Who is 'Iranian' Whitney Wright, a porn star supporting Gaza?
Whitney Wright, born Brittni Rayne Whittington in 1991 in Oklahoma City, is an American adult film (pornography) actress active since the mid-2010s, when she moved to Los Angeles to pursue her career. Wright won the Adult Video News (AVN) Award for Best Actress in 2019.
She has found herself in hot waters after a bizarre visit to Iran, which angered Iranian dissidents who accused her of whitewashing the regime's violations of women's and human rights.
But Wright has since defended the visit, and linked it to 'speaking out on Gaza', according to an interview with US magazine Newsweek.
"I'm extremely disappointed that the attention surrounding my visit [seems] to overshadow Israel's ongoing genocide in Gaza," Wright told Newsweek.
The explicit film star performer has been using her platforms to draw attention to the suffering of civilians in Gaza during Israel's genocidal war triggered by Hamas' 7 October deadly attack on southern Israel.
Israel's war on Gaza has divided global public opinion, including celebrities. In the adult film world, ex-porn star-turned-campaigner Mia Khalifa, who is of Arab Lebanese heritage, has been consistently speaking out for Palestinian rights, earning her both praise and backlash.
Israel has killed 27,000 Palestinians "and there has been no real intervention from any government," Wright said adding that it is her "sincere hope" that the media and public focus on Gaza rather than "the details of my private travels."
Why did Whitney Wright anger Iranians?
The American porn actor on Monday faced accusations of promoting propaganda for Iran's government after boasting on social media about a trip to the Islamic Republic from where she posted pictures at sites including the shut-down US embassy.
The Iranian authorities have denied being behind the visit by Whitney Wright, saying she was issued a visa like any other foreign citizen and they had not been aware of her "obscene" profession.
The posts by Wright angered Iranian exiles as she showed herself carefully observing the strict Islamic dress code for women in the wake of the 2022 nationwide protests against the obligatory hijab.
Those protests erupted after the September 2022 police custody death of Kurdish Iranian woman Mahsa Amini who was arrested for allegedly flouting the dress rules.
"American porn star Whitney Wright is in Iran, my birth country, where women are killed for simply showing their hair and being true to themselves," prominent US-based Iranian dissident Masih Alinejad wrote on X, saying Wright had been "completely covered up" in the images.
"Iranian women don't want to obey a discriminatory law," she added.
At the US embassy, closed following the severing of US-Iranian diplomatic relations in the wake of the 1979–81 hostage-taking of staff by Iranian students, Wright posed next to a flagpole with a torn US flag on the ground.
She was dressed in a long enveloping headscarf, trouser suit and long coat well in line with the dress code and a far cry from the usual skimpy garb enjoyed by her one million followers on Instagram.
"Whitney Wright, an American porn star was invited to Tehran to promote the Islamic Republic," a France-based association for Iranian women Association Femme Azadi wrote on X.
"They stop at nothing."
In Tehran, foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani denied any knowledge of her trip, but noted that despite the political tensions "it is not forbidden" for Americans to visit Iran.
A source told the Tasnim news agency that she was not invited by any organisation in Iran and the visa system "was not aware of the nature of her immoral and obscene occupation".
Wright hit back at the criticism of her images from her trip – which now appear to have been removed – by asking: "Posting photos of my Iran trip now means I'm pushing Iran propaganda?
"Just sharing what I saw on the inside and outside."
The Iranian reports made clear she had already left Iran but it was not clear how long she stayed. She appears to have been on a tour through the region, also posting images from Egypt, Lebanon, and Morocco.
This not the first time a porn star has raised eyebrows with a visit to Iran: in 2016 British adult entertainment actor Candy Charms visited the country for cosmetic surgery on her nose.