Adult film actor Colby Keller “loves to top unsuspecting bottom boys,” declares the Cocky Boys website. But Keller is more than just a pretty...well, you know. He’s also a newly-minted high fashion model and an ardent Bernie Sanders supporter. And that’s just the tip (hehe) of the iceberg! Text Sean Santiago. Photographed by David Gomez Maestre.
Are you finished with filming Colby Does America now?
The project itself is very far from completion. It’s really for me less about sex and less about traveling and less about the videos than it is about collaborating with people and seeing what can happen from those relationships. It’s really about the process. There’s no real end point in sight in terms of what can be done with that content, and I’m still generating content.
Do you have a definite goal in mind?
I think it’s really more about the process than it is about an object or thing that comes from that process. And the process is ongoing and indefinite. I could get video edits for forever. In some ways I find it more productive to leave that possibility open, instead of thinking of it in terms of reaching a specific goal. And I feel like if I give people too many specific directions with what needs to happen with that content then I’m influencing that collaborative gesture a little too heavily. I love the process of making videos. It was a little difficult for me to get into it at first, but I’ve really come to enjoy it.
When you say making videos is something you weren’t comfortable with at first, do you mean for this project or in general?
I would say in general, maybe.
It’s just an interesting sentiment coming from someone who’s on camera in a very...very much on camera way.
Right. I mean, the thing is I don’t really like to look at pictures of myself. I don’t like to take pictures of myself. But I do kind of enjoy putting myself in challenging or difficult positions. It forces me to think through creative solutions to adapt to those kinds of negative scenarios and turn them into positive ones. I’ve learned to try to be comfortable in front of the camera. Taking the videos myself is a very different thing because I’m the one in charge of positioning the camera and finding the shot. Then I have to look through the footage and look at myself and look at myself having sex, which can, at times, not be a very comfortable thing to do.
You’re not just having sex, you’re creating this image of yourself that you have to engage with in all of these different contexts...I imagine that could be very jarring for someone. Why did you decide to start something so nebulous and open-ended right now?
About two years ago I got rent-evicted out of my apartment in Baltimore. I had no money, but had acquired all of this stuff. It was really traumatic to be confronted with the reality of being dispossessed, not just of my home but of all my things. How we normally tend to articulate ourselves is through our possessions, and I decided that ultimately that wasn’t a healthy way to think about objects and my relationships to people. I wanted to explore a process that could emancipate me from those things, or in a cheeky metaphorical way really make me naked for a single moment.
And what was happening for you professionally at this time? Because I feel like you must be one of the most successful porn stars like, ever.
I mean, that depends on how you define success. In no way does it correspond to financial gains. I make less money per paycheck now than I did when I started in this business. I don’t really get booked for too many scenes. I mean I’m lucky, don’t get me wrong, I’m very lucky that I continue to get work. I’m a thirty-five year old man. I understand what that means.
But I think there’s almost a cult of personality around you, more so than with other actors in the porn industry.
It’s hard for me to say. I don’t really know how successful other porn performers are. I’m sure there are other people who have bigger fanbases and who are much more successful financially, much more successful at generating attention for themselves. For me, I’m really interested in engaging fans online not to bring attention to my career or because I’m hoping to book jobs, but because I’m interested in who these people are and just being myself and seeing how people respond to it. That was and remains my guiding motivation.
Your social media presence doesn’t seem to be made for making people want to have sex with you.
It’s not at all, and there are a lot of people in creative businesses and YouTube stars whose motivation is to really bring attention to themselves so they can make money, so they can have a career. And that’s a shift in the way we perform labor. There’s all these things I have to do constantly and it’s labor that I’m not getting paid for. It might result in opportunities, which it has, that are amazing and fantastic and kind of unbelievable. But it doesn’t usually result in the kinds of incentives that people normally associate with performing labor. Namely, a paycheck.
So you’re still figuring out the economics of this.
People have this perception that I must be this obscenely wealthy porn star, but lo and behold I haven’t slept in a bed that’s my own in over two years.
You’re a big Bernie Sanders supporter, right? Like, 200%?
Well, 100%. I’d say I’m much farther to the left than Bernie Sanders. I think Bernie is definitely a step. I feel the Bern.
You don’t think he’ll be obliterated by congress?
Well, let’s be realistic here. The congress is gerrymandered. Republicans have control and I don’t see that changing. Hillary Clinton is good for Republicans because she’s a committed ideological conservative who’ll sign anything to protect her legacy. Bernie, you know, he’s a fighter, and I think he will be honest about what’s possible and who’s obstructing what. Also, at the end of the day, I don’t think he’s going to get us into any more wars. Iraq was a horrible, horrible, horrible mistake. I don’t even think mistake is the right word. It was bad policy, and Hillary was a supporter and a driver of that policy. We have to keep in mind here from a broader historical perspective just how fucked up the United States is. We have a very aggressive, imperialistic foreign policy. We’ve subjugated nations all over the world to our neo-liberal economic policy and it has devastated those countries. We’ve supported murderous dictators all over the world. We put more people in jail than any other country on earth. We’re not necessarily a good place, you know? We’ve done a lot of awful things and we continue to do awful things.
Well what if you’re considering Hillary in light of someone like, say, Donald Trump?
I think they’re the same kind of politician. [Because] Hillary keeps the establishment in place, keeps the status quo in place. And people who have money, people in power, they’re very worried about the status quo and the establishment changing. And that’s because they know that the current political system we have in place, this neo-liberal democracy, cannot survive the change that’s coming. The West has benefitted from an exploitative economic model that takes advantage of poor brown people all over the world and those people happen to live in the areas that will experience the worst effects of climate change. To the point that some of those areas may be uninhabitable. Those people are going to need to move somewhere.
Western Europe and America will not see the worst effects of climate change, so we’re going to be the area where people from around the world are going to have to move if they’re going to survive. That is a crisis and that will change culture in an unprecedented way. The war in Syria is the very beginning of that, just the tip of the iceberg of that phenomenon, and we’re seeing how just that tiny little bit of immigration might cause the disintegration of the EU. And I think that’s happening here in the person of Donald Trump. If your interest is preserving something of what the United States is now, someone like Donald Trump with his racist, anti-immigrant views is not necessarily an illogical choice.
If you want to hold onto America’s racist, anti-immigrant past then it’s logical to vote for Donald Trump in order to preserve that kind of legacy.
Right. If you want to hold onto the US for what it is, Donald Trump is proposing a framework for accomplishing that. I personally don’t think that that vision of the United States should be preserved. But what Donald Trump is doing is forcing us to face that head on. It is the future that we’ve created for ourselves. We can’t pretend to play this political game that things will get better in perpetuity and that capitalism throws sunshine on the whole planet and if we keep working we can end poverty and spread wealth around the world. All these lies that the American political class has sold us are actually leading to the destruction of the planet. We have to reimagine what’s politically possible.
But I feel like we’re maybe witnessing a sea change, seeing a return to grassroots activism and a call to arms against the state as an oppressive construct, or, rather, against the oppressive realities of a broken, ill-functioning state. Which is why a lot of people are mobilizing around Bernie’s anti-establishment message, or at least seem very motivated by it.
Bernie Sanders is slowly peeling back the curtain [on the political system] and that, in and of itself, is a step in the right direction. Now, can we sustain that? Can we build a political movement on that? I think it remains to be seen.
All clothes Bernhard Willhelm. Special thank you to David Gomez Maestre, Colby Keller and Karl Marks. This interview has been edited and condensed. "The Passion of Colby Keller" appears in our third issue, available now. Keller can be found on Twitter and Instagram.