I hate validating myself in this way, but I feel I need to tell you these details because apparently I’m “fat.” And definitely too “fat” to be a stripper.
Having gotten my start stripping at the Lusty Lady in San Francisco, I moved to Portland for a totally separate job. Eventually, I started working at a couple of places on the outskirts of town. I hadn’t even worn heels for over a year, so I figured I would keep a low profile while I got my strength back. As I gained confidence, I contacted a booking agent. She had me do an audition shift at a club where she was short a girl that day. When she stopped by to see me dance, she told me I was too heavy to work in one of the clubs she booked for, but there didn’t seem to be any complaints at the one I auditioned at, so she would schedule me there. I worked there for six weeks. I made pretty good money (even though I was only given day shifts) and I got along with everyone. The clientele was right up my alley: middle-aged white guys. They dig my style, the music I dance to, and my body (especially the fact that I don’t shave all my pubes off!) and I was happy.
Then one week I just wasn’t on the schedule. Then the next week I wasn’t on the schedule. So I called to ask why I had basically been fired. Apparently, a “customer complained” about how I looked. I have my doubts about if that’s true, but even if a customer did complain, would they have taken a skinny girl off the schedule?
I auditioned at a couple other places. I tried to be selective about where I went, only auditioning at clubs likely to have more my type of clientele. One place said, “You’re bit heavier than the boss usually likes, but you are a great dancer, so I will try to get you to do a few fill-in shifts.” Nothing came of it though. Others clubs just didn’t get back to me.
Finally, I found one place I liked it a lot, and despite never being given a night shift, made decent money. Everyone who worked there was nice and we had some great daytime regulars. When I did manage to pick up a night shift, I had a great time. The nighttime clientele seemed to have no problem with me, but according to the owners, “I just [didn’t] seem like a night girl.”
I put “fat” in quotations earlier because it’s up to the individual to define their body how they want. I do not self-define as fat, but it isn’t a negative thing to do. It would be pretty unfair to my awesome, proud, fat-identifying friends to try to compare myself to them. I do not have nearly the same prejudices and hate thrown at me as they do on a daily basis. While I may deal with problems related to my body type and the industry I work in, I still enjoy plenty of thin privilege in my day-to-day life. In the sex industry there is at least some different body representation. Sadly though, larger bodies are usually fetishized as something pitiful and grotesque, or just a joke. Thin bodies are standard, and people’s actual desires are left by the wayside in a puddle of insecurities and shame.
I choose to put myself in this world, so you could say that being “not thin”—chubby, curvy, buxom, whatever—I am really setting myself up to be judged. That may hold some truth, but: who is telling whom what they should want and why they should want it? The answer is not as simple as “thin bodies are attractive and fat bodies are not.” We have all heard that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But when the beholder has been shamed for his/her desires because they do not fit within the perceived norm, what is left of the beholder? This isn’t only a problem in Portland. I find it especially funny there because Portland advertises and defines itself as having an “alternative” strip scene. It’s not really alternative at all. It’s all pretty much just Barbie dolls plus tattoos: white, thin, able-bodied and under 40.
I get compliments on my shape all the time: “It’s a relief to see someone like you on stage,” “You are so beautiful and sexy. You remind me of Marilyn Monroe,” “Your face is beautiful, “Your pussy is beautiful, “I love the way you move,” “You look like a classic painting,” are just a few that come to mind. I may have a little tummy, or extra junk in my trunk, but women need about 20% body fat to have regular periods. Women are supposed to be a bit fat. It is not unhealthy and it’s not unsexy. My figure is classic. I feel it expresses womanliness and femininity to the very core.
Last I checked, when you run a business, being able to suit your customers’ needs is what’s important. Variety is key. And thin is not the magical equation for “good stripper.” How about showing up on time, or showing up at all for that matter? Having stage presence? Being kind, courteous and entertaining for customers? My experience with sex work is that it usually hinges much more on personality than body. Anyone can get a pair of fake tits and lipo, but we are talking about a customer service industry. If you aren’t good at making your customers feel welcome, wanted, and special then you won’t get anywhere.
Men find women sexy for all sorts of reasons. Or to be more inclusive, people find people sexy for all sorts of reasons. I like to entertain people by taking my clothes of for a living. I like to entice, enchant and tease them with my naked body. I enjoy my job and I think I am good at what I do. The public seems to enjoy watching me perform. While some might find me more desirable than others, most at least enjoy my performances and are entertained.
I contract space from a person who runs a bar in order to do my job. I am not employed by that person, but this person is still allowed to tell me what I am allowed to look like and when I am allowed to work. Sadly, the decisions this person makes about where or when I am allowed to work are not based on my performance in the work place, but merely how many inches around I am. If you are someone who would like to see more diversity on the stage then please speak up about your desires.