Asian-American gay porn entrepreneur Peter Le is huge in China (and, frankly, huge in general). But he tells Time Out, we ain't seen nothing yet
After exploding on to the scene in 2001, Peter Le has accumulated a display cabinet groaning with awards for bodybuilding, modelling, gay porn production and e-commerce. Despite having to push back against prejudice (his chosen career led to him being abruptly dropped from the cast of Asian-American Jersey Shore
), Le has gone on to become the biggest Asian gay porn star in history – and a cultural icon in China.
But Le insists it’s not all about him. His stated mission is much grander: to redefine the Asian male as a dominant sexual force, and unleash him on the world. Lucky, lucky world.
Born in San Jose, California, to Vietnamese parents, Le admits that, growing up, he had never even considered modelling as a career. He speaks of a fairly typical home environment, where love and affection were communicated with restraint and modesty – possibly the reason why, in person, he is disarmingly genuine, low-key and softly-spoken.
After abandoning a psychology degree to focus on his passion – personal training, a subject on which he has written several bestselling books – Le had his first brush with adult entertainment with an October 2001 spread in Playgirl, becoming one of the first Asian models to appear in its pages. Despite the shoot boosting his confidence, however, Le didn’t feel embraced by the modelling industry.
‘I always felt that Asian models had to push themselves harder,’ says Le over coffee in the Workers’ Stadium. ‘I was told that I wouldn’t go far because I was Asian. So I wanted to break the Asian stereotypes – and there are a lot out there.’
These stereotypes– that Asian men are feminised, passive, non-sexual – followed him wherever he went. It was only by carving out a niche, first as a solo adult performer and then as the owner of America’s leading Asian gay porn website, that he finally created his own battleground upon which to challenge these prejudices.
‘Back in the ’70s, when white gay men saw two Asian men having sex, they called it “lesbian sex”. Talk about degrading! But PeterFever [Le’s website] features 5’4’ Asian guys topping muscular, 6’1’ Caucasians. We’re showing that this happens, that this is normal, and that there are options out there. Asian men are sexy – and I want us in the spotlight.’
Le’s wish to change the image of Asian male sexuality led to his gay porn miniseries – The Asiancy – which follows a multi-ethnic group of implausibly attractive and relentlessly promiscuous entrepreneurs. There’s a plot, characters and cliffhanger set pieces. And lots and lots of sex.
‘At first we focused so much on the storyline that our audiences were complaining that they would have to sit down and actually watch every episode when they just wanted to get to the good parts.'
Despite his success and a string of adult industry awards, Le still struggles to find Asian models willing to step in front of the camera. He is also trying to step back from performing to give others a chance. While he would like to source models from China, multiple barriers, including language, immigration and social attitudes, make this a challenge – though he constantly receives applications from Chinese men, many of them fans.
Coming to China himself allowed Le to discover a completely new gay culture in which his race is as much an asset as his looks. Confounding aggressive Government restrictions on both making and viewing porn in China, the vast majority of Le’s fanbase is right here. On his first visit, Le was overwhelmed by the response he received: ‘I felt really welcome, like I was a part of something bigger.’
Le’s appearances late last year on the Mainland, including in Shanghai, drew large crowds who jostled on sofas and tables just to get a glimpse of him, the view further obstructed by the glowing screens of smartphones held aloft by those too short to see the stage. After the shows he was regularly mobbed by audience members desperate for photos and autographs.
The support and love shown by Le’s Chinese fans has convinced him he needs to learn Mandarin. ‘A lot of guys are nervous, they hover after a performance. Maybe they don’t see me as a real person, because I’m on the internet. But I want to be good to my fans, to leave people with a good impression, with a positive memory.’
So, is Le gay, bi, or straight? His fans and a series of interviewers have never gotten a satisfactory answer, and his coy work persona (he has never had on-camera sex with men or women) has also kept everyone guessing. Rumours that he is ‘gay for pay’ compete with those claiming that his sexuality was the reason he was cut from K-Town.
Le prefers not to commit himself to one place on the spectrum. ‘The public wants to know whether you’re straight, or gay, but they can’t define what bi is. My straight friends think I’m too gay, and my gay friends think I’m too straight. Let’s leave it at that.’
Spoken like a true enigma.
Peter Le's official website
is at www.peterfever.com
. It is not even remotely safe for work.