MARCH 12, 2018
How old are you?
Where are you from originally?
I am from New Orleans originally and all around southeast Louisiana.
Why are you still here?
Because I love New Orleans and I can’t stay away. I’m gonna leave and end up back here again I’m sure.
How do you refer to your work?
I just say that I’m a stripper. I think that it helps cut back on the stigma of it to just say I’m a stripper. Some people say I’m a dancer or whatever but I like to say I’m a stripper.
Do you find that it takes people off guard?
It definitely does especially when you say it that way because they think of it as a derogatory term when it’s really just a job title. It’s a loaded statement to most people. I know lots of girls who won’t tell people they’re a stripper when they meet random people. My friend who was my stripper mom actually said, “They don’t deserve to think about me naked when I tell them I’m a stripper so I don’t tell them I’m a stripper.” Everybody has their own reasoning for it but personally I think people are already thinking about me naked so it doesn’t really make a difference.
Do you feel comfortable saying where you work or have worked?
I worked at Rick’s Cabaret for a few months and then I started at Hustler after that. I mostly work at Hustler these days but I still go between the two. It’s going to be my one year stripper anniversary on March 22.
How did you get your start?
I’m from here and I’m very into strip club culture. I’ve always loved strippers and strip clubs. I’m friends with a lot of strippers. They’ve always been the most badass women that I’ve known and I’ve kind of held myself back over the stigma behind it. I moved out when I was 17 and supported myself so it’s not even because of what my family thinks because I don’t talk to them. I was kind of scared in a way. I’m really good at bartending and was getting higher-paid management positions and I thought, “Why am I doing this when I need to finish school?” And my friend had taken some photos of me and told me to just start dancing so I pulled the trigger. I thought about it for a long time and it was just fear holding me back because of how people regard the job. Once I got over that I realized it didn’t even matter anyway.
Was it a process to get over it or was it like ripping off a band-aid?
It was definitely like pulling off a band-aid. Although maybe the process was me thinking about it for years until I went and did it.
Do you like it?
I love it a lot. I’m so grateful for the women that I met and the community of women that I’m a part of now. I feel like I’ve always had problems with women because I’ve supported myself and been on my own since I was 17 which is not something that most people have done and strippers are more my kind people. I’m so grateful. I’m happy because I feel like I’m around like-minded people.
What has the difference been in the last year since you starting stripping versus the years before?
I have been focusing on my mental health, financially and energetically. That is something I had never done before because I was always fighting to get by. I’ve had jobs that I like and made money but you’re working all the time and don’t really have any time for yourself. Now I’ve been a part of a great community while being able to explore myself. It has its ups and downs but ultimately I’ve been happier in the last year than I have my whole life. Plus doing something like this easily cuts toxic people out of your life. Oh this is how you feel about [stripping]? Glad I know that now.
How do you define sexism?
Having a perspective that is not equal about a sex or gender. To think of someone as inferior to you whether or not you’re conscious of it. Unfortunately, most of the time people aren’t even conscious of it and that’s why it continues in culture and society.
How does being treated in a sexist way make you?
Angry. Very angry. I think that’s one of the reason I really like stripping: it makes me not as angry in everyday life because I’m in an environment where I’m able to speak up for myself and very loudly make my boundaries clear. I worked in the restaurant industry for over ten years and I’ve been grabbed and harassed by customers and the people I work with. Sometimes it’s not malicious and it’s meant in a friendly way but that doesn’t make it ok. But now at work I never ever have to be in a situation that makes me uncomfortable. It makes instances of micro-aggressions outside of work more bearable because I don’t have to keep my mouth shut anymore. I feel like it’s productive to use those moments inside the club to teach people about boundaries. I never would’ve thought that that was an aspect of it and it’s cool. It’s not always to the advantage of making money but it gives me great joy to put men in their place.
Do you always notice when people are acting in a sexist way?
I’m hyper aware of it. I’m OCD and empathetic so I notice all the slightest little things. That’s why having a place to get all of that frustration out is great. And being a stripper has changed my perception. I didn’t think lower level clubs were as safe but it’s all just your perception. It’s class differences and income level. It has nothing to do with the girls or the club. I remember making a comment when I first started stripping like I’m so lucky I work at Hustler and Rick’s and I am but it was in the sense of thank god I don’t have to work at those other places which is really rude to say towards those women in retrospect. They’re just working their jobs in those places too, you know what I mean?
Can you recall any lingering instances of sexism that has stuck with you?
This happened to me a lot before I started stripping when I was trying to find other work in various places. Men would offer to try to help me find gigs and then would say “I couldn’t find you a job but do you want to go on a date sometime?” They were clearly trying to take advantage of me.
Like the work they were offering was just a disguise.
Exactly. That really pissed me off. There were multiple instances at the same time and I still think about it.
What’s the best part about being a stripper?
The freedom to be yourself or be whoever you want to be for that matter. For a lot of women, their choice is to not be themselves. I’m not a good actress so I kind of have to be myself. Part of me is working on things to say to conserve emotional energy because even though it’s not an intensive conversation, those little bits of information suck energy out of you because you’re sharing yourself with somebody. It’s the freedom to be and do whatever you want and speak up in those moments. I am so used to working in different environments where you have to comply with what’s expected of you. That’s a weird thing to say because that’s definitely happening in the strip club but in a very different way. I’m mostly comparing it to the restaurant industry where you have to just keep a smile on your face no matter what anybody says to you. I ended up preferring bartending in the long run because there’s a wall between you and they can’t grab you and touch you. I’m a small blonde girl, I’m approachable, I’m not threatening. People think they can just grab me. I have tattoos all over me and people are like, “What’s this??” as they grab me. People think they can manhandle me and that would happen every day on a regular basis. I’m talking about some of the finest dining restaurants in the entire city and a sixty-year man has his hand on my ass while he’s giving me his food order. Even if I stepped away, he’d put his hand back on my ass while he’s sitting next to his wife who is on her happy pills or just doesn’t care because she clearly thinks it’s ok for her husband to sexually harass another woman right in front of her. And then you get paid five dollars on a two hundred dollar tab because they don’t even care about your time or respect you enough to tip you appropriately. The difference between that and now being in an environment where I can be very vocal about those things is very nice to say the least. If people don’t pay you, you can literally say fuck you, pay me.
What’s the hardest part?
There are certain moments where you do have to deal with the bullshit. I don’t know why this stuck with me more than anything else because I’ve been assaulted and harassed outside the club prior to dancing but I was on stage dancing and the stage was packed and there were these two people were sitting there not tipping so I was kind of ignoring them. Then I realized one of them was sitting there filming me. I don’t know how long he was doing that for.
Is that legal?
No, it’s completely illegal. And it’s rare that somebody would get away with it for that long but we were just really busy. I ended up grabbing the phone from his hand and was like, “What the hell do you think you’re doing? You haven’t even tipped me one dollar and you think it’s ok to sit there and film me?” And he was like, “Oh you want a dollar?” It was a middle-aged white couple and his wife or girlfriend was sitting there with him as he did this. I was filled with rage because of what he did and how he spoke to me. I gave his phone to the floor guys and he was Facetiming someone. He was fucking Facetiming someone. It was one of the most degrading things. It really fucked me up.
What are the biggest misconceptions about being a stripper?
So many people say you’re too pretty to work here, you’re so smart. No, all of these women I work with are highly intelligent and great humans. It’s literally all your perception. Both my co-workers and the clientele are so much more respectful of me, than they are in real life and in other jobs that I’ve worked. People think that you’re in this fucked up, questionable environment when you’re not. It’s actually an extremely safe place. It’s helped me get over emotional issues in my life and deal with my mental illness in a way that I hadn’t been able to before. One of my friends told me that we’re basically naked comedic therapists. People for the most part just want to spend time with you and talk to you and it’s a form of therapy in a way. They respect you and they treat you really well and it’s an interesting intimate interaction to have with a stranger. We deal with drunk bachelor parties because we work on Bourbon Street but people that come in that are actually strip club customers know the etiquette and the boundaries and are usually pretty respectful. I think I’m in an interesting situation because I started a year ago with all the undercovers and they are very rude and you can spot them right away.
Can you tell me about your experience with the raids?
Rick’s was shut down silently. I had friends that were there that night and they were in a champagne room and the management was like, “You can’t renew the room, we’re closing early.” That was it. They didn’t even know there was a raid going on or what was happening. They lost hundreds of dollars. We all kind of knew it was coming but it still scared the shit out of me. I hate cops and I’m very verbal about it. I’m very lucky that I’m a little blonde girl and that’s why I’ve gotten away with being so verbal towards cops in the past. I’ve straight up screamed in cops faces and I’m awful. I’ve had to have somebody pick me up and carry me away from a cop before. So if I had been in the club when that was happening I would’ve been that girl that got arrested for assaulting an officer. I wouldn’t have been able to watch what was happening and keep my mouth shut and I know that about myself. To potentially be at work and have that happen was terrifying. I don’t have a savings, I don’t have a boyfriend, I don’t talk to my family. Nobody is gonna come bail me out. I would be stuck in jail for yelling at a cop and that would be the end of that. And then I feel guilty because I’m not one of the women that lost their jobs, I don’t have children that I’m responsible for. I could get a job at a restaurant tomorrow if I wanted to. But I don’t want to. I like dancing and I want to keep doing it. Cops are more abrasive than normal customers. They say really derogatory shit to you because they’re testing you. Even before the raids, if a customer told me he was a cop I would just tell them to have a good night and walk away. I don’t fuck with cops. I think they’re disgusting and I want nothing to do with them.
Is there anything else that you'd like to add?
It all comes down to your perception of it. Bottom line, you’re just not ok with sexuality. That’s literally the only problem. You think it’s shameful because of your personal, moral viewpoints so you’re spinning all of these other reasons around it that are just not factual or based on any sort of evidence whatsoever.