3. Run the show
Here's a key part of Daniels' apparent media mastery: She's a
performer turned auteur. She has a director's ability to see the
world through a lens, to see a narrative as a framed scene—to
see it as viewers will see it.
The Internet Adult Film Directory, the adult industry's version
of IMDb, cites her as the director of 91 films, including 2007's
"Operation: Desert Stormy" and 2017's "Scandalous." She has
frequently appeared in the films she directs.
In 2016, New York magazine's The Cut blog, in a post titled
"The Female Porn Director Winning
All the Awards," called her that year's "most honored
director"—of any gender—in the adult industry. "For
years everyone was like, 'Stormy Daniels, she's the best female
director,' " she told The Cut's Lissa Townsend Rodgers.
"That's always bugged me. What does my vagina have to do with
directing? ... Why can't I just be one of the best directors?"
Rodgers wrote that "as a director, she has ambitions beyond the
usual vignettes of seemingly random strangers banging each other in
half-furnished condos. Her films have character, dialogue, plot,
and setting." They include a three-hour-long western, "Wanted," in
2015, which Wicked Pictures hyped as an "epic saga set in 1879 in
Diablo City, Arizona—a hard town full of hard people."
Rodgers noted that the flick included a "smutty sheriff" and
"hooker with a heart of gold."
Think of the Daniels-versus-Trump legal battle as, so far, a
three-month-long epic saga set in 2018 in, partly, Washington,
D.C.—a hard town full of hard people (and a smutty sheriff,
so to speak). It's another Stormy Daniels production—while an
unscripted, unfiltered reality-TV star squirms in the White House
as his legal team fumbles.
4. Control the reveal
"Avenatti's approach to this story: Drip, drip, drip."
That's how CNN Senior Media Correspondent Brian Stelter summed
up Daniels lawyer Michael Avenatti's uncanny ability to keep his
client's narrative in the news with an incremental reveal of
additional aspects of the drama.
Not showing everything you've got right away is a solid
strategy, for sure. It's also the foundational principle of
stripping, something Daniels has been doing since 1996. She
recently extended her current Make America Horny Again tour, which
includes strip-club appearances, through at least November.
But it only works as a press strategy until people feel they're
being played. Here's Stelter, one day after his "drip" observation:
"Is there a brewing backlash against Avenatti's almost too savvy
Daniels and Avenatti have built their media phenomenon based on
the slow reveal, but eventually they need to deliver what they've
been slyly promising.
5. Master social media
"The thing that is the most noticeable about Stormy, especially
on Twitter, is that the usual methods that the internet has of
shaming and mocking have little to no effect on her," Brian Watson,
author of "Annals of
Pornographie, How Porn Became Bad," tells Ad Age. "I'm sure
much of this has to do with her understanding of Twitter as a
platform." But even pre-Twitter—she joined in February 2009,
a month before Donald Trump—he says she had "a history of not
having any shame and being willing to engage with and mock haters,
to throw water back in their face."
This has become an endless source of amusement for the media.
Per The Daily Beast: "Stormy
Daniels absolutely slays Trump trolls on Twitter." Per The
Washington Post: "For Stormy
Daniels, swatting away Twitter trolls is a work of art." The
Post cites, among other responses, this one to a hater who called
her a "scanc": "The correct spelling is 'skank'... at least
according to my business card."
As of this writing, her most recent response to a hater was to
one who wrote on Twitter: "@StormyDaniels Hi are you the American
whore who wont keep your legs shut or your mouth." "Yes, I am,"
she tweeted. "Nice to meet
6. Stay on message
Daniels' unapologetic approach has made her the ideal opponent
for (notoriously unapologetic) Trump himself, many have noted. But
she's also entirely unlike Trump in that she knows how to pick her
battles—and knows which weapons to deploy at the right
While the president attacks 99 percent of his opponents by
mercilessly strafing them in speeches, sound bites and tweets (and
has a one-size-fits-all approach to firebombing Democrats,
disobedient Republicans, Gold Star families, war heroes, etc.),
Daniels fends off her online critics with self-deprecating humor,
and has made a point of refraining from saying anything bad about
the president himself—which has probably kept him from
retaliating and going after her personally. (History tells us that
Trump finds it impossible to bite his tongue—or keep his
thumbs still—when criticized.)
Any negative messaging that's come out of the Daniels campaign
(let's just call it that for a moment, for the sake of argument)
has come courtesy of her campaign manager (er, lawyer) Avenatti.
And Avenatti has mostly devoted his time not to attacking Trump,
but to mocking the already widely mocked Team Trump legal strategy
regarding Daniels, especially the actions of Trump attorney Cohen
and his hush money.
Cohen has essentially said that Daniels is lying, which prompted
Daniels to file a defamation suit against him this week. But in
mid-March, he filed a claim in federal court maintaining that
because Daniels violated her NDA, he'll seek at least $20 million
from her—$1 million per (unspecified) breach. So ... she's
making it all up and she's revealing confidential, factual
things about her relationship with Trump that she's not supposed to
be revealing? What?
Those who say that Daniels is a worthy opponent for Trump miss
the fact that she's not actually treating him like an opponent.
She's only directly going after those who attack her
credibility—and even then, she leaves the street-fighting to
Avenatti as she maintains her (relatively) respectable position
above it all. In other words, she outclasses the president.
7. Know your power
As Daniels tells it, part of her connection with Trump had to do
with the fact that she called him out on his narcissism and
self-regard, teasingly spanking him with a copy of Trump magazine
because he wouldn't stop talking about himself. He was a bad boy,
she mock-punished him for it and he appreciated the discipline.
Let's return for a moment to Life Before Trump—and
specifically to that 10-year-old HotMovies interview with Daniels.
Among the safe-for-work passages is this wry exchange that closes
out the brief Q&A:
Q: Will you respect me in the morning?
A: Absolutely not.
Q: You're not going to call are you?
Q: Can we still be friends?
A: Eh ... probably not.
That sense of humor, that sort of sensibility—the
seductress who grasps the absurd subtexts of human desire, lust,
neediness—might just be the most important hallmark of the
Stormy Daniels persona and brand.
Watson, the porn historian, sees a continuum between Daniels'
early (and continuing) work as a stripper, her porn career and her
current role in the American body politic.
"Stripping and burlesque—and even porn,
ultimately—overlap significantly with parody, satire and
thumbing your nose at political, social and religious elites," he
says. "And from the very beginning, pornography was essentially a
way of satirizing the 'proper' public sphere."
Meanwhile, President Donald J. Trump is arguably the ultimate
satire—and rejection—of the proper public sphere. He's
cheerfully brought vulgarity to the highest office in the land and,
come to think of it, has reconfigured American politics as a form
of porn, squarely in the S&M genre, in which someone in the
White House is always about to get publicly humiliated.
It took Daniels, porn star and pornographer, to help us all get
in touch with what governance these days is really