Miami hospitality workers turn to explicit site OnlyFans during the pandemic

Geraldine Rodriguez on her phone. (Photo courtesy of Amanda McKenna/SFMN)

A global pandemic and stress from being unemployed have led numerous Miami hospitality workers to turn to OnlyFans, a site best known for providing explicit and pornographic material to paying subscribers.

Leina Cabrera, 21, has never had a job outside of the hospitality industry.

Since she was 15, Cabrera has spent her time working in restaurants, coffee shops and hotels because “Miami is one of the best places to work if you’re going to work in hospitality – or at least it was.”

She worked at the Cheesecake Factory in Doral for about a year but lost her job in March.

According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in Miami’s labor and leisure industry declined 26% from July 2019 to July 2020.

She launched her OnlyFans account in April and has 135 subscribers who pay her $20 a month to watch her dress up in mostly cosplay outfits. Though suggestive, she is fully clothed in the images.

“I was afraid no one would subscribe because it seemed like so many people were starting their pages. I was also stressed how I was going to pay my rent. Thankfully I was able to pay my bills with my subscriptions while we were on lockdown,” Cabrera said.

Similarly, Geraldine Rodriguez lost her job in Miami Beach at The Standard Hotel in March, where she worked at the spa.

“I loved working there. I was really sad when I heard we wouldn’t be open for a while. I’ve always had a motivated attitude though, so I began thinking of ways to make money remotely,” Rodriguez said.

After losing the job, she had to move from Downtown back home to Hialeah.

“It made me stressed to move back in with my family after a few years of living alone. That discomfort made me tell myself I’d do whatever it took to save some money and move out again,” she said.

She gained over 200 subscribers since April and in July she was able to get her own place again.

Rodriguez charges fans $20 a month for the suggestive — but again, fully clothed — photoshoots.

Rodriguez promoted her page on Reddit threads, Facebook, her other social media pages, and in the YouTube comment sections.

“I saw OnlyFans blow up so fast, I had no idea it’s been around since 2016. But when something starts to blow up you have to be smart and join fast,” Rodriguez says.

Both she and Cabrera asked that neither their stage names or links appear in this article to protect their privacy.

Not only have content creators benefitted from a pandemic that keeps people at home and looking for entertainment, but OnlyFans has also benefited as well. An article from The Economist said OnlyFans claims to have 12 million subscribers worldwide, taking 20% of creator’s fees. In addition, Google trends show that search activity around the site has skyrocketed between March and October.

Source: Google Trends

Cabrera and Rodriguez made money on OnlyFans without a large social media following. However, those with prior fame are able to do so much more quickly. For Jessica Morales, OnlyFans was an easy venture. With over 200,000 followers on Instagram, subscribers poured in when Morales made her account in March after losing her job at a Hooters Restaurant in Downtown Miami.

Morales charges $40 a month, where she posts adult content and extended photo sets from her Instagram account @bubblgums.

“I have around 1,000 subscribers every month, give or take a few hundred,” she said.

“I’ve been on social media since it became a big thing. I’ve kept the same Instagram account for years and I guess people just love my content. I’m blessed to be able to say OnlyFans is my full-time job now,” Morales said.

Amanda McKenna is a senior at Florida International University majoring in journalism with a concentration in art and art history. She has a passion for writing, specifically about health and mental wellness -- and loves hiking, painting, reading, and sci-fi.