Riley in his cheer days. ilike-bigbows-andicannotlie tumblr
Apple Graceffa was a cheerlebrity, but after high school, he was aging out of his sport. So he took his social media fame all the way to the adult entertainment industry, and changed his name to Liam Riley. The 19-year-old former all-star cheerleader is now a model with Helix Studios, and he debuted his first gay porn scene on February 2. Helix found him on Twitter. Riley tells The Wire that cheer did not lead him to porn. But it did bring him fame to leverage into an adult career.
On Tuesday, The Wire reported on the economics of cheerlebrity: how famous teen cheerleaders make money by endorsing products like bows to their hundreds of thousands of fans on social media. But what does a cheerlebrity do with that fame when he's done with cheer? Riley's decision has been, obviously, controversial in the cheer community.
"It was kind of a mutual thing," Riley tells The Wire of the scouting process. "[Helix] noticed me on Twitter, but I was already following the directors and producers and a few of the models. We kind of went back and forth via Twitter DMs. ... You know, this was something I had an interest in, and we set up a lunch meeting."
Riley changed his Twitter handle to reflect his showbiz name (@LiamRileyXXX), bringing along thousands of followers. Now, he says, "being a high-social cheerleader, it's given me an advantage that most models probably don't have. With the high following, of course people are like 'Who's that?' So it's definitely attracted a lot more attention, because people are like 'Who's this newcomer who already has 20,000 followers?'"
Riley first met with Helix, which focuses on male "teen" and "American college" models, around Thanksgiving 2013. He quit cheerleading for good in December. "I wouldn't say it led me to it," he says of cheerleading and porn. "I wanted to make the decision for myself." Things were quiet for a couple months, but when his first scene debuted in February, cheer fans freaked.
Soooo... I just found out what Apple Graceffa does now since he doesn't cheer anymore 😅
— chan ∞ (@chanleader) February 6, 2014
Um...... What happened to Apple Graceffa.... He's such a great "cheerleader" now..,
— Caroline(: (@north_CAROLINEa) February 9, 2014
Riley says, "I didn't make it a big deal that I wasn't cheerleading anymore." He continues,
The response was 50/50, as I knew it was gonna be. Some people were devastated by it that I wasn't cheerleading anymore and that this was the career path I was going about, but I also had the people who were always going to be there for me. Some people were very supportive of it, they understood that it was my life, and I was going to move on.
Riley. highcheerleading tumblr
Riley, with his baby-soft voice and animated personality, is beloved by cheer fans for his amazing basket tosses (rare for a male), and knowledge of cheer hair trends (see the Youtube video below). Plenty of fans say his new career is fine by them. "Are you his mother?" one fan wrote on Tumblr. "He didn’t sign up to be a role model. He’s not the parent of those young children. It’s his life and we shouldn’t be telling him what he should and should not be doing. It’s not our place. He’s just a guy that happened to be good at something and had people look up to him. Cool, he’s moved on from Cheer and if you have a problem with what he’s doing now, that’s your own issue."
But some cheer parents are very upset. On Fierce Board, the all-star cheer message board, a thread about Riley's modeling is going on 30 pages long. "He's retweeted links to his porn site which is for people 18 or older and every young child that follows him has had tweets like that on their timelines," one parent writes. "Parents obviously need to know that. Had he just made a new twitter for his porn alter ego there would be no thread. But instead he unintentionally exposed his young fans to that stuff." Other parents confessed that they had hacked into their kids' social media accounts to unfollow Riley for them. Some parents subtweeted him:
PUBLIC SERVICE MSG: Parents, and Athletes - be acutely aware of the content that you're directly, or indirectly exposing yourself to online.
— cheerUPDATES (@cheerUPDATES) February 4, 2014
Riley says worries about the kids following him on Twitter. "I definitely advised a lot of my followers that my Twitter is 18-and-up now. I definitely worry about the children themselves, because you know, they were my world when I was a cheerleader. ... As far as that, I can't really do much. I tell the kids, 'you shouldn't follow me for your best interests.' I know some of the parents aren't so happy, but what am I to do?"
Riley currently lives with the family of another popular cheerlebrity in Florida — he moved there from California last year to cheer for Top Gun. But he's eager to come home to California in the next few weeks and move back in with his family, who remain supportive. "Like most parents, it's not their first career choice for their child," Riley explains. But "my mom, through cheerleading, through everything has been supportive ... Is she happy about it? No. But she's going to support me through everything. She's my mom."
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The owner of Helix Studios, Keith Miller, tells The Wire, "Liam is a natural born entertainer and very professional in all he does. I am thrilled at the support he has gotten from his cheerleading friends as he makes this transition and am sure he will achieve the same levels of success in this new role." You can view Riley's Amazon wish list here.
This article was originally published at http://www.thewire.com/culture/2014/02/how-teen-cheerlebrity-leverages-his-social-media-stardom-launch-gay-porn-career/358017/