Vanessa del Rio
Vanessa del Rio Ink on paper A4 formaat
Vanessa del Rio was born Ana Maria Sanchez and raised in Harlem, New York, the only child of immigrants from Cuba and Puerto Rico. Her mother would take her to see the Spanish language movies of Isabel Sarli, a passionate, voluptuous Argentinian actress with a charismatic power over men whom Vanessa credits as a big influence in her life. She describes her mother as “an innocent, deeply religious woman who didn’t really relate to Sarli’s sexuality,” while her young daughter focused on Sarli’s power over men, and wanted that power for herself. After an early childhood as religious as her mother’s, Sanchez dropped out of school in the 8th grade, tired of the sheltered life imposed on her at home. She studied coding, and became a computer programmer at age 18, then abandoned the straight life altogether to live in a series of stolen Volkswagen Beetles with a criminal boyfriend. When that adventure ended two years later she became “a waitress, then a topless barmaid, and finally a go-go dancer” before accepting her first hardcore porn role in the film China Doll because “it paid $150, which was exactly my half of the rent,” so she could join a boyfriend in Europe. In her illustrated biography from TASCHEN Publications (Vanessa del Rio: Fifty Years of Slightly Slutty Behavior, 2007) she revealed to editor Dian Hanson that she also worked as a streetwalker and call girl  prior to entering adult films.
Del Rio made her first adult film in 1974, and is credited as the first non-white woman to achieve stardom in the adult industry. Her enduring popularity is based on her enthusiasm, genuine passion, talent for specific acts, oversized clitoris and sense of humor, as well as her lush exotic beauty. In a span of 13 years, she appeared in 81 pornographic films and countless “loops” – 10 minute film clips produced for use in sex shop peep shows. Footage from her films has been included in at least 20 compilations marketed as original films due to her tremendous popularity.
Vanessa’s talent has been celebrated in lyrics by several rap artists, including Chubb Rock’s “Just the Two of Us”, Gangsta Boo’s “Fuck You”, The Game’s “House of Pain”, Ice Cube’s “Roll All Day”, and Junior Mafia’s “I Need You Tonight” and “Get Money”. She had a cameo in the “Get Money” music video.
Though del Rio retired from adult films in 1984, in part due to the AIDS scare prevalent at the time, she returned to make six final films in 1986/87, following a stint as a bodybuilder, including the faux biopic Deep Inside Vanessa del Rio and The Devil in Miss Jones 3 for the notorious punk-inspired Dark Brothers. She then worked as a feature dancer and magazine model until tearing the meniscus in her knee onstage in 1996. After that she used her coding skills to create her own website, produce original content, continued to appear in magazines, and made special appearances at award shows and conventions. During and after her porn career she appeared on many TV shows as herself, including a 1996 episode of NYPD Blue. In 2008, she made a cameo opposite Bernie Mac in the film Soul Men.