Dannii Harwood, one of the top earners on OnlyFans, in New York on Dec. 18, 2018.
Molly Matalon—The New York Times/Redux

For $4.99 a month, admirers of Cardi B can view her personal confessions, music-video outtakes and photo-shoot snippets not available anywhere else. It’s one example of the way that OnlyFans is monetizing human connection, in many forms, at scale. The U.K.-based site launched in 2016 as a niche outlet that primarily hosted pornography; over the past year, however, a growing number of celebrities and influencers—as well as sex workers—started using it to bolster their income. (The platform was even name-checked in Megan Thee Stallion and Beyoncé’s hit song “Savage.”) Although OnlyFans still faces challenges in security, safety and content moderation—like keeping underage users and creators off the platform—its business is booming. More than 120 million people now subscribe to its million-plus creators, who include chefs, makeup artists and athletic trainers. To date, OnlyFans has paid them more than $3 billion, outpacing other engines of the creator economy, including Substack, Patreon and Cameo.

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Write to Raisa Bruner at raisa.bruner@time.com.