melissa murphy porn makeup artist 1665 Melia Robinson/Tech Insider

Melissa Murphy used to eat, sleep, and breathe porn, but she didn't watch it.

"I build relationships in the makeup chair," Murphy tells me as she drags a red lip pencil over an adult actress' lip.

"We talk about our love lives, our problems. I can't go watch you have sex after this," Murphy says, cupping the woman's chin in her hands. "To me, you're my sweet little girl who I make over into a pinup doll."

For eight years, the folks in the porn industry were Murphy's social circle. Adult actresses became her vacation buddies and closest confidants. But something happened in 2013 that threatened to unravel these relationships and destroy her career in the process.

You may remember this Business Insider article written about Murphy's Instagram account, an account that surfaced on Reddit and was covered by every major news site from Gawker to The New York Post's Page Six.

business insider article melissa murphy porn Business Insider

Collectively, the internet applauded Murphy's artistry, often commenting on the staggering difference between before and after shots. The story was a favorite for readers, and its popularity inspired a follow-up I wrote this past summer: "Makeup artist posts shocking before-and-after photos of the porn stars she styles."

And it only continues to make the rounds from there. Last week, BroBible, The Daily Mail, and The Mirror resurrected the story with galleries of their own.

A few months after the Business Insider article went live, I reached out to Murphy, wanting to see how internet fame was treating her. Had business taken off? Were porn stars clamoring to be made over by her?

Turns out, Murphy's ascent into virality was anything but uplifting. Adult actresses accused Murphy of selling the story to the press, and photographers no longer welcomed her on set.

In one fell swoop, she lost her friends, career, and a bit of her sanity.

I recently spent the day with Murphy on the set of an erotic film shoot in Calabasas, California, to find out why going viral was the worst thing to ever happen to her - and why it was totally worth it.

melissa murphy porn makeup artist 1540 Melia Robinson/Tech Insider

'Who doesn't want to become an overnight success?'

As a makeup artist in the adult-film industry, Murphy has transformed hundreds of men and women into sex gods and bombshells. Much like those in Hollywood, makeup artists in porn create looks that hide a performer's flaws, highlight assets, and match the mood of the movie.

She describes her work as "liquid confidence." We prefer "cosmetic sorcery."

Still, Murphy never planned to work in porn. Thirteen years ago, she sold telecommunication services to Fortune 500 companies. After being laid off, Murphy took a side-gig at a cosmetics counter in a Los Angeles mall, though she had no formal training.

A friend asked her to dog-sit for her boss, a pornography director. As the guy was paying her, Murphy told him he should hire her as a makeup artist. Her first gig paid $125. She stayed long after she was needed so she could watch the veteran artists work.

There are only a handful of makeup artists in the adult-film industry, and fewer good ones, a robed actress tells me on set. The best photographers only hire the best makeup artists. Because Murphy excelled at makeup and hair, which is a rarity, she continued to book job after job.

melissa murphy porn makeup artist 1742 Melia Robinson/Tech Insider

In order to drum up more business, Murphy started staging behind-the-scenes photo shoots with the actresses and sharing the results to Instagram. Her account only served to showcase her talent and make herself more visible to photographers.

And it worked. That year, she would have to schedule days off.

Most of the actresses loved Murphy's social-media shtick. She often photographed them in their street clothes, rather than skimpy lingerie, and in natural lighting. Many would use the after photos as their profile pictures on social media. Others retweeted the posts with praise.

"My first [before-and-after] subject was Kristina Rose, a down-to-earth girl who said something like, 'I don't give a f---' when I asked," Murphy remembers. "She even had bad skin at the time."

Here's the picture:

#kristinarose #before #after #hair #makeup #photos by #xmelissamakeupx I love Kristina Rose. #justsaying #realchick

A photo posted by Melissa Murphy (@xmelissamakeupx) on Aug 8, 2012 at 12:55pm PDT

Murphy guesses that fewer than a dozen women rejected her when she asked to share their bare faces on Instagram. She never posted without permission.

Then Reddit found her.

On March 9, 2013, user trollboll lifted 93 photos from Murphy's Instagram and posted them to imgur, a community blog where people share interesting and weird internet content.

Some of the transformations were rather shocking. Every zit, rogue hair, and patch of oily skin went exposed. But with Murphy's makeup magic, the actresses looked practically Photoshopped. The photos racked up millions of views and attention from media outlets around the world.

"You've seen them without their clothes," The Huffington Post's Hilary Hanson wrote. "Now see them without makeup."

BuzzFeed's Ryan Broderick said, "These incredible transformations prove that just about anybody can 'look like a porn star.'"

Many blogs published galleries embedding Murphy's photos without asking her. Given the gray nature of fair use laws, media may use public Instagram user's photos as long as the images are embedded. This feature gives proper attribution by showing the username and linking back to the original content, according to Instagram's embedding terms of use.

melissa murphy porn makeup artist 1619 Melia Robinson/Tech Insider

At the time, Murphy lay in bed devouring link and link.

"My initial reaction to my account going viral was a mix of shock and excitement," Murphy says. "Who doesn't want to become an overnight success?"

Her enthusiasm lasted 24 hours.

The dark side of going viral

Some friends in porn texted her, sending congratulations. Some friends outside porn texted her, panicked. Murphy had posted pictures of makeovers she'd done for "normals," including her sister on her wedding day, and they were being identified as porn stars in some slideshows.

And others, well ... others lost it.

A small but vocal handful of adult actresses attacked Murphy on social media for betraying them. They accused her of selling the images to the press - and doing so without their permission. According to their smears on social media, Murphy exposed them in their most vulnerable moments, saying Murphy was the only one with something to gain by showing the world the actresses' bare faces.

The hashtag #MakeupArtistNoList attempted to blacklist Murphy from the industry.

"Can't trust b------ who secretly work for tabloids," one porn star tweeted.

"You hang with snakes you get bit," another tweeted. "I think next time @xmelissamakeupx should get [photo release forms] from her models before she puts them up on NY Post page six....I mean Instagram."

melissa murphy porn makeup artist 1836 Melia Robinson/Tech Insider

Murphy swears to this day that she has never reached out to a press outlet for coverage, nor has she received a dime for the photos.

While many porn stars came to Murphy's defense, the damage was already done.

Actresses who had been her closest confidants threatened legal action and bullied her in the comments section of her Instagram posts. Photographers who once hired Murphy stopped calling, not wanting trouble between her and the actresses on set. In such a competitive industry, no one can afford to be too close to the source of the drama.

"It broke my heart," Murphy says. "It felt like a popularity contest that I had lost."

She deleted social media apps from her phone. She sought legal advice, and followed instructions not to respond to the actresses. When a job opportunity cropped up in India, Murphy took it.

melissa murphy porn makeup artist 1876 Melia Robinson/Tech Insider

Two and a half years have passed since internet fame dug its claws in Murphy, and much has changed. The actresses moved on, and one of the industry's most prolific female photographers, Holly Randall, took a chance on Murphy. Randall continues to be Murphy's primary source of gigs, hiring her for nude photography shoots for Playboy and other reputable adult brands.

At last, she's working five days a week again. While Murphy hopes to transition from the adult industry to mainstream film - and has already added clients from Hollywood and the music world to her Rolodex - she admits that feeling busy feels good.

Back to work, and back to Instagram

On a cloudless morning in the San Fernando Valley, where an estimated 90% of American sex films are made, I visit Murphy to take in a day in her life. We find ourselves in a white stucco ranch house for a feature shoot for Twistys, an erotic film studio known for its glamorous, softer approach to X-rated content.

A 5-foot-3 woman in her late 20s lifts herself into the makeup chair, adjusts the white bathrobe around her, and introduces herself to me as Nicole Aniston. She's beautiful and approachable, with iridescent green eyes and long, honey-colored tresses. Murphy sweeps her hair up with her fingertips and lets it spill over Aniston's back.

"I just want to bathe in it," Murphy coos, then asks Aniston in a near-whisper if she can take a "before" photo for Instagram.

She's nervous Aniston will reject her, knowing that the unfiltered, unflattering photo could appear on the front page of Gawker or The Daily Mail tomorrow.

Having been through the drill a handful of times before, Aniston agrees as she turns to face Murphy and pouts for the iPhone directed at her.

From the roots of Murphy's hair to the tips of her sneakers, the tension moves through her body, and with a press of the iPhone's camera button, a sense of relief takes its place.

melissa murphy porn makeup artist 1935 Melia Robinson/Tech Insider

In the coming days, Murphy will pick before and after photos of Aniston, splice them side by side, and post to Instagram. She tempts fate again and again.

Later I want to know if Murphy thinks she's asking for trouble.

"It isn't about showing my work anymore," Murphy says.

With rouge-stained hands, she pulls up Instagram on her phone and scrolls through the comment threads. Countless followers have left messages of not only admiration, but of gratitude.

"I see how flawless the women in magazines and on TV are, and I constantly have to fight the thought that I'll never be able to compete," one aspiring actress writes. "We can all be stars with help from artists as talented as you."

"Thank you for promoting self-love!" another says.

melissa murphy porn makeup artist 1982 Melia Robinson/Tech Insider

Murphy thinks most people don't realize how many others wear makeup to feel better about themselves. They feel ashamed about their makeup use, and perceive it as a crutch for those who lack in natural beauty.

Seeing that even porn stars need concealer, lash extensions, bronzer, and more, Murphy's followers look at their own appearances in the mirror with a little more forgiveness.

"With makeup, we can enhance our looks and transform into anything we desire," Murphy says. "But at the end of the day, we are all the same.

"We're all human, we're all beautifully flawed," she added.