Why Belle Knox gets more Google hits than Justin Bieber
A WEEK ago, if you'd have mentioned the name Belle Knox at a party, the only people who would have looked in your direction would have been a few red-faced boys who spend too much time locked in their rooms frantically clearing their internet search history.
Now, she's one of the biggest names on the internet - a veritable overnight success story with more hits on Google than Pope Francis and Justin Bieber combined.
Why? Because Belle Knox, an 18-year-old Duke University law student struggling to pay her way through school is, in fact, a porn star, who has funded her education by starring in blue movies by the names of 'Lick My Lips' and 'How Do You Like It'.
"I really enjoy sex, and I've always loved watching porn, so it just seemed like I could pay my way through college doing something I really love doing," Knox, a major in women's studies and sociology, told the New York Daily News.
The $47,000-a-year tuition fees for the North Carolina school were too much for her family to fork out for, and she couldn't, she says, risk the mounting debt she'd encounter by taking out a loan.
And no amounts of shifts at MacDonald's would have made up the amount.
"I didn't feel like I had a lot of options," she said, before describing her eureka moment.
"I literally just Googled, 'How to be a porn star.'
It came up with all these modeling agencies, and I literally just sent in my pictures and my height and weight," she recalled.
"I was getting calls literally within days, with people saying they really wanted me."
After arriving in Los Angeles, she quickly started her career as "Lauren".
"The first porn I did was absolutely nerve-racking because it was really weird to have a photographer watch me have sex. I was super self-conscious, but then I just got into it," she said.
"The rhetoric that you hear is that pornography is bad, and it's degrading to women. So I was almost expecting people to take advantage of me. But the people I met were all sweet, professional people."
She declined to tell the paper what her family made of her career - possibly because she hadn't yet told them.
But if they didn't know then, they certainly do now - Knox revealed her true identity via a column for XOJane earlier this week.
Real name Miriam Weeks, the daughter of a local doctor in Spokane, Washington, she felt forced to 'come out' as a sex worker in a real-life The Scarlet Letter scenario after a male student revealed her secret profession to the rest of her campus.
"Because the bullies of the world - starting with that young Duke man who broke his promise to me - do not dictate my life.
"Because my decision to do porn does not somehow mean that the world now 'owns' or deserves access to every single thing about me and every choice I make."
Since she made her original confession, she's also been mercilessly trolled - or 'slut shamed', as several resulting comment pieces have named the vitriol - for her chosen method of financing her education.
The relentless online bullies went as far as to tell Weeks she "deserves to get raped", blasted her appearance and demanded that she use her real - rather than her stage - name in porn.
"The Internet does not dictate my life," she wrote.
"My sexuality is not some sort of blackmail to be used against me, granting you ownership over my life or my story. It is my life. It is my story, so I'm refusing to let the bullies win.
"Instead, in revealing my performer name, I'm also going to let you know exactly the level of hate that exists in America regarding women who refuse to be quiet about their sexuality."
She also revealed her intention to complete her legal studies and to start up a charity to help sex workers.
Whether you agree with how she makes her money or not, Knox is at the forefront of an 'anti-slut shaming' movement that the internet can't seem to get enough of.
So, if you can excuse the pun, expect to see a whole lot more of her in the near future.