Eric East is China’s first gay porn star. After making waves in California, he’s come home to see if the People’s Republic is ready for him. The response, he tells Jack Smith, has been overwhelming. Just don’t tell his parents
Did you have any idea how big your fan base was in China?
My friends knew about it, but during my first show in Guangzhou I was shocked by how many people recognised me.
When you appeared onstage in Beijing people were so excited they were trying to grab hold of you. How does that feel?
It’s a two-sided thing – somewhat awkward, somewhat exhilarating. People want to touch you – they love you, right? But in terms of performance, it’s hard for me to deliver in that situation. It’s scary.
Do you think the fact that you’re Chinese-born has something to do with that response?
I guess so. I’m the first Chinese gay porn star. It’s always good to be the first. I feel like a trailblazer.
And is it true you’re still at college?
Yes, I’m currently at UCLA. I’m trying not to let my career interfere with my studies. If you were to see me on campus, sitting at the back of the classroom in my glasses, you’d think I really look like a student [laughs]. I try to keep my personal life and my professional life clearly separate. If someone wants to poke into my private life I won’t allow that.
Does that happen often?
Yes. Fans are curious about you, but for me, it’s my own affair. It’s up to me whether to open up or not.
So what turned Eric the college student into Eric East, porn star?
I was born with an interest in showing people what I love to do. Back in China, when I was in college, I competed in singing and dancing competitions. I went to the US at the age of 20 and was looking around for photographers. One of them had worked with [US porn star] Peter Le before and approached me about working in porn. I had to consider it carefully – it’s a serious decision, and I wanted to fully think it through. But even as a teenager I’d been dreaming of being a porn star, so I thought this offer could be my big break.
What was it like to go from modelling to hardcore porn in one go?
Completely new. What ends up on the screen is maybe only a tenth of what you’ve done on set. You have to do so many takes and warm up. Before, I thought it was just one take and you’re done, but no! I was also really nervous at the beginning. When the camera was pointing at me I felt uncomfortable. I’d never even acted before!
What do you love most about being a porn performer?
It’s sexy. I’m doing what everybody loves to do. I like to show off my body. When I walk onto a set, my first thought is usually ‘Do I like this guy? Will I get hard? Will I get turned on?’ But it’s work. You’re not hooking up, so you have to force yourself to get into the right frame of mind.
Do you use any tricks of the trade to get yourself going?
This is not narcissistic, but I imagine myself having sex. Imagining watching myself having sex is kind of hot. But you’re always thinking, ‘Will I remember my lines?’ There’s plot and a story, you’ve got to remember that, plus the positions, the camera angles. And you have to remember how long you need to go for. We talk about things briefly beforehand, but changes always happen and we make changes as we shoot the scene.
Do your parents know what you do?
Other family members?
I don’t know. Nobody has said anything so far!
Surely in the digital age it must be harder than ever to keep your porn career away from people. What if you did become the next big porn sensation?
I would still try to keep work and life separate. I’d like to represent Asian men. Lots of people think Asian men are skinny, weak – but actually lots of young Asian men are trying to be stronger, more international. That’s what I want to be.
Do you find a difference in the way non-Asian people respond to Asian porn stars as opposed to, say, white or Latino performers?
There still aren’t many Asians in my line of work; most people are white or Latino. It’s still hard for Asians to get into the mainstream – any mainstream – in Western countries. But China is getting bigger, the world is changing and the Western market is changing along with it.
But do you think attitudes are changing fast enough in China for you to be a porn star in your home country within your lifetime?
I can see that happening. Of course, we have to make sure it happens legally.
Eric East is a regular performer on the site www.peterfever.com. As you might expect, the site is utterly NSFW. The next time he announces a Beijing appearance, don’t worry, we’ll let you know immediately.
By Jack Smith