True Story: I’m A Stripper

interview with a stripper
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!
I earn my living as a stripper. “Dancer” can be ambiguous so I’m not going to sugar coat it. I’m 26 years old, have been stripping for about 2 years in Portland Oregon which has more strip clubs than any other city in the US. For fun I like to watch TV, cuddle with my dog, hang out with my friends, go out to eat and go to the coast every once in a while.
There’s a big misconception that strippers like to party all the time and some do but for the most part we just like to do normal and relaxing things like everyone else.

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.

How did you get into stripping?

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.

What was your first day on the job like?

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.

Could you walk us through an average work shift?

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.

What’s your favorite song to dance to? Your favorite performance outfit?
My favorite song to dance to is “Desire” by Meg Myers. It’s so dark sounding and sexually explicit but she has an innocent sounding voice. It’s perfect for me because I have such a girl-next-door look, people often think I’m younger than I look so I feel like it shows customers that I may look innocent but I can be very sexual.
My favorite outfit is a neon pink bikini outlined with pink sequins on both pieces. It embodies me as a stripper because it’s very girly but has a touch of flare and still looks classy. However I seem to make the most money when I wear my Victoria’s Secret Pink bra and panties probably because it perpetuates that girl next door look.

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.

Do the people in your life know about this? 

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, how much money do you earn each shift? 

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.

Do you think this work has affected the way you feel about men? About yourself? About sexuality?

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?

Some people think stripping is demeaning and un-feminist. Some people think it’s empowering. What are your thoughts?

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.

Do you plan to do this long-term?

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.

What’s one thing you’ve learned from this that any of us could apply to our daily lives?

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. 

P.S. An interview with a sex worker and an online dominatrix!

12 Comments

SkreamPDX

Just a quick little informational bit:
The city with the most strip clubs is actually located in Texas. But, Portland has the highest amount of strip clubs PER CAPITA.

Not trying to be rude, just want to spread proper information.

Reply
Regina

Thanks for that, I get confused because I see both lines of information.

Reply
Jay Bee

Ooh! Thanks for this interesting subject, Sarah, and thank you for sharing, Regina! I have a tonne of questions, but I’ll narrow it down to four(ish):

1) Do any women come to the club, to watch you dance, I mean? Or are there special clubs for female clients?

2) How is your security ensured in case there’s a sleazy/unpleasant/violent customer? Are you in a position to refuse a certain customer or a specific service?

3) How do you prepare your dances? Do you have practiced routines or do you improvise?

4) Are the women that you work with all a similar body type, or is there a lot of diversity?

I’m sorry for this avalanche of very silly questions! (I’ll totally understand if you don’t want to answer any of them.) I’m just unaccountably curious. Lastly, I really liked what you said about stripping being empowering. What it meant for me was that you get to choose your story: someone may find one job as demeaning, but for someone else, it is empowering and dignified. Ultimately, no matter what you do, your inner definition of you do is the only one that counts, and you helped me see that!

All the best of luck with moving to L.A. and with all your future projects!

J.B.

Reply
Regina

Good questions!

1. Women definitely come to the club and are welcome but unfortunately often think they don’t have to tip because “they have the same parts”. So ladies if you go, please tip if you’re watching/at the rack! Never heard of a club seperate for women.

2. Security at my club is pretty good about kicking creeps out. I am absolutely allowed to refuse any customer I like which is another nice perk about the job.

3. I don’t have any routines, I just kinda feel the music and make it up as I go. I do have go to moves though which helps.

4. At my club there is a wide variety of body types which is wonderful.

Thank you, I’m glad I could help with that 🙂

Reply
D

Do you have plans to ‘spin’ your work experience on your resume if you apply to advertising/graphic design type jobs when you move to LA?

(I hope this doesn’t come off as rude, wasn’t sure how to phrase, just genuinely curious. I’m all about living unique lives, but then it gets weird when it comes to stuff like resumes–how do you parlay what you’ve learned into totally different opportunities)

Reply
Regina

That’s not a rude question at all, I’ve considered it myself. I’ve decided it would be best if I left it out, I don’t want any reason to instigate sexual harassment or risk not getting a job because of it. If they ask why I have a break in my resume I’ll say I was focusing on school because that’s not a lie.

Reply
scar

How fascinating, thank you for sharing! I have a question too 🙂 Would you say that for most people, stripping is a thing they do for a short while before moving on to a different jobs, or are there any “long-term” strippers?

Good luck with the job hunt 🙂 I’m sure your grandma will be happy to have you around!

Reply
Regina

It really depends on the person. For me I knew it was just a temporary thing but I know dancers who are going on 8+ years and don’t plan on stopping!

Thank you, I’m applying to just about everything in my field!

Reply
Calluna

I spent five years stripping when I was younger. I consider it to be a younger person’s lifestyle (certainly would not fit mine anymore) but miss it sometimes. It was the most fun and the most liberating job I’ve ever had. Every job has it’s ups and downs, but some benefits can’t be beat.

Love it while you can!

Reply
Regina

Awesome! I definitely love the freedom it gives me, I will miss that when get a job in my field.

Reply
Nadine

This is a very interesting read.i am also a stripper but in the UK.ive been doing it now for three years and I can make good money at times.i was made redundant and my then boyfriend (now husband)works in a club as head barman.i asked him if any jobs were available and he said no.about a month later I was in the club and sitting at the bar talking to him and his boss came over.the bar was pretty empty as early and my boyfriend paul (hubby now)introduced me and we all chatted.i said I was unemployed and I was offered a job there and then waitressing tables as a girl was leaving.paul knew about this but didn’t say anything as often the girls work topless and some offer lap dances.i excepted the offer much to Paul’s annoyance and was asked to arrive the following afternoon for a chat and to meet other staff.i arrived as told and met carol who was to be my mentor until I had settled in.i was given a short skirt and revealing top to ware,and once dressed the boss asked to see me again.i wasn’t allowed a bra and the tops we had to ware were designed to show our breasts when we bent forwards.he said I looked nice and I started work that evening.the shift went fine and about 1am all us girls were told to take our tops off.once Paul was ok with things I started to do lap dancing for guys and I still do.the first time was for the boss to see if i could do it,and yes I’m naked and my pussy is inches from guys but I can earn very good money,plus i know I’m safe.paul doesn’t mind and we are now married.

Reply

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