In a recent episode of SBS VICELAND’s Payday, we met Jessica, an exotic dancer who works in Canada’s Fort McMurray – a small, Arctic town that’s suffering from an economic downturn. A lot of young women go into this work without knowing exactly what to expect, so we asked two former dancers, Jackel and Kourtney, for their perspectives on what the job is actually like. Here’s the inside word on the positives and negatives of the job.
The audition process
Kourtney: There were two strip clubs in my town. I called one of them up and organised a audition, which consisted of me doing a two-minute stage show where I had to strip down to just my knickers while the manager watched. This was the first time I had ever been in a strip club let alone on the stage and in my undies! My knees were shaking so hard and I just clung to the pole. Can you believe I didn't get the job? I was told to try the other club because they hire anyone. So I did, and I started that night and made $700.
Choosing a stage name is important
Jackel: Choose a name that's easy for intoxicated customers to say. Try one- or two-syllable names like Ruby, Sydney or Jessie.
Kourtney: Pick a normal name. You don't want to spend half your night with guys saying, "Storm! What’s your real name?"
What will my parents think?
Kourtney: When I told my mum, she cried. Luckily, I don't have a dad so didn't have to worry about telling him. Mum and I were very close when I was a child – even a teenager – but as soon as I started dancing, she didn't want to hear about it. Slowly over time, we stopped talking. We still spoke but we just didn’t have anything to say to each other. I felt I couldn't talk to her about work or what I had been up to because she would rather pretend that I didn't do it.
Jackel: Make sure you have at least two expensive-looking lingerie sets that show off your greatest assets. If you're a thiccc bih, stockings always look dope!
And attitude requirements
Jackel: The sexiest thing you can wear is a smile and confidence. Makeup and lingerie is only half of it.
Dealing with customers
Jackel: Try not to go into it stressing about money – relax and have a good time. I find guys will spend more money if the girl is having fun and not pressuring them.
Kourtney: Stripping is 30 percent taking your clothes off, 40 percent sales and 30 percent counselling. You will have to listen to their problems. That’s OK as long as they book you for an hour and you are getting paid.
The up-side of dancing for dollars
Kourtney: I certainly had a lot of fun in my decade-long career – maybe a little too much some nights. When I started, I never intended to work in the industry that long. My plan was to work for a few years, have some fun and save money to buy a house. It was a good plan... didn't happen, but it was a good plan.
Instead, I got sucked into this crazy alternate reality where I had fans, money and so much freedom. I was my own boss, I worked two days a week and it was awesome. I flew around the country; I was paid to appear at clubs, featured on magazine covers and, on some occasions, recognised at the airport! One time, I was even upgraded on my flight because the check-in guy had seen me perform in a comp the weekend before!
The biggest unexpected challenges
Jackel: Learning stripper etiquette – such as not approaching another girl's customer or a customer at the stage. There's no actual handbook for it, but I think life would be easier if some bad b**** just wrote out all the secret rules no one knows.
Kourtney: Do a self-defence class, because when I look back at some of the stupidly dangerous situations I let myself get into, I could slap myself. Always be safe.
Explore other unique fields of employment through the SBS VICELAND series Payday, airing Thursday nights at 9pm on SBS VICELAND with episodes also streaming via SBS On Demand: