Actress, Model, & Advocate Against Sexual Exploitation
Today’s episode is with Paris Berelc, an American actress and model. Paris was born and raised in Wisconsin but moved to Los Angeles at an early age. Today, she is an accomplished actress who is dedicated to using her platform to educate and fight against sexual exploitation. During this conversation, host Garrett Jonsson talks with Paris about why she’s dedicated to this fight, some common misconceptions about sex trafficking, and why she thinks it’s important for young people to have the opportunity to make an educated decision regarding pornography.
FROM THIS EPISODE
- Follow Paris on Instagram, Twitter, or TikTok
- Study: Longitudinal Associations Between The Use Of Sexually Explicit Material And Adolescents’ Attitudes And Behaviors
- Article: The Children Of Pornhub
- Article: How Porn Can Distort Consumers’ Understanding Of Healthy Sex
- Article: 34 Trafficking And Abuse Survivors Sue Pornhub For Reportedly Profiting From Their Exploitation
- Article: Visa, Mastercard, And Discover Sever Ties With Pornhub Due To Abusive Content On The Site
- Article: TikTok Videos Of Underage Teens Are Reportedly Being Stolen And Uploaded To Pornhub
- Article: Children See Pornography As Young As Seven, New Report Finds
Fight the New Drug Ad: Hey listeners, Did you know that Consider Before Consuming is a podcast by Fight the New Drug? Fight the New Drug is a non-religious, non-legislative 501C3 non-profit that exists to provide the opportunity to make an informed decision regarding pornography by raising awareness on the harmful effects using only science, facts, and personal accounts. Fight the New Drug is research based, education focused, sex-positive, and anti-shame. To learn more about Fight the New Drug, and to see the additional free resources that we offer, like our three-part documentary series, and our interactive conversation guide, visit FTND.org. That’s FTND.org.
Garrett Jonsson: I’m Garrett Jonsson, the host of Consider Before Consuming.
We want these conversations to be educational, uplifting, and hopeful. As we sit down with experts, influencers, activists, and people with personal accounts, we cover a wide variety of topics that may be triggering to some, you can refer to the episode notes for a specific trigger warning- listener discretion is advised.
Today’s episode is with Paris Berelc. Paris is an American actress and model. She was born and raised in Wisconsin, but moved to LA at an early age. Fast forward to today and she’s an accomplished actress who has millions of followers across her social media platforms. Paris is dedicated to the fight against sexual exploitation. During this conversation we discuss why she’s dedicated to this fight, common misconceptions about sex trafficking, and why she thinks it’s important for young people to have the opportunity to make an educated decision regarding pornography.
With that being said, let’s jump into the conversation, we hope you enjoy this episode of Consider Before Consuming.
Well, we want to welcome to the podcast, Paris. Uh, welcome to the podcast.
Paris Berelc: [laughter] Thank you. Thank you for having me.
Garrett Jonsson: We appreciate you being with us today. We know you’re busy. You had some last minute cancellations.
Paris Berelc: Lil bit.
Garrett Jonsson: Which allowed us to connect sooner rather than later.
Paris Berelc: Exactly.
Garrett Jonsson: We’re grateful for the opportunity. And I think that the most important question to ask of them all is who is Paris Berelc?
Paris Berelc: Oh my gosh. You said it right now. Holy cow. No one gets it, right? That is so funny. Everyone says Burrellc, or BurelLC. I don’t know. Yeah. Everyone says it funny, but yeah, no one gets it. Right. So thank you.
Garrett Jonsson: One point for Garrett Jonsson.
Paris Berelc: [laughter] One point for you.
Garrett Jonsson: Well, the question was who is Paris and can you answer that question for us?
Paris Berelc: Um, well, I’m Paris. I’m from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Um, I moved out to LA when I was 14. Um, I’m an actress and, um, I’m half Filipino, and half white. Uh, my mom, she came to the us when she was 13 and my dad was born and raised, never left Wisconsin until he met my mom. And yeah, I started getting into working with organizations against human trafficking in 2020 when quarantine happened. Um, I it’s always been something that has been on my mind because my mom was from the Philippines. So she told me, you know, when she was a kid and she was kidnapped and put in a van, my nana found her in the van. And when she was a teenager, her friend tried to sell her for drugs. Um, so yeah, um, she was very upfront about that stuff and, um, I think they did that on purpose so that I would be more careful. And so 2020, you know, the world kind of ended [laughter] and we were all looking for something to do. And I think I was just at home and I was like, you know what? I think this is my time to really start educating myself more and reaching out to organizations and figuring out ways I can be of service, I guess, against this fight. Um, and that’s how I found you guys. So yeah, it’s a little bit about me, I guess.
Garrett Jonsson: So did it all start with a Google search when you say that that’s how you found us? Was it just like investigating “what is sex trafficking?” and then you’ve ran into Fight the New Drug?
Paris Berelc: Yeah, I, I mean, I think I was researching a lot of articles on stories. Um, and I, I liked the first thing I looked up was the Red Light District in Amsterdam. Um, and I was just reading all of these articles and watching all these videos about women speaking about their experience there. And I was just kind of learning like, “Okay, like it’s, it’s legal in some areas and women are still being forced into it.” And I was understanding how was that becomes diluted and how one can not live without the other. And then I started then I searched, um, anti-human trafficking organizations. And, uh, if I, Fight the New Drug came up, um, Not For Sale came up Thorn came up, Child Rescue Coalition, journey out. Um, and then I just, I just messaged some on Instagram or, um, I, I post a lot on like my story, um, or I’ll repost a lot of, um, in-feed posts just to like for information, because I’ve learned the past year or so, how people are not educated on the topic.
A lot of people I know were like, “Oh, wait, human trafficking is still a big thing. And I thought it wasn’t that big of a deal anymore.” And I was like, “No, it’s like the worst that it’s ever been in our entire history.” Um, and I was just very shocked that a lot of people didn’t know about it. And so that’s why I started following so many organizations because they do post information. And I think that’s one of the best ways that I can use my platform is just to make people aware of the situation. Um, and yeah, so that’s how I found you guys.
Garrett Jonsson: Yeah.
Um, during that statement, you said that if I’m remembering correctly, you said one can’t exist without the other, what were you referring to when you said that?
Paris Berelc: Um…
Garrett Jonsson: Do you remember? What was it basically saying that pornography fuels sex trafficking?
Paris Berelc: Um, that and prostitution or sex work, like one, one doesn’t exist without the other one. Um, and I try to understand, because I know that a lot of people choose to work in sex work, and I’m trying to understand that headspace more, I guess, um, I had a friend, she was in college and she was taking, uh, it was basically like a sex education course and they kind of went through everything like the history and the biology, all of it. And she had someone come on. Um, they had a sex worker come on to speak to the entire class. And she was saying that “human trafficking is not a big deal.” And that it’s something that the right wing, um, over exaggerates, which doesn’t make any sense. One and two, I hate when people take a very serious topic and try to make it political- human trafficking is not a political thing. It’s not a Republican view. It’s not a Democratic view. It is a human issue in society that needs to be solved and it shouldn’t have a political label on it. Um, and so she said that, and then my friend, because she knows my, my friend knows that I, um, do a lot of work against human trafficking. And so she kept asking her questions like, “Okay. So, um, if you are choosing this kind of life, then how do you also make people aware of trafficking and how do you fight against it at the same time?” And she didn’t have an answer for that. And then, um, and then she asked, you know, “Why, why do you do this? Why, why is this the kind of life that you choose?” And she said, “Because we have to survive.” And I was talking about that with my friend.
And I was like, “That’s not a choice.” That is, that’s not you choosing to do this. That is you being in a place of where a, another job doesn’t fulfill the needs to live, and this is what you have to do, but that’s not necessarily a choice. That’s still you kind of being forced into it. Um, so from my experiences and the information that I know and information I’ve tried to get from my friend and like trying to understand that other side, I feel like I still have not gotten an answer on how can one not live without the other. Um, and I don’t think that they can. So…
Garrett Jonsson: That makes sense. Well, a lot of what you said aligns with our mission statement, going back to what you said about the individual, is it a choice if there are no options? Right?
Paris Berelc: Right.
Garrett Jonsson: At what point did you begin to realize that porn fuels sex trafficking?
Paris Berelc: Um, I think honestly from, from you guys and, and reading. Really just educating myself, I, I remember I read something that said, you know, if you, if you watch certain videos, a lot of videos on the internet are rape, no consent. Um, a lot of them involve a minor. And it’s also the way that they name certain videos and the content that’s in it. So if something says “cookie toddler”, or if something says, um, like “stepdad screws, step son”, you know, if you’re constantly watching videos like that, or if it’s like a “teacher and a school girl”, like if you’re constantly watching videos like that, you, those ideas start to kind of fester in your brain. And there’s a reason why traffickers, and pimps, and predators, like they all get ideas from somewhere and porn is one of those things. And I also learned how porn really affects your brain. Um, so even just on like a smaller scale like that, just as a teenager, seeing certain videos like it did make, it made me feel worse about myself. It really did.
Garrett Jonsson: Yeah, I think that’s common for, for pornography to distort. It can distort of many things. It can distort what a relationship should look like.
Paris Berelc: Mhm.
Garrett Jonsson: It can distort what boundaries should look like. It can distort body image and…
Paris Berelc: Exactly.
Garrett Jonsson: um, all those things. Do you think it’s common for young people to turn to pornography as a form of sex education?
Paris Berelc: I think so. I mean, I think also as a society, we are obsessed with it. We are obsessed with porn, and I know, I mean, humans, we have sexual desires and that’s very normal. Like we’re human, but I think in school, it’s very, um, uh, like I, when I was growing up, you know, I went to fourth grade, I had the “sex talk” and they said, “Oh, this is what happens.” And that’s it “wear a condom, don’t get an STD.” Like, that was really it. And “don’t get pregnant.” That was it. Like I had to find out so many other things on my own about myself and about my body. And I was like, “Why did I have to figure this out on my own?” And we didn’t get the education that we needed. And as kids, like, we’re not going to go and ask our parents. Like, we’re not, we’re not going to do that. And some people can, and that’s great. So, yeah, I do. I absolutely think that people resort to that to try to educate themselves on sex.
Garrett Jonsson: Yeah, I think you’re right. And that’s just an anecdotal, my opinion. Um, but there also is research there showing that that is the case that kids are turning to pornography for sex education.
Paris Berelc: Mhm.
Garrett Jonsson: And like you said, it is distorting their views on, on many levels. So I’m glad that you talked to that, um, going back to sex trafficking, because you have a very personal account of someone that’s very close to you, your mom, if I heard that correctly…
Paris Berelc: Yeah.
Garrett Jonsson: … was abducted, and that’s one of the reasons why you are passionate about talking about this and building awareness.
Paris Berelc: Yeah.
Garrett Jonsson: I think it’s important as we talk about sex trafficking to define what is sex trafficking, at least the legal definition within the United States. And just so that the listeners can be on the same page as us, the definition of sex trafficking is: a commercial sex act induced by force fraud or coercion, or if the person is under the age of 18, and the key words are forced, fraud, or coercion. Um, I guess my question is regarding sex trafficking. And as you went on this journey recently, figuring out like sex trafficking is still a thing. And what were some of the misconceptions that you had about sex trafficking before you started to investigate it?
Paris Berelc: Um, I guess that it’s like the movie Taken, you know, great movie. That movie actually scared the out of me, um, from traveling on my own, my parents made me watch that as a kid. So, um, you know, it definitely made me aware and it made me think like, “Oh, wow, this could happen to me.” But the way that it happens in that movie, it is a movie. But trafficking happens from most of the time, someone close to you, like your parents or someone in your family, or a friend. Um, some, yeah, normally it’s someone who’s close to you.
Garrett Jonsson: Right.
Paris Berelc: And I know someone, um, we just, we shot a short film together and she has an incredible story, but, um, she, um, was forced into sex trafficking in LA from girls that she knew girls that she became friends with. And that’s, that is the craziest thing to me.
And also, I think particularly people in the U S I think they are thinking like, “Oh, um, that’s stuff happens like in foreign countries, that stuff that happens overseas, it doesn’t happen here.” Um, and I think that’s another misconception that I had myself is how common it is in the area that I live in. Um, or you live in, or, yeah. And I think that’s a lot of people that are, that’s a lot of, that’s an idea that a lot of people, um, think as well, is that it doesn’t happen where they are. It happens like somewhere else.
Garrett Jonsson: Right. Yeah. I liked what you said, the fact that Taken it did build awareness. It perpetuated some misconceptions, but also did a good job of building awareness, just like you said, and yeah, those misconceptions are common. As you started to realize what sex trafficking is today. What took you from being aware of it? Cause it’s one thing to be aware that it is happening.
Paris Berelc: Mhm.
Garrett Jonsson: It’s another thing to use your platform. I’m an influencer like yourself with a very significant following and you’re, you’re building awareness. You’re posting about it. You’re, you’re helping people make an educated decision or just become more educated in this topic. What took you from being aware, to being active in this fight against sexual exploitation?
Paris Berelc: Um, I guess I just realized how it’s not talked about a lot of people don’t talk about it and it’s never a big new story. And that really bothered me because I felt like as a society, everyone kind of grabs on to whatever is trending at the moment. And, but they’re not actually serious about the issue. And I really just wanted to take this on seriously. And, you know, I mean, that’s the ultimate goal with my fight against it is I want everyone to just live in a world where human trafficking is not an issue.
Garrett Jonsson: Yeah. Well, we appreciate you speaking out on this issue as you have and as you continue to do so.
Paris Berelc: Thank you.
Garrett Jonsson: Um, I, I’m kind of curious because of the significant following that you do have, and you speaking out on this issue, what type of responses are you getting from your audience?
Paris Berelc: [laughter] Uh, I gotta, I gotta, I gotta mix. Um, I get good ones, you know, I get the, “Oh, thank you for talking about this. I know not a lot of influencers talk about this.” Like “Thank you.” Or I get the, you know, “I don’t know why you think human trafficking, traffic, things that bad, like you should be fighting for sex workers rights.” And you know, I, I get a mix of everything. Um, I honestly, I, I don’t look at my comments because at one point I, I was looking at them and it really bothered me. And I just kind of started feeling like, “Oh, like maybe I just shouldn’t do this. Like, people like don’t care. Like why? Like if no one’s listening, then why am I doing it?” And so I’ve had to stop and kind of just put that to the side. And I think now my comments have gotten better, but no, I definitely get the, I definitely get the bad ones. So,…
Garrett Jonsson: Yeah. Well, I think that’s a healthy boundary to put, to not read your comments. Honestly.
Paris Berelc: [laughter]
Garrett Jonsson: Good for you.
Paris Berelc: [laughter] Yeah, thanks.
Garrett Jonsson: And honestly, I admire you, we admire you as an organization for using your spouse, your platform to, to do good.
Paris Berelc: Thank you.
Garrett Jonsson: I know that I’ve talked a little bit about your audience and how significant and large that is, a lot of those who follow you are young people.
Paris Berelc: Mhm.
Garrett Jonsson: I wanted to get your perspective on why you think it’s important for young people, specifically young people, that they have this opportunity to make an educated decision regarding pornography and sexual exploitation.
Paris Berelc: Um, I mean, I guess just because you, they should know, like if they do make a certain decision, what the effects could be, and that’s like anything, like when you do something, when you do a million other things in life, you probably look it up to see. [laughter]
Garrett Jonsson: Right.
Paris Berelc: To understand the pros and the cons. I mean, when you take medication, it tells you the pros and cons of taking that medication, but at least you’re educated on what it can do. And I think also with social media, it’s so hard to, I don’t even know, like my little sisters, they have social media and I get so scared all the time. Cause I’m like, “Oh, I know how that I know how Instagram makes me feel. And Instagram makes me feel like shit”. I like, that’s another one that distorts me like, and what I think I should look like and what I should do when the type of concept that I should be posting I as a 22 year old deal with that and struggle with that. And my little sisters, they have social media and I’m like, “Oh my gosh, I don’t even know how your brain can like adapt to that and understand it. And like, I hope that it doesn’t make you feel like crap, like the way it makes me feel like crap.”
Garrett Jonsson: Yeah, that’d be a tough thing to navigate.
Paris Berelc: Yeah. And even like TikTok, TikTok, I have issues with because they just have the most sexual songs ever. And it’s like supposed to be a cutesy video or like a cutesy dance. And I’m like, no, this was not, I like, look at my sister’s like TikTOK sometimes. And I’m like, “Nah, take that shit down. I’m not, you’re not having that.” Like, I wasn’t allowed to do that as a kid. Like, you’re not allowed to do that as a kid. And also like, I grew up with the understanding of be careful what you, I mean, for me, it was like Facebook, Instagram wasn’t really like, Instagram was like starting, but it wasn’t like big yet. So it was, it was Facebook. And like your whole life was on Facebook, your videos. And my frickin’ gymnastics meets everything was on my Facebook. And people always told me like, “Oh, you know, like, be careful, like watch out for what you post. Cause like, you know, jobs are going to look at that and they’re going to not give you a job in colleges will look that like, you want to show a good representation of who you are.” So everyone like posted, you know, like conservative shit. And now I’m just like, I don’t think that matters anymore.
Garrett Jonsson: That’s a, that’s an interesting observation. I never made that connection, but yeah, you’re right. There is a difference, for sure.
Paris Berelc: Yeah.
Garrett Jonsson: And I think that speaks to what we’re fighting because not necessarily the social media platforms that you mentioned or the dancing, but the, that what we’re fighting is that the generation today, the young people today are facing something that generations before didn’t have to face when it comes to the topic of pornography because of the ease of access. It is something that, uh, again, the, this generation is facing that we’ve never had to face that with previous generations. So yeah, that makes sense. Well, enough about, uh, Fight the New Drug and that talk. How can our listener support Paris?
Paris Berelc: [laughter] Um, I don’t know. Just, I guess, I don’t know.
Garrett Jonsson: What are you up to today? And not what are you doing today on this Wednesday afternoon? Like what, what projects are you working on?
Paris Berelc: Um, okay. Well, I just finished a project. I was in Atlanta filming and, um, it’s called Do Revenge. I think the title is going to change, but it’s on Netflix and we have a really, really great cast. Um, it’s kind of like a Mean Firls, Clueless vibe. I think that’ll come out next year and I have a movie. It was my first time leading a movie called One Up.
Garrett Jonsson: Wow.
Paris Berelc: It’s, um, Lion’s Gate and Buzzfeed and it’s about gaming.
Garrett Jonsson: Congratulations on that.
Paris Berelc: Thank you. Yeah. I got so worked with a pretty bad-ass group of females. Um, so that is looking like it’s going to come out next year, maybe in the spring, so let’s see. Um, but yeah, keep an eye out for that one. Cause um, yeah, it’s my first time leading a movie. I’m very excited about that. And that’s all I got so far.
Garrett Jonsson: Awesome. I just want to encourage our listeners to go and support you. I know you don’t read your Instagram comments, [laughter] but I do want to, I do want to encourage our listeners to go leave lots of love on your, on your social media platforms and do all that we can to support you in those ways that we can.
Paris Berelc: Well, thank you.
Garrett Jonsson: Yeah. Before we finished the conversation, I just want to leave you with the opportunity to have the last word during this conversation. If there’s anything on your heart or mind that we haven’t discussed or that you haven’t said, uh, we would love to hear those thoughts as well.
Paris Berelc: Yeah. Um, I guess just, you know, the importance of educating yourself. Again, you know, I don’t think that you need to post a million things on social media like I do, but I think at least just try to take the time to educate yourself and it’s important to not judge. And I know maybe sometimes my certain views or the way I speak about certain things that might sound like I’m judgmental of something, but just know that I’m not. Um, cause I’m also trying to educate myself more and I only can speak on what I know and the information that I received, but it’s never, I never judge, I don’t care what you do or who you are. I, I do not judge anything and yeah, just become aware and just educate yourself. That’s it.
Garrett Jonsson: Yeah. Well, thank you. We’re on the same page as you, uh, we have these attributes that we try to encourage our Fighters. I say “Fighters” like our followers from around the world. We encourage them to incorporate these into their lives and some of them are understanding, and accepting, and loving. And so I think that we align there that, uh, the goal is to be understanding the goal is to be accepting. The goal is to be real and all those things. And honestly, as I prepared for this conversation, Paris, that’s one of the things that I admire about you most was you just seem real and genuine.
Paris Berelc: Thank you.
Garrett Jonsson: Yeah. Thanks for jumping on the call with us today.
Paris Berelc: Awesome. Thank you so much.
Garrett Jonsson: Thank you, Paris. Take care.
Paris Berelc: You too.
Fight the New Drug collaborates with a variety of qualified organizations and individuals with varying personal beliefs, affiliations, and political persuasions. As FTND is a non-religious and non-legislative organization, the personal beliefs, affiliations, and persuasions of any of our team members or of those we collaborate with do not reflect or impact the mission of Fight the New Drug.
MORE RESOURCES FROM FTND
A three-part documentary about porn’s impacts on consumers, relationships, and society.
Fifteen research-based articles detailing porns negatively impacts.
Tees to support the movement and change the conversation wherever you go.
Successfully navigate conversations about porn with your partner, child, or friend.
A database of the ever-growing body of research on the harmful effects of porn.
An interactive site with short videos highlighting porn’s proven negative effects.