Childhood & Early Life
Traci Lords was born Nora Louise Kuzma in Steubenville, Ohio on May 7, 1968. Her father, Louis, was of Ukrainian descent and her mother, Patricia, was of Irish origin. Traci was raised along with her three sisters.
Her father was an alcoholic and worked in the steel industry. He would always come home drunk and abuse her mother, which resulted in their divorce, when Traci was seven years old. The girls were brought up by their mother in their grandparents' house. Her mother started working part-time at Ohio University to make ends meet.
This was just the beginning of a difficult childhood that she had to endure. When she was 10, she was raped by a 16-year-old boy at the birthday party of a friend. When Traci was 12 years old, her mother started a relationship with her new boyfriend and moved to Lawndale, California, with her children.
Her mother’s new boyfriend was no better than her father. He was a cocaine dealer and often molested Traci. Her mother broke up with him and moved on with another boyfriend. This time, Traci and her elder sister refused to accompany their mother. Traci attended Redondo Union High School in Redondo Beach, California. Her childhood experiences made her rebellious and she blamed her mother for her plight.
She got pregnant at the age of 14 and went in for an abortion without the knowledge of her mother. She then got a fake driver's license by pretending to be 22, when she was just 15, and used it to apply for jobs.
She initially worked as a babysitter and went on to pose for magazines like Velvet, Juggs, and Club. Eventually, she got an assignment with the Penthouse magazine’s 15th anniversary issue. Around this time, she adopted the stage name, Traci Lords.
She quit high school at the age of 15 and entered the adult film industry. She appeared in her first adult movie in 1984, while she was still a minor. She soon earned fame and appeared in explicit adult movies, including ‘Talk Dirty to Me’, which won the 'AVN Award for Best Movie.'
She also appeared in the music video ‘Gimme Gimme Good Lovin’ of a heavy metal band called ‘Helix.' She wanted to quit the industry at the age of 17, but was roped in with her boyfriend, Stuart Dell, with whom she started the 'Traci Lords Company' that produced adult films.
When she was 18, authorities somehow came to know that she had appeared in adult movies while she was underage, after which she was taken into protective custody. Her promoters had to fight an expensive legal battle, while her movies were taken off the shelf. By now, she had attained the legal age to act in adult movies, but chose to join mainstream entertainment.
She joined 'Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute' for a three month course on 'Method Acting' and launched herself into the industry with a guest role in the television series, ‘Wiseguy.'
Continue Reading Below
She made her debut in mainstream cinema with a lead role in the movie ‘Not of This Earth,’ directed by Jim Wynorski, in 1988. She also signed a modelling contract for the magazine ‘Muscle & Fitness’ under her actual name, Nora Kuzma.
Her major success in mainstream cinema came in 1990 with the musical comedy, ‘Cry-Baby,’ in which she played the role of a rebellious teenager. She starred in action thrillers like ‘Raw Nerve’ and ‘A Time to Die’ where she proved her acting skills. She subsequently moved to London and began modelling for fashion designers like Thierry Mugler.
In 1990, she released her fitness video, ‘Warm up with Traci.' The video was further improved and a second version of the same was released under the title, ‘Traci Lords: Advanced Jazzthetics,’ in 1993.
She signed a contract with 'Radioactive Records' and recorded the song ‘Love Never Dies’ for the movie ‘Pet Sematary Two’ and the song ‘Little Baby Nothing’ by Manic Street Preachers. She also featured in a television film, ‘The Tommyknockers,' which was based on Stephen King’s book of the same name.
She released her debut studio album titled ‘1000 Fires,’ in 1995. Her lead single from the album titled ‘Control’ reached the second spot on the 'Billboard Hot Dance Club Songs' list. A remix of the number was used for the soundtrack of the movie ‘Mortal Kombat’ and was certified as double platinum.
Her number ‘Fallen Angel’ took the 11th spot on the 'Hot Dance Club Songs' list and was featured in the soundtrack of the movie, ‘Virtuosity,’ in 1995. She also did a cameo role in the film and performed in Miami’s night clubs to promote her music.
From 1997 to 2000, she concentrated on television and appeared on prime time series like ‘Nash Bridges’ and ‘Profiler.' She also bagged roles in crime thriller ‘Boogie Boy’ and horror movie ‘Blade,’ in which she played the role of a seductress vampire.
Traci proved versatility and appeared in varied roles, including a lead role in the romantic comedy film ‘Chump Change.’ She then appeared in an important role in the science fiction series, ‘First Wave.' In 2008, she appeared in the science fiction direct-to-DVD movie, ‘Princess of Mars.'
Having attained celebrity status, she appeared in the reality show ‘Celebrity Wife Swap’ in 2015, where she changed roles with Jackee Harry. ‘Nightmare Nurse’ is one of her recent movies.
Continue Reading Below
Her major works include ‘Not of This Earth’ (1988), ‘Cry-Baby’ (1990), ‘A Time to Die’ (1991), ‘Serial Mom’ (1994), ‘Boogie Boy’ (1998), ‘Blade’ (1998), ‘Chump Change’ (2000), ‘Princess of Mars’ (2009), ‘Au Pair, Kansas’ (2011), and ‘Nightmare Nurse’ (2016).
Her autobiography, ‘Tracy Lords: Underneath It All,’ was published in 2003.
She released her studio album, ‘1000 Fires,’ in 1995, followed by her EP ‘Sunshine’ in 2004, and compilation album ‘M2F2,’ in 2012.
Awards & Achievements
In 2001, she won the 'Best Actress Award' at the 'Film Discovery Jury Awards' for her role in ‘Chump Change.'
She was awarded the 'Best Supporting Female Performance' in 2005 at the 'Spike Video Game Awards' for her contribution to the video game, ‘True Crime: New York City.’
Traci was given the 'Best Supporting Actress' award at the 'Fright Meter Awards' for her role in ‘Excision,’ in 2012.
Her role in the film ‘Excision’ also got her the 'Best Supporting Actress' award at the 2013 'CinEuphoria Awards' and 'Fangoria Chainsaw Awards.'
She met Brook Yeaton on the sets of ‘Cry-Baby’ and dated him for a while before they got married in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1990. Five years later the couple divorced and went their separate ways.
Later she got into a relationship with American television and film actor John Enos, which lasted for two years. They broke up over an argument about their pets.
Thereafter, she got married to Jeff Lee in 2002. They were blessed with a son, Joseph Gunnar Lee.
She became a spokesperson for runaway children, subjected to child abuse, and joined an organization called 'Children of the Night.'
In her autobiography, ‘Traci Lords: Underneath it All,’ she talks about her difficult childhood and her adult film career. The book made it to the 'New York Times Best Sellers' list. She also plans to release a book by the name ‘Out of the Blue: The Traci Lords Story.'
She is a strong supporter of the LGBT community.