real life

Inside the final days of August Ames, the porn star found dead at 23.

The following deals with suicide. For 24-hour crisis support, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

On January 11, 2018, nearly five weeks after porn star August Ames took her own life, a tweet appeared on her account. There was no credit, no explanation. Just a link and two words: “The truth”.

The link led to a lengthy statement penned by the 23-year-old’s porn producer husband, Kevin Moore. “I write this to make it crystal clear: Bullying took her life,” he wrote. “If the harassment had not occurred, she would be alive today.”

The Canadian woman’s body had been found on December 7 in a public park, roughly 20 minutes from her home in Camarillo, California. Her death came just days after she’d been targeted on social media, accused of homophobia for publicly refusing to work with a male porn actor who’d recently performed in same-sex scenes. The refusal, she wrote, was out of concern for her sexual health.

“Whichever (lady) performer is replacing me tomorrow for @EroticaXNews, you’re shooting with a guy who has shot gay porn, just to let cha know,” she wrote. “BS is all I can say. Do agents really not care about who they’re representing? #ladirect I do my homework for my body.” [sic]

The backlash was swift and savage, but she doubled down: “I don’t have anything to apologize for! Apologizing for taking extra steps to ensue that my body stays safe? F*** you guys attacking me when none of my intentions were malicious. I f***ing love the gay community! What the f*** ever! I CHOOSE who I have inside my body. No hate.”

Three days before her death, one final message: “F*** y’all.”

August Ames and her husband Kevin Moore. Image: Getty.

August's death wasn't an isolated one; she was among four young porn performers to have died in the space of three months. But none of those cases received nearly as much attention as hers.

Noting that her colleagues had publicly piled on her - some brutally - leading up to her death, mainstream media hungrily strung together narratives about online bullying, call-out culture and porn star feuds. But as journalist Jon Ronson untangles in The Last Days of August, an investigative podcast for Audible, it wasn't that simple.

Who was August Ames?

As the podcast charts, August Ames - real name Mercedes Grabowski - had a loving family back home in her native Canada. She was especially close with her brother, James, and spoke often with her mother, who she said was "totally fine" with her decision to move to the US and enter the industry at the age of 19.

Shortly after arriving in California, she met and fell for Kevin Moore, and they were married in 2016.

By the time of her death, she had close to 300 credits to her name and had been nominated for multiple AVN Awards - the industry's most coveted prize.

But off camera, August was struggling.

The Nova Scotian was a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and lived with bi-polar disorder. As she told the Holly Randall Unfiltered podcast just weeks before her death, "[The abuse] was just awful. It's still recent where I have to keep myself occupied or else I start thinking about all that sh*t and then I fall into a depression." She added that she hated therapy, and struggled to find an industry-friendly therapist, one who didn't treat her profession as a symptom.

LISTEN: Mamamia OutLoud look at the fascination with true crime... (Post continues below.)

What led to August Ames' death?

In his quest for answers, Ronson interviews August's colleagues, friends, family, including husband Kevin Moore, as well as the two porn performers accused of spearheading the social media pile-on.

The podcast uncovers certain triggers and tipping points, professional and personal - some innocuous, others harrowing. It interrogates her relationship with her father, her mental health, on-set violence, marginalisation of sex workers, probes her relationship with her husband - a man accused of being controlling, who continues to pin her death on those who taunted her online. (Since the podcast's launch last month, he's been uncharacteristically quiet on social media.)

But in doing so, the podcast acknowledges a crucial truth that Moore can't quite see through his grief: that suicide is complex, and never, ever inevitable.

"Obviously when somebody takes their lives, they do it for a multitude of very complicated reasons," Ronson told Rolling Stone. "We had stumbled into a story where what we had to do was figure out the truth of why August died. We look at the huge things and the very small, subtle, nuanced, psychological things that contributed to her death. I can hope that people can see the humanness of that."


As he tweeted...

You can listen to The Last Days of August on Audible.

Lifeline: 13 11 14.

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