LOS ANGELES—“My very first job in porn was a Hustler centerfold,” Cindy Starfall says. She’s not bragging; she’s still surprised. What’s more, she got that job out of the blue. The Vietnam-born Starfall, who crafted her nom de porn from Cindy Crawford (“all the girls idolized her in Vietnam”) and the name of an Orange County street in view of the office building from which she quit her corporate job, stood outside of a 7-Eleven that day in 2013 with a Penthouse and Hustler in her hands, marveling at how confident the women inside those magazines were.
“That same night, I got invited to a party by one of my girlfriends,” she says, “and there was a Hustler executive there (we don’t ask who—Ed.) and he asked if I’d like to be in the magazine. My first porn job!”
As a porn origin story, this is a great one. But now Starfall is sharing a story that is familiar to a lot of porn performers but also deeply personal and particular: it is the story of letting go of family expectations and accepting, without shame, her own potential and success.
“There is no turning back from this story,” Starfall says, “but I want other women—other Asian women who might have a similar story—not to be ashamed.”
Starfall says she grew up in a wealthy family in Vietnam. Her father is a businessman and politician. While she never lacked for food or clothes, she says she had no freedom, and rebelled.
“If I wanted to leave the house, I’d have to ask my father, who would call the driver, who would call security,” she says. “Eventually I would just start sneaking out to see my friends.”
One day in 2004, she was handed a plane ticket and driven to the airport. The car dropped her off and she was pointed toward her gate. Her family had arranged for her to live with a family in Portland, OR.
“I didn’t speak any English,” Starfall says. “I didn’t know I was being sent away.” She did not know if her rebellious nature was “bringing shame” on the family or if she was being prepared for school, or both. What she did know was that she wasn’t given a choice. She was 14.
By 22 she had graduated college in California with a business degree and had started, via her father’s connections, the corporate job she would eventually quit. She also learned that her family had arranged for her to be married “to a man from Taiwan that I didn’t even know.”
Starfall reflects on a sister, and on female cousins, who married whom their parents chose, had babies, never worked, and who never wanted for money.
“And I didn’t want everything chosen for me,” she says. “I wanted to make my own money. And I have.”
Starfall worked steadily before the pandemic, her bookings managed by OC Modeling, saved her money, and began a vacation rental business in Orange County. “There is no shame in anything I am doing for money,” she says, “but if I were to go back to Vietnam—which I would really like to do!—there would be members of my family who wouldn’t want to see me.
“Like I was going to suck all the cocks at the wedding,” she says.
Starfall paints a picture of the porn stigma that is recognizable up to a point. The performers whose families are on board—if begrudging—of their relative’s adult biz career are rare. Most performers, to protect the feelings of “traditional” family members, lead a double life. For Starfall and her Vietnamese family, it is even more severe.
“My father has [business holdings] in Orange County,” she says, “and the apartment that he got me [before I quit my job] had cameras in it so the family could watch me. Doing porn was literally the first thing I had ever done for myself. But my own sister doesn’t want me around her children.”
Starfall notes with grim humor that she and all her female relatives were expected to sleep with and bear children for men they bore no love for, by the arrangement of other men. But somehow taking control of her own body for fun and profit was shameful.
“And all my current business success I have because of porn,” she says. “My degree helped, but it was porn that gave me freedom.”
Starfall doesn’t know who did it, but “somebody ratted me out to my mother” several years ago, sending her one of her daughter’s porn stills. It has been painful ever since, because her family simply can’t get past what she does for part of her living. But she is beginning to put it in perspective. As much as she misses them, it is their loss, and she is doing nothing wrong.
To women looking at her story as an inspiration or as a cautionary tale, Starfall says, “If you want freedom to be a slut, then be a smart slut, and be proud of yourself.”