"If I can do it naked, I can do it in a pantsuit" - Interview with a Stripper (Part One)
This is part one of a two part series. Already read this blog post? Check out the second half here.
Years ago I attended college in Baltimore, MD with a woman named Christianna. I was often confused for her despite the fact that the two of us rarely hung out together and didn't even look the same. We lived in the same dorms so we chatted whenever we ran in to one another. We may have had mutual friends—it's hard to remember six years back—but overall we were just friendly acquaintances.
I didn't learn much about Christianna until I moved away from Baltimore near the end of our freshman year. Through social media I kept tabs on most of my old schoolmates, her among them. We chatted intermittently over the years and I saw her grow as an artist, move to a foreign country, pick up yoga, and start dancing—you know, all the basic things social-media consumers do (but damn does it sound like stalking when you write it all out).
I know many dancers, but none are quite as candid or transparent on social media and in life as Christianna. She uses Instagram as a platform to talk about her work in the sex industry, build body positivity (check out her menstrual cup posts on her Instagram), comment on feminism, and share her thoughts on racism/colorism.
Inspired by her occupational openness—especially in a heavily stigmatized field—I asked Christianna for an interview on her work-life. I am so excited to share that conversation with you all. From tips on how to enter the dancing industry to dealing with social stigma, from diversity of coworkers to making mad money and more, Christianna shares the ins and outs of an occupation frequently demonized and misunderstood.
Check out the interview below to learn more about working as a dancer.
Edit: I should point out that I asked Christianna which word she preferred to describe her job, "dancer" or "stripper," as some take offense to the word "stripper." She informed me she preferred the latter. Therefor, you will me see me refer to her occupation as "stripper" from here on out.
Can you give me a bit of background on yourself? Where are you from? How old are you?
I’m 25. I was born in NYC but I grew up in Oklahoma, so I normally consider myself to be from Oklahoma. I graduated with a BFA from MICA (where we met), but I've never been interested in being a gallery artist so I haven't chosen that career path. I’m currently stripping.
You currently work as a stripper. How did you enter the industry?
I started stripping after a terrible work experience fabricating clothing for a local designer. The primary issue was that I was working to create garments that took lots of time and money for me to learn how to create and I was earning less that I had made previously scooping ice cream. People really don't want to pay the people who make their clothes fair wages, and I was hardly eating. So after one particularly bad day I quit and switched to stripping. Lots of friends from college danced and had encouraged me to try it since I'm a performer and I have no problem using my body. I auditioned and the rest is history.
What does an audition entail?
For an audition you show up with whatever outfits you plan to wear, a pair of shoes, a purse, a bag, toiletries, your social, a driver's license, and the readiness to immediately start working. You go in early or whenever the managers tell you to come in (since you obv called ahead). Then you go get dressed either in the dressing room or in a bathroom. The manager will tell you to dance for two songs, the first song “clothed” normally and the second song naked or topless depending on the club. Then if you make it they tell you to get dressed and go to the office to sign some paperwork. You sign all your independent contractor paperwork and badda bing badda boom you're stripping. They give you a tour of the facilities and tell you how dance pricing works. And that's it.
Have you worked at multiple clubs and, if so, how do said clubs vary? What were they like? (Working conditions, supervisors, etc.)
I’ve worked at [five] clubs so far, and each club is so different from the last. Some are open format purely about a larger spectacle with lots of girls on stage dancing at once and lots of money on the stage rather than going toward dances. Other places are all about intimate privacy and one on one encounters between dancers and patrons. Some are very new and glittery, others are older and well worn. The management varies a lot. Some places managers and security walk around the club constantly enforcing rules like dance lengths and dress codes. Others the managers are almost invisible except when called upon, and even then reluctant to take active roles. Some clubs are friendlier with a sisterhood and others are petty and competitive. There is so much variation as well between states because laws governing what can and can't happen in strip clubs is widely varied. Some cities don't allow any touching and some states will passively let dancers perform oral sex on stage. There is no singular strip club so it's good to explore and find what fits for you.
You often share some of your work outfits on Instagram. First, they look amazing. Second, how much do you have to invest in your work attire? And, for readers interested, where can they pick up some of the same products?
So I tend to online shop for the majority of things I wear. I Amazon and Wish, but I also like to check out local shops in the LA garment district/LA lingerie shops all over. I've gotten stuff from American Apparel, Forever 21, Yandy, and Urban Outfitters. I'm always on the lookout for clothes, but I'm also super cheap so I almost exclusively buy stuff on sale. I've probably invested a couple hundred dollars over time, but the beauty of stripping is that you can write off these as business expenses during tax season. It is the uniform you need to work in, and this includes things like hair and nail appointments. Lots of clubs mandate that you have painted nails to work, so it's important to keep receipts or pay on your card so you can write it off during tax time. Also, when I first started I was truly broke. I bought my first outfit from Forever 21 for like $30, shoes included (they weren't dance shoes lol). And it took me a few nights to make enough to start buying better stuff. So don't worry too much about the first set of outfits. Your collection grows with time.