Vanessa del Rio is an icon. She’s not a politician, an activist, a musician, nor is she a mainstream actress. She achieved icon status for her work in XXX-rated movies, over 150, back in the ‘70s and ‘80s.
Say the name Vanessa del Rio and immediately an image of a tall, statuesque, long-legged, brown-skinned goddess comes to mind, who had unquestionably the most voracious sexual appetite of any performer in the history of adult movies. Back when feminism and burning your bra was chic, Vanessa del Rio was showing women how to really do it in the bedroom, and for that, millions of women around the world should speak Vanessa’s name in honor.
The first Latina superstar in porn, and undisputedly the industry’s greatest star, Vanessa’s life has recently been chronicled in the book, Vanessa del Rio: Fifty Years of Slightly Slutty Behavior (Taschen Artists Edition). No doubt many of you were conceived after you’re parents got busy checking out a Vanessa del Rio flick. She makes no apologies (not that she needs to) about her 50 years of slightly slutty behavior.
nocheLatina: Was it fun putting together this book, reliving some of those old memories from way back?
Vanessa del Rio: With Editor Dian Hanson, it was like a conversation, so that’s the flavor of the book. It’s me and her talking and just . . . I’m reminiscing about my life. It was a lot of fun. Kind of like an interview/conversation, and we did a little documentary with the CD that’s in it, and I went back to Harlem where I grew up, and I went to my house when I was a kid on 111th Street on the west side of Manhattan. Then we went to the park where I used to just have anonymous sex. We went to 42nd Street...it was cool, it was funny. Very entertaining.
nocheLatina: Were there any very frustrating or emotional moments where you broke down?
Vanessa del Rio: Not really. I’ve kind of examined my life for years so I kind of . . . I don’t really break down. I kind of take it and I look at it from...I’ve already gone through all that. I used to be in therapy when I used to do bodybuilding because I was really trying to look for another path, and whatever. Just bodybuilding itself makes you really look at yourself. Some moments were sad and emotional, but none that I would break down. I do that in private. I don’t want everyone to think that I’m a hard ass. We all have our moments.
nocheLatina: Except men.
Vanessa del Rio: I’ve said that I’m a man trapped in a woman’s body before, jokingly. That’s why I understand you beasts so well.
nocheLatina: How did you come up with the title, Fifty Years of Slightly Slutty Behavior?
Vanessa del Rio: I’m a very humorous person. That’s one of my gifts, I guess. I have a great sense of humor. It just came to me because I started to try and write some stuff myself. Just putting down notes. I never really thought of a book where you kind of repent what you’re doing and now I’m a new person, and all this violin stuff. I wanted it to be more of who I really am, and that’s very humorous. I look at life...I guess I step back from it and I look at it from a different perspective. All of a sudden that just popped into my head, Slightly Slutty Behavior, because I really meant it as...how do you say when you mean one thing but you say another? Like a lot of people have already said, ‘C’mon Vanessa, slightly slutty behavior?’ But it turns out that by today’s standards, by what’s out there today in porn, my stuff is slightly slutty. I mean, they’re doing some raunchy stuff. I guess it turns out that the jokes on me.
nocheLatina: Would you say your personal life was as wild as anything you did on film, and how so?
Vanessa del Rio: Back in the ‘70s, during that time, lifestyles kind of mirrored what was going on because it wasn’t like you had decided this was going to be your business, then you went home...at least not for me and for a lot of people. It was the lifestyle. It was the sexual revolution, it was about sex, drugs, rock and roll, disco, having fun. And then, living in the Village and living in the underbelly of New York, it just became part of what you did. So yes, it was just as wild. I guess even more so because there’s no camera up your ass. But then after a while you just calm down I guess, as the times go on ... especially when AIDS came out. That sent everybody running. I know I quit the business because of it.
nocheLatina: How did you come up with the name 'Vanessa del Rio?'
Vanessa del Rio: I had a little friend in school who’s name was Vanessa. She was my best friend. I think it was either pre-school or first grade or something like that. And then later on, I had a friend who was a movie buff, and she liked ‘40s movies. And she had said, ‘Why don’t you do del Rio, after Dolores del Rio’ the ‘40s actress. So it kind of sounded nice, Vanessa del Rio. It has an entertaining and movie star sound.
nocheLatina: For a performer, a name is important.
Vanessa del Rio: Yeah, back in the way beginning before there was a star ‘system’ in the business, before there were any real reviews and they used to advertise movies in the newspaper. Then they would put in fine print, Lezlie Two-Lips. They were kind of silly names. Then afterwards when Cinema X Magazine came out and Hustler started to get big, and they actually started to review the movies, then there were fancier names like Seka, Marilyn Chambers, and Candida Royalle.
nocheLatina: How soon after entering porn did you decide that this was for you?
Vanessa del Rio: I think after my first film. I used to be a go-go dancer. Well, first I used to be a computer programmer. Then I quit because I just didn’t like the 9-5. Then I went and, I don’t know, I was just an outlaw. Then I started to do bartending, waitressing, and then I was a go-go dancer. I then started to do films. Cameras, lights, what’s not to like? I had done that first film in order to make money to go to Europe. When I came back I just wanted to keep doing it because it was fun. It was like role-playing.
nocheLatina: When did you realize you were famous?
Vanessa del Rio: I don’t remember a specific moment, but I guess once they actually started to have these magazines like Screw, Hustler, Cinema X, and then you go out and somebody recognizes you, I don’t remember exactly how or when. Actually, and this wasn’t the moment, but there was this one time when I was at Penn Station going in, and there was this bum who was dirty with long hair. He started to mumble ‘Vanessa; to me. I just kept walking. He’s mumbled something and I’m just ignored him. Then he straightened out and said, ‘I’ve spent a lot of quarters on you!’ I just waved at him. But nobody was ever rude to me. I was always approached with awe, like very nice. People were always very nice.
nocheLatina: Is that still true today? Do you still get recognized?
Vanessa del Rio: Yes. Some people look at me and you know how a dog turns his head like he doesn’t know? People look at me and I look at them like, ‘Yes!‘ Or sometimes they say, ‘You look like . . .‘and I go, ‘Yes, people always tell me that. Who is this woman?’ I like to fuck with them a little bit.
nocheLatina: Could you imagine your life today if you never entered the adult industry?
Vanessa del Rio: Oh God no. I mean that is just a useless thought. What if? I could’ve been this, I could’ve been that. That is really useless to even go there. You can’t really speculate.
nocheLatina: Do you view yourself as a role model, in particular to Latinas?
Vanessa del Rio: No. My life was my life. I molded my life and I fit into my life, and I don’t want to be seen as a role model. To each his own. I know women have said that they’ve learned how to be more sexual from watching. If that’s what they’ve learned then I’m glad to have unleashed that in them, but it’s in every woman. So I don’t think that has anything to do with role models, it’s just a matter of what you feel.
nocheLatina: If I asked you to rate yourself among the greatest porn performers of all time, where would you rate yourself?
Vanessa del Rio: Oh no you’re not! I’m not even going to go there. Although I do think my blowjobs really rocked! That’s a cruel question.
nocheLatina: What would you like your obituary to read?
Vanessa del Rio: That I was true to myself. To this day, I still believe what I believe. My headstone would read, 'Regrets...I've had a few...too few to mention...I did it my way!'
To learn more about Vanessa del Rio click here. Visit her site today and purchase your very own autographed copy with three DVDs included with every order.