DECEMBER 14, 2018
How old are you?
Where are you from originally?
What brought you here?
I have always loved New Orleans. I visited here when I was 16 and I couldn’t get the bug off me. I couldn’t shake it. I was obsessed with Princess and The Frog. Any movie that came out about [New Orleans], I had to see it. I got tired of my job in Philly about four years ago and I moved in the middle of the night in my shitty, hoopty car. I couch surfed with a weirdo and then I stayed at a hostel and then I had a roommate and now I have my own place.
What do you think it was about New Orleans that drew you to it?
It has this palpable magic as soon as you get here. There is an idea of it in popular culture and films and stuff but you can’t feel it till you get here. It kept calling me back.
Do you think you’ll stay?
I go back home twice a year in the spring and the fall and I go other places as well and even just a week into any vacation, I’m like I miss New Orleans, I need to go back home. I don’t think I could live anywhere else.
Do you remember being told or taught anything, directly or indirectly, about what it meant to be a girl or a woman and the expectations that came with that?
I was raised Catholic. I went to an all-girls Catholic school. I myself am a lesbian. My twin brother—were we born sisters—is transgender and has transitioned. So we are like the crazy gay twins in that Catholic world and we were taught a lot about what it means to be a proper woman. And now he’s a man and I’m a lesbian stripper.
Can you define sexism?
I have been face to face with sexism as far back as grade school days but I was a vet tech for seven years before I became a stripper and the doctors were fucking animals. I know we work with animals but the doctors were the true animals.
In what sense?
A male doctor I worked for knew I was a lesbian and would sexualize me. I would come into work in the morning and he would be like, “Oh I had a dream about you last night that your scrubs were clear and I could see those titties.” What could I do? Even when I moved and worked at a vet here, that doctor was creepy toward me too, especially when he found out I was a sex worker. I still work with men who don’t respect me and sexualize me but the difference now is that I make a fuck ton of money off them and I can tell them to fuck off whenever I want.
Outside of your work, do you notice a shift in the way people act around you when they find out you’re a sex worker?
My close friends are cool with it. They think it’s ballsy and whatever else civilians think of strippers. I still have to correct them about dead hooker jokes and shit like that. That’s not cool. I recently went to Atlantic City for my birthday and my brother was like, “Oh is there a dead hooker under this bed?” I shut that shit down. That’s not cool to say. Especially recently with everything that has happened this year. But as far as people who don’t know me, I don’t even tell them. It’s not that I’m not proud to be a stripper, I even prefer to be called a stripper instead of a dancer, but it’s just easier. The emotional labor that goes into it—if I’m not getting paid for it, I’m not gonna do it. So I’m not gonna tell my Uber driver what I do, I’m just gonna tell them I’m a bartender.
Is there a reason for your distinction between stripper and dancer?
I think that dancer can be vague. You could dance for a ballet company, you could be a backup dancer. Stripper is very specific and very visceral and everybody knows what a stripper is. I have no shame in it.
“Everybody knows what a stripper is.” What do you think civilians don’t know about the realities of your work?
Civilians don’t know a lot of shit about us. I used to be like that before I was a stripper. That we’re normal. That we live everyday lives. We’re not catty with each other. I hate that people think we’re catty with each other and that it’s cutthroat. I have never been in a fight at work. The culture at work is very oh girl, your titties look great, I love that outfit, you smell so good, get it girl! We’re supportive of each other, we’re tipping each other on stage, it’s a very supportive atmosphere. It’s not cutthroat just because we’re naked and because we’re competing with each other for rent which says something about the job.
How does being treated in a sexist way make you feel?
I think that stripping has kind of rectified it for me. I don’t care anymore. I have so much apathy toward it now because I am able to capitalize on my sexuality. People are always going to sexualize me but I can control and manipulate the way that they do in my favor.
Do you always notice when people are acting in a sexist way?
Yes, especially being a sex worker. I have zero tolerance for men. I have no problem telling you I have an absolute hatred for men. I passionately hate cis men. I hate them. Especially cis white men. I said it before but becoming a sex worker, becoming a stripper just made it even more so and then even more since the Trump administration. Men are so much more confident and rapey since he won. When he won, I came close to being assaulted so much more than any other time in my career. The same thing happened when the Kavanaugh shit went down. It’s amazing how confident and how ballsy they are.
So you do notice distinct rises in the instances of behavior like that when national events enabling these men happen?
That’s incredible in a horrifying way.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about the industry as a whole is?
The sex trafficking thing. I think that is absolutely fucking ridiculous. When we are at work inside the club, that is when we’re safe. We have bouncers, we have management, we have security cameras. Nobody is getting trafficked inside the club. I think that is complete bullshit. People think that strippers are shooting up heroine in champagne rooms and getting taken home by pimps. There is nothing of the sort going on. We are from all walks of life and we choose to be there. We are in a controlled environment and we are not getting pimped or trafficked or anything like that. It’s our choice.
How did you get your start?
I moved here with my ex-fiancé and she worked for grassroots canvassing for Planned Parenthood and shit like that and she had a work party at the Falstaff apartments. Everybody was talking and her boss told me about his girlfriend who was a stripper. I was telling him that I was having trouble with money and making ends meet and he told me that his girlfriend made two grand a night. I was like, “Shut the fuck up. No, she doesn’t. You’re crazy. Why can’t I do that? I’m ok with that life.” So I asked him for her number and I texted her and we had lunch at Satsuma down the street and I asked her everything. I was like a puppy and she was so patient with me. She had me over to her apartment twice and taught me the basics of a lap dance. She went with me to buy my first shoes. She was a mother hen in a lot of ways. She walked me through what the audition would be like. I am still intimidated by her. She works at my club and I am still in love with her. But I finally bit the bullet and here I am.
What’s the best part about being a stripper?
I love the flexibility. I have had a really hard year. It has been a mentally horrific year and I think that if I had had a 9-5, I wouldn’t have survived. For me to be able to be down and in my bed for days straight and then crawl out every Friday night and make enough for rent and bills and then some and then crawl back in is amazing. I always say I got the golden ticket. I still feel in awe of my job. I love my job. You can choose when you want to work. If you’re feeling like shit, you don’t have to go in.
And what’s the hardest part?
I think the hardest part is dealing with burnout. Men are fucking animals and they never get better. It’s a mixture of dealing with customers and then dealing with our management and all of the new regulations. I’m used to dealing with customers but I’m not used to dealing with the other stuff. Since the raids, things have gotten a lot harder as far as feeling safe in the club. Our room prices have been cut. The club is making more than us and we’re the ones doing the labor. We’re the ones pawing their hands away from our pussies. I’ve been bitten in the ass and bruised and people have had their nipple piercings torn out. We’re the ones dealing with that but we’re not making the money. Plus they’re getting all these new girls who think that $500 a night is crazy because they came from a minimum wage job and they can manipulate them whereas we know better.
What was your experience with the raids and the aftermath?
I mean, thank God I wasn’t there the night my club got raided. It was right before Mardi Gras which is our season. And it wasn’t just us. Bartenders, waiters, everyone. The money we make at Mardi Gras we use for the whole year sometimes and I didn’t work Mardi Gras this year at all because I was afraid to go in. I did the march and the rally we had and it was good to be a part of something like that and be angry about it. But a lot of the regulations are still there and we get in trouble for everything. For some of us, our asset is our ass and if I have to wear these granny panty booty shorts, you’re cutting into my money, my hustle, my character. It’s seems trivial but it’s not. We have come back from it but it will never be the same.
I know that we’re starting to see a lot of veteran strippers leave New Orleans. How do you think that changes the landscape of the industry here?
I think it’s affecting it negatively. I don’t want to leave. God, I don’t want to leave but I think it is affecting it negatively. But there is a lot of grassroots shit going on too. My friend does a strip club burlesque weekly and I think it’s great but I’ve never been to it because I am afraid I will get fired if I go to it. Six of my co-workers for years and years got fired because they were a part of that pop-up. So there are people out there pushing it independently but then there are people like me who are corporate and I don’t want to get fired. I think it’s going to be bad because the new girls have no idea and [the clubs] just want warm bodies that don’t know what they’re doing so they can make their buck off them. They don’t know the cut they should get, they don’t know their worth.
Do you foresee a greater push toward these grassroots efforts in the industry?
Definitely. We have BARE and other organizations that we’re trying to get together. But we live in such a dystopian shitscape that it’s hard for me envision. I am hoping for the best but expecting the worst. I’m just trying to get through.
What does that feel like, facing something like that in terms of your job?
I think you just have to be callous about it. You can’t freak out about it, you can’t get too in your head because you’re just going to spiral or unravel. You have to keep showing up. Keep showing up at work. Keep showing up to support people. Keep showing up. That’s all you can do right now.