Have you ever wondered what it’s like to work as a stripper? How much money do they really make? How hard is it to walk in those heels? Today, “Regina” (<- stage name!) tells us about her job as a stripper. She’s been stripping for two years in Portland, OR, which has more strip clubs than any other city in America.
Tell us a bit about yourself!
Growing up, how did you feel about sexuality and nudity?
From when I was little until about 4th grade, I never really though nudity was a weird thing. When I was young I was one of those kids running around naked all the time without a care in the world. Around 5th grade though things started to change. Not only was it around when all the girls in my class started talking about boys and relationships, but I was diagnosed with leukemia. I basically skipped middle school because of treatment and additionally had a bone marrow transplant at 14.
During that time and a long time after I felt really ugly, awkward, hated my body and was miserable about the fact that boys would never look at me. I started to recover from that mentality around freshman year of college when I went on my first real date and realized that it’s okay to be sexual and confident.
My former roommate was a stripper for a long time. I had always been curious about what the real experience is so I got all my questions answered and decided to try it. Before all this, my friend had introduced me to a local nude beach which was instrumental in me being a stripper. It’s where I gained confidence in being naked in public and decided there was nothing wrong with it.
I was really nervous. Strutting around a nude beach where most people were also naked was one thing, but dancing in heels holding on to a pole in front of paying customers was completely another. The other women there were very helpful and nice, knowing that they’d all been there. Portland has a great stripping community because of the amount of clubs here and being supportive instead of catty and competitive really helps everyone out. There is so much stigma attached to it still and it’s important that we stick together.
I like getting ready at home as it’s more relaxed so it starts there. Getting ready is half the battle. Shaving, styling your hair, doing your makeup, a lot goes into that. Then I’ll get to work, say hi to all my friends in the dressing room, choose my outfit for the day, put on my shoes and start work (or twerk as I like to call it)!
The three main things you do are talk to customers and see if they want lap dances, go on stage to perform and actually give those lap dances. Where I work, shifts are typically 5 hours long and it’s just a rinse, lather, repeat of those three things. Unless it’s slow, then you get to sit and talk with your friends.
In your opinion, what characteristics make for a good stripper?
A good stripper really knows how to talk to people (men in particular) and what their customer type is. It’s also good to have a sense of humor, customers seem to appreciate that. A stripper might not have the “perfect” body type or the “prettiest” face (quotations because it’s all relative and screw media standards) but if they can charm a customer, they often will buy a lap dance. Pole tricks are impressive and may help your case but dances are where we make the most money.
All my friends know as I knew they wouldn’t judge me because it doesn’t change who I am. When I’ve told them the response has been either, “Oh awesome, good for you!” or, “Cool, what’s it like?”. It’s a lot more widely accepted here in Portland.
My mom is the only one in my family who knows. It took me awhile to tell her because I was afraid she wouldn’t be happy about it or she would judge me even though my mom has done nothing but be supportive and accepting in my life. When I told her she said she was only disappointed that I felt like she would judge and asked that we not keep secrets from each other. I asked her if I should tell my dad (they’re divorced) and she said he would probably worry about me more than anything so he does not know for his sake.
On average I make about $200 a shift. There are a lot of aspects that go into how much you make. I work at a small club that is a little bit out of the way and I don’t hustle as much as I could but I’m happy with where I work and how much I make. Hustling is exhausting and can really wear on your self esteem when you constantly get rejected.
The club I work at is close to where I live which eliminates stress from commuting, their stage fee is low (what you pay as an independent contractor for being there) and they don’t take “house cuts” of lap dances which is a practice that I detest. I also really like everyone I work with which is very important, they have become some of my closest friends. Stripping is not as lucrative as many people think, especially in Portland where the wealth is so spread out. $200 a shift is $40 an hour in cash which is much more than I’d make in any other type of job, especially as a student.
It definitely has affected the way I feel about men. Because of the experience I had with my illness, I used to always be worried about what men think about me, what I’m maybe doing wrong and how I can make myself more attractive.
Stripping has taught me that men are a dime a dozen. If there’s not a customer who’s into you now, there will be one later and really what matters is how you feel about yourself. I’ve applied this to my personal life and it’s very freeing. I am so much more confident in my looks and self now that I don’t feel the need for any type of validation from men. I was picky before but now I’m extra picky. In terms of sexuality, it’s made me even more open and accepting because who am I to judge?
I find it empowering and I am definitely a feminist. As far as I’m concerned, patriarchy and the idea of women as sexual objects are not going anywhere anytime soon so why not profit off it? I am also all about bodily and personal autonomy. If someone wants to do something with their body and it doesn’t hurt anyone including themselves, they should go for it. It’s their life and their choice.
I do not plan on doing this long term. It’s been really great for the time being but it’s also wearing on my energy and my body. I’ve been fantasizing about wearing business clothes and having an office for a long time so that is what’s next. I graduated a couple weeks ago with my bachelor’s in advertising and a minor in graphic design and have just started looking at jobs. I will be moving to LA next month to live with my 96 year old grandma who could use some help and I know there will be more exciting job opportunities for me there.
Don’t worry about being judged for doing what you want to do. Those that mind don’t matter and those that matter won’t mind. There’s a meme I saw with a pin-up picture that said “I used to care what people thought of me until I tried to pay my bills with their opinions” and I thought it very fitting to my life and stripping in general 🙂
Thanks so much for sharing your story, Regina! Do you guys have any (polite! respectful!) questions for her? I understand that not everyone will agree with stripping as a job choice. Polite, respectful disagreement is always welcome. Incendiary comments will be deleted.