On Only Fans, content creators find financial lifelines and independence

During the pandemic, some have turned to the subscription platform and found they could make thousands a month offering a peek into their intimate lives. “OnlyFans: $elling Sexy” is streaming on Hulu.
10:22 | 02/11/21

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Transcript for On Only Fans, content creators find financial lifelines and independence
Roll, point out, boom. Shooter ready, go ahead. Reporter: Like many of us, Navy veteran Justin Avery palm's 2020 wasn't going as planned. I was feeling pretty good the beginning of March. I just got a new job. Reporter: As businesses shuttered across the nation, he was furloughed from his job. He started training to become an armed guard while he looked for work. Tell me about that second week of March. The country shuts down, the world shuts down. What's going through your head? What happens? It kind of happened really quickly. Like way quicker than I thought. Just to go from having everything in my life planned and everything going well, to now I don't have a job, I don't know where my next source of income's coming from, I don't really have any stability anymore. Reporter: Looking for a way to get by, Justin turned to an emerging social media platform, only fans. Guess I'm going to start taking my clothes off. Reporter: Only fans is a subscription-based platform where peoplepy a monthly fee. In exchange users get access to the content on a creator's main feed. You can message them, make yourself known through tips, even request custom content specifically for you. The site keeps 20%. And the creator takes home the rest. For those who have never heard of it, what is only fans? Only fans in its simplest sense is kind of like Instagram but for nudes. Showing off your art, creativity. What content do you post? If I'm pulling up your page, what can I expect to see? I post pretty explicit content because I like to think like a fan, what would I expect if I were to purchase someone's subscription fee? What would I be disappointed by or what would I be happy about? Reporter: He says he's pulling in about $4,000 every month. When was that moment that you realized your only fans page could actually an lucrative source of income? When I started it, the first month, I was like, well, if I don't make this certain amount, I'm going to stop the platform, I'll just quit. That first month was probably the best thing ever. I was like, wow, I have nothing to worry about now whatsoever. Even if my income stopped right now, I would be way better off than waiting for unemployment to come through, or waiting for a stimulus check to come through, you know? Who knows when that's going to be. But this only fans income is very real and it's very quick and it's right now. Reporter: That hustle an only fans meteoric rise into the mainstream now explored in a new hulu documentary "Only fans, selling sexy" from ABC news originals. Only fans is massively a part of the pop culture zeitgeist right now. Cardi B is on the platform, Chris brown. Why are you tipping this rich I think I'm going to start a only fans. Please do it, Loni love! Michael B. Jordan's moustache. His name's Murphy, has an only fans account. Bella Thorne is probably the most infamous celebrity to join only fans. Bella? I'm getting angry talking on about it. Big-name star, changed it so dramatically. My income went like this, 2018, 2019, 2020! Reporter: The site, when started in 2016, has seen a rapid rise. With 500,000 new users now joining daily. It has over 100 million users and over 1 million creators. Only fans has really boomed during the pandemic. I think people are staying at home more and they're bored and they're needing more entertainment. People are also needing additional sources of income. And so both of those forces have converged on only fans. Reporter: "New York Times" reporter Gillian Friedman recently chronicled the growing number of women joining only fans during the covid crisis. Something I started noticing as I was reporting, that a lot of women I saw posting on Twitter, men as well, saying they were opening only fans accounts because they had lost jobs during the pandemic. That they were using that as a way to support their families, as a way to pay rent, as a way to supplement their unemployment income that they were getting. It occurred to me a lot of the people saying they were doing this had not been on only fans before. Reporter: One of those who Friedman talked, to 24-year-old Savannah benevitez. I was running out of money, I had $300 left. My car payment is $300. I had heard of only fans. I had thought about it for a while, but I just couldn't build up the courage to do it. I'm like, I need to put food in my son's mouth, I need to do something. Reporter: The single mom lost her job last summer, after struggling to find other work, turned to onlyfans. Talk about that first time you posted. What was going through your head? Were you nervous? It was a picture I had posted on Instagram. I had made like $700 in 20 minutes. And I was like, oh my god, this is my check that I'd made in two weeks. The feeling of relief, to know that I was able to feed my son off of just taking a picture, felt really good. What kind of content do you post? Most of the content I post on my onlyfans is things I would post on my regular page, on Instagram, and some not. It's not completely nude. I do like to wear lingerie or -- kind of more like -- like teasing. Reporter: Savannah says the money and the ability to work from home has been a lifeline. I got my own apartment. I had my own apartment before. But the one that I have now is way nicer than the one I had. I'm able to give my son his own room. I pay my bills months in advance. Reporter: Next door in Texas, winter mosley says onlyfans has afforded her the financial freedom she's always dreamed of. I started onlyfans in December of 2019 because I had gone viral a few times on Twitter, and people were just like in love with my body. Christmas time came around and I wasn't able to get my family anything. So I was like, okay, let me start this onlyfans. And that first night, I made about $1,300. And I'm like, this is insane. Reporter: Within two months of joining the site, winter quit her job as a corporate travel agent. Just weeks before much of the country shut down. At the time I was nervous. People losing their jobs, I probably should never quit. But ironically, I actually made more money that month during the lockdown. Like, that was my highest pay. Reporter: Mosley is featured in hulu's "Onlyfans" as she navigates how far to push her content. I'm nervous but not nervous at the same time, if that makes sense. My mom and I are very open with each other. My parents, they're not judgmental people. So anything that I do that's new, I talk to my mom about it. Like I never did a threesome before, so I wanted to get her opinion on it. Am I curious? Yes, I am. And I know I'm going to make money from it, so. I mean, I like your business mind. Right, right. That's what I appreciate. Talk to me a little bit about your relationship with your mom, and how she's kind of supported you through this. My mom has been very cool. I mean, her and I have been close my whole life. I've always been able to talk with her. I'm pretty sure once they watch this, people will be questioning my mother's mothering skills. But the thin is my parents did what they needed to do to raise me and instill morals and values, but I'm adult and I make my own decisions. She knows that. And both my parents want me to be happy, regardless of what I do. Reporter: Now after over a year she's made $170,000. It's been a really, really crazy journey. And I'm kind of excited. I never thought I could make this amount of money in my life. It's crazy. When you're going onlyfans, you have to go out and promote yourself and it's very difficult to do that when you've got a saturated landscape of people who have those large, large followings they're bringing to onlyfans. I think that's something that gets lost when people are just seeing the big headlines about how much money there is to be made on the platform. Reporter: The work is not only hard, itan come with real-world consequences. A lot of the critics we have talked to, there seems to be a lot of negativity. Do you experience that ever? There was a lot of, like, stigma starting on onlyfans. You know, normal societal pressures when it comes to anything sexual. When it comes down to it, am I comfortable enough with myself and my sexuality and the person that I am to do it? And additionally, is there a need? Then I think anyone in the same position, given the same situation, would probably choose very similar. People post pictures online all the time for free. The only difference is I'm getting paid for it. What are some of the negative comments that you have heard while being on the site? This is my favorite one. What are you going to do when your son finds out? Or, what kind of mom are you to post yourself like this? Reporter: For Savannah, the negativity rolls off. If anything, it's a reminder of the very reason she does it at all. I really like being a mom. I really do. That's my favorite thing in the world. And this gives me the chance to do that. Onlyfans, selling sexy, now streaming on hulu.

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