Michael Lucas has reached a new milestone, 20 years in the adult industry. The Russian–Israeli-American Lucas is a gay pornographic film actor, director, activist, writer and the founder/CEO of Lucas Entertainment, New York City’s largest gay-adult-film company. He has been a columnist for The Advocate, Huffington Post and Pink News. He is no stranger to sex or to strong and provocative opinions.
Corey Wesley and I had the opportunity to sit down in his gorgeous and spacious home studio in New York City to reflect on this latest milestone. Even though we arrived a bit late, Lucas was a gracious host. After he prepared us a cup of tea, the three of us sat down to chat and reflect on his twenty years.
Lucas had just returned from five weeks of travel for work and pleasure. Before we got started with the interview he showed us some of the pictures and shared some of the stories of his recent travels to Cuba and Barcelona.
We delved into the interview by asking Lucas what it means to have 20 years in the adult industry under his belt. “It feels wonderful,” said Lucas. He shared that some of the most rewarding aspects of his success include being able to bring some of his family members here from Russia for a better life. We could tell from our conversation and from his social media posts that Lucas is quite family oriented. His family came up several times during our conversation and he said that his family has been supportive throughout the years. Lucas even shared a story which made him very proud. For his 45th birthday, his family surprised him with a gift which was a movie filled with interviews of his friends, relatives, and people from his school. They all were sharing how proud of him they were that he had built a business and they wished him well. Lucas was moved by the fact many of them were from a closed minded society (Russia) but they all loved and accepted him just as he was.
Another reward from the past 20 years has been his ability to employ a lot of people and provide them with benefits. Lucas shared that it’s important for him to give a good life to others, for them to feel success and be fulfilled.
The progression of our conversation led us to discuss the challenges he’s seen in the business. Lucas mentioned that the adult industry is a very competitive environment. We all know there is tons of free porn out there and the industry is changing all the time. He provided us a timeline; first, there was amateur porn, then came the porn pirates, and then cam to cam developed, and then came the “tubes.” Lucas is most motivated by the travel and the people, but is also passionate about the production process so is highly driven to continue to succeed. He shared that some of his success has come from hiring good people. He looks for young professionals who are smart at what they’re doing. He always seeks to hire the right team and trusts them to do their best so he doesn’t need to micromanage.
Lucas’ productions are known in part for their exciting locations. Films have been made all over the world in interesting environments. Lucas shared with us that he seeks out large spaces that can accommodate the entire cast and crew. There must be lots of bedrooms, suites, and common spaces with beautiful surroundings. When asked if this was a competitive advantage for him, he came short of agreeing that it is but shared that it’s important to differentiate from the thousands of potential scenes that are out there. Rather than the stereotypical hotel room, Lucas uses expansive, exciting spaces that give viewers lots to look at and consider. Lucas also mentioned that when the cast and crew are on set for the approximate ten days for a production, there is lots of shared time that allows for camaraderie. Everyone wakes up, prepares dinner, and works out in the same space, giving them all somewhat of a signature Lucas Entertainment experience.
Corey, who is not an avid porn watcher, was curious to know more about Lucas’ thoughts on the relationship between porn and sex in real life. Lucas first joked that he once read that women have been challenged by all the fantasies that men now have because of porn. But he then related his own experience with porn when he was growing up. When he lived in Russia, he didn’t know much about gay life and when he started to discover it, he found that society presented gay men like clowns and pedophiles. It was shameful and criminal to have gay sex. He said this is still happening today in Russia and all over the Middle East. But when he would watch videos, suddenly he was seeing gay sex not as society claimed it was and this became empowering for him. Lucas said that people may find physical relief in porn by getting off but they also find comfort that all gay men are not how they are portrayed by society.
Porn is watched by millions of people and some of the controversies out there revolve around stereotypes. We took the opportunity to explore stereotypes in porn a little bit. First, we asked whether or not porn perpetuates stereotypes, particularly for black men. Lucas said, “Black men thank me. My movies are very interracial and I take pride in that. I’m very fortunate I don’t have a type.” We all chuckled when Lucas shared that his sets are becoming known as “The United Nations of Porn.” On one set he asked the guys to go around and say where they were from and there were about 15 different countries represented.
We pivoted to stereotypes of porn stars and what are some untrue ones. Lucas mentioned that many people think porn stars are drug addicts and alcoholics. Lucas said that he fires models right away if he finds drugs on his set, “I never compromise on drugs.”
Lucas proceeded to share his thoughts on the wrong and right reasons for someone to go into porn. He shared that oftentimes people go into porn to try to gain some confidence but it never works out for them. Sometimes there is a connection between bodybuilding and porn but those individuals typically never think they look good enough and often never become confident people. Another untrue perception is that porn stars are having tons of sex. Lucas said they’re not having sex any more than someone on a hookup app, who’s probably having more than a porn star. This made us scratch our heads and reconsider this stereotype.
Lucas continued by offering his thoughts on the right reasons for going into porn. He said there are a lot of interesting people in porn who are not in it for the money but because they find it interesting. He said that there should be a love of travel, meeting people, liking being on a set and the production value, and of course being interested in exploring your sexuality.
In addition to adult movies, Lucas has produced two documentaries. In 2012, he released his first documentary film about the thriving Israeli LGBT community titled Undressing Israel: Gay Men in the Promised Land. The film includes footage of Tel Aviv’s vibrant nightlife, a same-sex wedding, and candid interviews with a diverse range of local Israeli gays and lesbians. Then in 2014, he released his second documentary, Campaign of Hate: Russia and Gay Propaganda, which investigates the anti-gay climate in Russian politics and society.
We asked Lucas what motivated him to produce these films and he stated that he has many passions. Politics and Israel have always been some of his passions. “I am connected to gay people and Jewish people…I have multiple identities,” said Lucas. As we discussed his documentaries, Lucas reminisced how difficult it was to produce Campaign of Hate: Russia and Gay Propaganda. Being in Russia to produce the film brought back many bad memories from when he was growing up there and coming into his gay identity. He shared that he’s generally a curious person who goes out and explores the cities he visits but on this production, he went from the set directly back to his hotel room and became quite depressed. He also said he didn’t go back to Russia for four years after this production.
In recent years, Lucas has also been a vocal advocate for PrEP. In an Op-Ed article in Out Magazine back in 2015, Lucas offered his thoughts on a Kaiser Permanente study and he took to task some of the conversation about PrEP in general. He also shared in the op-ed piece that he proactively encouraged models to learn more about PrEP. In our conversation, Lucas said, “when it [PreP] started it was so controversial But it should never have been.” Lucas believes PrEP is helping to eliminate the stigma of HIV and that everyone in a risk group should be on it.
To have this up and close interview with someone who has reached such success in their industry was a unique experience. We learned how dedicated and passionate Lucas is, not only in his career, and his business, but also his family. He is clearly a confident man comfortable in his own skin.