong and it’s something I really said in a very wrong way.”

Lisa Ann confided that the vitriol toward Knox from fellow performers is what drew her attention at first. “I would hear people on set and think, ‘Why does everybody hate her so much? I mean, I know people hate me … we should hang out together.’” But she came to understand that they saw Knox taking work away from them while not wanting anyone to know she was doing porn. “They took that personally.”

Knox said she frequently had people ask her why other performers in college didn’t get the same attention. She shrugged, “For some reason people really find it interesting—the cognitive dissonance. It’s supposed to be such an elite school, and I’m in the porn business.”

Now, she said, she is fully embracing her job. “I really want people to understand that I do take this seriously and I do view it as a business. And I do care about the scenes I do and the companies I work for.”

In terms of how she feels about the industry now, Knox says, “I think we all have experiences in our lives that teach us things and make us better people. It sounds crazy to say but I think that porn has made me a better person because it’s made me independent. I can travel across the country by myself and be OK. And it’s made me have to deal with money by myself. So I feel like porn and being in the industry had made me the woman who I am today.”

When Knox spoke with AVN she was about a week away from returning to Duke. “I’ve crafted my schedule so I have weekends free so I have time to study and also go to events and do what I need to pay for school. It’s definitely going to be challenging, but you know, I can’t complain. I have friends who work at restaurants three days a week, so I’m just going through what every other working student is going through: the balancing act.”

Part of that act will involve feature dance gigs, which Lisa Ann points out are mostly back east and much closer to Duke. On September 26-27 she will be at Pure Gold in Cary, North Carolina. “I’ve found the closer I am to my school, the larger crowds I draw,” Knox said, revealing that she offers discounts for lapdances to alumni. “Show me your class ring.”

And on December 5-6 Knox will appear with her mentor at Wild Cherry Cabaret in Huntsville, Alabama. “We’re going to be doing a duo show together,” Lisa Ann said. “A little teacher-studio action on stage—tell me they’re not going to love that.”

“That will be another learning experience for me,” Knox said.

But when it comes to lessons, perhaps the biggest she can draw from Lisa Ann is how to use notoriety to one’s advantage. When asked what the biggest perk they’d gotten from mainstream attention, Knox quickly mentioned getting her article on the cost of college tuition published in Time magazine. “I had family members write me and say, ‘This is something I can really be proud of. I’m really proud of you for writing that.’ That’s the great part of being in the business and having a name is that you can use it as a platform to promote issues you are passionate about.”

Her appearance in the Eminem video “We Made You” is the first thing Lisa Ann mentioned. “That was awesome because I was a fan.” And she described the access that celebrity affords. “I just know that anywhere I want to go, I can go. And anything I want to do, I can do. It’s just crazy. I can see an athlete on TV, follow him on Twitter, and within 48 hours he’s given me his number. … I live for it! It’s like my side hobby. I’m not going to lie. My guilty pleasure is always going to be sex.”

As she talked, however, it was apparent that what is most important now is her show Lisa Ann Does Fantasy on Sirius/XM radio Fantasy Sports Radio. It was a job she fought for. “I went there every month harassing them.” Now, it’s a dream come true. “I’m getting to go to a ton of games; I get to meet athletes; I get to go to training camps. … And it’s gotten me viewed on a different level, which is pretty cool.” Now, fans at strip clubs are asking her advice on fantasy teams. “I’ve had guys buy dances just to get me to set their line-up,” she said.

Getting a mainstream sports show was “something everyone told me I was never going to get. With [Belle] going to college, everyone is going to tell her, oh, you’re never going to be anything because you did porn. I’m showing her, no, I’m in the regular sports world. I know how to dress when I go to those games, I know how to conduct myself. I don’t act like a porn star. I don’t swear. I conduct myself. She’s the same. She can become a lawyer and do entertainment law. Rappers will go to her—anyone who has a diverse life will say, ‘She paid her way through college doing porn—I’m going to come to this girl.’ So it’s no longer what other people think ...we can do what we want.”

Lisa Ann continued, “Belle is a unique individual. She loves to listen and she’s a great learner. … I told one of the girls on set, this girl may get clubs who have never had features. Now they’ll have her and they’ll realize, ‘We like doing this,’ and that opens the door for another girl to get a gig. Or somebody from Time magazine might write about another girl in the business one day because Belle was in there. Jenna Jameson opened a lot of doors for a lot of us in the business and now we’re walking through those doors easily. She’s going to open doors too.”

Words of Wisdom from the School of MILF's Headmistress

Finally, here are some other tips Lisa Ann shared during the interview:

• When being photographed, “in each pose, lightly move your head, soften your face, smile sometimes, connect. Go through that range in that same position. Then move and go through the same faces again. Give the photographer a lot to work with.”

• When you’re on the road making appearances, it’s good to hit both a club and an adult bookstore, because each will attract a different type of fan. “You get to meet everybody in the area and not just the club customers.”

• Sell your DVDs on the road. “The company knows you are out there being a sales rep, individually selling their product. It means a lot. It builds rapport. And they say, we’re going to shoot her more.”

• Step away from social media. “You have to learn that what you read on Twitter only affects you if you let it. It took a couple of years for me to learn that. … You need some time as a person too—to be not living in that fake world of social media and the internet. … You need to separate sometime and feel fresh for it the next day.”

• Balance your career. “If you just shoot like crazy in the first nine months you end up being shot out. And then everyone wants to hold out on you because they have enough content. They were shooting you like crazy thinking you were going to have a nervous breakdown, so they were getting all this content on you. Well, if you diversify from the beginning—you start doing some bookstore signings, you start doing some dancing—if we have a shutdown you’re not without work, and you can also go back to work at your own pace. … Diversifying in a business that provides you so many options is key because then you get good at everything slowly.”

• Treat your fans right. “I’ll probably always direct, but when I’m not shooting anymore I still want to be able to communicate with my fans. A lot of girls say, ‘I’m done, I’m turning my back.’ I can’t do that. I’ve known them for too long. One of the very first fans I became close with, I went as his date to his 20th high school reunion.”

• Be discreet. “Being in porn makes you a better person because you try harder to not have people judge you. So with your neighbors, you make sure you always look appropriate. You find yourself working harder to be more like them to blend in. You’ll be more courteous. … You’re super self conscious about what everybody thinks of you so you’re always trying to put your best foot forward.” (Knox reiterates: “That’s one thing that Lisa taught me. Don’t put it in people’s faces. Let them come to you. If they want to click the ‘enter’ sign, then that’s them.”)

• Look forward to being a MILF. “You no longer get asked to be, like, your head in a toilet, smacked, spit on—something degrading that they might try to do to young girls because that’s what will sell. Poor things. You’ve got to earn your stripes. … You’re in the trenches. You have to go through war so you can get to the other side and surrender.”

• Stay focused and you can win. “Even my own mom says, ‘I still cannot believe the lifestyle this business has provided you.’ You have to go out and get it and you have to avoid all the bad stuff, which is what I want to protect Belle from, but if you can avoid that bad stuff and stay focused, it’s endless.”