Lauren Kwei is the New York paramedic who says her job is now in jeopardy after the New York Post identified her in an article about her explicit side hustle. Kwei, 23, told the outlet she sold photos of herself on OnlyFans in order to “make ends meet” because she didn’t earn enough money at SeniorCare EMS, which is an ambulance service in the Bronx.
According to a GoFundMe account set up on Kwei’s behalf, the Post contacted her for an interview. Kwei claims she asked the reporter to refrain from publishing her full name and insisted that her “safety and job were going to be at risk if he posted this article.” Kwei explained that “most of the quotes in that article are me defending myself to this reporter.” As of this writing, Kwei said she had not yet spoken with her boss at SeniorCareEMS and was unsure whether she would be fired.
An acquaintance of Kwei’s set up the online fundraiser to help the paramedic “keep her freedoms of choice and expression to support herself during her legal battles against the newspaper and her fight to keep the job she loves.” The campaign had an initial goal of $5,000 but it raised more than $31,000 in one day.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Kwei Told the Post She Earned $25 Per Hour as a Paramedic & Also Worked as a Restaurant Hostess
Kwei told the Post that she moved to New York City in 2015 to study musical theater at The American Musical and Dramatic Academy. The school posted a list of its spring 2017 graduates online and Kwei’s name was included under the New York section. Tuition at the school, according to its website, is $42,660.
After going on auditions for two years, Kwei decided the entertainment industry was not for her. She went back to school to become an EMT. She told the Post she initially earned $15 per hour when she started working for SeniorCare EMS in March 2018. After about a year, Kwei said she stopped working to attend the Center for Allied Health Education and become a licensed paramedic. The additional training, which cost $13,200 in tuition, resulted in a pay raise and Kwei started earning $25 per hour.
$25 per hour does not go very far in New York City. According to RentCafe, the average rent for an apartment in the Bronx is more than $1,600. Assuming Kwei worked 40 hours per week, once taxes were taken out of her paycheck it is possible that her rent could have accounted for 50% of her expenses. As of 2019, the Citizens Budget Commission estimated that about half of New Yorker renters qualified as “rent-burdened,” meaning they spent more than 30% of take-home income on housing. According to the Post, Kwei also worked as a restaurant hostess to cover all of her expenses.
Heavy has not independently verified Kwei’s medical credentials. According to the Bureau of EMS and Trauma System website, which is part of the New York State Department of Health, credentials for emergency medical professionals are not publicly available online.
2. Kwei Said She Sold Photos of Herself Online ‘Because It’s Easy’ & That It Never Interfered With Her Job as a Paramedic
Kwei uses the handle @foxxyllama on her social media accounts. As of this writing, her Twitter account had been made private and she appears to have either suspended or deleted her Instagram account. The Post reported that as of December 11, Kwei had deleted all of her posts on OnlyFans. The newspaper also reported that Kwei had previously promoted her OnlyFans account by linking to it on Twitter.
According to the Post, Kwei started selling partially nude photos of herself online in August 2019. She told the newspaper that the side gig never interfered with her job as a paramedic. “It doesn’t affect how I treat people. What I do in my free time is my business. It has no effect on how I care for my patients. I know when I’m working, I’m a paramedic. I think I’m pretty good at my job,” Kwei told the Post. “There are plenty of people who are medical professionals who have every right to do what they want with their own bodies. I’m not doing it at work. Health care workers aren’t making a lot of money. And I’m not the only one trying to make ends meet.”
Kwei further explained her side hustle on the GoFundMe campaign and clarified why she hadn’t taken on overtime shifts with the ambulance service instead:
Let me also say that I truly believe I do not HAVE to explain myself, but I want to. I know in my heart that I did nothing wrong, but it really helps to be reminded that I do not deserve to be treated like this or spoken about this way. All my life, I have been sexualized and treated as a sex object, no matter what I do or say.
I sold pictures of myself on the internet for extra money because it’s easy. I didn’t pick up extra shifts because I cannot work 40+ hour weeks and maintain my mental health. I did not ask my parents for help because I’m adult and wanted to make my own money. I never once spoke of my pictures at work or used my job as a paramedic to solicit subscribers. I know I did nothing wrong and I have nothing to be ashamed of. Most of the quotes in that article are me defending myself to this reporter. He did not include that I begged him to remain anonymous (which was never agreed to) and that I told him my safety and job were going to be at risk if he posted this article. He truly did not care.
Kwei claimed the Post reporter called her employer for a comment as well as her mother.
3. The New York Post Is Facing Backlash Online From Commenters Including Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
The New York Post is taking heat for publishing Kwei’s full name, especially since Kwei claimed she had asked to remain anonymous to protect her job. As the Wrap reported, many online commenters accused the newspaper of “slut-shaming” Kwei.
Rolling Stone bashed the newspaper by declaring that the Post had “shamed” Kwei. Rolling Stone included this subheader on its online article: “The real shame here is that the 23-year-old couldn’t survive off her salary as a medical worker — not that she turned to the picture sharing app, as millions of Americans have done during the pandemic.”
Others remarked that it was unacceptable for a medical professional working full-time to even have a financial need for a side hustle. Yahoo News correspondent Alexander Nazaryan quoted the line in the article about Kwei working as a hostess at a Korean steakhouse and added, “Three jobs. One of them apparently displeased the New York Post, so now she may have none.”
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez commented on Twitter, “Leave her alone. The actual scandalous headline here is ‘Medics in the United States need two jobs to survive.'”
Joe Evans, who ran for Congress in Idaho on the Libertarian ticket, remarked on the article, “Here for the ratio on this bulls** article. #SexWorkIsWork and you’re slutshaming. Why does a medic need a second job? A failure of our corporatocracy. There is an administrator playing candy crush all day getting paid her wages. And you write a hit piece on her…. GFY.”
Twitter user @LadyLecondoliak, who identified herself as a nurse, commented that there are few side gig options available for medical professionals due to time constraints: “As a direct care RN, I considered: stripping or a sex hotline to make ends meet. I needed a flexible part time job that pays well because I’m a single mom. The real story here is health care workers don’t get paid a living wage to risk our lives for yours.”
Another Twitter user @theMADcripple cited an anonymous quote in the article from another paramedic who had told the Post, “Other EMTs and paramedics make more money by pulling extra shifts, instead of pulling off their clothes.” @theMADcripple remarked, “As a patient, I would MUCH rather my healthcare workers make $ by selling nude pics than picking up extra shifts. When that exhaustion hits, mistakes WILL be made.”
As of this writing, the New York Post had not publicly commented on the criticism. The two reporters whose names were on the article byline did not share the story to their respective Twitter handles and have not commented since it went viral.
4. Kwei Says the GoFundMe Money Will Help Support Her Family in West Virginia
Kwei wrote on the GoFundMe campaign that she returned to her hometown in West Virginia to help care for her father, who was recovering after going into cardiac arrest. Kwei said her father was the primary breadwinner and that he would not be able to work for at least two months. She explained that “any money donated to this GFM will be used for me and my family. I don’t think I deserve all the kindness you all have shown to me, but I cannot thank you all enough.”
Kwei added, “I’m a strong woman because I have strong women all around me. I did nothing wrong and I will not take this lying down. I will continue to fight for my name and reputation. I will speak out against this and tell my story in time and when I am ready.”
5. SeniorCare EMS Explains on Job Openings That Employees Must Abide By Ethics Standards
SeniorCare EMS notes on its job openings that employees are expected to represent the industry even while off the clock. The “description of duties” for a current opening for an EMT position in the Bronx explains that employees must adhere “to standards of personal ethics, on and off duty, which reflect credit upon the profession.” There is no further explanation about how the company defines “personal ethics.”