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.
“On the way home to New York, I got robbed,” she said. “All that stuff I had just paid for, got robbed. I was like, Wow, I’m not sure I really liked that experience! And then I realized: No, it was the best thing that could have ever happened. I pretty much got into nude modeling because obviously I didn’t have all these nice new clothes I just bought.”
Her first “modeling” job, was on The Howard Stern Show. “It was called ‘Shaved or Unshaved.’ Some other chick canceled last minute. I was the girl who was unshaved, which I built a serious fan base from.”
(“Some photographers will pay a couple hundred more if you have a hairy pussy, because nowadays, most of the girls are shaved,” she explained. “And that saves me money on the waxing bill.”)
Ms. Verte allowed that she was sexually curious long before her clothes got stolen. As a girl, she discovered a collection of Playboys in the attic.
“It moved from Playboy to Penthouse,” she explained. “And in Penthouse, I seen girls inserting icicles and being spanked, and I’m like, Wow.”
Of her early exposure to sex, she said: “I don’t regret that at all. At least I’m not one of those stupid girls who’s like, ‘How did I get pregnant? Was it Jesus?’”
Within months of moving to New York, she came to understand the monetary value of such things as letting two much older women spank you (that was at a club called Paddles).
She said fetish clubs in the city are hard to find these days, which only helps the traffic on Web sites like hers, where paying fans may download video of Ms. Verte being tickled, or urinating outdoors, or brushing her teeth and just sleeping. There’s one clip entitled “Sativa creates and chews on a ham sandwich,” which is described as containing “Lots of talking! Watch as I create one of my favorite lunch sandwiches and talk about life and bullshit about stuff while I eat.”
The day before her dinner with The Observer, she’d shot some content for her Web site. “Shower fetish, makeup application fetish. People are into watching girls go to the bathroom, so I did that.” She said she doesn’t allow her face to be in the bathroom clips, because she finds it embarrassing. “The bathroom stuff actually makes me the most money, so I can’t really complain.”
She’s also logged some footage to accommodate bondage fetishists. “It’s not something I’d show my parents!” she said. (Dad’s a musician, Mom’s a homemaker. They don’t approve of her career choice, Ms. Verte said. “But you can’t please everyone.”)
Aside from the few explicit scenes she’s filmed with members of the opposite sex—in each case the guy was her boyfriend, she insists—Ms. Verte said she doesn’t have many regrets. She said she’s very happy with her life, but has applied to acting schools for the fall. “My parents would help me with it, so why not try it?” she said. “But personally, I just want to go back to school for pharmacy and only take modeling jobs for really super-professional people.”
For all her libidinous endeavors, Ms. Verte, who is currently single, has only had two boyfriends. “I know this sounds weird, being 23 and having as much experience on the road as I do,” she said, “but I’ve seriously only had two partners.”
Wherever her career path may lead, she’s adamant about staying in the city she fell in love with a decade ago. “I just love New York,” she said. “It’s the only place I come back to and I still cry.”