Lovers of lucite heels and admirers of pole dancing, we’ve been somewhat fascinated with strippers lately. We went on a woman hunt and found some girls to talk to us. This is part one. We spoke to five of them - there’s Missy, Michelle, Lola, Layla and the totally anonymous Girl X. With the exception of Layla who is Australian, all the girls are English. We had a lot of questions and they had a lot to say. It all came up to so much we’ve decided to run it in parts. Let’s go from the top. A while ago English girls would’ve been the majority at the clubs but they are now the exotic ones. Most dancers are foreign, largely from Eastern Europe. The girls we chatted to are all very different - their backgrounds, their looks and to a degree even their views on stripping. There’s nothing stereotypical about any given one of them. What’s similar is that most of them don’t want their names or pictures posted. It’s fair enough. While none of them feel ashamed of what they do, it can make things difficult with friends and family. Missy’s parents found out of her antics and Layla's mum is in the know, but it’s not the topic of conversation at family dinners. There’s judgement, there’s assumptions. Not everyone has an open mind. It’s easier to keep it hidden for the sake of those relationships. It’s just hard because hiding can be emotionally draining. Lola started dancing just after she turned 18. Five years later she’s still doing it. She says she didn’t quite realise what she got herself into but at the same time she loves the lifestyle. “I was born for it,” she says. Alas, her family has no idea. She’s told a few of her friends but rumours soon started circling. Her family started asking questions. She says it’s awful hiding it from them but to this day they don’t really know anything. She even ended up moving out of her parents house because of her stripping. “I wasn’t kicked out but I couldn’t live with the guilt. Hiding clothes under the carpet and shoes under my bed, it was just awful.” At the same time the adrenaline rush from living a double life of sorts keeps her going. “When I become my alter ego, I can do and be whatever I want.” Girl X doesn’t even have a Facebook account and very few of her friends know what she does. “You can’t really tell one people and then expect it to be a secret,” she says. “Sooner or later someone else will find out. You have to keep it to yourself.” Her boyfriend is one of the few that knows of her dancing. She laughs as she tells us they’re ‘a total cliche’ - her a dancer and him a bouncer at the club. She echoes what Lola had said - that the guilt of having to hide everything is too much and adds that it was difficult to come up with different lies to why she was away at night. Having someone to confide in can take a huge weight off their backs. Missy’s boyfriend at the time and friends all knew of her stripping. Her parents were out of the loop until they came across her Facebook page. Disgusting, a shame to the family's name, nothing special, deluded were all words her parents used at the time. It can be difficult for a parent. Maybe it’s shame, disappointment or concern. Maybe it’s a generational thing - they’re more conservative, they see things different. Ultimately, parents tend not to want to see their children take their clothes off for money. With the exception of the occasional birthday message, she didn’t speak to her parents for a few years and only recently got back in touch with them. Her father keeps it all hidden away and whilst her mother doesn’t approve, they’ve sort of agreed to disagree. She’s no longer stripping but her work as an alt model and performer still includes the occasional nudity. “I suppose I do feel like I am letting them down, but I'm an adult and I have my own decisions to make,” she says. When family and friends are cut out from a huge chunk of their lives, we kind of assumed colleagues would become their confidants. The shared experience and all. It's a bit like that but it's not all black and white. Missy is still close friends with another dancer and Layla says she’s always been surrounded by very supportive people at her clubs. “I felt like I was being paid to drink and have fun with my friends, everything else was just sort of happening around us.” But, in the end of the day they’re all competing for the same thing. It’s the survival of the fittest. Missy explains there’s a certain hierarchy in the clubs and that sometimes it was necessary to make way for someone higher up. She says it’s wise to get the top girls to like you as they’ll send customers your way when they’re already busy. Lola adds she’s happy to find a customer a blonde girl if that’s what he’s after. “I’m confident enough to know my customer will arrive.” All the same, not all girls have each other’s backs. They can be ruthless and things can get nasty between them. They're all playing a game and it’s important to learn rules. Be nice but remember that ultimately no one else is looking out for you. Emotionally, they all describe stripping as a roller coaster. Missy mentions it can only take one man telling you you're ugly to make you hate yourself but most customers aren't there to put the girls down. Lola says in the heat of the moment it feels empowering but on a day off she often finds herself wondering what would've happened had she never started. "I found stripping very easy when I was happy in my own personal life, but I found it unbearable and morose when I was going through my own personal experiences," Layla says. Like every job, there are good days and bad ones. They all seem to love dancing and the attention. It's just sometimes easier to doubt yourself due to the unconventional nature of the job. They might not be creating LinkedIn accounts with Platinum Lace and Spearmint Rhino as their employers but they're not ashamed of what they do. The shame sometimes kicks in when the night doesn't end with dancing. There's much more to it. There's the customers and what happens behind the closed doors of VIP rooms. Though many of the girls steer clear of drugs and sex, a number of them don't. Some earn extra with escorting, some have drunkenly found themselves in alleyways with their customers. We'll get to that soon. As stated, most of the girls prefer to remain anonymous. Missy
is an exception - now working in lingerie by day and London clubs as a fire breather and pole dancer by night, she's kindly allowed us to use her pictures.
Pictures by Rebecca Need-Menear
, Sascha of Smut Clothing and Poon
. Last but not least, a video of one of the most amazing pole dancers out there:
A classic striptease song if you'd like to try out some pole dancing for yourself - with or without an audience!