Just like the words from “Mama’s Fallen Angel” by Poison, here I was living that video at the age of 16. I hopped on a Greyhound bus from the SW Suburbs of Chicago and headed to Southern California. I didn’t tell anyone I was leaving and I only had five dollars in my pocket. Looking back at that time in my life, it’s a blessing that nothing bad happened to me and I had good people along the way to help me out. This back and forth from Chicago to Los Angeles would continue on for the next few years.
It wasn’t until I was 21 years old, living in San Fernando Valley, had my second miscarriage and became financially strapped when I decided that I wasn’t going to let L.A. easily defeat me. I started searching out agencies in hopes of getting a career in modeling but it wasn’t as easy as I thought. It seemed that every agency that I went to needed a portfolio from me which cost lots of money that I just didn’t have. One day my friend Gary told me he wanted to introduce me to the modeling agency his girlfriend used. Without hesitation I agreed, I was at my wits end of trying to get into that business on my own and decided to let someone help me. We headed down to Van Nuys and pulled up to this building with a sign that read, “World Modeling.” As we walked upstairs of this two story building and down this narrow hallway, there I was entering this room with pictures of these pretty girls on both sides of the wall. Gary had then introduced me to Jim, the modeling agent. Jim was very nice and had a deep Southern accent. The one thing I’d remember about him was he would always say, “You know what I mean jelly bean.” I took a seat and we chatted for a bit, I told him I wanted to get into modeling but had no experience. He said that he could get me some jobs right away doing nude modeling, not what I was really thinking about doing but I continued to listen. At this point my consciousness was non-existent, all I could think about was that it’s just nudity and I can make enough money so I don’t have to move back home to Chicago. Jim continued to tell me that they also do adult movies which paid more than magazines. I told him thanks but I’ll just stick to the nude modeling. He then sent me off into a room to take a few nude Polaroid pictures which would go in his portfolio he had of actors/models he represented. I do have to say, he did have a good sales pitch about the movies which did leave it an open option for me. But at this time, I just wanted to do the nude modeling.
As I started my nude modeling career, things were going good and I was getting enough work to financially get by. I would end up posing for High Society, Hustler and Cheri just to name a few. Now to be frank, you can’t really get continual work with just doing men’s magazines. So in no time I went back to Jim and inquired about doing adult movies. He told me that he could introduce me to this guy named Biff who is not only an adult film actor but a director for amateur adult videos. He continued to tell me that I could do an amateur video with Biff and see if I liked it and if I did, I could make more money doing the movies. Now that day came to do my first amateur movie and I don’t even think that I was nervous about it at all. Biff was really nice to me and while we were shooting our sex scene, it was only him and I in the room with the camera guy. At the end of the sex scene Biff was asking me what I thought about doing my first adult movie. I recall telling him that I had no problem with it, I wasn’t freaked out about it at all and I felt comfortable in front of the camera. However, I think I felt comfortable with it because in my mind my mentality was this… I was molested when I was younger and my virginity was taken when I was raped at the age of 14… So I told myself, it’s just a body, why not make money off of it and separate my mind from my body. Not sure if that makes sense but that’s what I told myself in order to go into making adult movies.
In the beginning of 1990 I had become and Adult Film Star and would become one of the top ten girls that worked for the World Modeling Agency. But my career in that industry was short lived. I ended up quitting by the end of that year to get married and the following year I had a child. But just as quick as I left the adult industry, it wouldn’t be long before I came back into it. In 1992 when I separated from my first husband, I had to figure out what was the quickest way I could financially get back on my feet. It may have not been the wisest choice but I chose to go back to California and get back into the adult business doing movies and magazines. The only down fall and sad part of that was I had to make the hardest decision on leaving my son behind with his father. I knew I couldn’t offer my son anything because I had nothing. I had to make the decision to do what was best for him, his father was stable and had his family around. I told his dad I was going back to California to get back into that business so I could get financially back on my feet. He made me believe that once I became financially stable that I could get my son back, it didn’t work out that way. That understanding on my part had no truth to it at all and if I had known the truth of the matter at that time, I would of never left my son behind. (The things we could change in the past if we only had known about it in the future).
Now when I was in the adult industry the first time, I started using the stage name Penny Lane (I loved the Beatles and that song). But later down the road I came up with a different name, “Tera”. My friends back home were in a band named Pantera but when the band Pantera with Dimebag Darrell became popular, my friends band had to change their name. So they just ended up shortening it to Tera. I had loved the movie Gone with the wind, Tera meant “land”, I had Gypsy blood and always felt I was meant to roam this land so it was inevitable that I would take on that name. It wasn’t until one day that adult film actor Biff said to me, “You need a last name.” He was the one who eventually gave me my last name, “Heart”. So from that day on I was now known as “Tera Heart”. I remember that day Biff joking about my new name because it almost sounded like tear a heart, which was kinda catchy and I liked it!
From 1992-1996 I would be back in that industry for a second time. I was back to doing men’s magazines, adult movies and even becoming a Feature Adult Film Star dancer across the United States (I promise to go into more details of it in my book when I write it). Although for now, lets just say that by the end of 1996 I made the decision to leave that industry. I’ll give you this much… as I was traveling to San Francisco to do a movie shoot (a scene with me, one guy and girl), my agent Jim called me and told me that the guy I would be doing the sex scene with possibly forged his AIDS test. When I got to that shoot I confronted him and he said, “Tera, why would I forge my AIDS test?” And this was a well known Adult Film Actor. Luckily I was firm with the director and told him that I wouldn’t do the scene without a condom. The director tried to talk me out of it with his unpersuasive reasoning’s. But I stood my ground and I’m glad I did. Down the road I and the Adult Industry would find out that there was another AIDS scare and that guy would be apart of it. So you can understand why I got out of that business, I didn’t want to have to tell my son that mommy was dying because someone gave her AIDS. The one thing that stood out when I left the Adult Industry for the second time was people saying to me, “You’ll be back, they always come back.” Apparently they didn’t know me, when you tell me something I can’t do (like leave that industry behind), I try even harder to prove that person(s) wrong… like it’s going on 24 years wrong!
I do want to include that prior to all of that, there was one point that I wanted to cross over from the Adult business to the mainstream. I started looking for other offers and ended up doing a poster for Desert Storm, an Ad for a hosiery company and even had a test shoot for Playboy Magazine. I think the only reason I didn’t get accepted to Playboy was because they found out I was an Adult Film Star but I was just grateful to be given the opportunity to have a test shoot with them (I have one picture of that shoot and it will be in my book). My next conquest was trying to get into regular movies and T.V. Through a mutual friend I was given the chance to be a featured extra on USA Pacific Blue (Season 2 Episode 9). Back in the day you needed three pink vouchers before you could pay your union dues and become a member of SAG. From what I heard, the guy that cast’s the extras on that show, wanted me on more frequently. At the time I had already acquired two pink vouchers, which is hard to get that fast. And to get on a T.V. show more frequently only meant that I would be a member of SAG in no time with speaking parts that paid. Apparently my boyfriend at that time told the casting guy that I was already too busy on the road and didn’t have any extra time to appear more on that show. I didn’t find that out till later down the road and as much as I was disappointed when I found out… everything does happen for a reason. However, it didn’t mean that once in every blue moon, I wouldn’t think about if that opportunity would have opened up my acting career for me. But it is what it is and I except what was played out for me.
Back to 1996 and leaving the adult movies and magazines behind. I had finally came to that fork in the road, one way was leading me to still trying to pursue my acting career, the other, to be with my son in Florida. It didn’t take me long to make that decision, I chose the latter. I was done chasing my acting career and having it all be about me because that’s actually what it was. I was thinking that if I can just get a real job in acting that I could financially get on my feet and get my son back. But in reality and in all truth, I was being selfish. I told myself, enough is enough, my son needs his mother and without a second thought I packed up all my things and moved to Florida to be with my son. Once I was there with him I told him that I would never leave him again… I kept that promise for 19 years.
While I was living in Tampa, my ex-husband agreed to let my son live with me and he would take him on the weekends. I was still doing some Feature Dancing on the road until 2000 when I came to the conclusion that if I really wanted to be me and not “Tera Heart”, then I would have to quit the dancing. I not only did that but threw out almost everything I had that was associated with that career and name. The only thing I had left was a photo album and a few feature costumes I had decided to keep. It was a pivotal point for me because I went from having money and not having to worry, to living paycheck to paycheck. But you know what… I was starting to have respect for me again and I was with my son. I went through a plethora of jobs just to pay the bills, even went and got certified as a professional fitness trainer. But that didn’t last long and I eventually went and worked for Morgan Stanley Dean Witter while having a seasonal job at the Bucs Stadium as a bartender in the Clubhouse. In 2003 I decided to go to college for my Associates in Criminal Justice but half way through I quit and started another college in the medical field. I was only in college for medical for six months until something drew me back to the Criminal Justice field. In 2005 I ended up graduating from Kaplan University with my degree in Criminal Justice and Cum Laude with a GPA of 3.8. Besides when my son was born, this was the second time in my life I was proud of myself. I was pretty much a single mom, working 2-3 jobs and going to college full time. I was going to become a police officer but a drunk driver hit me in 2004 and changed all that. So then I opted to become a private instigator (all careers that my Dad had done) but then unexpectedly my Dad took his life in 2006 and my life spiraled out of control for the next seven years.
There are things in my life that I may not be proud of. But there is nothing that has ever happened to me, good or a life lesson (there is no bad because it isn’t bad when it teaches me something), that I’ll ever be ashamed of or wished never happened. I may not have chosen the right path at times but I’m grateful that I paid attention to learn not to take that wrong path again. I’m grateful for eventually becoming non-judgmental and open-minded. I’m grateful for everyone who has come into my life to teach me something. I’m grateful to my grandmother who instilled her principles and morals in me. I’m grateful for my grandmother and Aunt giving me some kind of childhood memories. I’m grateful to my father who showed me what love is and no matter who everyone else saw me as, he always saw me as his little girl. I’m grateful that out of four pregnancies I was able to have at least one child, my son who I call my miracle child. I’m grateful for all my obstacles, mental and physical challenges that I am here today, able to write to you and tell you my story. Hoping that someone out there will read this and be given new hope and strength to keep moving on. To believe in themselves once again and know… they are special and worthy!
“You may see me struggle but you will never see me quit.” ~ Unknown Author
“You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” ~ From the movie, “The Help”