The AVN convention floor must be one of the most chaotic places in the world—porn stars, cam girls and fetish models all surrounded by thousands of palpitating fans trying to get just a little closer. But many stories above, on the fourteenth floor of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, there’s the relaxed, playful vibe of a slumber party: A blonde in sweatpants gets her “big hair” blown out; a woman glides out of the massage room, smelling faintly of scented oil with a serene expression on her face; a few more ladies cluster around a table piled with tiny sandwiches, petite salads and pink-frosted cupcakes.
The baked treats are the trademark of The Cupcake Girls, who rent the suite each year during the convention. The Cupcake Girls aren’t a hip adult video company but a nonprofit offering members of the adult entertainment industry medical referrals, tax assistance, legal advice—or just a cupcake and a willingness to listen. It began when Joy Hoover started visiting strip clubs and brothels in the Las Vegas area and offering cupcakes to the women working there. Nearly a decade later, The Cupcake Girls have a network of providers offering support to those in the adult industry, as well as assistance to those affected by sex trafficking.
Every year, in collaboration with AVN, The Cupcake Girls host a fully-stocked suite for performers. There, they can get free hairstyling, makeup or massages, as well as whatever else they might need, whether it’s a spot to kick off the stilettos and check email or a referral for a dentist to look at their kids teeth.
Vegas Seven spoke to Joy Hoover, founder of The Cupcake Girls, and cam girl Ela Darling, who utilizes their services, about how the nonprofit works with the sex industry.
How did Cupcake Girls get started?
Joy: I’m a hair and makeup artist by profession. I was doing hair and makeup nine years ago here at the show and I realized that, in this industry, there’s no resource organization that doesn’t have an agenda. We started officially seven years ago as The Cupcake Girls. Our goal was just to listen to the industry, understand the needs that they have and reach out to the community to provide resources. We started hearing, “Hey, I need a doctor, I need a dentist, I need a lawyer, I need a therapist. I have kids and I need family services or diapers or whatever.” So as the needs grew we started finding new partners. Now in Vegas we have 47 partners. All of our partners either do pro bono work or [have] discounted prices for our clients. It’s been really amazing to see Las Vegas champion our cause.
Ela: If you need some kind of help, whether its medical or mental health, legal or child care, they will find you someone who’s not going to use your work against you, who’s not going to pathologize your choice to be a sex worker. They get it.
Joy Hoover, founder of The Cupcake Girls, and cam girl Ela Darling | Photography by Krystal Ramierz
The convention floor is so crazy, but up here it’s completely different.
Joy: We have security out front. We want to make sure the performers know they are safe and they can really relax. The goal is to walk in and right away feel good. There’s bright colors, fun music, friendly faces, food. … We always tell them: Even if you don’t need your hair and makeup done, you can always come up here and charge your phone or get a snack or just have a quiet space. No one’s going to be bugging you or making you talk or taking photos.
Ela: Every year it’s my saving grace. It’s so overwhelming being at AVN. … You’re surrounded by industry, it’s like being on a constant go-see. You have to be on. You have to wake up early, you’re signing all day, you go to parties at night. … So it’s really nice to have a place where you can just be away from it all. You walk in there and they want to know how you’re doing, they want to make you a smoothie. “You want some coffee? Do you want to get your hair done?” [It’s] having someone to talk to, people who genuinely want know how you’re doing—not because they want to make money off of you, not because they want to fuck you, but because they genuinely care about you.
The Cupcake Girls help people out with medical referrals, legal advice, but also hair and makeup. Some of those things may seem more trivial than the others, but how do they work together?
Joy: As professionals, as people who are boss babes in the industry, we can underestimate our need for self-care. … The girls who went down on the floor to invite up [other women], they said a few times performers got the invitation [and], literally, they stopped in their tracks and their eyes almost welled up with tears, [saying], “You did what for us? You have what for us?” It’s reminding them that there is still time for them this weekend.
There are quite a few performers who live in Las Vegas. Do you meet people here who are local that come back to you for services?
Joy: That’s why we’re here, to spread the word about The Cupcake Girls and that we have resources all year long … throughout the year, people are going to need medical, dental, legal [and] mental health resources, even tax advice. That’s one for the biggest goals of this weekend: We don’t want the relationship to end here. Our slogan is respect, resources and relationships, so our goal is to start with a cupcake and build that relationship. It’s about respect as a human being, then providing any resources they need. And we’re here for them, whether it’s in a crisis or if they just need a referral.