Leilani Li strikes a pose.

Podcast: Leilani Li Interview

Leilani Li is a survivor.

At first, sex work was a pragmatic way to make ends meet, but she soon discovered a talent for onscreen passion. Though described by some as hypersexual, Li herself doesn’t see it that way. She is simply expressing her authentic self. Whatever she’s doing, it’s definitely working, to the tune of an AVN Award for Best Trans Newcomer earlier this year. She joins the Adult Empire Podcast to discuss the big win, her early aspirations, her industry journey, her passion for comic book movies, her favorite pop stars, and much more.

Listen to the podcast on your favorite platform, watch the video version below or on Adult Empire YouTube, and check out the full topic index and transcript.



Top Five Leilani Li Porn Clips

Interview topics and transcript

Getting nominated for AVN Trans Newcomer 2024

I first heard that I was nominated through the website. And when I first saw that I was nominated, I was really, really excited. And of course, excited, honored. kind of shocked, because I felt like,  there’s so many good people out there. But I’m just mostly honored and kind of nervous, oh my gosh, like, what did I actually win? But honestly, I was not anticipating winning.

I felt like me and every girl nominated deserved it. And so being that everyone deserved it equally. I kind of just like, prepared myself not to win. So if I did it, I wouldn’t be disappointed because. It’s the first award that I’ve won so far in my career, but it’s not the first award that I have been nominated for. So in the beginning, in the past, I have really set myself up for disappointment. So this time, I was more prepared. And I was like, I won’t be disappointed. I’m not going to win. But it’s an achievement to have even been nominated.

The influence of pop stars

When I was younger, I wanted to be a pop star. And when I was outside playing, I’d always fantasize about hearing the crowd roaring, as I would do my acceptance speech. So it’s something that I’ve been wanting, yes.

Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and the Spice Girls, preferably Scary Spice and Posh Spice. Those are my influences, and also Aaliyah, the late and great Aaliyah. And, of course, I’ve always love Beyonce. So those are pop stars that I’ve always aspired to be like since I was younger, but when I was young, young, I feel like Britney Spears was like the pop star.

Early aspirations

I actually played the violin. So I’m musically inclined, I don’t like to be a pop artists, you have to necessarily be a seeker, I feel like you have to have the it factor, and a team of writers and good editors, and you put all that together, and it creates a really good pop star. So I always did consider myself having a fair chance. As far as like, the scope of the possibility in the industry at the time, I didn’t think it was possible. So I did it for still at the way that I might have wanted to pursue it. But it’s okay, though, I actually do have a close friend of mine. That is, I’m not gonna say any names or anything like that. But um, she’s a pop star, and she’s very successful, very successful pop star. So I do vicariously live through her. And she has a lot of longevity. And I see all the hard work it takes to to have that longevity and success in her career. So although I still fantasize about being a pop star, I’m glad that I’m not.

The big win: awards experience

So I was not prepared for my category to be called, because it was called in a list of other categories. So I was recording just to record. And I actually got to capture when my name was called, and my picture was on the screen. And so I got to capture my reaction. And my reaction was like, total shock. And then I just start crying. And then, another thing is, that one thing I noticed was the crowd’s reaction, like the reaction from my peers when I was announced that I won, and it really just made me feel really, really good. So on top of be like emotional, and in disbelief, I also felt really, really good. There was a range of emotions going through my mind. You know, it’s the third time this award has been given out. And I’m also the first black trans girl to win an AVN. And so I just felt honored and really emotional.

Being a trailblazer

I feel like I’m a trailblazer in the sense of mainstream and receiving the award, I do. Yes. And I feel like I’ve opened the door for girls that are already established independently, but don’t necessarily do mainstream, and maybe they see me and realize, hey, that’s an avenue that I can take. Because maybe before they didn’t feel like, there was a lot of representation for black girls in our industry, for them to consider going mainstream. So I do hope that receiving the award and breaking down that barrier will open the door to so many girls who are deserving and more than — what is that word — qualified to receive such awards. Girls that I look up to and have always aspired to? To carry myself like, there’s so many, there’s so many girls, even though I’m the first girl to receive the award, there’s so many girls that deserve that. So many.


So to be very clear, that this is my first AVN experience. I’ve never been to AVN before [this year]. So my experience with them is very limited. And I can only go off of what I’ve seen from that one show, and also from the experiences of my peers that I’ve talked with. And I feel like first and foremost, I want to say that I appreciate being considered nominated and included in the AVN and the awards signing. And I do appreciate it. And I will acknowledge, I think that’s a really big step forward in the AVN’s infrastructure.

But when it comes to trans voices, transfem or transmasc, I do believe that there could be more representation. And when it comes to trans voices, or any voice rather, BB W mills are any any voice when it comes to the voice of a performer, I think that every performer should have equal opportunity to have their voices heard whether they’re trans, MILF, BBW, doesn’t matter. So although I do feel that there was inclusion, because I can’t say there wasn’t that inclusion, and then also saying that I received an award. I feel like there’s still also room for improvement, just like with anything, you know, nothing’s perfect. And I think that taking the criticism received, and receiving it and making the change to make sure that everyone is included next year would mean a lot to me, and a lot of other communities, not just my community.


Well, to be very honest, I’ve done scene work way, way, a long time ago, way before this. It was solo work. And when I did it, I did it as a survival sex worker. I started in this industry, sex work, not the porn industry. But I started in the sex work industry, for survival. And as a survival sex worker, [it] wasn’t always pretty. It was actually really scary a lot of the times, but I always had an end goal. My end goal was to build myself up to make a living to take care of myself. I felt like it was something that I was good at, and something that I could do, an ends to a means.

So in the process of my career that I actually was not taking seriously, it was moreso for survival, I ended up getting into a relationship. And in my relationship, I was I stopped doing digital sex work, make porn and stuff like that. And I focused on building myself up just as a black trans woman and building myself up. There’s a lot of things that have that I went through when I was doing survival sex work.

So there was a lot of trauma that I had to unpack, unfold, and a lot of rearranging. And I did that I did a lot of self-discovery in my relationship. We were together for several years, and I built myself up. And then after we broke up, which was about two years ago, I found myself wondering how things would have been if I would have taken my career seriously. Instead of looking at it as a means to survival. And so last year, I decided to go to the TEAs which is coming up next week [interview recorded spring 2024], actually. And I interacted with my peers and did some networking.

And next thing you know, I was working. And my original goal was to work with Steven Grooby, and Grooby Productions. Shout out to Steven and his companies. That was my original goal. I work with my home studio, because this is the studio that’s always given me an opportunity. So I’ll do that. And the next thing, you know, Evil Angel was calling. Trans Angels is calling. Owen Gray with Deep Lush is calling. And consistently calling. And now awards. And now we’ve made a historic AVN.

And so yeah, kind of just wanted to like, take everything that I had learned in my relationship and reapply it and retake my shot at being in the adult industry. But I didn’t feel like there was a lot of avenues for me. So I just was going to take what I was going to take and be thankful. I didn’t realize it was going to get to this level. And so as of now I’ve been regrouping. I’ve been appreciating everything that’s going on and regrouping and taking myself seriously and prepared myself to take it to the next level.

Because last year, I feel like was all about — not proving myself —  the last year was about doing the work and doing what needed to be done. And I feel like I’ve done the work. And I’ve been acknowledged, but I’m not the new girl anymore. I’m a rookie, but I’m not the new girl anymore. And so I feel like there’s a lot of expectations, and I just wanted to you know, continue to build myself and continue to grow myself. I’m not perfect. I’m still learning a lot within the industry. And even with my performance level, I always feel like I can always learn more. I do feel like sometimes I’m shy. And I’m working on that. And you know, continuing to build myself up for my fans and my audience.

And also my peers, my peers are, for me, my peers are a really big part of my career. And not going to lie, a lot of my peers do play a really heavy role in my career. Being an example of advice, or just, you know, telling me the ins and outs of how to navigate this lifestyle as a profession. Because I think that there’s a lot of performers and you know, adult creators, but I think that what separates a professional and adult creator is there’s a lot that separates. So there’s a lot that I’m learning.

Advice from peers

One of the best pieces of advice that one of my peers gave me . . . so much advice. So let me just think, you know, I will say that Ariel Demure has given me some of the most sound advice, and some of the best advice she’s given me is to just show up and to make sure that I do the work. You know, that has always that has been the best advice for me because I’m just, sometimes I’m nervous. Am I going to perform? Am I going to look okay? Am I going to perform okay? What sexual position am I going to be in? Okay, am I going to be a top? So am I going to be able to be functional? Okay, I’m going to be a bottom. Is everything going to go smooth? Am I going to be able to take this dick?

So you know, there’s always all these expectations that I have with myself. And I always just hear myself in the back of my head, like you’re here, you showing up, you put your best foot forward now just to do the work. And it takes away a lot of things. There’s a lot of anxiety that that comes into performing. You know, no cameras on and just having sex with one of my many partners is really fun. It’s really fun to build, really fun when you add a production, and there’s a lot of stop and go. It’s still really fun. But it takes away it takes away a lot of elements that people don’t necessarily think about. So there’s a lot that goes into performing. It’s not it’s not that easy. If it was we’d all be doing that. And even when you do it, you don’t always continue to do it. There’s been times when I’m like, oh my god, like it’s not like a lot, but it is a lot. It’s crazy.

Loving your job

I love what I do. There are times when I’m like, Oh Lord, like I need a moment. So the best example is last summer I had the honor of being booked in Canada with a studio in Canada, and I was out there for a week. And every day that I was out there we shot. So I think that by the fourth day of shooting, I was like, oh my god, I need a break.

And that’s what I realized that I do not what is the second piece of advice that I was given was to not overwork yourself. So that leads me to the second and that’s what I was like, You know what I was told not to overextended, overwork myself. And now I know what that what that means. So there’s never a time when I don’t love what I do. But there are times when I’m so anxious, and excited to work and create that I might take off more than I can chew at the time, and I need to pace myself, you know, I need to help myself. See, I’m so new that when I get a call, I’m like, yes, yes, yes. Yes. I don’t want to say now, I don’t want to reschedule. So sometimes I might overwork myself. And I have to learn not to do that. But I always love what I do.


To be honest, my shyness comes from just the desire to want to be nice, to come off in a way that makes a person feel good. And also just like, my uncertainty with people. I’m not like, “Oh my god, I’m so shy. I’m more so like I’m going to present myself a little differently. Because I’m not exactly sure how I should be with this person. I don’t want to be too much. I don’t want to be you know, so I think that my my shyness is more so just like, you know, just like wanting to know a person and not being sure. So once I know a person, I’m not shy at all. But in the beginning, I do feel shy.

Too much?

I’ve been told I’m too much. I’ve been told I’m too  sexual. I’ve been told I’m too dramatic. I’ve been told a lot of different things about myself, and I love all those different things about myself. But you know, as a person who’s aware — criticism doesn’t make me feel sad, but I do hear criticism, I like to take all those things into account. It does create this shyness, or this timidness because I just don’t want to come off too abrasive or too hypersexual.

I’ve been told that since I was younger. I remember one time I didn’t know how to play a game. But I was like, Oh, I don’t know how to play the game. And the person was like that, because you’re so busy fucking. And at the time, I was really young. I was like, a virgin. And I was like, Well, why would they say that about me? I asked. I asked them. These were adult authorities at the time? And I was like, Well, why would they say something about or about me? While they say that? They’re like, You come out really sexual. And I was like, okay, never heard that before, but okay. So I think from that point forward, I’ve always had like this, coyness, not shy but just like timid and reserved.

The power of sexuality

When I was a senior in high school, I realized that I was sexually attractive, and I realized that  I could wield that sexuality for my cause. And at the beginning I abused that power a lot. And I think through trial and error, I’ve learned that to wield such a power, it needs to be a give or take relation. You won’t really keep any of the things that you will from your sexual power and you can’t you can’t get wielded abusively.

No one’s ever asked me that before, but I haven’t learned that I have a sexual power. Yes. And I’ve been aware of since I was a teenager. That is why I was like, Oh, I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’ll just go do porn back in the day. And I was like, I’ll just do porn and figure it out. You know, and I didn’t take it seriously, as I said. And then I was like, you know what, let me refine my power and claim my power and wield it responsibly.

Comic books: X-Men

I love Storm. And I love Mystique. And I love Phoenix. Dark Phoenix to be exact. And clearly I love X Men. Consistently has been the staple Marvel piece, right? I mean, there’s there’s so many different Marvel movies and characters that have been brought to life.

Who she would play in a porn parody

I think that I would probably just be like Mystique. The spoof would be that I have a prostitute. And I charge a really high amount of money. Because I provide a service where I can literally transform into any porn star. So at that point, we would also have the cast these different porn stars. Yeah, so the person could be like, I’ll be like, who you want me to be baby, and then I’ll transform into that person. And then it’ll be that person.

Working with Ricky Greenwood

I’ve worked with him twice. So far, nothing has come out yet [as of February 2024]. But I’m hoping that something comes out soon. The first project we did together I did with Joel Someone. And recently, not too long ago, I did a leather project with him with Roman Todd, for Mile High Studios. So I was really excited about that. Was a really hot experience. So I’ve worked with him. And I hope that something comes out soon. There’s a lot of stuff that I’ve done. Not a lot. But there’s several pieces of work that I’ve done that have not come out yet. So you’re always anxious. Some of them I’m not exactly sure if I perform the best. But other ones I know I prefer to well, and I can’t wait for my bands and everyone else to see them. As the productions of the Ricky are ones that I know that I performed well.

As a producer director, and I feel like when you go to work for him, there’s an expectation that I have of myself to make sure that I’m meeting his expectation. And so, so far working with him, it hasn’t been a lot of anything. It’s fairly easily. I actually will say it’s been fairly easy both times. We ran through the scripts, everything was good. He didn’t have to give a lot of direction because we do what was expected of us and we backed the expectation.

Watching your own scenes

So when I first see it — sometimes I don’t even see them until someone leaked it and it’s on the internet, which I hate. But that’s how you see it. And other times I don’t see it until the company starts promoting it. And in the beginning, I was really like self conscious. I want to see everything. I want to approve this. I want to do that. But you can’t do that. So I told myself, like, when I do the work, again, put your best foot forward. So when it releases, you don’t have to, you know, feel so much pressure because you know that you did your best. So most of the time, I read the comments, and I read how fans and viewers are receiving the work. If I don’t like the way that I look, I won’t share it. But I still will like it, but I won’t share it on my platform because I’d be like, Oh my God, I don’t want people to see me like that. There hasn’t been a time when I’ve had to do that.

Working with Trans Angels

First and foremost, I want to say thank you to the Trans Angels Vegas team, as well as Gracie Jane, who was my co-star for that production, because they made it so easy. It also was my first Trans Angel scene. So it’s very, very special to be my first Trans Angel seed and my first pro scene with a trans girl. So a lot of specialness in that scene. It was so fun to to work with Gracie. I looked at her and have admired her career for a while. She’s a pillar of our community. And I really I love her. So being able to work with her and see how she works and take notes was really fun. And the double-sided dildo, which I’ve never done before, was very, very hot. No script. The script was be a bad bitch and have fun. And that’s what we did. And it’s been nominated for several awards. It’s up for TEA. Every award ceremony this season has included that production except for XBIZ . I didn’t get any noms for XBIZ this year. But I do hope to continue to do the work. So they can, you know, see next year.

Sex toys

For my OnlyFans is the time when I use them the most and every time after I’ve done using them I’m like I should do that more often. So I do remind myself sometimes to just leisurely fuck myself. I mean, every time I’m preparing for a scene I do I do fuck myself with my toy to a get me ready. And to you know, see just make sure I’m just in that mood once you start doing those types of things yourself. It’s kind of like it gets you like in a mood. So like, fucking myself gets me in this mood and now I’m ready to go get back on set.

[For toys]I like phalluses. I don’t like holes. So I have a  dildo type deal with a hole and a dick. Something about sucking dick so relaxing. So I like that. But like when it comes to like fucking the hole of the toy, I don’t like that. So I’m not going to lie to you. Like a big dick, a small dick, in between, vibrating, ridge, love it all. But the holes. I have not found the holes that I like yet. So I’m going to have to maybe explore more.

Domination versus being dominated

As a trans woman, if you’ve ever done stuff, guys want to be dominated? For the most part, a lot of guys actually like to be dominated. They like to explore that side with me, which I love to explore. So there hasn’t been like a lot of guys that, like, want to use toys on me. But I hope that after this interview airs, maybe there’ll be a lot more guys that are like, hey, do you want me to come over and talk to you about the toys and tell you what to think.

Challenges of being a trans performer

You want to be feminine, you want to be soft, and you want to you want to fuck like a rabbit and you want to perform. And yeah, there’s a lot that goes into it. I never thought about it like that. But I do agree. I do agree. Like when I’m bottoming and they’re like, I just woke up, I washed my face. And I’m here eating. And I’m like, Oh, you’re so lucky. I’ve been up for 20 hours. I’ve been up for 20 hours getting ready. Physically, getting my body ready. I can’t eat it till tomorrow. So a lot goes into it. And then as a black performer. And I actually work with all ethnicities. I’ve worked with all ethnicities, but a lot of the times my complexion is darker, and my makeup gets on them. And so that’s something that I have had to deal with as well. My makeup getting all over the place. Hoping that I perform up to par. It’s a lot.

General challenges of being a pornstar<\summary>

There’s a lack of respect for performers. I think that over the last couple of months, there’s been a lot of things going on within our industry. Unfortunately, you know, we’ve lost some very talented performers, and a lot of performers not a lot, but some have, you know, dealt with pretty scary situations. I’ve seen star performers do something as simple as say, “Hey, I had a medical procedure. Send me good energy” or “Hey, I got a car” and people are rude [about that]. They’re so rude. Disgusting. Sad.

Being a “twisted” person<\summary>

I’m a twisted person. And I’ve heard some crazy things about myself. So it’s all funny to me, you know. And I’m also honest with myself. I’m honest with myself. Because if you’re not honest with yourself, you can’t grow. So I’m very honest with myself. So sometimes when someone says something, it’s so funny. It’s always so funny to me. I wish that they would also know that I do notice it and notice how it affects other people. And sometimes it affects people’s families, because the person that you’re talking about, they’re not even here anymore. So those words do affect their family. But when it comes to me, the hate comments and things like that. It’s really, really funny. I’ve heard it all before, I really have. So hearing it again. It’s always so funny. Moreso because you know the show Kids Say the Darndest things. Really, in this reality, it’s like civilians say the darndest things. So entertaining.

Fan compliments
Foot fetish

So I kind of am a weirdo. When I was younger, I liked guys ankles, like you know the back ankle part. Like if a guy was like wearing like a cool soft like Nike type of shoe and has that “thing” on the back of your ankle. I don’t know what that is. It had like a little bit of hair on it too. It would really turn me on. It’s really weird. And sometimes I still like it. I like guys feel [that are] masculine, but still like nice. And like I don’t like guys. I don’t want it to be like too small. Listen to me. Listen to how I’m describing all this! [laughs]

Social media and closing

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