How Dallas native Kyle Ross went from drug addict to porn star to the subject of the YA bio ‘Twink’
In 2008, Kyle Ross was 17 years old, living in a tiny Tennessee town, digging through his mother’s medicine cabinet, searching for Xanax.
In a few years, life would be different — he’d be a well-known model for Helix Studios (an adult film company) known for his wholesome good looks and his youthful body. He’d still be into the Xanax, but he’d be out of Tennessee, living life as someone sought after and, in some circles, famous.
But that was the future. In 2008, he was stuck in a tiny burg, looking for tiny pills. He’d been uprooted from a great life in Dallas to here.
Ross’ unusual journey is chronicled in Twink, the second book in 13 Red Media’s Rise Up Series, written by Taylor Saracen. Despite the title, Twink isn’t erotica; rather, it’s Ross telling his story plainly to LGBTQ youth like he was, who often struggle as preteens and teens, and to let them know that they are not alone. (The Rise Up Series was started by Saracen, a former middle and high school teacher with a degree in applied psychology, to help to de-stigmatize less orthodox coming of age stories.)
“There are so many people out there in the middle of nowhere, who are going through the same thing,” Ross says in a phone interview. “Or maybe their parents abuse them. Maybe their parents have thrown them out. I want them to be able to say ‘Maybe I’m not so different.’”
At first, Ross was “different” in a privileged way — growing up in a wealthy suburb of Dallas, attending private schools. It was the mid-2000s and his mother was making $300,000 a year, with his father not doing too badly himself. But Ross still faced the same intense difficulties so many in the LGBTQ community do at that age.
“I was struggling with myself and being OK with being gay,” he says. “There were maybe two out kids in my school, and they were considered ‘weird.’ I used to think, ‘I wish I was born a girl so this would be socially acceptable.’”
It didn’t help when his mother suddenly lost her job, due to the financial meltdown. “My mom was full-fledged into her job. She was the breadwinner. She was so into it. She crushed it — it was her identity,” Ross says. “Then her whole team got laid off.”
His mother went into a tailspin, worsened by another stressor — Ross’ parents got divorced.
“She went off the deep end,” he now says.
When the family abruptly moved to rural Tennessee, Ross’ mother claimed it was for financial reasons. In reality, she was desperately chasing an old boyfriend.
It wasn’t all bad, but it wasn’t great, Ross says. “It was absolute culture shock. The only thing to do there was go jump off the cliffs or go jump in the lake. I started stealing her Xanax, eventually taking so much I couldn’t remember what I had for breakfast.”
Eventually, the family moved back to Dallas, and back into their old home (mom had claimed she’d sold it, but it had still been there all along) but the damage was done. Ross’ pill popping was going full bore.
Some of the healing had begun, however. For the first time, Ross visited the gayborhood, and began to find his own self. “I was that little twink dancing in the corner, and I loved all the attention,” he says. “I had never felt like that before.”
Yet like so many queer coming of age stories, it was still complicated. On one of those nights out, “someone asked me if I’d ever done gay porn. They told me about Helix, and I applied. The next day I was on a flight to California. I never would have done that if I hadn’t been addicted to Xanax. Who just takes a flight to California like that?”
It’s the flight that changed his life yet again. Ross eventually defeated his addiction, and he’s now moved into behind-the-scenes administrative and accounting work at Helix. They are skills he learned from his mother’s business acumen. But the pair still have a complicated relationship.
In his plainspokeness and honesty, Ross’ contribution to the Rise Up Series helps normalize what, really, is already normal. Who knows how his life would have ended up if his mother hadn’t lost her job. But in the long run it kickstarted a series of events that landed him in a place to help other people. Ultimately, it also transformed him as well.
“I appreciate the person I’ve become,” Ross says. “We were so spoiled growing up. My mom was killing it, buying houses, buying us whatever we wanted. We went from that to literally nothing. In the end, I’m a little bit less spoiled; I get along with people better. It did mold me into a much better person.” █
— Jonanna Widner