The following is an excerpt from the first volume of dancer JA Sapphire’s self-published memoir, Sapphire: Escape. At this point in the book, it’s 1996 and Sapphire has just decided to work as an exotic dancer for the first time. She has escaped from an abusive background and moved to Atlanta from the Eastern Seaboard, and worked a series of jobs, but found herself unable to pay rent, so she made her way to Magic City and has been taken to the dressing room by one of the managers, Nick.
I watch Nick close the door behind him as I place my bag on the table to search for something to wear. I don’t have much. I pull out something that I think is very sexy, something that I bought from the lingerie place in the Phipps Plaza. It’s black, full-lace with thick lace embroidery that covers the real important parts. It has two snaps at the bottom of the crotch, the neck comes up like a turtleneck, and the shoulders are ruffled. I take out a small red pencil and light the tip with a lighter to line my eyelids. I use the black mascara to extend my lashes. I use the black gel called Ampro to smooth my hair’s edges. With curl activator I bring up the waves in my hair. My hair is still cut into a boy-like fade. I pull out some lipstick that cost me about two dollars and paint my lips. I look at my reflection thinking I look great.
I start rubbing my body down with lotion when I notice a medium light-skinned girl with broad shoulders walk in. She’s dressed very conservatively in a white turtleneck, jeans and bootheels. She places her bag on a chair and glances at me but doesn’t speak. She goes in front of the mirror and stares at herself. She has blunt-cut bangs. She untangles the scarf from around her neck and the back of her jet-black hair. I feel that it’s impolite that neither one of us is speaking; therefore, I walk up to her with an extended hand to introduce myself to her.
“Hello,” I say happily. “I am Janel. I’m new here.”
She looks at me disdainfully up and down, then walks out the room. I hear her mumbling to Nick, then laughing. She returns but never says a word. “Excuse me,” I interrupt. “About how much money do you make in here?” She cuts her eyes, looks at me angrily and remains silent. “Excuse me,” I repeat myself. “Do you hear me?”