Austin-area resident Hannah likes to say she's an accountant in two ways: she's finishing up her master's in accounting, but she often uses the euphemistic term to describe her role as a creator on subscription site OnlyFans as well.
OnlyFans, which mostly gained popularity from explicit user-created content, is a major source of income for many. It's made thousands for Austinites like Laura Lux, who has over 1 million Instagram followers after gaining fame on the site, and is a significant revenue stream for many others including Hannah, who asked her last name not be used to protect her privacy as a creator. But the site left many of its users reeling after it announced it would ban pornographic content from its creators, later suspending the ban less than a week after.
Hannah's content doesn't really fit under the definition of pornography, she says—she mostly posts lingerie photos—but the decision still left a slightly bitter taste in her mouth as she realized other sites may be more accommodating to the needs of their creators. "This just opened my eyes more to more sites that also could be more mindful of sex workers and how policies change," Hannah said.
OnlyFans founder and CEO Tim Stokely said the ban, which was scheduled to go into effect on July 1, was made because banks including JP Morgan Chase, Bank of New York Mellon and the UK's Metro Bank were no longer allowing OnlyFans to pay creators.
Thank you to everyone for making your voices heard.
We have secured assurances necessary to support our diverse creator community and have suspended the planned October 1 policy change.
OnlyFans stands for inclusion and we will continue to provide a home for all creators.
— OnlyFans (@OnlyFans) August 25, 2021
But this isn't the first time sex workers have been shunned or discarded despite making much of the revenue for big-name companies, said Noor ZK of the Sex Workers Outreach Project of Austin.
A ban on the site could be devastating for many, ZK said. While Hannah, who left the site for a few months and has made around $300 in her first month back, doesn't rely on OnlyFans as her primary source of income, many others do. Some have been part of the community for years, cultivating a large following and posting thousands of photos and videos to their profile.
"These policy changes intentionally target sex workers to prevent us from having access to survival, and ultimately to force us out of the industry," ZK said. "For survival sex workers, for whom sex work is our only access to income, this is literally life-threatening."
Austin-area OnlyFans creators say there might be better alternatives to the site for their content. (Shutterstock)
OnlyFans certainly has brand recognition—the London-based site boomed during the pandemic and rose to $2.4 billion in transactions in 2020—but some are seeking other alternatives. Hannah knows many sex workers in her support groups who have already jumped ship. Some already had issues with payment on the site, while others are looking for more supportive ownership. But ZK said that every site comes with its challenges given the nature and stigma of their work.
"These sites lure workers with false promises but ultimately are not equipped to handle their safety, protect their privacy or prevent similar payment processing outcomes," ZK said.
Although the ban has been lifted, ZK said it serves as a reminder that support for sex workers is fleeting and can only be combated with outreach and donations as well as a stronger sense of community within the industry.
"The best thing that can come of this is for us to create stronger networks of solidarity within our industry... and uplift each other," ZK said.
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East Austin's exclusive club, The Pershing, brings luxury and comfort to Austin's most influential residents
A local musician, a comedian and a tech startup CEO all walk into a bar. It's not in a high rise or even on the new Music Lane like Soho House, instead, it's in an unassuming warehouse-like building built on an old home and lumber barn in East Austin.
The Pershing, a low-profile but highly-coveted luxury club tucked away on East 5th Street and Pedernales, is the watering hole of some of Austin's most famous creatives and elites. It's even been said to be the host of a certain business executive with a keen interest in cryptocurrency.
The Pershing likes to air on the side of mystery. The "Keepers of the Austin Flame," as they call their members, can reach out to management to show interest, then they are approved based on their involvement with the community. To officially become a member, the club charges an undisclosed fee. That doesn't mean they aren't inclusive though, General Manager Kyle Lauterbach said; the club just wants to create a family.
"There's two things that I think are great for somebody that wants to belong to this space," Lauterbach said. "They see a value in the community that we're building, and they're somebody that's creating positive change. That's it."
Opening in 2018, the club is named after the neighborhood in which it was originally built, and retained the original three-story house and barn structures. The club has since slowly filled to nearly 350 members (nearing capacity) mainly by word of mouth.
Here's a look at the club-slash-private concert hall that nearly 350 of Austin's most influential residents call home.
The Pershing's clubhouse mixes luxury with comfort. Downstairs, bartenders greet members by first name from behind a dark marble bar. The bar itself is stocked with sustainable liquor brands hand-selected by Director of Beverage Adam Bryan, who "helped bring craft cocktails to Austin" and permanently changed the way business development director Dannye Donnell views martinis.
As members venture farther into the space, they enter several unique rooms, each with their own unique flavor. Dark greens, golds and browns give the space a sophisticated feel. A poker room sits just upstairs; Donnell said plenty of banter is found between guests after business hours. The white room, which Donnell said is the most popular, gives the feel of being outside without the oppressive summer heat.
There are spaces for companies to work throughout with organizations often renting out the conference room to host events throughout the day. Once laptops are shut off, however—Lauterbach says at about 5 p.m.—members can head up a ladder to the hookah lounge, the ultimate child's fort decked out with floor pillows galore.
"I've had members eat their lunch here and do their work for a little bit, call friends over for dinner and play poker and next thing they know it's one in the morning," Lauterbach said. "It's really a place you can spend several hours of your day and not feel stuck."
Across the courtyard is the gallery hall, a private concert venue converted from the property's old barn. Gary Clark Jr., who is also a member, has performed in this space, as have other famous musicians and members of local artist collective Black Fret. The club has branched out, too, introducing comedy shows and new genres to the space every week.
Because many members are creatives themselves, Lauterbach said that every experiential concert is so absorbed by its audience that the entire space could hear a chip drop.
"It goes to show how much your members care about music when you walk in there and it's completely silent," Lauterbach said. "People are so dialed in."
The outdoor courtyard is host to evening fun in the summer. The club hosts Tiki Thursdays every week—when Austonia visited, Donnell was out finding coconuts, and Lauterbach was wearing a festive Hawaiian shirt.
During the pandemic, the club was only closed for two business days, thanks to innovative planning from Lauterbach. Lauterbach introduced "Ten Foot Happy Hours" in the summer, installed UVC air sanitation systems, and even offered pina coladas while members waited for their COVID test, which was offered daily. When Lauterbach noticed that many service workers were overlooked during early vaccination, the club even offered a vaccine drive that saw over 4,000 in the industry get vaccinated.
"We're passionate about helping with vaccination—the service industry really got brushed over, (and) they were some of the most vulnerable people in this timeframe," Lauterbach said.
While the club is partnered with other clubs across the world and many hotels within the city, a slate of new upgrades will allow the club to become a self-sufficient haven.
In 2022, the club will break ground for plans including a swimming pool, courtyard gardens, private cabanas, co-working spaces, and private casitas for residents to stay. A new steam room and sauna will be introduced and outdoor spaces will expand as well.
While head chef Chris Bissell is now operating his fine dining out of a food truck in true Austin fashion, the club will also begin work on a new kitchen in July to expand event capabilities.
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Flights may be in high demand, but just as many people are taking to the road as they look for their first post-COVID vacation this summer.
For those in Texas, road-tripping may be easier than you'd think: the state was ranked second-best for road-tripping this summer in a WalletHub study. According to the personal finance site, over two-thirds of people in the U.S. are taking a vacation this summer, and 59% of people said they'd rather drive than fly.
Based on 33 key metrics, Texas was just behind New York as the best state to road trip through.
With the fourth-most attractions, third-lowest gas prices and ninth-lowest cost, Texas's sprawling countryside provides more bang-for-your-buck journeying through the Lone Star State. It was also found to have the most restaurants per capita of any other state in a previous WalletHub study.
With the fourth-most attractions, road trippers are bound to find something to see from West Texas' desert beauty to South Padre Island's esteemed beaches. Just make sure to bring a friend: the state ranked 34th in overall safety.
From camping to city hopping, Texas is packed with natural wonders and modern fun sure to entertain any vacation planners as the summer heats up.
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As Hollywood film production studios follow big tech companies to Austin, three Hollywood actresses decided to move their families from Tinseltown to the Texas capital at the height of the pandemic.
As auditions and red carpet events were canceled or moved online, stars Becca Tobin, Haylie Duff and Jaymie-Lynn Sigler looked up and realized they had no need to be in the city they had moved to decades ago.
Tobin's claim to fame is her role as Kitty Wilde on Glee, while Haylie Duff, sister to Hillary Duff, has been in the industry since she was a teenager and played as Summer Wheatley in Napoleon Dynamite. Sigler is best known as Meadow Soprano in the television series the Sopranos. All of them have lived in Hollywood since they were in their 20s.
The three, who had banded together to form a "quaranteam" among their families, were looking for a city that provided a breath of fresh air and better quality of life for their families.
The crew looked at Atlanta and Nashville but found the best of both worlds in Austin, leaving California alongside over 180,000 others from their home state. They were looking for a change in pace, a focus on life, and more bang-for-your-buck pricing, and they found it in their new neighborhood about 25 minutes northwest of downtown. "I just feel like we're taking a big, deep breath since we got here," Sigler told the New York Times
With "Don't California My Texas" a popular slogan among disgruntled Austinites, Tobin said it's no surprise that some neighbors haven't approved of her move to the city. Still, there's a reason that Austin continues to expand while California suffered a population loss for the first time in its history last year. The city continues to be a lucrative option that gives a better quality of life for lower prices than many places around the country.
To help assimilate and contribute to her community, Tobin told the New York Times she's been active in local elections and helped donate to causes involving homelessness and abortion.
"I get it, they don't want us to L.A. their Austin," Tobin said. "My husband and I personally are going to really try to do our best to help out in the community and get involved where we can."
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