In 1998, Sativa Verte, a nude model and fetish entrepreneur, visited Manhattan for the first time. Her name then was Lisa, she was 13 years old, and she was on vacation with her grandparents from her hometown of Canfield, Ohio. It was a trip that would alter the course of her life.
“We stayed in Times Square, at that Marriott,” said Ms. Verte, who is now 23 and takes in about $4,500 per week from her erotic Web site and modeling work. “And I remember staying in Macy’s for three days and being like, ‘If it’s this good …. ’” She laughed. “I’ll never forget being up late and looking out the window and being like, ‘Grandma, lets go out!’ She was like, ‘Oh, no.’ But all I could see from that room was the city at 2 a.m., alive, cars honking.”
When she graduated from Canfield High in 2002, she was already packed. Like so many aspiring actresses and models before her, Ms. Verte said, she “literally threw my cap off, got in my car and hustled my butt out here.”
Five years later, she says she can hardly walk to the corner store without some lewd old man recognizing her, thanks in part to her appearance on Fuse TV’s contest, Pants-Off Dance-Off.
The Observer had joined Ms. Verte for dinner in Brooklyn, where she reeled off evidence of having made it in this town: She’s filmed movies with Andrew Einhorn of Playboy TV and Richard Kern of Vice magazine. She is “Miss High Times” (topless) in the June issue. Her Web site, sexysativa.com, is profitable. She’s looking to buy a house near where she’s renting in Commack, L.I.
Upon arriving at her favorite Middle Eastern restaurant, she poured The Observer a glass of red wine from a bottle she’d brought. She was wearing tight corduroy pants and a tank top on her lithe 5-foot-6 frame. Her hair was a giant mop of dark curls. She put a DVD player, loaded with her work in Mr. Einhorn’s Naked Happy Girls, in The Observer’s lap.
She said success was “all about controlling your image,” and told the story of how she became known, in certain circles, as the “best ass in New York.” Having fled Ohio, she was studying to be a pharmacist at S.U.N.Y. in Farmingdale. But boredom took hold, and one day she was watching MSNBC when she saw a report on “how British Columbia is the new pot haven, dah dah dah …. ” She got in her car.
Upon reaching Vancouver, she booked a room at a bed-and-breakfast that advertises itself as “a hemp-friendly haven for travelers.” The B&B was called Sativa Sisters. “You starting to see a pattern here?” she said with a coquettish smile.
“This guy comes in and he hands me a joint, and I’m like, ‘Oh my God—this shit on MSNBC was like totally true,’” she said. “I called my sister and was like, ‘Dude—that thing we seen on the news was right!’ And my sister was like, ‘Oh my God, then you’ve got to go to the aquarium stoned.’”
It follows that the proprietress of Sativa Sisters was a former model. Ms. Verte admired her success—“This was an empowered woman”—and decided to try modeling. To that end, she bought a whole new wardrobe.