February 19, 2018
Can you say and spell your name for the record?
Sable Marie Mongold. My dancing moniker and online name is Sabeaux Laveaux. It’s part Marie Laveau, part “say boo” thing that my friend and house mom at Penthouse gave me. All my friends at Penthouse would call me Sabeaux and it stuck.
How old are you?
Where are you from originally?
I am originally from St. Petersburg, Florida.
How long have you been in New Orleans?
I have been here for the better part of the last decade.
What brought you here?
The housing market in Tampa crashed so money started dropping. I had always wanted to visit New Orleans so I visited during the NFC Championship when the Saints were winning. It was super magical and everybody felt great all over the city. I read a lot of Zora Neale Hurston and other black literature and anthropology. I was always fascinated by New Orleans.
Why are you still here?
I don’t know anymore. I need to figure out the next step of the plan. I’ve been doing a lot of political activism with BARE and trying to get legislature changed. We’re trying to do work for sex workers of all forms, nightlife, hospitality. We’re trying to make things more fair for people who spend, work, play and live here all the time, not just tourists.
For those that don’t know, what is BARE?
BARE is the Bourbon Alliance of Responsible Entertainers. Basically we are working to make sure dancers rights are taken care of in particular and blanketing over into hospitality and sex work.
How do you refer to your work?
I prefer dancer, exotic dancer, entertainer. I also don’t care is someone calls me a stripper. I use those all interchangeably. I’m not offended by any of them unless it’s some dude trying to be a dick to me then I would correct him somehow. We are umbrella-ed under sex work which is fine, I don’t mind being called that, it just seems clinical to me.
Do you feel comfortable saying where you work or have worked?
I’ve worked all over the country. I’ve worked up and down Bourbon street at all of the "nice" clubs and some of the not as well-known clubs. I’ve worked in Florida, Texas, Hawaii, California, Portland, Colorado as well.
How do the clubs in New Orleans measure up to some of the other clubs you’ve worked in?
When I first came here, it was almost like paradise for dancers because were we well-accepted into the community. It wasn’t separated and it was treated like any other type of hospitality. We would go out to bars at night after work and fit right in with everyone.
Does it still feel that way?
Now I feel like we have a rift with certain members of the City Council and the ATC. It seems like they’re working against us. But they don’t realize how strong our bonds with the community really are. They don’t realize that we are an intrinsic part of the city that people seek out. People come to see just to see us. People go to Vegas just to have fun and be adults and let loose and that’s what they do here too but New Orleans has more culture than Vegas. We have way more to offer and much better food. Bachelor parties are a big part of the income for the tourism industry. Men and women from the conventions want to see Bourbon Street, they want to see entertainers. We’re a hot spot for tourism. We’re a draw or a spectacle and that’s why a lot of people come to visit us.
How did you get your start in the industry?
I was in college at University of South Florida and was frustrated with a check I got from Starbucks after working two weeks of overtime so I started dancing. I had radiator fluid leaking from my car onto my feet while I was driving and I thought, this is not how life should be.
From then to now, what has your personal relationship with dancing been?
It’s been positive. I’ve seen a lot of the country that if I had been dancing I wouldn’t have gotten to see. I wish that I had gone into it with a little bit more of a support system and not been as isolated. My family is mostly supportive of it but there is still that little bit of isolation that has made it harder to make good financial decisions. I would’ve asked for more help instead of going through life as a young person with money. But I like meeting new people. I like all aspects of it, honestly. I like sales. I like the challenge of finding out exactly what people are looking for in their time and entertainment. I like joking around with people. I like drinking with people. It is definitely within my wheelhouse of talents to be able to do this job well.
When you were growing up, do you remember being told or taught anything about the societal expectations of you as a girl?
In the early 90s, we were coming off of the 80s power-suit generation of women and those were a lot of my role models. My parents, even though they’re divorced now, didn’t raise me and my brother much differently. Whatever our interests were, they were supportive of it. I never felt that one of us was treated better than the other. I felt like I was able to be whatever I want. But I do think gender roles are culturally engrained in all of us by the stimulus that we receive daily. But I did grow up with the mental trajectory that I could do whatever I wanted.
Can you define sexism?
I asked my boyfriend when the last time was that he got catcalled or yelled at from a car that then circled the block to come back and do it again and he had to hide in a bar for them to go away. It’s never happened to him. Not one time. And it happens three times a week for me. Sexism is being afraid for no reason. Why do we have to take so many self-defense classes and be aware of our surroundings all the time? Because the second you let your guard down, you’re a target. It does happen to men but it is of course disproportionate to women. We are a target.
How does being treated in a sexist way make you feel?
I rarely encounter men that are weak or are assholes. Obviously we encounter drunk douchebags at work but we have the power over them that we can shut them down or have them thrown out if they piss us off. As far as men in my daily life, I try to surround myself with feminist men who know how to treat people.
What is the best part of being a dancer?
Making your own schedule. Meeting new people. Having a good community of entertainers that you actually enjoy working with. Most of the clubs have zero tolerance fighting policies so we all get along and try to make each other money. You might see someone working at your club who has been traveling for two months or you’re gone and come back and see someone you used to work with somewhere else. It’s like we’re comrades in arms and we serve together.
What’s the hardest part?
People think we’re victims. Some of our families don’t understand what we do and that’s frustrating.
You’ve mentioned your family a few times. What is their reaction or relationship to it?
They all know what I do but they got upset when I was in like fifty newspapers [earlier this year]. I think my mom and my grandmother thinks it reflects poorly on them. We were in Vice, we were in Washington Post, we were in DailyMail UK. We were in eBaum’s World which is embarrassingly hilarious. My mom was very upset about it and it was frustrating. I think when we enact some change in the legislature, when we fight for hospitality rights, when she realizes that we’re trying to fight for a lot of things, she’ll calm down. We’re sick of servers only getting $2 an hour and getting stiffed on tips because they’re giving them to the chefs who are underpaying everyone. There’s a lot of layers to the underbelly of New Orleans hospitality. Rent and property taxes are going up and up and stripping allows me to continue to live here in an increasingly expensive city.
What is or are the biggest misconceptions about being a dancer?
That we’re all weak victims and that we’re all drugged-up hookers and that we have no goals in life. A lot of girls are getting out of shitty situations. They are paying for school and they are raising their kids. Sometimes you just want to have a selfish lifestyle and make money for yourself and have nice things. Some girls are models, some are pole-dancing champions, some are getting PhDs. We have someone from every walk of life and everybody has something to offer clients based on their personality and talents and looks. Almost any girl that has a positive attitude can go in and make money. That’s the misconception: that we’re vapid, two-dimensional nothings. We’re just tits and heels to people.