DECEMBER 4, 2018

How old are you?

24. I just turned 24 on November 23rd.

How long have you been in New Orleans?

A year. It was a year on Halloween.

What brought you down here?

I really wanted to leave New York and I had been down here once before. I had some friends down here and I fell in love with New Orleans when I came. Stripping was a part of it because some of my friends were dancing and it is something that I have been interested in for a long time. I was belly dancing for years prior to stripping so it was kind of an easy stepping stone for me in some ways. I came down because I am also an herbologist and astrologer and do all of those kinds of magicky, esoteric things and healing things that are popular here. It was harder for me in New York because I didn’t live in the city and commuted. Plus I’m from there, I had to fucking leave. I hate the winter. (laughter) I started dancing like a week after I got here. I just threw myself into it.

Do you think you’ll stay in New Orleans?

It’s been a really hard year and I feel that Mama Nola teaches us really intense things. Everyone that I speak to that’s a transplant agrees. I had some really shitty things and hard things but also good lessons. After a year passed here I finally felt home. I am feeling that I’ll stay for a while.

You started stripping when you got here? Do you like it so far?

I love it but also but because of all the shit that we deal with, I feel a lot of stress from my job. It’s unnecessary. It took me a while to get into a good groove with it. It was really hard at first because I didn’t know anything. I was just going for it. Also I was broke so I needed to make money.

You would’ve started right before the raids last year. What was that like?

It was interesting for me because the first club that I worked at did get raided and [eventually] shut down. That was Temptations. I found the old sign in a garage a couple weeks ago and it made me cry. I was almost there for the raid. I was supposed to work that night but I got this crazy headache—I never get headaches—and I had worked the night before so I stayed home. And then I got all these messages the next day asking if I was ok. Shortly after the raids, I left town for a couple of weeks and missed a lot of the protests. I really don’t feel like I was even there for any of it. My club first got its liquor license taken away but it was still operating. I worked but it was weird because customers couldn’t buy alcohol. And then they ended up getting shut down altogether but by that point I had moved on to a different club.

What has the last year been like with the new laws as a new stripper?

It’s been stressful and frustrating as fuck especially since it’s my first year being a dancer. I also started before those things were really put into place so the first few months I was dancing, I didn’t have any of the rules we have now. I got a taste for what it was like to not be living under that legislation. Now I work at a different club which is a bit more protected. I feel the safest working there because they’re a national brand and I know that they’ve probably got deals with the police. But we’ve still had undercovers in the club in the last few months and they’re really uptight about the rooms being followed. It’s so weird because they want us to sell private rooms for $2000, $3000 dollars but we’re not allowed to do anything in a private room anymore. We’re not even allowed to take our tops off anymore in a private room. But when they’re selling it, they’re making it seem like, oh it’s totally private, I’m not gonna be coming back here. It doesn’t feel like the safest situation to be put in. They don’t care. They want us to do whatever we need to do to sell that shit. And it’s New Orleans so it’s very tourist based and all of my customers come from different places. I don’t have regulars and they all come from different rules. They’re like, “Where I live, I can touch you, I can do this, it’s full nude,” blah blah blah. People come here and they’re like, this is New Orleans, I thought this was supposed to be the most lawless city in the world. Sometimes I’m glad that it’s so strict because I’m like, I don’t want this fucking guy touching me right now. I’m glad that security comes back here. 

They have also just passed this new law that prevents eighteen year olds from being able to work. I’m sad about that because we had originally won that measure. I’m also sad because I organize with BARE and a few of my friends went and spoke with the ATC and they told them that they’re definitely doing more raids this year and were really rude and even walked out on the girls. They just have no respect.

When you were growing up, do you remember being told or taught anything about what it meant to be a girl and the expectations that came with that?

My mom is a pretty liberated woman but at the same time, she is very traditional. She is from Greece and immigrated here. Greek culture is very, very focused on the family and women are expected to provide in such an intense way for their families, for their men. The whole working mom thing is not as popular there. People work, everyone works but they have family businesses and the entrepreneurial woman is a new concept that my mom didn’t necessarily grow up with but aspired to, chasing the American Dream or whatever. I feel that just by watching her, I learned a lot of things about giving too much and enabling toxic behavior. But later on, once she ended up divorcing my dad, I learned a lot about actually being a total badass and speaking in really fierce ways and being really perceptive and intuitive. On the other hand, my dad would always take me to his business meetings because I was cute and I was pretty. I was really young like 12, 13, 14, 15 years old and he would want me to come schmooze and drink wine with his business partners-to-be in New York City because I was a selling point in a way. He conditioned me to be subservient to men and allow abuse in different ways. I have been his therapist since I was so young so having emotional capacity for stupid men that are dealing with some bullshit problems? I’m great at that! He trained me up great for this job.

Can you define sexism?

Sexism is when somebody does not hold equal respect for the other or opposite gender or genders of themselves and does not see the value in those people.

How does being treated in a sexist way make you feel?

It makes me feel fucking pissed off. That’s also why I also like to be a dancer: a lot of the time, I get to tell people off about it. But it’s also what sucks about being a dancer: you experience so much of it. 

Do you always notice when people are acting in a sexist way?

Yeah, definitely. I can tell immediately.

What’s the best part about being a stripper?

The best part about being a stripper are the friendships I have made and the community I have joined through strippers and other sex workers. And then you make money with those people! It’s fun!

What’s the hardest part?

The hardest part is the stigma that you have to deal with walking through the world. For me, a lot of it is hard with my family as well as how emotionally and physically exhausting it is. It requires me to take really good care of myself but even that is not always possible. Sometimes life is crazy and you’re going through some fucked up shit and sometimes dancing feels like my escape from that. I don’t have to think about anything. I’m just making money and hanging out. But then again, if you’re not in a good emotional headspace, it can be really taxing and you need to go home and take care of yourself. Take a bath, go to sleep for a long time, eat some healthy food, go for a walk in the park. 

What do you think the biggest misconception is about the industry as the whole?

That it’s dirty. That it’s not respectable. That it’s not actually work. It really bothers me when people at the club say things like, “What are you doing here? Why are you doing this? What are you actually going to do with your life though?” How dare you? Fuck off. Misconceptions about sex workers in general are that we have STDs or that we don’t know how to actually be in healthy relationships or care about people because everything we do is fake. I hate that. Being thought of as a human trafficking victim is also an annoying conception to have. Not to say that there aren’t people dealing with that because that’s also real. It’s just not the average experience in sex work. 

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

For people who aren’t sex workers, if you think sex workers are cool or you think that it infatuates you to think about that or you want to know a sex worker, please just do some stuff in your life that involves having conversations with people and educating them on who we are truly and what we really do and what we go through and what we deal with. I’m tired of explaining it to people. Do something nice for a sex worker because they need to be taken care of.