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Brock Banks: From Drag Queen to Adult Movie Star to HIV Advocate

Photo by Alvaro Masa

Banks speaks candidly on the challenges facing adult performers living with HIV.

When I came out, I was about 17 years old and my family wasn’t super accepting. I kind of ventured off on my own in Miami. I ended up in a bind where I didn’t really have a stable place to stay, and that’s when I met TP [Total Package] Lords, who became my drag mother. One day after the club I was stressed out about where I would sleep and I ended up living with her for a year. She never asked me for any rent or anything; she actually helped me in getting gigs and taught me how to do drag properly.

Before I met her, I had worked at this bar on South Beach called the Palace. I worked there for maybe a year, and there’s this party they do once a year called the Turnabout. Everyone gets into drag for it, and even though I didn’t want to do it, it was a huge moneymaker. So I decided to go all out and hired a girl to do my makeup and I did a full show. The moment that spotlight hit me I became hooked, like this was what I was living for. But when I met TP, she took me under her wing and showed me what was what because my performances were great, but the look was not.

I did drag for eight years under the name Alyssa Lords and became one of the top queens in Florida. Then I moved to New Jersey and then New York. I took a break, and when I got sober, I started back. That’s how I met Boomer Banks back in 2015. He was my biggest cheerleader for a while and would film all my gigs and everything. Around this time I enrolled in a beauty school because I always loved wigs. That took me like six months, and I applied and got a job at one of the top salons in Manhattan for five years. One day I woke up and said, “I’m so sick of working so hard and not being happy with my life” — like my quality of life with being able to travel, and financial stuff. So I reached out to Boomer and people like Austin Wolf and they told me everything about getting into porn. And then it just skyrocketed really quickly.

I became HIV-positive in 2012 while I was still living in Miami. Part of the reason that I left Miami was I was trying to run from it. In Miami, still today, there’s a lot of stigma in the Latin community around being positive. A lot of my friends there hide it, or if I talk about it they get very uncomfortable. When I was 22, one of my best friends seroconverted and swore me to secrecy. For years I was the only one who knew he was positive. It was shocking to me because I saw the way that he maneuvered with people sexually and I knew he wasn’t disclosing to people or going to the doctor and taking care of himself. When I seroconverted I went the opposite direction and just stopped having sex for like nine months.

The reason that I’m so vocal on social media is because I know that I’m reaching people that I normally would not be able to reach. So people who are not in my circle or maybe are even in other countries, I’m able to talk to those people when I talk about being positive. I’m thinking about people like me, when I showed up somewhere and found out I was positive and just got given a pamphlet and no one really talked to me. I was super scared, but then I didn’t do anything to make sure I was healthy. So I’m constantly thinking about how do I talk about stuff in a way that helps someone, even if I’m joking around.

It’s difficult to get work with studios in the porn industry if you’re positive. It doesn’t matter if you’re undetectable or not, a lot of studios won’t hire us to work with models who are not positive. It’s not every studio — that’s part of the reason I like to work with CockyBoys, because they are a consent studio (where a performer signs a waiver that they knowingly consent to a scene with an HIV-positive partner) — but most studios are owned by straight people and the education level in that community is still very, very, low. There’s still this stigma that HIV is this gay disease and straight people don’t want to accept the fact that it’s not and we’re actually not the number 1 group of people living with HIV. But that impacted me when I started my studio career because I have way less options than most people do when it comes to scene partners and it’s not coming from models, it’s coming from the people hiring us.

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