This post deals with child exploitation and themes of mental health and might be triggering for some readers.
Traci Lords was one of the biggest names in X-rated movies in the 1980s. She starred in a string of them, with titles including Beverly Hills Copulator and Porn In The U.S.A.
The adult industry was rocked to its core in 1986 when it was revealed that only one of her movies – Traci, I Love You – had been made when Lords was over the age of 18. That meant that every other one was, legally, child porn.
How could this have happened? A new podcast, Once Upon A Time In The Valley, dives deep into the story, interviewing many of the major players – but not Lords herself.
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Traci Lords was born Nora Kuzma in the small town of Steubenville, Ohio, in May 1968. Her father was a steelworker
“He drank a lot and he was somebody that was very angry, that had a really violent temper,” Lords told Larry King Live in 2003.
When her parents’ relationship broke up, and her mother started studying as well as working, the young Lords was left on her own a lot. At the age of 10, she developed a crush on a 16-year-old boy. Lords says one day, when they were alone in a field, he raped her.
“The whole trust issue and what that does to a child, I think it's so destructive,” she explained to Larry King. “At least in my case, and from what I understand, it's a pretty typical reaction to blame yourself for everything that's happened.”
Lords moved to California with her mother and her mother’s new boyfriend. There was more sexual abuse and Lords’ living situation became very unstable.
At the age of 15, she was looking for work. Her mother’s boyfriend introduced her to a friend who gave her a birth certificate in the name of Kristie Nussman, born six years before her. Soon, Lords had ID showing that she was 21 years old. Looking for work, she came across a newspaper ad looking for models. Her mother’s boyfriend drove her to an interview with a casting agent for the porn industry called Jim South.