(Editor’s Note: This interview with now-former porn star and still current cooking guru Mariah Milano was conducted by Tom Heckbert for the now-defunct website Eyestrane.com, where it was originally published in July of 2012. It’s been republished at Idol Features courtesy of Tom. )
Mariah Milano got started in the adult film industry just nine days after she turned 18. She went on to do nearly 600 movies and has been featured in more than 65 magazines since that time. Born and raised in “The Valley” in Los Angeles, which is the porn capital of the world, although she had no idea that it was at the time, it took a chance meeting with an old friend from junior high school to introduce her to it.
Mariah’s initial decision to do this type of work was made from the simple desire to make a lot of money. She was a single mother and was barely making it working for minimum wage. In her own words:
Do I wish I would have chosen differently if I could do it again? That’s not such an easy question to answer. It has afforded me a life I know I would not have had otherwise. I have traveled and seen the world and I live an exciting and interesting life that so many would trade their own lives for in a heart beat. I know because I am told that all the time by people busting their asses to barely get by.
I have unlimited possibilities for my life and that to me says that no matter what people think of my previous life, I made the right decision for me at the time and made the most of it. I didn’t end up a broke drug addict or back where I started, so I feel it’s been a success. So now here I am all these years later, living my life and making the most of the career I have made for myself and hoping that my fans will continue the journey with me into the next phase of “Mariah Milano” and share the experiences and adventures ahead. I may not be having sex on camera anymore, but sharing my love for great food and wine and travel is pretty stimulating in its own right. The response to this new project has been overwhelming and makes me love my fans even more. I am so happy to be taking this next step of my life with you coming along. I promise not to disappoint you and make sure that whatever I do, I bring the same passion and intensity that I brought to your computer screens, DVD players, and yes, your VCRs! Wow, it HAS been a long time, huh?
MARIAH: My career started back in January of 1998 when I had just turned 18 on New Year’s Eve. I had only had sex with one person when I did my first movie and I was painfully shy, but very confident when it came to sex. I knew I was cute and could get down with the sex, but it was purely for the money. I was talked into it by an agent and he told me the money that I could make, and being a single mom of a child whose father is a loser and without any real prospects for a future, I said “fuck it” and went with it. I made the money and got a nice apartment in West Hills, a dependable car, and sent my son to Montessori school. What most people don’t realize is that most porn shoots are early, like 8:00AM early so you’re done by early afternoon unless it’s a big feature. So, after I finished my shoot I would go cash my check and then straight to the mall and basically throw my money away. I made over $20,000 a month that first year and had nothing but clothes I didn’t want to show for it. I did send my son to a good preschool and got a nice place to live, but other than that, it all went down the drain at the Northridge mall. Consider it a very expensive lesson I learned.
MARIAH: It started when I did a live cam show where I cooked for the viewers. There were over 700 viewers watching and only a few said to get naked or whatever. Most were really into what I was doing and I realized that there was a market for this and that people liked what I was doing. So I checked and the domain was available and I bought it along with DinnerWithMariah.com, so I can have a version that doesn’t say “porn star” in it. They are both the same site, just differently named. I love to cook and be creative and have had some great meals, so why not share that with my fans, ya know?
EYESTRANE: What do you think you have to offer those looking for new recipes to try in the kitchen?
MARIAH: I don’t know if I bring anything groundbreaking to the table here. I usually take something I have had and make my own version of it. I don’t claim to be a chef because I am not. I will leave that to the real chefs like David Chang, who to me is a genius.
EYESTRANE: Who taught you to cook and what are some of your favorite recipes?
MARIAH: I taught myself to cook. I make a seriously good pizza. I do pretty well with puff pastry and the favorite thing I make is beef wellington. My pasta is pretty good too.
EYESTRANE: Do you have a specialty?
MARIAH: The pizza and also pasta are probably my most consistently good. I know that my pizza and pasta are the bomb so I’ll say those two.
EYESTRANE: Your site is much more than food. You also offer reviews and tips for travelers such as what restaurants are good and what to order there. What have been some of the highlights of your own travels?
EYESTRANE: One of the things I found great about your hotel and beach resort reviews is how you highlighted local interests that may have passed unnoticed. For example, in your review of the La Te Da hotel in Key West, you talked about a waitress there who makes pasties and the time you spent with her. It may not be for everyone, but it makes your reviews unique. Will you be doing the same for all the places you visit?
MARIAH: Absolutely. If I think it’s interesting I will document it. I know that my experiences aren’t going to be interesting to everyone but they are real and a lot of people seem to enjoy me sharing them, so until that changes, I’ll keep writing about it. Like in Milan, the guy who made the greatest pizza in the world’s name is Nunzio. He was this little Sicilian man who spoke no English, but we got along great and the guy made pizza that made you wanna slap your momma! I posted photos of him on my blog and there was a great response to him so much so that his daughter e-mailed to tell me that he had people come in to the restaurant and tell him that they had seen his photo and read about him on my blog! That to me is amazing and so worthwhile. She didn’t even have an issue with it being a porn star’s blog, she was just appreciative of the acknowledgement that I had given her father.
EYESTRANE: I know New Zealand was a great experience for you. Why was this a special trip for you?
MARIAH: Well for one, it’s such an extremely distant trip. It’s a place everyone wants to visit, but rarely get to. It’s far and expensive and such a dream place and the fact that I was able to go made it really special to me. I loved the people and the country is just beautiful like no place I have ever seen. I will remember it for the rest of my life.
MARIAH: For one thing, I love his wit. He makes observations that I totally relate to and he has a very cynical side to his narrative which I share with him. I enjoyed the book because I spent some time when I was younger hanging out with the kitchen and wait staff of several of the top restaurants in Beverly Hills after they were off work and they were WILD and entertaining and his book brought back a lot of memories for me. I also really like his wife. She is a badass bitch and she’s Sardinian, which is pretty much Italian (don’t tell her I said that!) and being sexy doesn’t hurt either. He has been down the drain a few times and here he is, bigger than ever with success and a life worth living. You have to admire someone who beats the demons and is still able to rise above.
EYESTRANE: I can see men coming to your website for obvious reasons, but women will like it too. Tell us a little more about what we can learn about both you and cooking from your site.
MARIAH: I think that some people will be surprised by the quality of what I’m doing and others will be disappointed that there isn’t any sex or even nudity to be found. I don’t want this to be about that because it takes away all credibility from the cooking and the travel experiences I am sharing. Yeah, it would probably sell better, but sometimes you have to take the hit in the name of respect and credibility, if that makes any sense, I am not sure! (laughs) I do think that people will learn that I’m not an idiot and I don’t meet the stereotypical porn star image most people have. Other than my boobs I have had no plastic surgery, not even Botox or lip injections. I own a house and don’t have a loser boyfriend leeching off of me while I work and he stays home smoking weed and playing Xbox or whatever. That is the norm and I am not it. Also, I don’t escort and never have. I have been very outspoken about my belief that porn stars shouldn’t escort when they are actively in the industry because of the added risk that brings to the rest of the industry, and I have been met with some pretty harsh words from other girls about it. Many have tried to find if I have been a closet escort or anything about me to scandalize my message, but it isn’t there and they have all failed. I fully believe that prostitution should be legal, but I just couldn’t do it. I know to many that shooting porn is the same, but not to me and not in the eyes of the law. I am also vilified for having some self-respect which they can’t seem to grasp, and I have also remained relevant in the industry for more than a decade without shooting very often. Most porn girls shoot several times a week whereas I only was shooting maybe 20 or 25 times a year, which gradually went down to five scenes in 2011 and none in 2012. I have created my own success and done so without selling my soul and my body, which is something I am very proud of.
MARIAH: Well, I am not a chef nor am I an expert on TV, so I may not be a good critic, but I do think that the cooking contest shows are lame. I just don’t have any interest in seeing an aspiring chef have to make soft boiled eggs in death valley and then carry them on his head and drop them hands-free into a bowl of Udon noodles in Bakersfield or whatever. I don’t think it’s cooking and I don’t think it’s entertaining, but again, that’s only my opinion. They are popular so obviously someone enjoys them. I don’t like the “Let’s see if I can eat an eight-pound pork roast in seven minutes” shows either. I think that is just retarded and unhealthy and no different than a circus act, but again, it sells. I do think the shows that feature technique and share original recipes are interesting. I like Nadia G …sort of. The accent is beyond annoying, but she is clever and funny and original. I respect that. I also really enjoy David Rocco’s shows. I love that he films it in Italy and features simple classic dishes that don’t try to get too fancy. I have made a lot of his dishes and had a lot of the things he features while in Italy, so his show is one of my favorites.
MARIAH: I spend my free time on the water in my boat. I am out at least three or four times a week when I’m home and there is nothing more relaxing than a day on the water. I live right on the Gulf of Mexico and there is a huge sand bar three miles offshore that is pretty much deserted during the week. If you checkout my site the video on the main page was shot there. It’s like paradise and I can get there in 10 minutes from the dock at my house. I have three dogs that I spend my time with as well and I like to cook for my friends. I have at least three or four dinner parties a month and have some friends who work at a local sushi place who come over after work and we have drinks and I make food.
MARIAH: Just to live my life and try and bring some culture and make others want to experience some of the wonderful things I have had the great fortune to experience. I also want to be independent and not have to rely on anyone else for anything. I strive to treat people with understanding and respect and be more tolerant of idiots. I have a big problem with the idiots of the world. I guess it’s my Sicilian blood that makes me that way. I want to try and be more understanding but some people just annoy the fuck out of me! (laughs)
EYESTRANE: You say that people annoy you. Is there something specific about people that bothers you the most and how about an example?
MARIAH: Well, my mom has been great about it. She doesn’t love it, but she knows it’s not my lifestyle. She knows I have treated it as a job and that I used the money to make a better life for my son and for myself, and she has benefited from it as well. I used to take her shopping all the time and have paid for many vacations for her and helped her out with things when she needed it. I was very happy to be able to do that. I know that she worried about the health risks of it, but she also knew that I wasn’t stupid. She never condoned it, but she also loved me without condition which is how it’s supposed to be. Now my father’s side of the family, however, is a totally different story. My father is a piece of shit to begin with and was addicted to heroin my entire life until I was 15. He was abusive to my mother, myself, and my younger brother, so what he likes and doesn’t like I could give two shits about. He actually had the nerve to say to me that what I was doing was affecting him and his business. He has earned no consideration from me on any level so I couldn’t care less and I hope that my being a porn star haunts him for the rest of his life. They are all self-proclaimed Christians yet they sit in judgment of me and the choices I made, but they refuse to acknowledge that many of those choices were influenced by my father and his drug use and physical abuse. They are quick to point that finger at me, but not so quick to point it at themselves. I don’t speak to my father’s side of the family because there is nothing to say. They are hypocrites and people that have no right to judge anyone. I love my mom and she is all the family that I need. She has a wonderful husband who loves her and treats her with respect and understanding more than my natural father will ever treat anyone.
MARIAH: I have had all kinds of experiences with fans. I have had a stalker actually find my house and sit in his car on my street day after day until I was finally able to get a restraining order. I had a fan jump over my six-foot privacy fence into my back yard in the middle of the day not knowing I was sitting by my pool having a cigarette with my .38 in my robe pocket. He had quite the surprise when he came running around the corner and there I was with the hammer back and it pointed at his chest from six feet away. I had a fan in Barcelona recognize my hotel from a photo I took of myself and posted on Twitter and waited in the pouring rain all day for me to leave my hotel to ask for an autograph and a photo. He was very nice and very polite and respectful. I felt so bad he was soaked to the bone and it was February! For the most part the fans are great. They are really brave when they hit you up on Twitter or e-mail but in person they are so different. I try to be nice, but there are times when it’s just inappropriate like when I’m with my mom or whatever.
EYESTRANE: Have you ever dated a fan?
MARIAH: I have never dated a fan and as horrible as it sounds, I don’t think I could. For one, I am not the person that they are fans of. That is a fictitious person and as flattering as it is that they think I’m hot or sexy or whatever, it just is weird to me to think of sitting across a table with someone who has watched me have sex on camera and pleasured themselves. I know this makes me sound like some sort of snob or bitch or hypocrite or whatever, but I just think it would be impossible to get beyond that for me. I would forever be the piece of ass from the porn video and I could never be that role in any relationship no matter how brief.
EYESTRANE: Where can we go to find out more about you?
MARIAH: Well, there are very few places to find out about the REAL me. The make-believe character in porn films isn’t me. That’s fantasy created by people hoping to sell it to the masses. The only place to know the real me is on my site DinnerWithaPornStar.com I am ME in those videos and stories and editorials. That is from my heart and although my real name isn’t Mariah Milano, that is the name that people know and recognize so I am stuck with using it. But everything on that site is me. The goofiness and silliness and craziness is 100% me in real life. I don’t expect to be loved or understood or even liked, but I think that I have earned some respect for the life I have created for myself.