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March 4, 2013 | by  | in Features |
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Underneath it All

Interview with a Stripper

As children, Salient co-editor Stella Blake-kelly And friend Lola* used to skinny-dip Anywhere they could; now Lola makes a living from taking her clothes off.
After dropping out of school Before gaining UE, Lola eventually started stripping, and two years later has $40,000 in the bank. she has recently enrolled in a law degree at victoria.
Stella has $40,000 student loan debt, And is now questioning who really made the better life decision. Stella and Lola caught up to talk about life on the pole.

 

How long have you been dancing for?

I guess about two years now, I was eighteen when I started.

What attracted you to the job?

Mostly the money, definitely the freedom of it. You can work one night a week, make your money and then do whatever you like for the rest of the week.

How did you get involved?

I was working for a promotion company called Sexcom [laughs], yeah there was lots of naughty stuff, sex toys, some girls did that.

Like demonstrating the toys?

Like a show, getting a dildo and dancing. I normally did lingerie waitressing, bikini waitressing on boats, then topless waitressing. Then that led to stripping because I saw the money they were making.

How much did you earn a night?

When I started I was not good at hustling, when I started I was earning maybe $150-$300 a night working six hour shifts, and I was happy as. I then moved to a different club in Sydney and I was making a $1000-plus every night. The money is very addictive, that’s why a lot of girls don’t stop because they become dependent on it. For a lot of girls this will be the most money they will earn in their life. Working four to five nights a week you would be making an average of around $2500 if you were good at your job. Some girls make up to $5000 weekly, although that’s more likely in Australia.

What was involved in hustling?

When I started I used to get really drunk at work, there was a lot of cocaine in Sydney so you’d usually have a few lines. You’d be drinking so you’d get the confidence that you needed to be flirtatious and pushy. In Sydney you’re not actually legally allowed to touch the girls.

Can they touch you in New Zealand?

Yes, not between the legs but they can touch everywhere else. No mouth contact, that is definitely a bit different. In Sydney it was a bit easier to hustle. People in Wellington definitely aren’t as generous with their money, everyone has money in Sydney.

How else did Wellington differ?

When I moved back to Wellington to [a bar that we cannot name], the money was nowhere near as good but you’d still do $500-$600 nights. It was a bit of a party, there were a lot of messed up girls there. Lots of the girls there dabbled between prostitution and dancing so there was a lot of upstairs/downstairs swapping round. There were a lot of older girls, a lot of girls with emotional and alcohol problems. There were also a bunch of students who were totally into it, came there, made their money, got out. There were two girls with fourth-year Law degrees.

Do you use a fake name or have a persona when you’re dancing?

Yeah, you’re really made up and feel more confident if you do. Some girls would be covered in tattoos, lots of piercings, a bit bogan. Some very pretty, or some who dress up looking really young pigtails. Whatever makes you the most money you tend to go with. Everyone has a fake name, and they usually change quite a lot. Most of us know each other’s real name, especially in Wellington because it’s such a small place and you become really close.

Do the club owners make you dress up?

In Australia there are a lot of clubs who are very strict, saying you need to be tanned, your hair needs to be pristine, you need to have these shoes and wear this dress. But in New Zealand it’s pretty chilled out. I mean, you want to look good dressed up and good because that’s what the man comes to the club for, to see something that he’s not seeing on the street. Even though, probably some of the girls look worse than what’s seen on the street [laughs] you don’t have to be hot to be a stripper! Just, not at all.

The age range is usually 18 to how old?

Youngest girls don’t tend to make the most money, because they’re not experienced. Often men prefer older women. I’ve worked with 40-year-olds before, some of them look haggard and shouldn’t be in the industry, and then there are ones that just look amazing and are very professional and make a good amount of money, because it’s their career. It’s easier to make a career out of it in Australia, it’s more normal to be a stripper there.

What are the working conditions like with your employer, do you think you’re treated well?

There’s definitely a lot of mistreatment at some of the clubs in Wellington. At [one bar in particular] they’re not very nice to the girls, but they are also the club you make the most money at so you just kind of just suck it up.

What is the bad treatment like?

You can get fined if you’re sick, one place I’d get fined like $240 if I was sick. They would make you pay an $800 bond to work there, and would take it off you for lots of reasons. Lots of girls never get it back, and you may have the whole thing taken off you for being drunk and disorderly. I personally haven’t had it taken off me unfairly apart from when I walked out and quit.

What made you walk out and quit?

I found that it just wasn’t flexible for me, I have always had a day job and been studying and I just didn’t have the energy sometimes. Stripping has always been something for me to do in my spare time if I needed the extra money, it wasn’t my life. They just weren’t flexible enough for me, you know we’re strippers—we have a bad night and we overreact!

Do you have to sign a contract?

Most of the clubs, yes.

Did you or they pay tax or is it all under the table?

I assume that they pay tax or they would get in a lot of trouble or they pay GST, most dancers I have met don’t pay their tax. I pay my tax. It’s not taken out of your pay because you are completely anonymous, they don’t take your name. If the police come and ask for you they don’t have a copy of your name.

Why do they do that?

It’s just to protect us, we don’t want everyone to know, or like your employee to see your past working history [laughs].

What’s security like; do you feel safe with how they manage the clientele?

I have always felt very safe, they always have camera in the room. I guess there are a few unsafe factors, if you are alone with a dude. But I personally have never felt in a position to be really hurt or anything going really wrong in the club. It’s more if girls do private out-bookings, or go through customers privately. The clubs are pretty onto it.

Have you ever had any bad experiences?

I have had bad experiences with guys being really rude and horrible, guys trying to push themselves on you and you just have to be like “back off mate”. Before I started dancing I had really low self esteem about my body and dancing has given me so much confidence, and I respect and love my body!

Is there much drugs that goes on within the bars, or drug dealing?

No, but I have come across it with the odd guy or two. Heaps of girls, like anyone really, takes occasional drugs when we go out. It’s not a problem, no more than another job. It’s not like the stereotype; I just think we are a bunch of outgoing, really accepting people. You’ll find if you walk into a strip club and start working there, no matter your history, you will be accepted. You can be open about your body, can be open about so many things that you wouldn’t with other people.

Do you get many propositions for prostitution?

Yeah, about three times a night! There are some girls who do it, and that sucks for all of us. They get more money and it gives the impression that we are all like that. It just takes one girl to do that and then the guy expects that next time, and the time after. I don’t have anything against prostitution and most strippers don’t really, its fine. But we prefer that they stick to that and we stick to our job, that’s fair.

What are the going rates at the moment?

In a brothel I assume they get about $350, but hookers only get about $120. We do a spa hour for $500 and [the dancers] get $250. And that girl is only getting $120 and she has to have sex with him, and all we have to do is sit in a spa and drink champagne with him.

What other options are there for entertaining?

Yeah like you can do out-call bookings, where guys pay you $400 an hour and you go to a party with them in town. You literally get $200 an hour and you’re just going out drinking and partying, that happens at least once a week normally.

Why do guys hire you to do that?

Lots of men are just a bit lonely, not always, but sometimes. They’ve just got the money but they just don’t want to put the effort in to go out and meet girls. There’s lots of regulars actually, you get to know some of them quite well. Sometimes, eventually they want something more and that’s when if you don’t give that to them they move on to another girl.

What are the demographics of your customers, are some more frequent than others?

Don’t want to sound racist, but as a stripper and I speak for other strippers, some cultures in particular are horrible customers. They’re disrespectful, they try and break the rules. I think it’s just a race thing because they see women differently, we’ve got such an equal society and those cultures don’t see women as equal, they treat us more 

What about the age range?
It’s really funny because you see heaps of boys like 18-25 and they think they’re hot shit. They’re definitely way more hard work, especially if they’re good looking you know they just want more, they try to get us to dance with them more. We prefer old men, all of us. Don’t ever be a young guy and come into a strip club and think that all the girls are into you, we prefer the old man.

How old, like thirty?

35 plus, in a suit. We don’t care if he’s fat and ugly, they’re usually just respectful and can hold a decent conversation, plus they’ve got more money.

Have you ever had celebrities come in, or well-known people?

I gave a dance to Dom from The Edge once, and we get a lot of rugby and soccer guys coming in. We have a famous boxer who’s a bit of a regular, won’t say any names.

Are you concerned about perhaps being in a lecture or a tutorial and someone recognising you?

Um I mean it’s Wellington and all my friends know what I do, so if someone finds out and they don’t like me because of it I can’t be fucked with them frankly, like I wouldn’t go around yelling it, I wouldn’t advertise it on my Facebook page. I actually just saw a guy walking through Uni, he’s the biggest creep. I don’t know what he does here. He books really, really skinny, skinny. He loves skinny girls and he gets them in the spas and he just wants to stare at their vaginas, and I was like that is so weird.

*Name has been changed.

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