The “American Courtesan” project began on September 22, 2011, and it began with a single ad put on the internet to see if there were any other woman out there who would be willing to step out of the shadows and let the world see just who we were. I wanted to know if I was the only one out there who felt silenced….who knew deep down inside that we had to do something, if change were ever to occur. I had learned from my crew while filming inside Paddles in NYC that few had ever had access into our world and thus it was easy for the stigma and misunderstanding to occur. My ad was simple and not very detailed. I stated what I wanted to do and asked if anyone else out there was in for the journey. My first response came shortly after I posted, and it read:
“I left a message for you today and my name is Gina and I am on bigdoggie under RI, and on the ladies only forums, I saw your post this morning and I AM YOUR GIRL.”
After that, a letter ensued detailing her life. Gina speaks of being homeless at the age of 18 after leaving a 41 year old abusive husband who she had been married off to while still underage. Knowing she had no way to support herself, Gina left anyway in order to find a better life. Her story is the exact story that one would like to hear from a woman in this situation. The perfect fairy tale. She worked in this industry for a time, but she was determined to get out and did just that. She got out and raised a daughter while working for a couple philanthropic organizations. She specialized in working in group homes with retarded and autistic adults. Her whole life was dedicated to adding to others lives and raising her daughter. Life was good and she was happy.
But as with many in the US, in 2005 she was laid off. By 2007, she was still unemployed and lost her home in foreclosure. Because of circumstances Gina had to reluctantly make a heart wrenching decision and send her daughter to live with her parents, at which time, she returned to a life of escorting in order to send money in support of her daughter. And from there…..her life takes a turn. She recants what it was like to have a swat team break down her door and what was going though her mind as it happened. She talks about a judge ordering her to pay a hefty fine, while at the same time knowing that her only means of earning that money was to return to a life of prostitution and the cost if she didn’t? She would have to return to jail and surely it would affect her ability to see her child and it is clear that her daughter is Gina’s main reason for living. The sole reason that Gina worked so hard.
The day I met Gina, it was hard to believe that this Italian spitfire who looks like a cross between your typical soccer mom and Sophia Loren could have lived through what she did. Her bubbly personality and her very apparent love for her daughter was both engaging and endearing. Her heart and her passion undeniable. Today Gina still works and goes by the name “Gina in the morning” in a small Rhode Island town. She has become an advocate for us women in the industry, giving a voice to those of us who no longer can speak because of hatred for women like us in this world. She tracks the activity of those like the “Craigs List” killer and gives solace to some of those women’s families that few take the time to empathize with. For more about Gina check out her website at www.ginainthemorning.com