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PornCrush Year in Review: Breakthrough Performers of 2023

Nicole Doshi, Chanel Camryn, Scarlett Alexis lead list of stars who elevated career to a new level

By Austin King / Editor

Dec 21, 2023

*Note: This is the first in a series of lists that will reflect on another banner year in the adult industry. Be sure to check out PornCrush each day for new installments.

Dec. 18: Best Comeback Performers

Dec. 19: Best New Faces

Dec. 20: Unsung Starlets

Dec. 21: Breakthrough Performers

Dec. 22: Best on Social Media

Dec. 26: Scenes of the Year (four critics pick their favorites)

Dec. 27: Best Porn Ambassadors

Dec. 28: Top 10 Stories of 2023

Dec. 29: Best and Worst of 2023


LOS ANGELES—Most performers experience a dose of momentum at some point in their careers.

But only the special ones know how to handle it.

Seriously, what do you do the first time things start going well? Do you buy a BMW you can’t afford, become arrogant and irresponsible, and scale back your shooting schedule? Or you do step on the gas pedal and work even harder. Not just to get to the top.

But to stay there.

These performers took the latter route in 2023. Most of them were relatively new a year ago, brimming with potential along with plenty of others. But these are the ones who didn’t rest on their laurels. They didn’t become complacent and, as a result, took a quantum leap toward the top of the profession.

No, we’re not ready to dub anyone as the next Angela White, Riley Reid, Kira Noir, Vanna Bardot or Blake Blossom. These are simply up-and-coming performers who did everything right in 2023—both on and off camera—and will enter the new year on a strong trajectory because of it.

Here are PornCrush’s picks for “Best Breakthrough Performers of 2023”


A former IHOP waitress, Smoothie King employee and janitor, Youngs will enter awards season next month with eight AVN nominations, second only to reigning Performer of the Year Kira Noir (11). It’s a quantum leap in notoriety for the Austin, Texas native—but anyone who’d watched her perform knew this day was coming. Youngs is wildly popular, and not just because of her pretty facial features and her 34DD natural breasts. Like so many others on this list, Youngs performs as if the room was absent of cameras and crew. Her passion is sincere, her energy authentic. Youngs shines in all genres but seems to flourish most when things are intense and, in some cases, extreme. Included among her award nominations are Best Gangbang, Best Blowbang and Best Foursome/Orgy Scene. Youngs also showed no fear during a threesome with Blake Blossom and John Strong that got turbulent—literally—high above the Vegas skies in a four-seater plane. The shoot earned a Best VR Sex Scene nomination. Youngs, who turns 22 next month, spent much her first two years in porn under exclusive contracts with Reality Kings and Brazzers. Now free to shoot with anyone, there is no ceiling on what Youngs can accomplish.


In just 18 months, Camryn has gone from the bubbly, fresh-faced 20-year-old in stepdaughter scenes to an elegant, high-end model who commands bookings by every elite studio in the business. You could say she’s entering her “hot girl era.” Still, Camryn’s meteoric ascension in 2023 was fueled by more than just her glow up. The Alaska native is, without question, one of the top all-around performers in porn. Her oral skills and eye contact are top notch, she rides likes she’s in a rodeo and she runs the gamut with her facial expressions and body language: self-assured and seductive in one scene, soft and shy and submissive in the next. Perhaps more than anything, the self-dubbed “Quiver Queen” is known for her ability to climax multiple times during a scene, her body pulsating and shaking with each powerful orgasm. It’s one of the main reasons Camryn—a top contender for AVN’s Best New Starlet award—was booked more than 130 times in 2023. Her expanded menu also led to more opportunities. Camryn shot her first anal scene last winter and been a backdoor princess ever since. She loves working with women and trans performers and also pushes the envelope in genres that some would consider extreme. Her AVN-nominated blowbang for Dogfart involved a jarring level of intensity that left Camryn physically and emotionally spent. At the same time, it was a proud moment for some who genuinely cares about the quality of her work. If Camryn continues at this pace she will be a Performer of the Year nominee for the foreseeable future.


One of porn’s best-kept secrets near the end of 2022, Colt captured the attention of the entire industry—not to mention millions of worldwide fans—over the past 12 months. She’s one of those performers who sparks arousal before ever removing a stitch of clothing. Whether it’s because of her toned, 5-foot-9 frame, her magnetic chestnut eyes or the seductive way she smiles and moves, everything about Colt is provocative and alluring. And the vibe carries over during sex. “Katrina so self-aware with everything she does,” says Freya Parker, who worked with Colt this fall. “Even the way she moves from one position to the next is so graceful, so hot.” That’s not to say Colt’s shoots don’t get steamy and heavy, as Colt is a master of losing herself in the moment and truly absorbing herself in a scene. She’s shines the most in content themed around her picturesque posterior, as Colt as regarded as one of the top anal performers in the business. In fact, longtime director Pay Myne says Colt claimed might be the very best in that genre following her shoot with Chris Diamond for Evil Angel. “It was the best boy-girl anal scene I’ve ever shot in my 1,900 scenes,” Myne said. “Chris took her to the limit. She even told him, ‘I want you to take me to places to I’ve ever been.’ She cried at the end of the scene and then slightly passed out. Never in my wildest dreams did I think it could be that good.” For more of Colt’s best work, check out her tryst with Oliver Flynn for Deeper. Entitled “Escalation,” the scene drew a 9.5 rating.


The AVN nominations committee has my utmost respect. The group works tirelessly for six weeks during the fall—sometimes eight hours a day, five days a week—to produce the best possible list of candidates for its awards show. They did an outstanding job once again this year, as I can’t disagree with any of the Performer of the Year finalists. Still, there was one glaring omission: Kay Lovely. The big-breasted blonde with the constant smile is unquestionably among the top 15 performers in porn right now, if not the top 10. Lovely is credited on IAFD with 77 scenes in 2023—and you can bet there are 20 or 30 more than haven’t been listed yet. Lovely’s work is high level not just in terms of quantity, but also quality. “I haven’t met many performers who care as much about their work as Kay,” Team Skeet director/talent Donnie Rock said. “She genuinely wants every scene to be a perfect 10. She’s a breath of fresh air.” Indeed, even though the 5-foot-10 Lovely has the frame and beauty of a high-end model, she possesses a disarming warmth and glow that makes her a favorite among directors and scene partners. It also plays well on camera, particularly during POV and VR scenes, where the viewer can get an intimate feel for her personalty. Lovely's POV work with Mr. Lucky is not to be missed, and her AVN-nominated oral scene with Mick Blue for “Throated” is an absolute scorcher.


Adult Time announced last month that it had signed Lovings as a brand ambassador—a huge honor for the third-year performer from Fort Lauderdale, and yet another illustration of her soaring popularity. Lovings is the 80th-ranked model on PornHub and her studios scenes always score high with viewers. She plays the shy, innocent role as well as anyone in the industry, which makes her a favorite among fans who are turned on by the girl-next-door vibe. Whether it’s because of her thick sexy glasses, her squeaky voice or her casual appearance, there are few performers in porn who match Lovings’ unique look and presence. It works well for her. Lovings is strong with dialogue and also has a genuine love for what she’s doing, which is evidenced by the 120-plus shoots she completed in 2023. You don’t work that much if you’re not passionate about your career.  In an industry often filled with drama and toxicity, Lovings keeps quiet, maintains tunnel vision and absorbs herself in her work. It’s a mindset that others should emulate—and one that led to big rewards for Lovings in 2023.


One of my favorite things about Liz Jordan is that smiles a lot during her scenes. It’s a sign of someone who truly enjoys her job, and at the end of the day, that’s the type of performer fans want to watch. It took about a year for Jordan, a former juice stand worker from the Bay Area, to begin making her mark. Part of it was because she had a bad agent, and part of it was because her shy, unassuming nature and casual dress caused her to fly under the radar. “If you saw her walking down the street, you would never ever think this girl does porn,” agent Mark Spiegler said. Credit Spiegler for recognizing Jordan’s everyday-girl presence wasn’t a weakness, but rather her biggest strength. Almost immediately after adding her to his roster in August of 2022, Spiegler secured bookings for Jordan with the best studios in the business: Vixen, Brazzers, Evil Angel and scores of others. More than a year later, Jordan boasts a well-deserved nomination for Female Performer of the Year. It’s safe to say she was a shoo-in to make the list, as Jordan is hailed as one of the top anal performers in the business. Her AVN-nominated Tushy scene with Chris Diamond is one of the best backdoor romps of the year, with Jordan grinning throughout as she takes one of the biggest dicks in porn. “I was never the hot cheerleader in high school,” the former softball star, 22, tells PornCrush. “But I was always the one all the guys wanted to fuck.” Years later, nothing has changed.


She drizzled warm chocolate over crepes at breakfast and prepared chicken wrapped in phyllo dough at lunch. And whenever Lumi Ray roasted duck for dinner, customers often remarked that it came out juuusssttt right. For seven years, Ray ran kitchens at high-end French restaurants throughout northern California, where she usually reported to work each day in a big, bulky chef’s coat. “No one ever realized,” Ray says, “what I was hiding underneath.” Ray finally gave everyone a peek in February of 2022 when she entered the adult industry. And gracious, what a sight it was to behold. With 34D breasts, a chiseled stomach and the backside of a bikini model, Ray’s all-natural physique has created quite the buzz among top directors and male talent. “We all generally agree that she has the greatest body, like ... ever,” veteran director Mike Quasar says. “It’s absurd.” Still, even though Ray’s looks may spark a fan’s initial interest, it’s her performances that keep them coming back. Ray is as passionate and genuine as they come when the cameras are rolling. Even with people she’s met for first time, her sex feels personal, like there’s a true connection there. Ray flourishes in anal scenes and also is a high-level squirter—two qualities that that keep viewers coming back for more. She’s also a high-level actress, a trait illustrated in “Hopeless,” a Holly Randall-produced featurette for which Ray garnered an AVN nomination. Ray is also nominated for Best Girl-Girl scene for a steamy tryst from the same movie with friend and mentor Casey Calvert. An avid traveler who draws inspiration from Anthony Bourdain, Ray is said to run one of the best OnlyFans platforms in porn.


When Melissa Stratton entered the adult industry as a cam girl in May of 2021, the former graphic designer was afraid to show her face. Each night, when she chatted online with fans from her Midwest home, Stratton would position herself so that the computer screen cut off her image from the mouth up. “I’m probably one of the most insecure people you’ll ever meet,” Stratton tells PornCrush. “I just sat there showing my mouth and my boobs. I talked and I’d flash. I didn’t know if I would like it—but I ended up falling in love with it so quickly.” Porn fans are glad she did. Nearly two years later, Stratton is one of the fastest-rising stars in all of porn. The shy, timid tendencies she displayed during her early days on Chaturbate have given way to a sultry, confident aura that leaves first-time scene partners in a euphoric trance—and directors scrambling to book her. And re-book her. “I’d shoot her every day if I could,” AVN Hall of Fame director Mike Quasar says. “She’s a once-in-decade type of performer.” Stratton doesn’t anal scenes, and frankly, she doesn’t need to. She’s so strong as boy-girl and girl-girl performer that she’ll command bookings as long as she desires. Stratton scored multiple AVN nominations, including one in the coveted Best New Starlet category. She’s also a strong contender in the Best Girl-Girl scene category for her sizzling hookup with Kylie Rocket. The expectation here is that Stratton, who is now booking independently, will see her career elevate to an even higher level in 2024.


Few performers are ending the year with as much momentum as Little, the 20-year-old Hussie Model from Virginia. Little debuted in 2022 at age 19 and was promptly signed to an exclusive contract with Nubiles. The 5-foot-3 yoga enthusiast shot some sizzling content for the high-end studio, including an arousing threesome with close friend Sera Ryder and Jay Romero that garnered an AVN nomination a year ago. Little, though, has propelled to a significantly higher since her contract expired over the summer. Now free to shoot with anyone, Little is being booked non-stop by studios such as Vixen, Brazzers, Team Skeet and Naughty America. Little may be tiny, but that hasn’t stopped her from taking on well-hung stallions such as Jax Slayher, which she did in a well-received shoot for Blacked. Little—who has recently started feature dancing—has also received recent praise for her much-improved maturity level and sense of professionalism. She’s also an extremely dedicated worker, having performed for months in 2022 despite almost disfiguring her hand in a kitchen incident. With those kind of traits, no one would be surprised if Little blossoms into one of the industry’s top stars in 2024. She’s certainly on that trajectory.


One year after being nominated for Best New Starlet, Doshi has been on an absolute tear in 2023 and is now considered to be a strong candidate for Female Performer of the Year. In fact, she’s the only person from last year’s Best New Starlet list to be nominated for FPOY in 2024. Doshi’s resume certainly commands respect, as she’s shot well over 200 scenes over the past two years for every major studio in the business. She does and anal and DP at a high level. Her backdoor romp with Dredd is nominated for Best Anal Sex Scene and, in a testimony to her versatility, Doshi is also a finalist for Best Blowbang and Best Gangbang. Doshi is regarded as one of the more pleasant performers to have on set, and she also does an outstanding job of engaging with her fans, particularly at conventions and expos. Overall, Doshi is a great ambassador, a great face, for the adult industry.


Industry folks at the highest level are beginning to take notice of Red. And for good reason. Standing 5-foot-5 with cascading auburn hair, silky skin, and 32D breasts, Red touts one purest natural bodies in the the business. She’s also among the best POV performers in porn, having earned an AVN nomination in that genre for the second straight year. Red is also a finalist in the Best Actress-Featurette category, a nod to her versatility. Jules Jordan, Blacked, Slayed, Evil Angel, Kink and MissaX are among the A-list studios who shot Red for the first time in 2023. Her AVN-nominated tease before taking on Zac Wild in Jordan’s “Breast Worship 8” is a site to behold. As much momentum as she gained in 2023, I expect Red to ascend to significantly greater heights in 2024—partially because of the reasons above, but even more so because of her intangibles. Character, professionalism, dependability, attitude and energy may seem like small things compared to beauty and sexual prowess, but any director will tell you they are equally important. Red checks all of the boxes. People may not have realized that before, but they do now.


Sateen has been quick to catch fire since joining the industry a little more than a year ago. Her resume is decorated by shoots with the top studios in porn. Brazzers, Evil Angel, Jules Jordan, Reality Kings, Team Skeet and Elegant Angel are among the companies who have featured Sateen on their platform over the past year. Her most noteworthy work, however, has been with Vixen Media Group, which has taken such a liking to Sateen that it used her in ambassador roles throughout the second half of 2023. Sateen has appeared in six VMG scenes over the past seven months, the most successful of them being a girl-girl tango with Gianna Dior for Slayed that drew a 9.4 rating. Sateen lists music as her off-camera passion and even has a band named "Sateen" that plays dance music. So she was thrilled when Vixen executives asked to her write and perform the theme song for “Vanna Bardot: Influence,” the AVN-nominated feature that had industry folks buzzing upon its release in September. In short, Sateen is impressing all the right people and there’s no reason to believe her momentum won’t continue to build.


People in the adult industry can’t get enough of Scarlett Alexis. They see pictures and want to meet her. They meet her and want to book her. They book and then they want to … book her again. Simply put, as we enter 2024, there may not be a faster rising star the industry. Alexis shot approximately 150 scenes—Wow!—from January to November before missing all of December following a surgery to remove lumps in her breasts that we were deemed non-cancerous. Speaking of breasts, Alexis’ may be the most buzzed about in porn. Partly because they are size 32DDD, but even more so because they’re natural, making Alexis somewhat of a unicorn among big-breasted porn stars. Alexis hasn’t ventured into blowbangs and gangbangs—and I’m not sure she ever needs to—but otherwise her menu is open. Along with being an elite anal performer, Alexis also shoots an occasional DP. With silly dark hair that dangles to the middle of her back, Alexis is also becoming a favorite of some of the industry’s top lensmen, who gush about her model-like presence during photo shoots. More and more, directors are booking her for features and dialogue-driven roles as she continues to impress with her acting. Heck, while she’s on the mend from surgery, Alexis is even doing voice-over work for an upcoming movie. A Best New Starlet nominee, Alexis has all the rizz right now. She’s making all the right moves.


She’s up for MILF Performer of the Year, but no one would’ve been shocked if Vic were nominated for Female Performer of the Year. Your girl put in some work in 2023 with more than 100 shoots. That obviously means her scenes are being well-received—and highly-viewed—by fans. Because performers don’t get that level of work if people aren’t watching. Vic shines in all genres and shoots a large amount of anal scenes. It’s not uncommon for male colleagues to squirt oil all over Vic’s backside until it glistens, because let’s face it: if someone not named Abella Danger is ever going to win AVN’s award for Best Ass, Vic will certainly be among the finalists. Vic was raised in a religious cult and didn’t lose her virginity until she was 21. She eventually ventured out on her own, dabbing in nude modeling, stripping and OnlyFans before transitioning into the porn. She also has an acting background. With more than 250 shoots in two years, she’s been one of the most prolific (and popular) models on the Spiegler Girls roster.


One of the most vivacious personalities in porn, Aura once said she walks through life like its a runway. As much as any performer in 2023, the trans star made an impression when on display. Still a relative newcomer at the time, Aura turned heads at various events during AVN week last January in Las Vegas, whether it was because of her glamorous attire or radiant personality. Two weeks later she was named as the first-ever Brand Ambassador for Grooby, the industry’s leading studio for trans content. Aura went on to win Best Newcomer at the TEAs in March before embarking on a schedule that saw her shoot for Evil Angel, Adult Time, TransAngels, Gender X and Grooby, among others, over the next eight months. All of it resulted in multiple AVN nominations for Aura in 2024, including one for Trans Performer of the Year. Aura will enter 2024 as one of the top five performers in the trans genre and a great overall representation of what is good about the adult industry.

Austin King / Editor

Austin King spent nearly 20 years as a mainstream journalist before pivoting to coverage of the adult industry in 2020. He specializes in breaking news and in-depth features, with some of his best work to date coming for AVN Magazine in profiles of Gina Valentina, Casey Kisses, Anna-Claire Clouds, Kayden Kross, Chanel Camryn, Kenzie Anne, Lilly Bell and others. Austin resides in Texas but makes frequent trips to Porn Valley.