Actress Sarah Jayne Dunn has told Sky News she was “shocked and disappointed” at being dropped from Hollyoaks over her decision to join adult subscription site OnlyFans.
The move was about taking control of her image and knowing her worth, and encouraging other women to do the same, she said – but sticking by her decision cost her the role of Mandy Richardson, the character she has played on and off in the Channel 4 soap since 1996.
She also said the content she is posting is in no way “explicit” and no different to any of the bikini and lingerie images she has shared on sites such as Instagram in the past – the only difference now is that she makes money from it.
The story has made headlines over the past few days, after Hollyoaks said cast members are not allowed “to be active on certain 18+ websites” and confirmed the star’s departure.
“My intention was never to leave the show,” Dunn told Sky News. “I love working there and love the people there more than anything and so I’m sad that it’s come to this, but I still stand by my decision – to basically just move my content from one platform to another. If anything, I’ve put it in a safer space away from the younger audience.”
What is OnlyFans and what did Hollyoaks say?
OnlyFans is an online adult subscription service where those who post content earn money from “fans” who sign up to see their content, with creators receiving 80% commission on their earnings.
In a statement, bosses for the soap said: “Hollyoaks is a youth-facing drama with many young viewers, who follow our cast very closely, both in the soap and outside of it. We take our responsibility to our young audience very seriously and therefore the show does not allow any Hollyoaks cast members to be active on certain 18+ websites.
“We had hoped we could reach a resolution with Sarah that would allow her to remain in her role as Mandy, but we respect her choice to continue to produce content on OnlyFans. In the past four years since her return to the show her legacy character has been an integral part of some our most important storylines and we will be very sad to see her go.”
Dunn said she had been thinking of monetising her images for a while but had her own “preconceptions” about OnlyFans at first. Because of the 18+ stipulation, users are able to post sexual content on OnlyFans but the actress argues it provides a platform for all sorts of content creators and that it is actually “safer” as under-18s cannot view it.
“My content isn’t explicit content,” she said. “There’s nothing on there that I wouldn’t put on my Instagram account – and was doing prior to this.”
The actress said the move has allowed her to make her Instagram “more wholesome”, meaning fans can access different content depending on what they are looking for.
“My demographic on my Instagram account is like 75% women. I want to tailor that now to people that want to see fitness, that want to see family, that want to see my relationship, that want to see holiday [photos] and things like that. And for the people that did want to see bikini and underwear – the shoots I’ve been doing all of my life, basically – I’ve just put it in a different space.
“So it’s there if you want to see, I’m not forcing anyone to move across to that platform, but actually a lot of men – and women, I would like to add – have followed me over there, which has been great.”
Accusations of hypocrisy
With a young and glamorous cast, Hollyoaks was known for its sexy image, particularly in its earlier years. Female stars were regularly photographed for lads magazines such as FHM and the soap up until 2013 had its own calendars, featuring Hollyoaks “babes” and “hunks” in their underwear and swimsuits. Hollyoaks has said that cast members who wanted to participate in the calendar shoots “were able to do so on commercial terms”.
While the calendars have been dropped and Hollyoaks has toned down its sexier image in recent years, many on social media have called the soap hypocritical for its decision to drop Dunn.
The actress did not go as far as calling the show hypocritical herself, but said: “The reason that I’ve done so many shoots like this, lads mags and things, is because of my connection with the show. That is why I was shocked and disappointed that they weren’t able to support me in my decision to just move my content to another platform.”
Now, the star has full control. “It’s my choice, my body.”
After years of women’s images on screen and in print being largely dictated by men, more and more stars are looking to control who makes money from their bodies. So what message does dropping Dunn send?
“That’s why I’ve stood by my choice because actually it’s a bigger thing,” she said. “This is my choice to do what I want with my body.
“The bigger message in all of this is that I wanted to take control, to take power back, over me, and I was trying to convey that message to other women… I’m saying, other women, take control of you and your choices and your boundaries and your worth… then for doing that, I have essentially lost my job, when actually it was a really powerful thing to do and I think an inspiring thing to do.
“I think it is disappointing that actually for making such a stand, this is the outcome.”
More stars to follow?
Following Dunn’s departure from Hollyoaks, there have been several reports about how much she is making from OnlyFans. The star didn’t give details but said it is “doing much better than I ever expected”.
“I’d be lying if I said that it wasn’t to do with the financial side of it,” she said. “It’s given me the freedom to be creative and to do what I want on my own terms, so it has been the right move for me.
“Regardless, I still would have stood by it anyway because it’s about more than [money]. It’s working for me and it’s lucrative – why not earn money on my images, on something that I’m creating. People are forgetting that I’m paying for photographers, for studios, for stylists, for hair and make-up – everything that goes with it, there are outgoings that go with that as well.”
Dunn is not the first famous face to turn to OnlyFans as a way to make income, with Love Island’s Megan Barton Hanson and Kerry Katona also members.
Following the headlines surrounding Dunn’s departure from Hollyoaks, it may well become even more popular.
“I think the platform is almost ahead of its time and it’s taken a while for people to catch up to it,” Dunn said. “I’m not the first person with some sort of profile to get on there, and I definitely won’t be the last – I guarantee.”