Sex, Lists, and Videotape
By the time Alexis Wright was arrested, plenty of people around Kennebunk, Maine, had already heard all about the “Zumba Madam” and her amateur porn movies. What they were shocked to discover, though, was how many of their neighbors turned out to be her costars.
Mark Strong’s mug shot. (Photo via Knox County, Maine, Correctional Facility)
Sometime after, while getting a degree in natural sciences from the University of Southern Maine, Wright became a licensed fitness instructor and began leading classes around Kennebunk, including in the town hall, and hosting Zumba charity events to raise money for breast cancer and Haiti. In 2010, she opened Pura Vida, a 2,500-square-foot Zumba studio on York Street in the center of Kennebunk. The lease was cosigned by a man that the building’s landlord, Bee Nguyen, remembers as seeming “real friendly” with Wright. She advertised her Zumba classes—a cardio-heavy, Latin-inspired dance workout that was created in the ’90s and became popular around 2008—as well as yoga and nutritional counseling. According to her website’s instructor profile, now deleted, Wright liked to teach Zumba because “Every class feels like a party!”
Some, it seems, party harder than others. Wright would sometimes use the studio to shoot videos of herself performing repetitive dance steps, humming along with the music, fully naked. There were no shades on the studio’s floor-to-ceiling windows, but Wright didn’t seem to mind if anyone walking by happened to see. In the dozens of videos posted on amateur porn sites, she talked about how much she enjoyed being naked, in public, and showed herself engaging in sex acts: in her car, on a “well-marked trail” near home, at an outdoor park. In fact, many of the videos were filmed in locations that were easily identifiable to anyone who knew Kennebunk. “I love running around parking lots without clothes,” read one video description. “Maybe you will see me sometime.”
Eventually, the rumors began to circulate. “If anyone knows Alexis Wright from Kennebunk, Maine, you probably think she’s a sweet, friendly Zumba teacher,” began an August 2010 post on a website, created anonymously, with the creative name of alexiswrightzumbateacherpornstar.blogspot.com. “The funny thing is she’s not! She’s living a double life & is a PORN STAR!!!!! She may be a prostitute for all I know.… The sad thing is you can see her little son’s toddler bed in the background of one video…. How can you pretend to be such a respectable member of the community when you’re really sleeping around w/everyone’s husbands. I hope her Zumba clients wake up & realize who their teacher really is!!!!!!!”
It wasn’t long before the whole town began to find out. According to a local newspaper, Wright once sent an email to a group of local mothers with the subject line “Got any plans this weekend?” Attached was a topless photo of herself. She later apologized, saying her account had been hacked, though it happened again, with the message this time going to a group of local men. Again, she said her email had been hacked.
In July 2012, five months after the police searches in Kennebunk and Wells, Mark Strong was arrested in the 1800s-era Thomaston home where he had been raised. A white-haired man who’d probably once been handsome, Strong lived with his wife, Julie, who sold antiques out of an attached barn. He was charged with 59 misdemeanors, including promoting prostitution and violation of privacy. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges and insists that he’s innocent. Strong’s lawyer has said that Wright was Strong’s licensed investigative assistant from 2008 to 2010, and that Wright requested that Strong perform the license-plate searches because she was concerned for her safety. Strong says that aside from the loan and cosigning of the lease, his involvement in her “business” ended there. He also says that he did not pay for sex with Wright. “The charges against me are untrue,” he said in a written statement issued by his attorney, who did not respond to requests for comment. “I have made some bad choices but I have broken no laws.”
Wright, for her part, wasn’t arrested until October—more than a year after the first complaint to the police. She was indicted that same month by a York County grand jury on 106 counts, including prostitution, invasion of privacy, and charges related to allegedly failing to pay taxes on the $150,000 she allegedly made. Wright has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
As the case unfolded, even those who’d already learned of Wright’s provocative behavior couldn’t have guessed at what was to come. Police say Wright’s main business was one she called “Sensual Body Work by Lydia.” One ad “Lydia” posted in February on the adult classifieds site backpage.com read, “I am currently seeking an upscale clientele to provide services for in my new office. I offer a comfortable environment and your discretion is incredibly important to me.” On sensualbodybylydia.com, “Lydia” wore a see-through bra while advertising $195-per-half-hour services that included nutritional counseling, massage, and “sensual body rubs” conducted in the nude (“fantasy role playing and fetish may be extra”). There was also a blog on her company’s website. “To my regular clients that came today,” read one post, “you put constant smiles on my face, giggles, and other noises that I won’t mention on here!”
On the Erotic Review, a Yelp-style website on which johns rate their experiences with prostitutes, one poster wrote of “Lydia” in Maine: “She has a very sweet, down to earth personality and is easy to get along with. She apparently is a dance instructor. She delivered as promised and has a great body. Definitely will repeat. Wish I could have gone on Valentines Day, but the Mrs. would have figured me out as I would have been too relaxed after work.”
On numerous adult websites—with names like slutload.com, largeporntube.com, and spankbang.com—videos showed up with titles such as “Lexi Wright Does the Zumba Strip,” “The Striptease,” and “Alexis Wright Inserts Popsicle.” On one site, a photo of a woman believed to be Wright appears alongside a personal profile that reads, “I live in a small town in Maine and have my own dance studio, many in my community do not realize that I am an exhibitionist and that I crave sex. I have had sex with many of the married men locally and it is satisfying to know that I am providing them with what they are not getting at home. If the women only knew.”