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This article appears in the October 2017 issue of Jerk Magazine. It was written by Divya Murthy,

As a teenager, Crystal DiGregorio looked like the definition of “normal.” She was on the cheer team at Oswego High School, made her school’s honor roll, enjoyed going out with her friends, and loved being outdoors. Despite all of this, DiGregorio had already been through hell and back—on a journey unlike many of peers’.

Eventually, she would find herself by becoming a church minister determined to help struggling people discover hope. But not before she battled through the world of pornography.

DiGregorio’s formative years are marked with grief and exploitation. She lost her father at age 13, and soon after she was sexually molested by two individuals. By age 16 she was pregnant and dropped out of school to care for her son. And by 18, DiGregorio headed west to Los Angeles from her home in Oswego, N.Y. The glittering west coast offered her a reprieve from the life she left behind. Amidst the palm trees and sun, she found a way to dilute the troubles from her past: cash. She turned to exotic dancing and when that wasn’t enough, porn—it offered her the most stable income.

“I felt like I was being raped in my first scene. It was horrible,” DiGregorio, now 34, says.

She recalls drinking and taking pain medication to get herself through scenes. A career move that was only supposed to last a couple months ended up lasting the next 10 years—the fame and money dug her deeper and deeper into the industry. DiGregorio morphed into a new identity, Nadia Hilton, a notorious porn star. While the money was helpful, the hefty cash came at an emotional price.

“It was a very glamorous lifestyle,” DiGregorio, says. “But to me, it was like a mask because I had deep damage inside of me from my childhood. Even if you don’t become a big name, you’re temporarily going to make a lot of money. But after that, you’re used up and gone, and new girls are coming in all the time.”

In her prime, Nadia donned fishnet stockings, chunky heels and bold turquoise eyeshadow, surrounded by flashy Ferraris, a sprawling Malibu house, bright spotlights, and drinks. Nadia’s repertoire boasts 35 titles from Double D Divas to Valley Vixens—the list goes on.

But, Crystal no longer identifies with Nadia. Now, Nadia is merely a pixelated figure on a computer screen.

DiGregorio told <<ITAL The Sun >>this transition began after a car crash in 2014, which left her with a DWI and the realization she needed to change her wild lifestyle. It wasn’t until after her sister convinced her to attend an Easter Sunday mass however, that she was able to visualize the direction she wanted to go.

Exchanging fishnets and low-cut tops for jeans and a tee shirt, DiGregorio accompanied her sister to the mass and that day, she felt like the pastor talked directly to her. She fell on her knees in the aisle and cried, finally able to confront her pain head on.

Today, sitting in the Lighthouse Church in Mexico, N.Y., sporting a long gray dress with pumps to match, DiGregorio is poised and confident. She is accompanied by her pastor, Ronald Russell, and assistant pastor, Jeff Myers. A leather-bound Bible rests on the table.

Russell’s church believes in helping everybody rise up from their troubles, and DiGregorio was no exception. Everyone at the church knew of DiGregorio’s past, but they were all confident she was meant to be there.

“She walked down one path. I walked a different one,” says Russell. “We’ve all fallen short of the glory of God and we all need someone to help us, and according to the Christian church, it’s Jesus Christ. How can I not love you? You are a creation of God.”

Russell says he makes it a point to publically welcome DiGregorio in front of the congregation. “This sends a strong message that she’s accepted.”

While she is loved by her church, DiGregorio still faces hurdles, especially the hardships that come with having her past smeared all over the Internet.

DiGregorio recalls the first time she got fired from her job at a law firm in 2014 because of her pornos—the same year she graduated with honors in a paralegal studies degree from Bryant and Stratton College.

“I was shocked, because I had just left another job for this one. And my boss, he calls me into the office and said, ‘I didn’t know this was your background,’ and fired me,” Crystal says. “And this was the beginning of my Christian walk too. The Bible says, ‘He without sin casts the first stone.’ Nobody has a perfect background. People should be more accepting of a person who wants to change their life.”

Employment laws in most states allow termination due to an employee’s moral character or employee history. These laws exacerbate the discrimination former adult actors face in trying to switch careers.

While there are actors who enter the porn industry willingly, problems such as addiction, abuse, and self-esteem issues still rank high in the motivation to enter porn.

“There’s this interesting dynamic of porn as freedom and porn as particularly problematic for women,” says Carol Faulkner, a professor teaching a course in the history of American sexuality at Syracuse University. “In some ways, it’s a career that women could shape for themselves and could empower themselves with. However, the porn industry is under a lot of pressures right now. For contributing to the objectification and sexism against women—not allowing women to be considered equal, but really filling the image of women as sex objects.”  

Currently, DiGregorio is battling skin cancer and preparing to undergo chemotherapy. But a warm smile on her face masks this as she speaks of the new path she has discovered and her determination to stay on it, even if the wildest temptations confront her.

“Money is just a temporary fix for a temporary situation,” she says. “That’s not the path I want to go down. Right now I am lower and weaker, but I stood my ground, so I have to live with myself with how I view myself and how God views me.”

While 70 percent of men and 30 percent of women watch porn yearly, according to Psychology Today. Yet, nearly two-thirds of the population thinks pornography is morally wrong, according to a 2014 Public Religion Research Institute poll. DiGregorio is among the two-thirds.

“There’s nothing healthy from somebody watching porn,” she says. “They get this fake image of someone having sex on film, they start wanting things they can’t get out of their spouse … and now they’ll never be satisfied. There’s nothing really positive that comes out of it.”

In the three years since she left porn, DiGregorio has been working as a paralegal, offering her services with crimes, wills, estates, and real estate. If she’s not at work, she is at church. She goes up to three times a week with her three sons.

The only videos you will find her in are ones she puts up on her own YouTube channel, which show her preaching to her viewers and talking about knowing one’s worth.

The Editors
jerkmagdigital@gmail.com

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