Fernie Warisa used to squeeze into a Hooters tank top and orange hotpants to serve buffalo wings and beer on Silom Road. For years, she took side jobs as an erotic model, posing nude for men mags. But that was it. No sex.
After the modeling money began to dwarf her Hooters salary, she dropped the job late last year to freelance full time. She became a familiar face in Kinaree Magazine and on erotic photo sites.
She was earning about THB60,000 (US$2,000) a month when COVID-19 wiped out all her jobs in nearly the blink of an eye, leaving her with nothing to fall back on. She gave up her rented condo in the city and moved back into her family home in the northwestern outskirts. It was there that she made a decision.
“When the outbreak got serious I had to go back to my hometown in Nonthaburi because I had no income,” Fernie, 32, said. “Then since I have nothing to lose, I thought ‘Fuck it, I have a child to look after.’”
Though she was stuck at home, she knew well her body’s earning power. She remembered an off-hand comment from a photographer about a site where other models were supplementing their incomes.
Unlike other models-for-hire who have seen their livelihoods collapse during the pandemic, Fernie is among a few who’ve seized opportunity from crisis at the cost of going further than she’d ever intended. Today, she is earning more than ever before – without leaving home – as a thriving online porn star.
Paving the way
Like many young women working in Bangkok’s nightlife scene, Fernie grew up poor. She started working at 15 as a waitress at a hotel and restaurant to help pay for her own education. Life in the service world wasn’t bad, so she aspired to become a Hooters girl after graduating from a food and beverage program. In 2018, she applied.
Auditioning for one of the coveted positions was “fierce” and “intense,” as girls looking to play the part – and earn the hefty tips – must have good faces and killer bodies to qualify as customer eye candy. From there, it’s not uncommon for Hooters girls like Ferinie to get side jobs as models to make more money.
It was in March, as those jobs evaporated and she sat in her mother’s home considering her options that Fernie remembered her long abandoned account on an adult content subscription site called Onlyfans.com. She went online and reactivated her account.
There, creators maintain a “timeline” much like Facebook or other social media, except every post is reliably NSFW. Nothing can be seen without a paid subscription – therefore creators like Fernie use other platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and even TikTok to market themselves and draw subscribers in.
It became clear that if she really wanted to make it and do more than just survive, she’d have to go further. She thought of the young daughter and parents she provides for.
“Many models choose to draw people in by posting sexy pics, but if I wanted to get it going, I had to go bigger than that,” she said, confident people weren’t going to pay only for sexy pics on the internet. “I wanted to become famous quickly, that’s why I went all the way to nudity.”
Thus began her journey from doing cheesecake photos as a pin-up girl to full-fledged adult performer.
Her initial plan was to only sell erotic and nude photos, but at some point, one thing easily leads to another.
And when the internet sees a woman posting sexy nudes, it more often than not automatically assumes she does porn.
At first Fernie hated those insinuations. She felt insulted and would block anyone called her a “porn star.” But it eventually wore her down and, in the way of internet grooming, became a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy as the messages kept pouring in.
“When I got them that frequently, I started to think of them as compliments,” she said with a giggle. “Then the thought of, ‘If I sell nude pics, I might as well sell porn,’ came to my mind, because they’re similar anyway.”
She started recording sex tapes as a treat for her subscribers and saw her income surge in response to nearly THB100,000 a month, from OnlyFans alone.