Today, We Are All Beauty Pageant Winners Who Did Amateur Porn

Melissa King shot her porn scene -- which, despite being all smiles for, she admits on-cam was done mostly for the money -- then probably figured she'd just get on with her life.
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Several years back I was out with some friends in Fort Lauderdale when I came across a porn star. No, not literally.

Our group had decided to go grab sushi at a popular place and as we approached the hostess stand to put our name in for a table, I basically froze in my tracks, my eyes suddenly widening and my gaze fixed directly in front of me. The girlfriend of one of my friends turned to me with a bemused look and tossed out a cliché that was actually perfectly appropriate: "What's the matter with you? You look like you've just seen a ghost." I was honestly speechless, because, as it turned out, it wasn't a ghost I was looking at but someone I'd recently seen naked. Having sex. Pretty damn well, I might add.

"I know that girl," I finally said, still a little dumbstruck. I then shook myself out of my daze, hurriedly dragged my friends off to the side, and explained that the hostess at the sushi restaurant -- the 20-something blonde with the pixie-cut and the tattoo around her bellybutton, visible because of the halter top she was wearing -- had done porn for an amateur website run out of South Florida. (They didn't bother asking how I knew this; they know me.) While my friend's girlfriend tried to get me to approach the hostess and bring up her possibly-secret identity, probably for no other reason than the group's entertainment, I shot it down in a hurry. Yeah, I was in a bit of a state of ecstatic shock -- the kind that I suppose can only come from actually being face-to-face with someone who has no idea that you were their voyeur at one point -- but the last thing I wanted to do was publicly embarrass someone who'd done nothing wrong objectively but still may have done something she regretted. Sure, I watched porn, but I was still kind of a gentleman -- I wasn't going to be a dick to this girl. The fact that she'd had sex on camera, on the Internet, didn't give me carte blanche to hassle her or potentially get her fired from her job.

So I said nothing. We had dinner. I admit that I watched her for a bit out of the corner of my eye. We all went home. Please try to contain yourself and refrain from asking the obvious question about what I did when I got back to my place.

I've been thinking about this little chance encounter quite a bit lately, given the trouble that Melissa King is going through. In case you've wisely unplugged yourself from the Internet over the past week or so, King is the 18-year-old beauty queen who was forced to resign as Miss Delaware Teen USA when it was revealed that she'd done a sex scene for an Internet site that specializes in amateur porn. At first, King denied that the girl in the scene was her, but on Monday the production company behind the site released another clip that must've knocked the wind out of a regret-filled King: It showed her reading a legal release stating that she was Melissa King and that she wasn't under the influence of drugs or alcohol and was making the decision to do porn of her own free will. In other words, it pretty much confirmed what many already knew. The girl on the Internet was definitely her.

There are all kinds of facets to this story and a thousand questions raised by it about who we are as a culture, how the Internet and social media feeds our need for personal celebrity, and what the mistakes of youth mean when proof of them is now as far away as your computer and can last forever.

Melissa King shot her porn scene -- which, despite being all smiles for, she admits on-cam was done mostly for the money -- then probably figured she'd just get on with her life. The life she'd planned on having before she decided to have sex on the Internet, basically dropping a landmine into her world that might remain hidden or might very well be stepped on at some point, blowing everything sky-high. It's almost impossible to imagine that as her career in the pageant circuit began to flourish and her dreams began to come true there wasn't always that pit in her stomach, the one that knew it could all end in a second, and, ironically, the more legitimately famous she became the stronger the possibility that her past indiscretion would be dug up and dragged through the streets for all to see. It's a pretty fair bet that, regardless of my surprise encounter at the Lauderdale sushi restaurant, the more anonymous you are in your daily existence, the better the chances you can get away with something like doing porn or having it in your past somewhere. Yes, it can still cause a hell of a headache even for the average person, but when you're not in the spotlight -- particularly for being attractive -- there's a much better chance people won't go looking for it.

I feel bad for King, I really do. She's basically just a kid who did something I guarantee she now regrets completely (and may have regretted long before this). Her life as she had hoped it would be is pretty much in shambles at the moment, but internet fame is a double-edged sword and not necessarily in a bad way. The feeding frenzy mentality that turns someone into the subject of instantaneous media fascination and public gawking leaves the herd constantly craving fresh meat to feed on. Disgrace only lasts for so long in our media culture these days. People move on to something else in a heartbeat and generally forget what had occupied them just a couple of weeks previously; there will be other salacious stories to latch onto and new Melissa Kings to heap judgment on in no time. This girl's life will go on, maybe not the way she had originally planned, but if she stays strong, keeps her wits about her and just barrels through this mess, she'll come out the other side just fine and probably a little wiser.

It would be nice if King's story can be a harsh lesson for today's youth. I did a lot of awful things when I was young, but thankfully no one ever got them on tape. I'd say that I can't imagine where I'd be right now if they had, but I personally made the decision a while ago to embrace all my worst qualities and make my life largely transparent. I'm out there, warts and all for all to see, and without meaning to have kind of, ironically, used openness to insulate myself from unwanted exposure. The unfortunate thing is that, Internet culture being what it is, this may be the only way to survive these days: either don't do anything terrible or accept that there are no secrets anymore and just "shoot the hostage," copping to whatever you've done that you should, by all accounts, be ashamed of. The problem is that even though today's youth are much savvier than we were at my age, they often still don't truly understand the consequences of their actions. They can't look ahead far enough to make the right decision when faced with one that can have repercussions capable of lasting a lifetime.

Melissa King is a living testament to this. Who knows? Right now she may very well be entertaining the notion of taking the giant pile of shit she inadvertently created in her life and spinning it into gold, capitalizing on her sudden notoriety by doing more porn, as she's of course been offered. I suppose you could make the argument that it's a career no more unseemly or exploitative than parading around in your bathing suit for Donald Trump. And turning infamy into fame is the American way these days, after all. Still, this wasn't what King had planned for herself. It wasn't supposed to be this way and, what's more, it didn't have to.

I have no idea whatever happened to that hostess at that sushi restaurant, where her life eventually took her. I know this though: Whether she likes it or not, I can always find her on the Internet.

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