MARCH 21, 2018
How old are you?
Depends on who you ask. I range from 24 to 34.
Where are you from originally?
I grew up in New Jersey but I’ve lived all over. I lived in the same house until I was 18 and then I moved to Arizona and then I did a gypsy route through the whole Southwest. I went through Arizona to California back to Arizona to Texas to here.
How long have you been in New Orleans?
Ten years on and off.
What brought you here?
I came here with this woman in 2008. She was kind of my mentor. She was from Australia and she was a vampire freak and she was like, “I just want to check out New Orleans!” My roommate at the time was from Lafayette and they told me I had to strip in New Orleans, that’s where all the money is, blah blah blah. I came two years after the storm during Mardi Gras not even knowing it was Mardi Gras, found a place in a guest house and never really left. First we booked it for the week and then I booked it for the month and then we booked it for three months and then we found an apartment. I was living with two other women and the three of us went three ways on one two-bedroom in Austin and one one-bedroom here and had a sharing economy before that even existed.
Why are you still here?
I left for two years. I just came back a year ago. I went to New York and hated it. I knew I was going to hate it but I went back to take care of family. I ended up in Connecticut just so I wasn’t in New York City. The pull was so strong here. I was even dating a guy in New York who I have since moved here. Everything fits here for me. I remember when I first moved here I had this serious feeling that once I got used to being here it would be hard to be anywhere else. There is so much acceptance here for who people are and there is such a huge community of women who are working together and making things better here. I don’t see that in other places. I don’t see community other places. I don’t see people coming as they are and wearing their own skin in other places. It resonated with me to the point that I’m still here. I feel myself everywhere I go but I don’t feel accepted as myself everywhere I am. Here I do. Once you learn to live in the frequency [of New Orleans] it’s hard to go elsewhere. I wake up here and I am who I am, I create what I create. Each day is a new adventure, a new experience. Nothing is pre-planned. I know what my end goal is but how I’m going to get there each day is new. I have the things that have to be done but otherwise, I catch my muse and I focus on that thing. If I wake up in the morning and go today I am an artist, today I am an entrepreneur, today I’m a stripper, today I am a publisher, I can put on whatever hat feels right for that day. I wake up when I want to, I go to sleep when I want to, I eat when I’m hungry, and I do what the hell I want to do and because of the culture here that allows for that, I feel that I have made the most out of me and my potential instead of pressuring myself to fit into some other track. [New Orleans] allows me to focus on what I am capable of doing.
How do you refer to your work?
I am an entrepreneur, a life coach, an artist, and a stripper.
Why do you say stripper over other terminologies?
Because it’s what I do. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. There’s a lot of talk around what words we can and can’t use around womanhood. Don’t call girls ‘girls’ because it’s minimizing. But there’s nothing wrong with being a girl! When we refer to the boys club, no one thinks being a boy is bad. There’s nothing wrong with me stripping. Not only do I strip my clothes, there is a stripping down of humanity to be able to communicate with people on a level that is so much more basic and also enlightened in day-to-day communications in civilian world. There’s nothing wrong with it. I say sex worker too but I don’t want to minimize the amount of work that full-service sex workers do by calling myself exclusively a sex worker. Because I’m a stripper I’m a sex worker but there is confusion. I respect so many women who do so many different facets of sex work. Stripping is like sex work light. It’s like Malibu calling itself rum. It’s not, you know? (laughing) I’m a fucking stripper. Unless you ask my grandparents, then I’m a bartender.
Do you feel comfortable saying where you work or have worked?
I’ve worked in Arizona, California, Connecticut, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Texas, and Virginia over the past seventeen years. Over the past ten years I have maintained contracts at the Hustler clubs here in New Orleans. Oh! And for coaching, I coach women all over the world. I have coached women as far away as New Zealand, Australia, London, Canada, and pretty much every state except the Dakotas. I’ve got babes in Oklahoma, Wyoming, Minnesota…I kind of have industry insight even in cities I haven’t been to. I know what their prices are, I know what their management is like, I know what the girl drama is, I know what the clientele is just by walking through it with other people. It’s super cool.
Do you like it?
My job? Yeah! I like it for many different reasons the most obvious is what an incredible launch pad it is for women who have found that this is the option and the avenue that they would like to take at this point. The launching point it creates, the amount of money you can make in small period of time…it’s like surgeon money. You can change your life. I come from a pretty impoverished, blue-collar family. My dad was a truck driver, my mom was a respiratory therapist but not until I was fifteen so before that she was typesetting, driving limousines, random odd jobs. I came from not much so as soon as I turned eighteen, I was like I can get my own things, I can do my own stuff. It felt really good to work in an environment where I could make a lot of money and go buy Chanel sunglasses or just have tissues in my car. It felt like a luxury to have tissues, napkins, toilet paper, and paper towels. That was something I had never had my entire life. You need to blow your nose you use toilet paper. You need to wipe your hands, you use paper towels. To have all four was a really serious thing to me. To go from poverty mentality to being able to create my own business and support myself and have a beautiful home and be able to take care of my animals and their veterinary needs feels really good and empowering. Now every time I see a friend post a GoFundMe, I can donate to it. To be able to give to charity instead of ask for charity is huge. To be faced with the opportunity to build something is the most obvious reason that I like it. From a social standpoint, people’s phones are usually dark and in their pockets. I get to experience and participate in folk art every single night. No two stages sets are the same. I don’t care if I dance to the same song with the same moves, something different happens each and every time. It’s performance, it’s theatre and I love that. I love working in a place where women are the ones who are in charge. It’s my house. I tell that to men all the time. You’re in my house now, you’re gonna live by my rules. We go back out there, we’ll live by yours. But when you’re in here you’re coming to me for a service that you cannot provide for yourself and I’m going to charge you like a motherfucker for it. And I make the rules. I like the human communication though. I like people not touching their phones and having to have small talk. It’s not a thing people do and it feels really nice to be a part of forcing people to talk. It’s really cool to see a guy who is in his shell and he’s like folded up on himself with crossed legs. What’s going on with you? How can I help you? What is the problem here that needs to be solved? And we all know what it is: emotional seclusion and isolation and all of these things that create violence and tension and depression, mental illness in our world. I really feel like I have a part in fixing that and that’s really cool. I really like that.
How did you start?
I was eighteen working in child care for the YMCA and I was hostessing at a chain restaurant and it wasn’t cutting it. I really wanted this expensive car and new pants every time I went out. I was eighteen and thought, what can I do? And then in my local newspaper—this was when there were still newspaper ads—there was a bartending job at a now defunct go-go bar in New Jersey. I went there and got me a job and that was the beginning of it. I worked as a bartender for years and then I moved to Arizona and continued bartending in strip clubs. Then I got a job running the administrative side of an adult website and through there I met a woman who became my mentor. She was a stripper and a porn performer and dominatrix and a peep show performer and she is who I originally came here with. She was so enlightened and empowered and different from any woman I had ever met. She was 23 and had a tax ID number for her work and had all of her shit handled. This is a person who struggles with all the same things that I struggle with except for autonomy and financial accessibility and I want that. She was so good about indulging every question I had. She was happy to answer my questions which I’m sure were in some ways insulting to her. I asked questions that were not ok to ask looking back. But she was just so kind about everything and it made such a lasting impact on me and that’s part of the reason I started Survive The Club. I wanted other people to have access to that because I couldn’t have done it as well as I do without that. This job has not been dangerous to me, I have never felt exploited by anybody but myself. It has been chosen and consensual when I’ve wanted to be objectified. There have been unravelings in my life and because of my job I have this innate ability to rebuild because I had the financial ability to do it. I could take the month off and go to therapy or I could go to work every night. I didn’t have to wait for somebody to schedule. I remember going through bad breakups where I worked seven nights a week because I needed the distraction, it felt good to make money, I was empowered going home with cash in my pocket. I am wanted, I am valuable, it’s just me. All I’m selling is my personality, all I’m selling is problem solving for other people. If I can go home with cash in my pocket that means somebody wants me. Everything else goes on hold for a moment. It’s life changing. So when I hear youngers girls saying they need employee status, I want to tell them to ask around to their friend with a day job if they can just not go to work because they're going through a breakup or because their dog died or because their dad died. You can’t. But if you pay to work, you pay rent to be there, you hire the staff, the place is yours. You do what you want. And because of that I built my life, not the life that women are supposed to have and that has helped me build potential instead of what is expected. We live in a world that is structured for women to be subordinate to men. What do you think my mother’s experience looks like? What do you think my grandmother’s experience looks like? They look like subordination to men. My past experiences do not equal my potential. That’s how I have a business. I’ll be able to retire comfortably and help people in my community. It’s so sick. It feels really fun to talk about, thanks for indulging me.
Do you remember being told or taught anything regarding societal expectations of being a girl?
By the age of eight, I identified as a model, an actress, a pageant queen, a dancer, a gymnast, a cheerleader. I was taught from a very young age how to pout my lips for photos, how to make my legs look longer because I had “chicken legs” at eight, how to apply hemorrhoid cream to the backs of legs to get rid of cellulite. I was taught to slather Vaseline on my teeth so that I could smile to placate the masses because a happy woman is a valid woman. It’s everywhere. And that’s not just me and not just because I have this very extreme situation. Little girls are taught all these things. I’ve been told I’m bossy my whole life. Because I’m a boss! I like things done the right way the first time and I want them done my way.
I remember being told my entire life that I am too sensitive and I am still unraveling the fact that been sensitive is not bad.
That’s part of living in a world where white, hetero maleness is the norm. Sensitivity is considered toxic or a weakness for a man and we live under male rule. It’s an inconvenience for men to deal with our sensitivity because they can’t even deal with their own. This is something I deal with even in my current relationship. I’m dating someone who is European so he has a very stoic, success-based mindset. Production is his thing, efficiency is his thing. He’s Dutch and he’s very fucking Dutch. He’s an entrepreneur and things need to get done. He tells me all the time, “You get so mad. Don’t get mad.” And I’m like, “Don’t tell me not to be mad.” It took me many years of looking at my childhood trauma to know that I am allowed to be fucking pissed at people who hurt me. I don’t care if I love them, I’m still allowed to be mad at them. And I should be mad at them. They should apologize. They should be held accountable. And if I’m not angry, they’re not accountable. My anger holds people accountable. I’m allowed to be sad. I want to be sad. I want to be scared sometimes. I want to indulge in these feelings of childhood. I want to live a tuned-in life because when you’re not tuned-in, it’s really easy to abuse other people and that’s where the patriarchy reins. This lack of sensitivity means we can hurt other people without having to take responsibility for it. Everybody is being treated for something by self-treating with drugs and alcohol or yoga or meditation. If women were allowed to be sensitive, we could lead. People think that sensitivity is detrimental to progress but it isn’t. We need it. We need touch and love and closeness and sadness. We need a full range of emotion. If you cannot experience the deep depths of misery, you don’t know the scope of humanity. You can’t look at your fellow man or woman and say I get what this person is going through. When you can walk through your darkest room, you can do anything. I feel so sorry for men sometimes. I know that’s an unpopular opinion but I really do. I talk to these men and I know that with all that power, a little bit of pain can be devastating to the world around him. A little bit of humility and the ability to see that pain and to recognize it as real is revolutionary. We can use that as a strength and we can teach that as a strength. We can use empathy or apathy and we can change the fucking world. I feel bad for them. They have a lot of power on them that they don’t want to carry but they’re afraid to let go of and they’re so lonely. These poor babies. They just want some titties in their face. They’re just like Mama! Hold me! 90% of my job is mothering people. I used to play the baby role because I was young but now I play this nurturing role. I hold these guys. I let them put their face right near my boobs and just kind of coddle them for a little while and they need it. You have a soldier that just came back that has seen things they can’t live with and they can’t tell their families about it. They can’t tell their wives, they can’t tell their girlfriends, they can’t tell even their friends. But they can tell an anonymous person who has a boob to lay on. A boob is a life-changing thing. It’s why so many politicians and exceptionally powerful men turn to escorts and strippers and dominatrices and massage parlors: because they need a boob.
Can you define sexism?
Sexism is one tool in the belt of what we commonly refer to as the patriarchy. It’s one of the things they use to maintain their position at the top of the food chain. A couple of the ways that they do that is bigotry, subordination, human rights abuse. Sexism is one little tool in the Swiss army knife. It’s bias and minimization and othering of any gender nonconforming person, any person of color, aging people, immigrants, basically anyone who isn’t a white, Eurocentric male. In my opinion, it is based in greed and power. As mine grows I have to be really careful. It’s such an aphrodisiac. Power is something that you want to eat. It feels good to have and you don’t want to relinquish it once you have it even if you don’t know what to do with it. Even if you have no idea, to give it to somebody else is terrifying. It’s rolling the dice for a dude to give up his power. I recognize that’s why it sustains and maintains. I think sexism is a tactic to maintain power. It’s the same as ageism or speciesism. I’m the boss and I’m at the top and that feels good. Boys are taught that if you’re the strongest in the class and if you’re always right then you are a man. Man is not allowed to be wrong. Man is not allowed to be sensitive. Man is not allowed to be weak. Sexism lies in that too. It’s toxic masculinity as well as minimization of female time and energy and emotional input. It’s a tale as old as time that people get divorced because women don’t feel appreciated. It’s because a babe can be at home all day doing your laundry and cooking your food and raising your kids and washing your floors and you get home and you’re like, “Oh you haven’t done anything, you’ve been watching Oprah all day?” That’s fucking sexism. It gets so deep. It’s really engrained in us from childhood. My grandmother is such a bad bitch. She was saying to me, “You know? I’m just tired of smiling. Your grandfather will look at me and say ‘You know, your face is gonna get stuck like that!’ and I say ‘Good! Stop looking at me then!’ ”
What is your emotional reaction when you’re treated in a sexist way?
I’m ready. I’m incensed, girl. I’m pissed y’all. I’m training an army of entrepreneurial women. Come for me bitch. You’re not ready. I’m not the one. I was raised by cutthroat women. I was raised by women who will mow the lawn all day on a Sunday and get up and go to their three jobs on Monday and raise two kids with diseases and trauma and abuse. I was raised by soldiers. I’m not sad. I’m not minimized. I’m pissed and I’m ready. I have access to hundreds, thousands of women who are in the process of a huge economic upswing. I’m stoked. I’m excited. Be a sexist fucking asshole. Watch how fast I turn it around of you, make you feel this big, and then go train a woman to step on you. Don’t fuck with me.
Do you always notice when people are acting in a sexist way?
I don’t think any of us always notice when someone is acting in a sexist way. It is engrained in our society. I recognize now looking back that there were times I was acting in a sexist way and I’m sure there are still times. It is engrained into me. I say things that sometimes are not ok in our current political climate. I recognize the big things, the glaring things. She shouldn’t have been wearing that. She was asking for it. I recognize in my personal life the miniscule things. But if I were to turn on my antenna to recognize it every single time it happening, I’d be a time bomb. I would be ticking. I choose not to recognize it every time. I recognize that it exists in this world and then I think of how I can I’ve that is not in accordance with that and I think about that. I cannot focus on the actions of others. All I can do is focus on my own actions. But I think the most glaring one is the invalidation of women as they get older and wiser. We need matriarchs. Grandmothers are the most powerful women in the world. They’re the most powerful people in the world. Ask any man. How do you feel about your grandmother? He’ll tell you, his grandmother was everything to him. Ask anybody who has had a relationship with their grandmother. They’re everything. But their minimization in society has lasting effects. It means that young women don’t listen to them and young women need to listen. Young men listen to old men. But we can’t take an old woman seriously because she’s not wearing heels or her hair is not proper. The invalidation of women as they get older is something that I want to try to teach women not to buy into within my lifetime. That’s maybe the best advice I can give. Listen to women that came before you because they know. They’ve seen. Don’t say, “I need to learn it my own way.” Yeah girl, you do, but here’s the map. We’ve been drawing it. You cannot crumple it up and throw it in the trash and say, “I’m drawing a new map!” because we will never get anywhere. Take the map and improve upon it. There were things that Gloria Steinem was wrong about. Take the map, fix what’s wrong, and move forward. What if I discredited everything that Maya Angelou ever said because she didn’t speak on her sex work? That was patriarchal bullshit that she was not able in her lifestyle to address something that pushed her forward in her career as a mentor and an artist and a brilliant mind in ethics. We needed her. What would my life be like if I discredited her because of that one thing? That’s one thing that I disagree with and I’m allowed to disagree and I move on with my life.
What’s the best part about being a stripper?
Being able to figure out my own way in life. Figuring out what worked for me and not trying to make it in a system that was hell bent on exploiting me to “take care of me”. It’s such a mind-boggling system. Exploit, exploit, exploit, oh you’re broken, let me fix you. I don’t have to be part of that. My objectification, when it is done, is done so with consent. The ability to consent, the understanding that consent is not just no means no, it’s also yes means yes and that I’m allowed to enjoy my body. All people are allowed to explore their sexuality. There is nothing inherently wrong about that no matter what your classist, patriarchal bullshit society told you. There is absolutely nothing wrong with finding beauty in the vessel you have and using the tools in your belt. I love being inspired enough to think like a man in the sense of using what is available to me and making that work for me. That is how I became a stripper. What tools do I inherently have right now today? Not what tools will I have in five years once I finish this master’s degree or whatever. What tools do I have now to make the most of this day? That is how a male entrepreneur thinks and it is taught to men. I raised myself on business classics. I was reading pretty heavy stuff at a very young age. I think having this Emerson-idea of the world as a thing to explore has allowed me to explore without exploiting. It’s often misconstrued as being exploited by men. I said yes. I said yes to this. I consented to this. I want this. Watching one particular lawyer sweep the country trying to pass laws prohibiting women from using the tools in their belt is based in the patriarchal view of women as victims, women as incapable. This is what made it possible for hundreds of thousands of women to be put into psychiatric wards against their will. It’s why women weren’t allowed to have credit cards until the 1960s. This is a backslide for us. To take away a women’s ability to use her body to protect her family? Guess whose body made the fucking family? Guess whose body isn't used to hurt people? Guess whose body doesn’t need to be policed? You want somebody to put a shirt on? Look at the sexual abuse rates. Make the abusers wear the fucking shirts. I can’t take off my shirt in a strip club and a man who may or may not be a fucking sexual predator can run topless down the street, balls jiggling in the wind? I’m pissed. I should be pissed. There is no part of me that feels hopeless. I am surrounded by survivors, not victims and the only victims that I see are men who are victims of their own conditioning. The fastest growing population of people committing suicide are men and the fastest growing population of people gaining higher education are women. I’m not a researcher, I’m not a scientist, I’m not a sociologist but when I look at the numbers, I see a correlation and my instincts have been right before. I think that the acts of violence against populations enacted by white, Eurocentric, hetero males are hurting them more than it’s hurting us and I love it. Eat your heart out boys. We get through it. We have the balls to go see a fucking therapist and seek community and work with groups and have friendships that help us grow beyond. Women have the balls. It feels really good.
What’s the hardest part about being a stripper?
The dehumanization and the prevailing thought—even by well-meaning people—that we need to be rescued from something. Trying to explain to a well-meaning Christian person that granting sex workers rights and not trying to help is a really difficult thing to do because everybody wants to help. Trying to explain to people not to meddle in a situation you don’t understand is hard. Sex workers are capable of helping each other. We’ve got the economic, upward mobility. Not all of us but those of us who can will turn around and reach our hands to our sisters. We will not leave them. You do not need to worry about these girls, we got them. It’s very frustrating politically to have to argue my womanhood. I don’t really have to do that much anymore but I remember in my twenties having to be like, “I’m a human fucking being!” I wore it on my sleeve. People asked me what my job was I would say, “I show my pussy for money! What do you do?” I would do it on purpose to piss them off so they would ask questions because I wanted to educate. I’m beyond that now. I don’t feel like I have to do that now. It’s not my job to teach the bigots of the world not to be bigots. What I can do is lead by example. We aren’t wrong for providing something that people aren’t wrong for wanting. This is life-changing money for life-changing intimacy. Intimacy is really important. We are one of the last touching occupations. Once doctors and pharmacists just press a button to give you your drugs, it’ll be us, massage therapists, and chiropractors. That’s a problem. Maybe the amount of violence we have growing in this country is not just because we have access to firearms, maybe it’s because we don’t have access to intimacy and that we put all of that responsibility of intimacy on one partner and then don’t give her any credit for it. We don’t give her any credit for the emotional support she needs to provide. I’m a third-party supporter. You don’t owe me anything except part of your paycheck. You pay me and we go our separate ways and you don’t have to burden you wife with it. Men come here to worship women and my church is just as valid as any other church. That’s the difference between [me and] Christian-right activists who want to take away my ability to do my job and take away people’s ability to worship at my altar. I respect that they have freedom of religion and I respect that they have the freedom to work in any job they want or raise their family however they want. Maybe my job is dangerous to your family but your church is dangerous to my family. Can we just say that we’re different and that’s what makes America what is it and my truth doesn’t negate yours and your truth doesn’t negate mine and we just live next to each other with respect, love, handshakes, smiles? Can we do that? Because it’s not that hard. It’s really not that hard to respect your fellow humans and their choices. But the fact that they do not see my choice as a choice or my consent as valid, that’s where the sexism lies and that’s the hardest part about my job.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
That was better than PornHub. That was better than free porn. (laughing)
Wow. Thank you. That means a lot to me. (laughing)