Ashley Tea owner of The Camgirl Survival Guide, YouTuber, student and self taught cam model. Curious about the steps which lead to where she is today, we wanted to highlight her career with MyFreeCams and her personal journey as a truly unique and bright individual.
Did you try another website before streaming on My Free Cams and if not what attracted you to staying on that platform for so long? MyFreeCams is the only site I’ve streamed on, simply because it was the first site to accept my application way back in 2013 (I was impatient) and I’ve never really had enough reason to go elsewhere – plus, the emphasis on community style chat rooms on MFC is more accommodating for a non nude or tease performance. I think it’s that element – the cultural feel of the site, the expectation that models will spend time in free chat “just hanging out” – is what’s kept me on MFC and continues to do so.
When you first started camming how did you feel out which shows were going to work for you/your room and which didn’t? Did you ever try something that wasn’t as succexxxful as you’d hoped it would be? It’s a combination of luck and doing stuff you genuinely enjoy doing. On my first night I dressed up in a cute lingerie outfit (which I love doing) and put on a playlist of music I love dancing to (which I do alone in my house anyway!), and it worked fantastically. I think for the most part, people can recognize genuine happiness in a model and while I was nervous, doing something I liked doing made my good energy infectious enough for others to want to support me. It doesn’t always work out so well, of course – I’ve tried tons of shows that I love doing that make no money at all! It’s a constant learning curve. You have to have a creative streak to keep people interested, and plenty of endurance to push through with your chin up when things flop.
Besides shows, raffles are another huge hit in the webcam world. Has there ever been a time where you ran a raffle and no one tipped or maybe only your best tippers entered? Can you talk about that a little bit and maybe how you changed up what you did the next time you ran one? Oh for sure, yeah. I’ve screwed up a whole bunch of things; done raffles I never followed up on, done raffles that didn’t sell, printed tons of merch that no one ever bought – you name it, I’ve probably attempted it and failed. This is part of the job. You have to constantly evolve and always be ready to take the fall for things instead of blaming your tippers for not coming through. The reality is, putting something up for sale doesn’t mean it’ll sell. If I offer something that really ranks, but only one or two people tip for it, I’ll usually offer something smaller for their support but just say the overall lack of interest made it impossible for me to produce what I promised.
A big feature to webcamming are clubs. Can you explain to newer models what clubs are on MFC and why they’re important to keep up with? People like to feel special. I’ve noticed that members will tip for almost no reward at all just to feel like they belong to something exclusive, or to be remembered or recognized for their generosity – something we can all relate to, I think. Clubs can help you provide this experience to people pretty easily since the site manages it all for you, and lets you automatically work in this like sales or perks.
They’re great if you keep things realistic. Never offer a club that includes “all content forever”, or offers more than you can reasonably keep up with. Simple is better, and people are happy when they get what they tip for in a timely fashion.
In your opinion, how important is it to get online when you just feel like hanging out and not having a countdown vs always having a goal each time you stream? With my own hustle, face time is everything. I’ve found my best success when I remain very consistent, regardless of what I’m doing. On MFC this can be a challenging approach for newbies, particularly ones who weren’t so lucky at the get go, because stream time with little income lowers camscore which can leave you at a disadvantage – and in the beginning I was much more insistent that my room help me make countdowns in a timely fashion or else I’d log off. While it worked for me then, it’s not a position I really encourage now, because it proves to your audience that you aren’t willing to spend time with them without money, and that can ruin “the illusion” a little. The true goal, I suppose, is spending enough time with your room (in a combination of chill time and countdowns) so that you genuinely enjoy the time regardless of income … but it can be a bit of a balancing act to make it to that point.
One thing readers might not know is you’ve been non nude your entire career, what made you stick to your decision despite any pressure from members or other models to show your body? This is only partially true. In the very beginning, way back in May of 2013, I didn’t get naked or topless and had no intention to since I was making great money – $300, $400 a night for a few weeks on end – but about three months in, it dropped off. I got nervous. People had told me I wouldn’t really manage success without at least getting topless, so despite my discomfort with it, I did a handful of tits-out shows … but ultimately found the income boost didn’t really stick. I was still having great nights where I didn’t get topless, so I figured … why keep doing something I didn’t enjoy doing if I didn’t really have to? In August of 2013, a then non-nude model named JoeyKim won Miss MFC #1, and I felt justified in remaining non-nude moving forward. At this point if someone asks or pressures me for something I don’t want to do, I either laugh it off, ban them or ask them why they’re interested in pressuring women into giving something they aren’t comfortable giving despite a great variety of willing nude models out there who would gladly, consensually take their tokens. That’s usually enough to shut them up. At this point I offer topless content to some upper membership tiers, mostly because I’m much more comfortable with myself now than I was when I was 22 – but as far as public streams go (where I make my bread and butter), we’re still a nipple-free zone, and I like it like that.
With that being said, in what ways do you feel being a non nude model benefits you and potentially hurts you? Truth be told, there are no benefits to being non-nude. When I got into the industry I was naive enough to think that a lack of topless screenshots would spare me from some degrees of stigma, and I have learned time and time again that this is not the case. People who are going to judge you for camming will judge you whether you’re clothed head to toe or buck ass naked. While nudity is not a requirement on the site or a requirement to make money, it is the norm – and going against that presents obstacles. I recognize that my lack of nudity has likely barred me from certain tiers of success … but at the same time, who’s to say, really?
The only real reason I cam non-nude is because I like it like this, and I’ve never been in a position where I’ve felt I had to compromise my comfort for cash – something I recognize I am very privileged to be able to say.
What are some shows you enjoy performing for goal or for privates as a non nude model? I do 100% of my streams public, mostly because there’s nothing “special” (other than one on one time) that a member would get in private. As far as stream goals go, I have always enjoyed topless “teases” where I remove my shirt and bra and hold my boobs/hide my nipples sort of burlesque style to a song of my choosing, but I’ll do bath teases, oil shows, body paint shows, lotion shows etc … mostly anything a nude model does, but while wearing lingerie or pasties.
Let’s talk about members of the website. How do you treat members who continuously contribute to you room? Do you mind DMs while broadcasting, or cam to cam hang outs? If you do not how do you set that boundary without upsetting them? The repeat offenders are what I would call regulars, and we maintain a very platonic sort of dynamic, which is something I’ve learned is in my best interest to prioritize. I treat them like I’d treat my off cam friends; they know they can come to me to ask for advice or for support, but they respect my privacy and recognize that I’m a busy lady who’s not looking for an online boyfriend. I allow DMs for quick questions, but I don’t really do cam to cam unless it’s to share drinks as a group (which I do once in a while).
These boundaries exist because I’m not selling a girlfriend fantasy, and I don’t want to give anyone reasonable doubt that I may be catering to something like that “just for them”. Ultimately I’d just let them down. I used to give a lot more, emotionally – stuff like texting, etc – but it lead to hurt feelings every time, so I’ve pulled back and it’s worked better.
How long did it take you to get your cam room to a place that felt comfortable and like conversation was moving at a good speed to keep you busy? This happened for me on my first night. I’m incredibly fortunate to be able to say that attracting an audience has rarely been much of a struggle for me – again, hugely in part due to initial luck in my first few weeks. Some days are slower than others, sure, but a combination of a decent camscore and a decent social media following has made catching members less of a concern for me.
That said – I have switched time slots several times over the years, and each time have experienced a drop in usual membership, meaning an opportunity to appeal to a new crowd. It usually takes two consecutive weeks of regular attendance at the same times (for me, Monday through Friday, same times each day) for the room to pick back up again – but this is just personal experience. The hustle is different for everyone.
You’re one of the only cam models who dedicates time to answer questions of other models, as you run the Cam Girl Survival Guide. How important do you think it is for models to stop trying to relentlessly nitpick at every situation and just go for it blindly? I know you get asked the same question a million different ways and it surely must be frustrating that people think there is some secret formula other than dedication and time. The belief that there is a formula boils down to women existing in a system that maintains that we can earn an income without actually putting in work – that somehow, we have some magical female “method” that allows some precious few of us to just be paid for looking a certain way or acting a certain way. I don’t blame the individuals who ask me for this “magic formula” because really, it just reflects this misogynistic reality – but I have nothing to tell them, because there is no such formula. There is no easy money, whether you’re tits out or not, even if the patriarchy would like you to believe that there are mountains of success to be had for being a heteromasculine pandering woman.
But that’s probably a far more sociocultural answer than what you’re looking for, so…!
From what I’ve seen, people who are cut out for the entrepreneurial hustle are not the type to ask for the “how to” – they’re the ones who jump in and figure it out, and then nitpick their own experiences. It takes a special type to succeed as a cam model, but it’s ultimately more about business savvy and a penchant for financial freedom than it is about looking or acting a certain way. The best way to learn is by doing, really – and I think that’s something individuals who are cut out for this line of work recognize long before they start camming.
For those savvy models who will take the time to explore on their own, are there websites you utilize for editing, selling media or while broadcasting you’d like more models to know about? As camming gets more and more profitable, side industry will rise up to make money off of the individuals making it, whether it’s profile design, video editing or even “coaching”. Personally, I think the best approach is learning to do these things yourself. YouTube is an incredible tool. I’ve self taught everything, from graphic design to video production to time management, which puts me at an advantage because I don’t have to rely on anyone other than myself. Plus, you never know where these skills will take you in the future.
You recently faced a huge issue at your school because of your job. If you don’t mind can you talk a little bit about what happened and the corrections that were/will be made going forward because of your experience? I think it’s a really empowering moment that might end up helping someone else understand how to positively look at obstacles in their lives. To make a long story short, a student who I believe I was intended to do an honours project with discovered my cam social media accounts and presented this to the professor we were both meant to have as a supervisor, who then refused to work with me due to my job. An honours project is a year long independent research opportunity that only high achieving students can be accepted into – something I worked very hard to be accepted into – and it was taken out from under me for no reason other than discriminatory beliefs on the part of the prof.
This wasn’t the first time I’d been let go from something after being outed. I was fired from a 3 year position at a law firm where I worked as an administrative assistant when the lawyer found out I had started camming – so this wasn’t my first rodeo. The difference this time around was that I had the support of my community behind me, and a whole lot more pride about being a cam model. When I was younger I just let the discrimination crush me. This time I refused to let it, and did what I could to remedy the wrongdoing – which meant seeking support from other departments on campus (the women’s centre and the human rights office), and then discussing the situation with the chair of my programs department.
The “solution” that I secured was a department wide anti-oppression training, mandatory of every professor in the department at the start of next semester, with a local sex workers rights organization representative to ensure the discussion is productive and respectful. What I hope is that the opportunity for professors to receive education – to be taught that sex workers deserve equal opportunities, equal rights and equal respect – will protect future students in my position from being barred from opportunities as I was. Here’s to hoping it helps.
You handled this problem with so much grace and poise, I wanted to ask you how you kept your head above the clouds and really took the high road for this. It may sound funny to you, but many people have a hard time with this and I found your thought process to be so admirable. The joy of sharing on social media is censorship, I suppose. I’m glad I was able to come off as graceful and poised, because that’s what I wanted to be – an example of strength for anyone else experiencing stigmatization, someone to give others hope. The reality is, the past several weeks have been incredibly dark and incredibly challenging on my end. All I am is grateful that I’m privileged enough to have this roadblock affect me more emotionally than physically. I am not homeless, without food, without family and friend support or without things like access to medical care, and I know stigmatization affects others in these ways too often. I think the anger and outrage of knowing that similar circumstances could easily crush or even kill another sex worker really drove me to finding some semblance of justice on campus.
Making the situation about others allowed me to find the bravery needed to pursue this justice, I think. If I felt like this was just about me as an individual I would have just let it crush me, but looking at it like an attack on my precious community as a whole really fired me up and kept me going.
Finally, one tip you wish you could give to yourself when you first started your career? Save!! Your!!! Fucking!!! Money!!!! Oh my god, if I could go back and do this I absolutely would. I continued to live paycheque to paycheque regardless of dollar amount and in the end I had nothing to show for a good few years of hard work. Sometime in my 3rd year, I went to my bank and set up some investment accounts and proper savings routines and I’ve been grateful for that ever since – I only wish I started sooner. Even if you can only save $50 a month, do it. If you’re anything like me, savings accounts that take more effort to spend than your average chequing account will help you keep that money in savings, rather than blowing it on clothes or cocktails.
Find more of Ashley’s advice on her Tumblr. You can also follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Youtube @heyashleytea