Meet Theo Ford – the Irish star of adult film who says his wholesome Waterford upbringing nurtured his sexuality and inspired his 130-movie career in international porn.
Theo, 29, travels the world on a French passport but he credits his teenage years spent in Waterford city for allowing him to safely explore his sexuality and instill the confidence needed to take on a successful career in X-rated film.
Born to French parents in Nice, Theo and his sister spent their secondary years in Munster, as his father's work brought the family to Ireland.
After a brief stint in Dublin City University, a 19-year-old Theo was signed to a French modelling agency in 2007 and moved to Paris.
In 2013, the then 24-year-old was approached by an adult film producer who had come across his pictures.
Since landing his first role, Theo has starred in 130 films and travelled the globe, settling in stints in Sydney, Los Angeles and New York.
Speaking to Independent.ie, Theo said: “I grew up in Waterford in the most incredible environment thanks to the private Quaker school I attended. Waterford was such a safe environment to grow up in and explore my sexuality.
“It was a boarding school but I was a day pupil as I lived just down the road. We had huge freedoms and I took my fair share of it, and then some. I was allowed to grow into myself in the most special ways and for that I will be eternally blessed. Even though I don’t limit myself to nationality I always say I’m Irish.”
“When I moved to Paris I was signed to a modelling agency. I had professional pictures online and those caught the attention of a producer for a new studio. When he contacted me online I didn’t know what to think. I guess my deeply curious nature just wanted to hear him out. I had no idea what was to come.”
“That first time on set, I was petrified. I’m not exactly sure what happened. I think I left my body half way through. Thankfully I kept filming and I became a true professional and a hard worker… pun intended. I love being on set now. I feel fulfilled. I know what I am doing.”
While unwilling to discuss income, Theo divulges that he is paid by scene, which can range from “a few hundred pounds to a few thousand” depending on the film’s budget and take between two hours and a whole day to film.
And while his latest flick Paris Perfect, in which he plays an insatiable French butler, has been nominated in several categories at the Grabby Awards (“the Oscars of gay porn”), Theo sees the fun in some of the more quirky roles he’s taken on.
“Most of the time I’m goofing around and making jokes. Mostly to the dismay of my producers.
“I shot an incredible series for the studio MEN.COM, it was a parody of Game of Thrones called Gay of Thrones. I played the male version of Red Priestess Melisandre.”
Naturally, Theo says his career is “extremely physically demanding” and he works out daily, often with a trainer, to make sure his rock hard abs are a permanent fixture.
But his mental health can be harder to keep in check.
The star – who goes by an alias to protect his personal life – said he was devastated when his short-lived marriage to an American model ended in divorce in 2016.
“When I moved to Sydney that was to please my husband at the time. We separated soon after moving there and I sent him back home to Los Angeles.
“That left me deeply alone and truly scared. I cannot recollect a time where I felt so raw emotionally. On top of it all I was in a foreign land where my differences were not celebrated.
“Thankfully my resilience has held me together.
“You shed your soul on camera and that can be taxing so you really do need to feel empowered and in control of yourself.
“I have been filming much less which is essential to build myself back up after the tough couple of years I have had.”
While he often tackles his career with his tongue in cheek, Theo is very serious when it comes to sexual health and refuses to work with studios who don’t prioritise safety.
HIV-negative Theo has been open about taking pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a daily drug which dramatically reduces the risk of a contracting the infection, and says it has made the adult film world a much safer professional space.
“For me it is essential to be in control of my own health.
“There are some studios who do not care at all about testing models. For me that is simply heinous and simply a gross negligence.
“Some studios will either lie or not care so they can shoot the scene they want. With regular testing, PrEP and condoms the industry is mainly a safe environment to be in which I am grateful for.”
The star has amassed almost 120k fans on Twitter and Instagram and says a hugely positive aspect of his career has been to help educate younger LGBTQ youth.
“I have amazing fans. I would never be here without them. They send me so much love and support especially through social media. They are so loving and respectful that I can only be thankful in return.
“To me the most valuable part of my career is having a platform to promote education," said Theo who has also studied fashion design at Studio Berçot in Paris and creative writing at London City University in the past.
“Education encompasses sexual health, diversity, acceptance, and tearing down misconceptions.
“I was given a voice through my job to promote positivity and it’s simply about speaking up for those who cannot speak for themselves; showing people you can be happy and successful no matter what path you want to take.”
The sculpted star, who now bases himself in London, said he’s lucky to have been surrounded by family who are supportive of his career.
“My family knows. They find it somewhat interesting. My sister is my biggest supporter. She is smart enough to see my career for what it is.
“I make my own way in life so they are happy I am accomplished and proud to own who I am and what I do.”
Theo’s job might be a far cry from the standard nine to five, but his aspirations are closer to earth.
“I’d love to learn a fourth language if my brain can cope and I would like to get married again for sure and start a family with the man I love and continue my travels.”
Theo says his future travels will certainly take him back home to Waterford which he has mentally made a priority.
“I had a family weekend last October in Waterford which was very pleasant. I do need to make it a priority to come back on a more regular basis.
“There’s amazing places to film in Ireland after all!”