This Is What Happens When A Porn Star Finds God

After seven years in the adult industry, hundreds of films and attempted suicide, Brittni Ruiz knew she wanted out. She just didn’t know how. This is her story.

Brittni Ruiz was 18 when she started working in porn. She was going to college and working as a dancer when producers from a porn company approached her and asked if she wanted to do “romance movies.” She knew exactly what they were referring to, but wanted to find out more.

“The next day, they put me in hair and makeup,” she says. “They had me do a scene. They were telling me how much money I’d make … I didn’t even think about the consequences.”

She became Jenna Presley. She performed in hundreds of films, was named one of Maxim magazine’s top 12 female performers in porn, and placed second in Jenna Jameson’s American Sex Star on Playboy TV. She once raked in $13,000 for an eight-hour gig in Tokyo.

Ruiz had been working in the adult industry for four years when she first saw people passing out Bibles at an adult convention, the Exxxotica Expo, in New Jersey. She described the convention as a trade show that’s “like Comic-Con, but a different crowd.”

She’d spend hours in heels signing autographs and taking pictures with fans who’d often ask her to pose provocatively. It was tiring and draining, and fans could be “too comfortable” with her, she explained, but ultimately, “we would sell our product.”

The people passing out Bibles were from the XXXchurch, sometimes known at the expos as the “Jesus loves porn stars” people because of the banners, Bibles, and T-shirts at their booth with the slogan written across the front.

The gimmick factor certainly caught peoples’ attention, but adult conventions aren’t the easiest place to save souls. Still, Ruiz was impressed. “There’s just something about them. It sets them apart from every person,” she says.

Their Bibles aren’t like typical Bibles. One of their latest editions doesn’t have the word “Bible” anywhere on the front and is a New English Translation of the Book of John with a mustached man in aviators on the cover.

“Does Jesus really love porn stars?” the opening page asks. “Absolutely. Now, that may go against what you thought about Jesus, but it’s true. You see Jesus loves porn stars as much as he loves pastors, soccer moms, liars, thieves and prostitutes. In his eyes, we are all the same.”

“It’s fun; it’s provocative,” says Craig Gross, founder of XXXchurch. “You stop in your tracks … and then you have all these Bibles in front of you.”

Several years after encountering XXXchurch, things changed for Ruiz when a friend invited her to a church in San Diego. “I was invited to church and I felt the love of God,” she says. She brought a Bible with her on a flight from San Diego to Las Vegas, where she was going to shoot another film, started reading, and she knew it was time to leave. “I knew it was my last scene,” she says.

When she told the director in Las Vegas she was done, “He didn’t believe me,” she says, but, “here I am seven months later with a completely turned heart and have not looked back.”

Ruiz changed her phone number, deleted her Twitter account with more than 80,000 followers, and didn’t tell anyone where she was going. Not a single person from the industry ever called her or reached out to see what happened, she says. “Funny thing is, a lot of those men and women knew my real name and could have sought me out on Facebook, but they didn’t.”

She isn’t the first woman to leave porn for God. Shelley Lubben left the industry, became a chaplain, and founded Pink Cross in 2005. It’s a charity that provides outreach and help to those wanting to leave the industry. “I’m a women with a past and I’m not proud of it, but the Lord has called me to come up publicly and tell my story. That wasn’t easy,” she said to a church group in 2010. Lubben’s efforts have led to helping other women leave as well.

XXXchurch provides resources to people addicted to porn and those who work in the adult industry. “I joke about being the porn pastor, but it’s the opportunity I’ve been given,” Gross, 37, says.

He sees porn as one of the great problems facing youth today. “Youth in the church today have to work really hard to avoid porn,” he says, noting that when he was growing up, you had to work really hard to find it. “I think it’s a misrepresentation of sex. It’s creating this idea that sex is something I don’t really think it is.” Studies have shown the effects of porn include couples losing interest in sex and a higher rate of extramarital affairs.

John Gara / BuzzFeed

While in front of the camera or the fans, porn stars often say they got into the business because of how much they love sex, but that’s them playing their character, Ruiz says. Girls usually get into porn because they’re “searching for love,” or for the money.

“I’m being told I’m beautiful and getting attention.” But it wears off fast. “In the beginning, I felt beautiful. I felt like I found my self-worth. And after a while I felt destroyed,” she told The View Monday.

“It was torture for seven years. I was miserable, I was lonely.” She eventually turned to drugs and alcohol, and attempted suicide. “I knew I wanted out, but I didn’t know how to get out.”

There are a number of factors that keep porn stars from leaving the industry, including money. It’s difficult to find a 9-to-5 office job that can replace the sort of income the adult industry offers. Former adult entertainers also have a hole in their résumé that can be difficult to explain.

“What do you write on your résumé? Who’s ever going to hire me? I never felt like I would ever amount to anything,” she says.

Not having anywhere to go also keeps performers from leaving. According to a page in XXXchurch’s Bible, “In many cases, the families of the performers disowned them when they started doing porn. The families said, ‘You have no one and it’s your fault.’ The porn industry said, ‘You have no one and it’s your fault.’ They were stranded by two groups that despised each other yet agreed, ‘It was the performer’s fault.’”

Religion can offer those in the industry a way out. “A lot of porn stars believe in God. The majority do,” porn star Ron Jeremy told a local news station after debating XXXchurch’s Gross at a church in Hudsonville, Michigan, last year. Religious groups can provide the love and hope these performers need to finally leave when no one else will.

Ruiz has since moved in with her dad and got a job working for a limousine service in San Diego. She says her family is excited for her. “I thought they supported me when I was in the industry, but now the truth comes out,” she says. It’s been a lifestyle change, but she calls the last seven months “the most amazing seven months of my life.”

“I value myself now, and I didn’t before.”

Ruiz says she’s fine being known as the former porn star who found Jesus for now. She made a video for XXXchurch talking about her experience, appeared on The View Monday, and has a book in the works.

Two weeks ago she went back to her first convention since leaving the industry. People asked how she managed to get out, and one friend confessed she had been considering leaving as well. “One week later, she quit the industry and gave her life to Jesus. I was beyond excited for her. Her life changed instantly. She went from wanting to commit suicide the night prior to having the biggest smile of joy on her face,” Ruiz says. “God is good.”

Ruiz says she wants to help other girls who want out of the industry, and hopes to be a full-time minister one day.

“Years from now, I just never want to be labeled,” she says.

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