What Happened to Porn Star Dakota Skye?

what-happened-to-porn-star-dakota-skye?

On June 9th, 2021, police in Los Angeles’s Skid Row, a neighborhood frequented by homeless people and substance abusers, responded to a call from a man in a trailer. The man said that a woman had stopped by hours earlier requesting to take a nap. He obliged, offering her a spot on his couch, but when he checked on her in the morning, she wasn’t breathing.

The woman’s name was Lauren Scott, and she loved karaoke, Hilary Duff, and once harbored dreams of becoming a marine biologist. But she was better known as Dakota Skye. Diminutive and flaxen-haired, Skye had starred in nearly 300 movies since entering the industry eight years ago, when she was 19, from Couples Bang the Babysitter 10 to Young Girl Seductions 9; even though she was 27 at the time of her death, practically Methusaleh-esque in porn years, her petite stature (she was just five feet tall) and omnipresent cherubic expression led to her being primarily cast in teen roles.

According to the L.A. County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner, Skye’s cause of death has not been determined, and the office refused to release documents related to her death to Rolling Stone until the case was closed. But it was well-known in adult circles that she struggled with substance abuse. At the time of her death, the press reported she was homeless, which was not the case; estranged from her husband, she was living with her boyfriend in Woodland Hills, California. But she had fallen from her previous heights.

At the peak of her time in porn, Skye was represented by one of the profession’s top agents, appeared on hundreds of DVD box covers, and had been nominated for a number of awards, including the prestigious AVN Best New Starlet award in 2015. But over the past few years, she hadn’t been booking many roles, garnering headlines mostly for her arrests (including for domestic violence in 2017, a charge that was later dropped) and her erratic behavior on social media, including, most recently, flashing her breasts in front of a George Floyd mural in May 2021. She also struggled with drug and alcohol addiction, leading her to ping-pong around for years, borrowing money and capitalizing on favors for work. “She was so big in our industry,” says Kianna Bradley, an adult actress who befriended and later mentored Skye. “And she died in someone’s RV with a man she did not know, because she had nowhere else to go.”

Considering she had not been highly active in porn for years, some members of the adult community, sensitive to how they are depicted in mainstream media, were careful to separate themselves from Skye, arguing that hers was a tragic yet all too common story across the city — not just for those involved in porn. “A person with known addiction issues overdosed. It happens daily in Los Angeles,” one insider told me. “It’s a sad person with drug problems who died, by all accounts I’ve heard.”

Others, however, argue that Skye’s fate is reflective of issues inherent to the adult industry, such as the lack of systemic, institutional support for those struggling with mental illness and substance abuse. “When I was Dakota’s age, I was so fucked up, I was missing shoots and they finally told me, ‘We’re not hiring you anymore. Go get help. We’ll put you in rehab and give you help,’” says Bradley. “That doesn’t happen anymore. They used her up and pushed her aside.”

Skye was born in Clearwater, Florida to an alcoholic mother who would later die in her 40s and a father whom she barely knew. Her childhood was marked by sexual abuse, and her mother sporadically going on alcohol binges. “She had a very, very bad upbringing,” her husband, Zachary Lecompte-Goble, tells Rolling Stone. When she was in her early teens, she went to live with her father’s family in southern Ohio, which is where she met an older boyfriend who encouraged her to start camming when she was just 16, below the legal age of entry, according to Lecompte-Goble. When she was 19, she launched her porn career in Florida after being recruited by her first agent, John O’Byrne of East Coast Talent. “Smaller models end up doing well — the petite girls do well,” O’Byrne says. “The industry likes the [juxtaposition] of tiny girl/big penis. She had a great work ethic in the beginning. She’d show up and shoot and they’d be like ‘Oh my god, she killed it. We want to book her for four more scenes.’” Within the first six months, he says, she was on more than 100 box covers.

According to Lecompte-Goble, Skye told him that when she first entered the industry, she had expressed to O’Byrne that she was only comfortable with booking girl/girl shoots — a fairly common ask for young women new to porn — only for her agent to immediately start booking her roles in boy/girl scenes. “It was certainly a bait-and-switch,” says Lecompte-Goble. (O’Byrne denied any memory of this, saying Skye had requested to do boy/girl scenes off the bat.)

Skye enjoyed her work, and by all accounts was good at it. “She looks very similar to Dakota Fanning and that was part of the niche she was working,” says Alana Evans, Skye’s friend and the president of the Adult Performance Artists’ Guild. “That bratty blonde is what it was about her personality that [viewers] enjoyed.” After about two and a half years, she left East Coast Talent and moved to Los Angeles, the epicenter of the porn world, to work with superstar adult agent Mark Spiegler.

Skye was fearless and generous to her friends when she could be, with Bradley recounting that one time, when Bradley was auditioning for a marketing job at a club, Skye stripped down to her underwear, climbed onto a table, and started belting to lure in patrons. “She was singing her little heart out and she can’t sing a lick,” Bradley recalls. “Because she wanted to help me get that job.” When she was sober, she was bubbly and free-spirited and game for anything. Director and screenwriter Jacky St. James tells Rolling Stone that at the height of Skye’s success, she once called her to do an uncredited extra role, which required her to don an unflattering costume to play a nerdy college student. “She let me put gigantic eyebrows on her and dress her in the most heinous Pepto-Bismol colored outfit and let me put her hair up in this ugly scrunchie and she was completely OK and comfortable and had a blast,” recalls St. James. “That to me is my memory of Dakota: the girl who was never too proud to be silly.”

In the depths of her addiction, however, she was impulsive and erratic. She would take to Facebook to post lengthy rants about how her dog was ill and required surgery, and hit up former colleagues and employers asking for money. “It was very  unusual, because she was a very sought-after performer,” says St. James “It was surprising she would need money.” Lecompte-Goble says she would do things like jet off to Paris to make a sex tape with a stranger, or pull a knife on him during an argument. “I don’t know anything about demons,” he says. “I’ve never met someone who you could say ‘they’re possessed by a demon.’ But there was a demon inside this girl.”

Lecompte-Goble first met Skye at a party, at the height of her fame, around 2015; they got married in Las Vegas in 2016, after Skye said she was pregnant (Lecompte-Goble says she made the decision to terminate the pregnancy in order to keep working, after Spiegler offered her a contract.) As a porn outsider, or “civilian” — he currently works in the cannabis industry, and previously briefly worked as a spokesperson for far-right provocateur Milo Yiannopolous — he didn’t know what to make of the fact that she did sex work. “At first, I saw it as her being empowered as a woman,” he says. “And I thought, who am I to tell her she can’t do that?” More disturbing by far, he says, was Skye’s taste for Xanax. “This is Los Angeles. If you take a Xanax because you have anxiety and you take it as prescribed, that’s not necessarily a red flag,” he says. “And she was really good at hiding that at first.”

It was when she lost the Best New Starlet award that Lecompte-Goble says her substance abuse skyrocketed: he would routinely see her taking 10 to 15 Xanax at a time, and she also started smoking methamphetamine. “I wanted to help fix her because I, you know, I’m not from this world,” he says. “I just thought maybe I could get her some mental help and I could give her what she needed and I can fix her.” After two years of living together, the relationship ended after Skye pulled a knife on Lecompte-Goble. For the last few years of her life, since their split in 2016, they were husband and wife in legal name only. “I became more of her father and more of a caretaker than anything else,” he says.

Also concerning was Skye’s increasingly unpredictable behavior. She would regularly become paranoid and violent, accusing people of sexually abusing or harming her or claiming that shadowy forces were pursuing her and trying to end her life. She once told her friend Evans that Lecompte-Goble was a Kennedy and that people were trying to assassinate her. She called one friend and told him there were hidden cameras in her house, and that she was obsessively documenting her boyfriend’s actions because she was afraid of him sex trafficking her. “She would say the craziest stuff. Everyone in the business that worked with her or filmed her absolutely knew what they were getting with her,” Evans says. “They knew she was an addict and maybe would be coherent but not necessarily sober. And this was the path she was on for a few years.” At one point, she accused porn star Ron Jeremy of raping her; according to Evans, when the LAPD contacted her during its investigation of Jeremy to ask for Skye’s statement, Skye at first assented, then refused to cooperate with police. (Jeremy is currently facing 330 years in prison on other sexual assault charges; his lawyers did not respond to Rolling Stone‘s request for comment.)

dakota skye friends

From left to right: adult performers Kasey Storm, Alana Evans, Cher Adel, Kianna Bradley, and Dakota Skye.

Kiana Bradley

In June 2017, Skye was arrested in Pinellas County, Florida for domestic battery. According to Pinellas County court records, at approximately 4:55 a.m., Skye struck her then-boyfriend in the face after they had sex, “swelling and cutting his bottom lip.” “It was a drug-fueled rage,” says Bradley of the incident. The following month, the boyfriend filed a request not to prosecute, which the court granted. Over the following two years, Skye would go to rehab at least six times, says Lecompte-Goble, usually checking herself out after only a few days. None of them took: she would spend a few weeks clean, then go back to couch-hopping with agents and publicists and celebrity flings until she landed back on the street. “She’d call me late in the evening or early morning. You could tell she was fucked up,” says Bradley. “Her husband would say he didn’t know where she was. It was hard to keep tabs on Dakota.”

Skye’s struggles made her a favorite for adult gossip blogs, which, like mainstream gossip blogs, revel in the travails of its fallen stars. “Dakota has always been that social media train wreck we’ve all enjoyed. One part of this site loves to watch, the other side hopes she gets the help she needs,” one gossip blogger wrote after Skye posted on Twitter she was going into rehab in 2019, a few months before she pleaded guilty in a Burbank courthouse to driving under the influence. But even though her mental health struggles and public social media meltdowns made her gossip fodder, she continued to book roles.

Indeed, according to her Internet Adult Film Database profile, more than 20 scenes featuring Skye were released in 2019 alone (though some of these were compilations of her previously shot work). “If you have a name and the girl sells, they’re gonna book you. And that’s the bad thing about the industry,” says O’Byrne. “It’s like with sports. If someone is hurt and they want you to play, they will tell you to play…they were shooting her because everything she touched sold.” O’Byrne says Skye approached him at an Exxotica convention in 2018, asking to come back to his agency. At this point, she had parted ways with Spiegler, having left the industry briefly in a short-lived attempt to go back to school; since her return, she had gone through a number of other agencies and had gotten tattoos, which compromised her girl-next-door look. O’Byrne said no. “She wasn’t the same girl. It would have been difficult for me to rep her when I remember the person I want to remember,” he says. “That’s the person I wanted to rep at that point. And Dakota wasn’t that person anymore.”

Many of the jobs Skye was booking, says Evans, were with companies that had previously worked with her and were trying to help her out by giving her work, despite her public issues. But Bradley says that anyone who employed Skye at the nadir of her addiction was effectively enabling her. “She was at the point where she was doing anything. Seeing fans, escorting, doing content trade, working when she could. She had no business working,” she says. “If anybody hired her during the past two years, they should be ashamed of themselves. She was not in her right mind. It was very known. If anyone tells you any different, they are lying.” St. James, who stopped working with Skye years ago but stayed in touch with her sporadically over the years, agrees. “When somebody is going through something like that, the best thing I can do is not hire them. Not just because it’s a liability for me, but it’s a liability for them, because are they able to consent?,” she says. 

In the aftermath of Skye’s death, those close to her have accused the people who directly profited off of Skye, such as her former agents and publicists and the producers who employed her, of exploiting or even enabling her. Several of those close to Skye pointed to James Bartholet, Skye’s friend and publicist, as an example of someone who enabled her addiction by continuously partying with Skye. (When asked about this, Bartholet denied ever seeing Skye do drugs and denied doing drugs with her, saying, “Anybody that makes statements like that is libel and slander. There’s a lot of haters out there.”) But everyone agrees that the bigger problem was the lack of infrastructural support for Skye within the business. “She needed a lot more people to say, ‘No, I won’t book you, but I’ll help you get sober.’ She wasn’t getting that,” says Evans. “Giving an addict $1,000 for a scene is not helping them.”

Due to the widespread — and inaccurate — belief that all adult performers are survivors of abuse or substance addiction, some people I spoke with were careful to note that Skye’s struggles were not reflective of the porn community at large. One source inside the industry cautioned that bringing attention to Skye’s passing and the industry-wide issues it may underscore would present a PR issue while it is currently facing attacks from anti-pornography groups like the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (formerly known as Morality in Media), a multi-million-dollar-funded conservative interest groups that is currently lobbying to shut down sites like Pornhub. “Within two seconds you’ll get NCOSE to flip your story saying, ‘PORN DID THIS TO HER,’” the insider warned me.

According to her friends and family members, Skye’s struggles with addiction and mental health predated her entry into mainstream porn; by all accounts, she enjoyed working in porn, and was able to find many friends and mentors in the adult world. But porn performers, who typically work as independent contractors, often do not receive health insurance or benefits, nor is there a formalized support system in place for those who are struggling with substance abuse or mental health issues. There is a handful of organizations geared primarily toward sex workers, including Pineapple Support, which connects sex workers with therapists across the country. But both Evans and Bradley say that Skye’s efforts to reach out to Pineapple Support for help went unanswered. “Many of us tried to help Dakota,” says Evans. “But if you didn’t enable her addictive behavior, you were the problem as far as she was concerned.” (The CEO of Pineapple Support, Leya Falcon, did not respond to requests for comment.) The lack of infrastructural support in porn for those struggling with mental health issues, combined with a handful of power players at the top who exploit young performers, did not help. “People come to this industry with them in tow because they’re able to make a large amount of money here,” Evans explains. “Sometimes they can do that. And sometimes, with Dakota, it will just amplify the issue that she has.”

Like many other performers during the Covid-19 pandemic, which led to a months-long shutdown of sanctioned adult film shoots, 2020 was difficult for Skye. But it was doubly so because she had experienced a number of other personal setbacks: her mother died of liver failure in 2019 after a long struggle with alcoholism, two of her grandparents had died of Covid-19, and she lost her beloved dog Eli. In May 2020, she was arrested at 3 a.m. and held in a Van Nuys jail on undisclosed misdemeanor charges; earlier this spring, she had been outed as an escort on a porn gossip blog, and faced tremendous social media backlash after posting an Instagram flashing her breasts in front of a George Floyd mural. “I’m just thinking, ‘Oh, Dakota was high,’” says Evans of seeing the post. “She wouldn’t have done that sober.”

The night before she died, Skye had left the home she shared with her boyfriend and called a number of her friends, including her publicist, asking if she could stay with them. All of them turned her away. “She thought the FBI and the Mafia were after her. She thought she was going to go become a Hells Angel biker. She was high,” says Bradley. She walked all the way from the Valley to Los Angeles’s Skid Row, an hours-long trip, before ending up at a homeless man’s encampment at 2:30 in the morning. Although the LAPD rejected Rolling Stone‘s request for a police report, according to Lecompte-Goble, who spoke at length with investigators, the homeless man saw Skye smoking something before she curled up on his couch and went to sleep. She never woke up.

Those close to Skye are split as to how much the adult community could have actually done to — if not save her — at least help her through her addiction. “If someone has a problem, we will help that person. And if that person doesn’t want our help, there is nothing we can do about that,” says O’Byrne. “If you check someone into rehab and they check themselves out, you did your job. Saying that we enabled them, that’s them trying to pass the buck to the people who they think caused the whole problem. Probably the industry kept her around longer and kept her alive longer because they respected her and wanted to make her understand we were there for her and if she needed help to ask. The only thing you can say the industry enabled her to do was put money in the pocket to buy the stuff and that’s not our fault.”

Others, however, see the story differently: Dakota Skye was a troubled young woman off of whom the industry profited extensively, until they no longer could. And when they couldn’t, they no longer had any use for her. And while such a trajectory isn’t specific to porn — certainly, the same thing has happened to Hollywood starlets since time immemorial — the uniquely stigmatized nature of sex work makes it even more difficult for those who are struggling to receive support. Those close to Dakota “expended every resource we had [in trying to help her],” says Evans. “Dakota either used them, or rejected them. So what it comes down to is performers in the shape Dakota was in — directors shouldn’t be filming them. That’s the kind of thing that should be happening instead of those on the sidelines doing everything they can to help them without having backup.”

In the wake of Skye’s passing, Bradley and Evans started a fundraiser to generate enthusiasm for a Dakota Skye Foundation, to provide support for those in porn struggling with alcohol or substance abuse and mental health issues. Some people I spoke with also brought up the idea of utilizing mandatory drug testing for performers suspected of being too impaired to provide informed consent on set, though St. James was skeptical that such a measure could be implemented industry-wide. “Recreational drug use happens everywhere, certainly outside this business,” she says. “If you drug test in Hollywood, you’ll have massive fucking problems.”

At her memorial service, Bradley gave a speech targeting those in the business who continued to profit off of Skye while she was in the throes of her addiction. “We cannot accept pornography at the expense of the young women who make it. Not as performers. Not as directors. Not as agents. Not as fans. It is far too great of a cost,” she said in the speech. “Dakota is the most recent girl, but I guarantee you, if we don’t do more, we will be gathered again, in months, weeks, or days, to mourn the loss of another young woman. We can do better. We must do better.”

If you or someone you know is struggling with drugs, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Helpline at 800-662-HELP (4357). You can also reach out to the Crisis Text Line, a free, 24/7 confidential text messaging service that provides support to people in crisis when they text 741741.