Suzy Favor Hamilton. (Courtesy of Favor Hamilton)

Suzy Favor Hamilton (Courtesy of Favor Hamilton)

In 2012, former Olympian middle distance runner and motivational speaker Suzy Favor Hamilton was outed as a Vegas agency escort. Recently, Favor Hamilton published her memoir, Fast Girl: A Life Spent Running From Madness, telling the story of her childhood, her athletic career, her stint escorting, her family life, and her struggle with bipolar disorder. After reviewing the book for Tits and Sass, contributor Katie de Long had a conversation with Favor Hamilton over e-mail about the New York Times bestselling autobiography. The dialogue below is a condensed version of those e-mails.

What motivated you to write your memoir?
When I was outed, I was contacted by several writers within the first couple days. I was still in a heavily narcissistic mode, which […] can be pretty common with bipolar mania, especially when untreated.

At that time, I wanted to pretty much write a sex book, detailing my adventures in Las Vegas, capitalizing on my misfortune, so to speak. No mental illness aspect at all. No running, no childhood, just Vegas. At this time, I had no idea I was bipolar…and saw nothing wrong with me.

As time went along, my motivations changed, and I grew unsure I wanted to write a book at all. My parents were making it clear they did not want me to write a book. Others were advising me against it. Things had settled down, so why bring it all out in the open again?

As I began to achieve more clarity, and what had happened to me began to make more sense after diagnosis and treatment, my motivation for writing a memoir grew again. Before the escorting, I was speaking quite a bit about my brother’s suicide and my experience with anxiety and depression, so that desire to make a difference had always been there. I saw a memoir as the most effective way of making that difference, being better understood, sharing what is admittedly a complicated story, and doing so on my terms. I thought a book could have a more lasting impact on a bigger platform.

What do you hope people will learn about bipolar disorder from your book?
I wanted to show the common elements of denial, silence and stigma and how they prevent good people from getting help, and getting well. I want people to be aware of behaviors to look for, so they can help others or perhaps motivate those not yet diagnosed to seek help for themselves.

There are many people out there who don’t buy the whole idea of mental illness and bipolar and how bizarre behavior can stem from it. The “convenient excuse” argument. I hope my story might open a few minds.

Now that you are receiving treatment and establishing a new normal for yourself, do you find yourself being treated differently? Do some people expect you to be able to return to who you were before the disorder worsened?
My parents want the old me back, but I think they are accepting that won’t happen.

There is that perception that I’m not well, mainly when I speak about sex, dress a certain way, hang with a certain person, use my voice. Or, quite frankly, if I happen to be a little manic or depressed on a certain day (especially manic). I’ve learned with certain friends and family, I…stay away from certain topics…sit on my hands and smile, otherwise…they’ll just give me that concerned look. Others, they like “this me” who’s not afraid to be myself. [They] know my moods might change from day to day, even minute to minute. Those are the people I tend to gravitate to these days.

Those who don’t get mental illness think you have to be a non-functioning zombie when you’re manic…In many ways, you can be more productive, more creative, and go, go, go, etc. I believe my mania was a big reason I was a desired escort…My clients loved my mania. Disney, who hired me for their racing series, also loved my mania when I think about it. Zero inhibitions. Bubbly, sparkly. Life of the party. I had no off switch, no ceiling.

I am that imperfect girl, and I want to be that imperfect girl. What’s the bipolar? What’s the real me? I just know I want independence, [to] do what makes me content. I still want to live life to the fullest, live it with a little edge. Don’t want to live by others expectations. Be myself. But admittedly, I’m pulled into old habits often where I do what others expect of me. People are so accustomed to the old me that they think I’m not well when they see someone else.

Let’s say I were to want to go to Burning Man, go hiking with a couple of escort friends, post a beautiful nude portrait of myself that was done for me…many around me would raise red flags. I’m having to be something to please others and doing what drove me to craziness in the first place. So am I going to get criticized on occasion or told I’m not well? I suppose. Dr. Phil said as much when I was on his damn show.



afastgirlSuzy Favor Hamilton’s autobiography, Fast Girl: A Life Spent Running From Madness, catalogs the Olympic runner’s experience with mental illness, her career shift from professional mid-distance running to high-end escorting, and her eventual outing and diagnosis as bipolar. Following the birth of her daughter and her retirement from running, Favor Hamilton found her career path fraught and unsatisfactory, its travails amplified by her growing problems with postpartum depression and bipolar. Eventually, the media outed her as a sex worker, exacerbating her struggles.

From growing up picked on by her bipolar brother in small town Wisconsin, to her love/hate relationship with the athletic talent she built into a career, and the way that relationship shaped her psyche and primed her for sex work, Fast Girl covers a wide range of material. It is also one of the more honest memoirs I’ve seen on the day-to-day struggle of being bipolar, and how the disorder can escalate.

I’ve been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses. My thoughts upon reading the book were filtered through my own experiences with the illness: some of these ideas may seem strange if you haven’t lived with bipolar disorder, or lived with someone who copes with it.

In my experience, an important thing to understand about living with bipolar disorder is that it doesn’t always make sense to those who don’t suffer from the disease. Triggers might be minor, like someone looking at you wrong. You might never find out exactly what association triggered your most recent bipolar episode. Sometimes you do know exactly what the trigger is, but even when you know, you can’t really stop it, only remind yourself your perceptions aren’t reflecting reality.

At times, bipolar made my work in a strip club a hell in which I was irrationally afraid of accepting drinks, terrified that every customer was laughing at me. It made me second guess every moment so thoroughly that suicide sometimes felt like a logical post-shift endeavor. At its worst, this illness makes me question everything about myself: my agency, my sanity, my humanity, my very perceptions. My body and mind became communal property- things for others to manage without my input, sometimes overriding my preferences.

Accepting treatment for a mental illness like bipolar can feel like a violation to me. I have to accept that it’s not about me, it’s about what people around me want for me. Maybe I want it, too, but accepting that treatment means accepting I won’t be the arbiter of what’s “right” for myself. That is left to the family members who can no longer handle my outbursts, or the doctor who thinks that no matter how I feel now, it’s worth reaching for something even better by shifting the med dosages, even at the risk of the new doses making me sick.

That level of outside authority is one that women who’ve grown up in a patriarchal society are already used to. We’ve had it enforced from birth that our wishes and agency are second to the men around us, second to our families, second to the comfort of our community, etc. Favor Hamilton’s story is rife with that conflict, even in instances unconnected with her mental health or sex work. From the other department’s coach in college who videotaped her breasts as she ran, with no negative consequences; to the coach who dictated her sex life after her marriage; to the spectators and competitors who claimed her main talent was her beauty; to her dad’s pushiness and embarrassment in response to her swimsuit calendar modeling, the list goes on and on.



(image via Flickr user frankieleon)

(image via Flickr user frankieleon)

My BF is a former client. When I first met him I was in my early 30s and really popular. I saw him once or twice… I missed a couple appointments and he stopped seeing me.

Over the years my business slowed down. I operated UTR, mostly relying on regulars…After almost eight years my client who would become my BF contacted me for a date. I didn’t remember him, but he showed me an old review he did about me back then on one of the boards. He started seeing me twice a week. We did some overnighters and we started spending social time together. He was open-minded and generous. At the time, I was barely making it. He started paying for dates in advance. He signed a lease for me and he wanted to move in.

I liked him, but I was still escorting. I wanted him to help me, but I wasn’t willing to give up my freedom. He said he could deal with me not living with him and me continuing to work. He was OK as long as we still saw each other regularly.

[But] after a few months, it was clear that the relationship was really stressing him out. There was tension between us around me not operating securely enough. He tried to give me instructions about running my business. After some arguments, he finally conceded that I had been doing this for a long time and that I knew how to take care of myself.

He never asked me to quit, but I knew every time I told him that I had an appointment it caused him pain. Bottom line, I told him I was retiring. He was so happy. I told him I would go to school and get my education.

So for nearly two years I have been lying to him. I did go to school, but my school closed down. I took down my old contact information, but my review site is still up with all the old information on it. I changed my stage name and I have been operating UTR for nearly two years. He still pays my rent but threatens to cut me off unless we live together. He looks for me occasionally on the boards, but my new name protects me and he wants to believe me.

He loves me. I love him like my generous uncle. His money is not endless and he wants a commitment or he is going to cut me loose. I have mixed feelings. He has been good to me and he has given me a lot. I have a five-year-old. My BF has been generous and kind to her.

I’m getting older, but I think if I was more public I would still have a good five to eight years to make money. Should I give him a break and let him go while he still has some money left?





Does your client look like this? (Trade Union Magazine, 1925, via Wikimedia)

Does your client look like this? (Trade Union Magazine, 1925, via Wikimedia)

I recently had a realization about my work after returning from an international trip with one of my sugar daddies. I was only gone for four days, but I felt like I had just spent a month with one of the worst bosses from one of my straight jobs. I was a ball of stress after coming back and needed a week of self-care, copious amounts of cannabis, and many hugs from my lovers in order to recover…oh, and an entire therapy session dedicated to deconstructing the experience. During all this reflection, I realized that my favorite moments from the trip all involved having sex with this man, who is thirty-four years my senior and can only sometimes get an erection. Every other part of the trip, the parts spent providing companionship, left me wanting to roll my eyes hard enough to give me a headache for days. The flight back, where I was forced to sit next to him and entertain him for eight or so hours while also dealing with raging cranky PMS demons, should have earned me an Academy Award. (Or at least a Golden Globe Nomination.)

As far as rich and powerful old dudes go, this guy isn’t so bad. He tries to do good, though in my opinion he usually falls short. He is philanthropic, he is liberal, and he considers himself a feminist ally. But like most rich, powerful, liberal leaning, old, white, philanthropic, self-proclaimed feminist males, he has way too much privilege to actually be a good person. He’s “not like other clients,” but in fact he is pretty much like every other client I have. He’s the type I seem to attract. The sort who is looking for a comparatively young, pretty, outspoken feminist badass to bust his balls…just a little bit. It is very important to him that I am always my most authentic self around him; that I don’t wear makeup unless I want to and that I always share my true opinions about his behavior. Of course, that’s only as long as my “true” opinions are mostly validating, with a smattering of criticism here and there to “keep it real.” He’s never said that in so many words, but I think we all know how it works.

Whenever I travel with him, I always feel a sharp contrast between the upper class lifestyle he leads and the middle class lifestyle I am used to leading. Being his traveling companion is discombobulating because I am a member of the luxury service industry he is exploiting (despite his best intentions), but I am also his partner in that exploitation. I am utilizing his wealth in order to live like him, and thus on the surface I must pretend to enjoy all the luxuries we enjoy together. I must perform capitalism in order to provide the service I’m implicitly selling him. But I empathize more with the numerous maids and waiters and chefs and cashiers and bellboys and masseurs and the other sex/service workers he hires to facilitate his vacation. This performance of consumption without criticism is emotionally exhausting for me, probably the most emotionally exhausting work I have ever done.




You can find the first part of this round table here.

Has anyone had a regular whom they legitimately could not stand? The kind of guy that just wouldn’t go away? Maybe his personality was foul, or maybe he was living in a fantasy world with you? What are some defense mechanisms for coping that with sort of regular?

Leigh:  This can take a couple of forms for me: I’ve had regulars who are really good clients, in the sense of being well-behaved and pleasant, but whose fetishes I’ve found really emotionally draining or just plain gross to accommodate. Then there are the “why on earth do you keep booking me?” guys who will make appointments really consistently, but complain the whole time, appearing generally unhappy with their experience. The professionalism-nerd in me finds the latter much harder to deal with. I can be extra gentle with myself around seeing Mr. Creepy-Fantasies, and tell myself that I’m providing a life-improving service, but guys in the second group are both annoying to spend time with, and leave me feeling like I’m lousy at what I do, which is much more of a blow. If I had to pick a worst-instance, there was a guy who was actually a house-regular at the dungeon where I first started working who probably takes the cake. To start with, he smelled rank. He wore the same the clothing all the time, and it smelled like he didn’t take his trousers off when he had to piss either. But he came in two or three times a week the entire time I was working there, and while he’d go through phases where he’d focus on one woman, and see her once or twice a week, he was remarkably un-picky in whom he saw overall. On top of this, he also didn’t openly have a fetish. You’d ask him what he wanted to do and he’d say “I dunno,” and nothing you tried seemed to get more or less of a rise out of him. And boy, did we try everything, from cross dressing to diapers to floggings to role play to rope bondage. (I don’t think anyone ever tried foot worship, because, well, you wouldn’t even put your feet on him, seriously.) My pet theory was that he wasn’t a submissive at all, that he was actually a top who got off on making women uncomfortable or humiliating them, and his noxious odor was the tool of choice.

I’ve found with tricky regulars, especially as an independent, there’s lots of ways to make them more manageable—whether internally, by scheduling them when you’ll have time to decompress, or when you really need the money, so it feels like an extra-solid accomplishment, or externally, by over time finding ways to defuse their irritating foibles. But I think the biggest single thing that makes it workable is that it’s a really clearly defined time limit: I only have to suck it up for an hour or two, and then I’m done until the next booking. The fact that I know exactly what I’m making and how long it’ll take is a big part of making it sustainable for me. I imagine that I’d have a much harder time working in a club or camming, for that reason, since the hustling gets done while you’re meeting the client, rather than beforehand. This ties right back in to why I focus so much on cultivating regulars in the first place: predictability is a big bonus that’s worth a lot of tradeoffs to me personally. I find not knowing what my week looks like much more stressful than the pushiest, grossest regular.

Caty: ​When I encountered this—”baby I LOVE YOU”, that is—when I was much younger, I used to just take the easy way out and agree to keep seeing them, say, every night for a week, until they ran out of money to see me. I guess I was lucky enough—well, in this sense—to live somewhere where most clients’ incomes just can’t take seeing me several times a week. ​Callous, maybe, but it worked efficiently enough.

Otherwise, often just dropping the pretense of giving a shit will do wonders. That way, you don’t put the besotted client in a Romeo and Juliet situation by blacklisting, making them feel like they have to win you over again and possibly having them turn violent stalker in the process. Rather, they just don’t want to see you anymore because you’re not the girl they thought you were!

Josephine: I wish there were an easy strategy to adhere to. I’ve tried to to pawn them off on younger, more patient dancers. If that didn’t work, there were only two semi-effective methods that did: drinking copiously OR bluntly setting clear boundaries: “I appreciate your generosity, but I hope you know not to expect anything in return.”

Ephemeral: Is it sad that there were quite a few I couldn’t stand? I don’t think I’ve ever had a regular that didn’t get irritating at some point. I will say there is one guy that’s such a headache simply because he is a huge pain to talk to. He’s not rude, or clingy, but he re-defines “bored to death.” The only sex he can stay erect and ejaculate from is very carefully done oral to a small penis suffocating underneath the fat fold of a pudgy lower gut. Yes, it’s as agonizing as it sounds. Throughout this process he is eerily silent. He’s a very awkward kisser and his lips are continuously chapped. Figuring out what he wants in the first place has been a series of trial and error because he seems remarkably indifferent and/or uninterested in everything I do. After I perform the world’s least sexy blowjob, we’re left with 2/3 of the 90 minute booking to talk, or cuddle…except he does neither. He has a gruff, cynical opinion on every conversation topic under the sun. He actively hates, or tastelessly makes fun of everything, including himself and his own life. It leads to a painfully dull interaction, that feels depressing even after he leaves…ugh! When I was too fed up with it, I sat on top of his belly and said these words to him very clearly: “Despite everything else, you’re fucking ME right now, and that’s awesome, so cheer the fuck up.” Now we just talk about me, which is easy, because even with all the cynicism in the world he can’t deny that yes, I AM awesome.