Fresh-faced and dressed in a white tunic and leggings, Kayden Kross sits at her dining room table in the San Fernando Valley with the California sunlight pouring in through the doors behind her. She runs her fingers through her long blonde hair and occasionally places a hand on her belly: at 28 years old, she’s expecting her first child* with her fiancé, Manuel Ferrara.
But Kross has an unconventional background leading up to motherhood—the Sacramento native is one of porn’s biggest stars. With a resume that includes leads in movies like Body Heat and Tyler’s Wood (a spoof on Tiger Woods’ many transgressions, starring Kross as Elin Nordegren), she’s won awards ranging from Best American Starlet to Hottest Sex Scene. Kross has also held coveted contracts with big-name production companies including Vivid, Adam & Eve, and Digital Playground.
Kross and I talked that afternoon about the intersection of porn and motherhood, dealing with her haters, and her biggest concerns about going through labor.
This is your first, right?
This is my first and only. I’ve always known I only want one.
Are you excited?
I am. There’s that whole tension though, because essentially the physics of one human head inside of a totally different human’s body—it has to come out somehow. I read somewhere that over the course of human evolution, there was this big burst forward with human intelligence, when language and tools started becoming a thing and we just were picking up pace. And the thing that slowed us down was that the head couldn’t get any bigger. Like, that’s literally what stopped us from advancing any further in evolution. Our skulls got too big for our hips.
We actually wouldn’t be able to get out.
That’s all that happened. At my last doctor’s appointment, they measured her skull, and it’s 22 centimeters, and I was like, “It’s gonna stay like that, right? She just gets fatter from now on?” And they were like, “Nope. It gets bigger.”
So was the pregnancy planned?
It was planned in the sense that we weren’t actively trying, we just weren’t actively not trying. You know, people go for 10 years trying to have a kid, and it’s this thing that is worked towards. So when we were like, “Yeah, we’re gonna have a kid now,” in my head I was like, “OK, so in the next couple of years, something will take.” We talked about it in March, I think, and then suddenly I show up pregnant. I’m like, “Are you fucking kidding me?” I thought I had a good six months at least to get used to the idea.
Did you have a hard time giving your body over to pregnancy, especially since your appearance is part of your job?
The anxiety I went in with was probably worse than the anxiety I’ve had during the pregnancy. In this industry, it’s not only like, “Will I look fat in clothes?” but also, “will I have changes in the most intimate places?” I don’t think there’s any other industry in the world where you fear an episiotomy scar, if it comes to that. With the weight gain, I was lucky. I didn’t have too much discipline. I just hated all food being pregnant.
We have to be so many things, and one is this eternally youthful sex symbol. It’s funny too, ‘cause we are supposed to be motherly and nurturing, but how are you also supposed to be young and youthful and untouched-looking? It’s really unfortunate.
It seems like some people might have a hard time with the whole porn-star-becomes-mom thing.
Yeah, they kind of don’t mesh well. I remember when I first met porn stars, I was like, “You have kids? How do you do that?” But being around it, I got used to it. I mean, I was shocked when people started having kids just in general. People I went to high school with. You hear about it and you’re like, “Are you old enough for that? Is that OK?”
Obviously there are gong to be things. Like, I’m not going to want her to dig through certain boxes in the garage. But on the other hand, there are so many worse things that I’m going to have to steer her through in life. I don’t know if you saw [our pet] bunny sitting in the window? This bunny is awesome. She’s six years old. Best-case scenario, she’ll live to be nine years old. So I’m gonna have this baby, she’s gonna be attached to this bunny, and right when she’s most attached, this rabbit’s going to keel over on her. I’m gonna have to explain death to a three-year-old.
When do you think you’ll tell her about your porn career?
It’s going to be one of those things that I’m going to gauge based on how long I think I can hold off on telling her. Obviously the longer I can wait, the better. To some extent, I think I can wait until she’s an adult. I don’t get recognized as much now. I just don’t. If I put on makeup and high heels and a spray tan, yes, but even then it’s not as often.
But it could be something as stupid as some die-hard fan seeing me in a coffee shop when she’s seven years old. I have a friend whose son is 12 now, and she was getting really popular when he was seven or eight, and she took him to Disney Land. It’s Disney Land. You’d think that people would have some type of tact there. There are kids everywhere, and some guy just started yelling her name, freaking out—but her porn name. And so her son turns to her and says, “Why do they call you that?”
And she’s like, “I don’t know, honey!” And the guy just would not let up! I mean it’s Disney Land, she’s with kids, like, shut up. You can’t control for other people, but there will be the padding of years and aging and being buried beneath other stuff that comes out.
Do you worry about what her reaction is going to be when she does find out?
No. I mean, I’m not religious, and we’re not gonna raise her in a religious way, or with the attitude that sex is somehow shameful or bad. So that fear of sex that comes from that will not be there.
I mean, there’s obviously going to be the idea that there’s a time and a place for it, you don’t just go out and... I mean, its funny coming from a porn star to say that, but you don’t just go out and fuck and spread it around everywhere for no good reason, for attention or whatever you’re doing. There are reasons to have it and reasons not to have it. So I think she’s gonna have a very healthy idea of what sex is, and it’s not gonna be a scary, evil, bad, secret, mysterious thing.
Right. And you do it for a job, you take good care of yourself, you’ve managed your money well, and you have clear boundaries about what you will and won’t do.
Yeah, in general, boundaries with sex are important, but especially when your job is sex, you need to have them. It’s a cultural thing that boundaries have fallen all over the place. I want her to have the healthy attitude that sex is natural and normal.
It might be hard to keep your career from her as she gets older, though.
Right. There’s the internet. But my fiancé, her father, has a seven-year-old from a previous marriage, and that little boy has no idea. He’s not, like, let loose on the internet, it’s not like someone hands him an iPhone and says, “Go play.” I think we use technology way too often with kids. There will be an age—13, 14, 15—where she has more access to the internet, but I think that 13 years from now, with the number of girls who go through the industry, it will be really hard to find me, and to recognize me looking like I do at that point in time.
I’m not gonna say that that’s impossible. But there are ways to handle it. And I think for the most part, people are rational, and for the most part, even if I were to be recognized, there’s not gonna be, like, a line of dudes coming up to me while I’m holding a three-year-old being like, “Hey, I really like your pornography.”
Yes, one would hope.
Not that it can’t happen, there are people who just don’t have that filter or whatever it is, but for the most part, we’re mostly rational people dealing with other rational people.
The place that I know I shouldn’t take her is New York City. I get recognized there all the time. It’s so weird. You go to New York and everyone in New York knows porn.
Oh, really? I would think there would be more recognition in L.A.
I think in L.A. there are so many bigger names, you know? Like you’ve got reality stars all over the place, musicians, real entertainers. So when they see a porn star, they’re like, “Well, I saw Tom Cruise yesterday.”
So what would you think if your daughter wanted to get into porn?
The thing I’m worried about most is that she will see it as a quick ticket, because it is, and it would be very hard to sit down and say, “OK, so I did this, and I was actually fine with it, and it went really well for me—but please don’t.” That’s gonna be hard to explain.
I think that a big problem with porn is just the way the model is. You have your little seven-year rise, and then you’re just—you’re out. Other things that might be worth pursuing, while they’re a lot more work on the front end, you have a career for 30 years. And so that would be the thing that I would be worried about with her. I wouldn’t want my daughter to go in, make a bunch of money, get really used to this lifestyle, and then just fall off. And then come close to 30 and be like, what do I do now?
There are so many things you can do if you apply yourself, and I would want her to do one of those things.
So it’s not about sex, it’s really about the practicality of the career.
Well, for a girl in porn, you have seven to 10 years, if you’re really, really committed. I don’t want to say you can’t make it, but it’s seldom that you see people make it. The odds are not for her.
I came into the industry at a different time, and it doesn’t exist now, and it definitely won’t exist in 20 years. Now, you have to do so much more for so much less. It’s kind of this race to the bottom: everyone’s shooting cheaper and cheaper. It’s not even a really good option for her, even if she came in with the same mindset as I did.
I don’t want to shun the industry and say it’s bad, it’s just hard if you’re starting out now. You have to be more creative than ever—it’s run like a business, it’s not just waterfall income.
Is the kind of success that you had in porn rare?
It is, I would say it’s rare and it requires a lot of discipline. I was lucky enough to have already had the experience, because I was a dancer before I got into adult. I had that lifestyle, and it was unsustainable. So when I came into adult, I was so shaken up by the idea of reaching an end and not having a career, that I tucked away a lot of money.
How do you deal with the haters, and the judgment of people who feel like porn stars shouldn’t have kids?
To be honest, there are some cases where porn stars shouldn’t have kids. There are some cases where doctors shouldn’t have kids. It’s a matter of the person. Some people shouldn’t have kids. You have to have the resources. And I don’t mean you shouldn’t have kids if you don’t have money. I mean, if you don’t have the actual emotional resources, the things that you need to give a child so that he or she can grow up in an environment where he or she feels loved and respected—if you can’t provide that, don’t bring a fricking kid into the world!
And I think there’s just a perception of what a porn star is. And we do push that perception, ‘cause that’s what we’re selling. But you think of a porn star as someone who is impulsive and just kind of does whatever at any cost and for any amount of attention, but you have to remember they’re doing this for a camera; they’re being paid to portray this character. But that tends to not translate to someone who might be very nurturing and stable for a young person.
So I can see why the perception’s there, it’s just like… you can’t look at an actor and say, “Oh that person’s a bad person, didn’t you see this movie?”
Yeah, true. People have a visceral reaction to people in the adult industry even being around kids. Do you remember when Sasha Grey went and read at an elementary school, and there was that huge backlash?
Yeah, people freaked out.
It seemed like an overreaction.
Yeah, I mean, I don’t know, it’s not like I’ve ever asked her, but I almost think someone in that PR team knew that was gonna happen and was like, this is gonna be good press.
Yeah, that’s possible.
Just because, you can’t expect to put someone who was in the sex industry in front of children and have people not freak out. The fact is, people hear sex, and they think all kinds of nasty things, and they think, “I don’t want my kid near it.” That’s just what we do. So on the one hand it’s irrational to freak out over it, on the other hand it’s irrational to expect that people wouldn’t get freaked out.
True. So on the flip side, how do you think that having done porn might make you a better parent?
I think I’ve just been in enough situations to know that most people are just doing their best. And there’s a sense of understanding and empathy, and I think I can take a lot more perspectives than I could before. And just having that ability creates relationships where you can understand another person in a better way.
There are other things—like, I was lucky enough to get in, do porn, do it right, put money aside, and I have set up a nice future for this child. There’s not going to be some point where I have to choose between buying her a Christmas present and buying her lunch. You know? I always knew that I wanted one [child], and I always knew that when I had one it would be at a time when I could afford to, forever.
Then just the amount of experience... traveling, and the unique situations [I’ve been in] have made me very aware of everything going on around the world. I think it’ll be able to contribute to a very well-rounded person. I hope so.
I can almost imagine being around other people in the adult industry would have a positive effect. It seems like an open-minded group of people.
Yeah, they tend to be. Again, though, it’s not like you get one type of person in porn. You do have people who really do like attention, and they will talk about anal sex as loud as they can in a restaurant, and you learn to not go to lunch with them. And you know not to put your kid around them.
It’s been cool being with Manuel for this time and seeing how he’s been with his son up until now, because it kind of reinforced the idea that you can just control who you’re around. He’s just very careful about who comes over. He knows that person very well, he knows that person is not gonna go draw out this long string of curse words followed by a sex story.
A few weeks after we spoke, Kross gave birth to a healthy baby girl.
Image by Maya West.
Jessica P. Ogilvie is a writer in L.A. She's a regular contributor to LA Weekly and the LA Times, and is tirelessly dedicated to finding the perfect poolside beverage. Follow her @jessicapauline.