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Elle Oh Elle: Everything You Need to Know About Working as a Stripper (Thrillist)



It takes more than pole-dance classes and locker-room selfies to become a stripper.

Stripping—and the hustle of selling your time and company—is a competitive sales job in a highly stigmatized atmosphere.

As a stripper of seven years, I know that my chosen work is not for everyone. I formerly worked in retail and healthcare, and I also know that those jobs are some of the most exploitative and depressing ways to make minimum wage. And so, when the times get tough, the tough get stripping! Here’s to supporting adult entertainment in a consensual, informed manner.

Learn how to dance.

Strippers need to be able to dance—so if you want a gig in this industry, you’ll need at least a couple basic stage moves. YouTube hosts hundreds of videos, especially if you do a "beginning pole dance move" search. Eye contact, smiles, and body awareness will go much further than back-breaking Cirque du Soleil maneuvers, at least at first.

Always remember to point your toes when you dance so you don’t look like a naked adult tromping on a playground. And no matter what, under no circumstance are you to lick the pole a la Showgirls.

Find a club you feel comfortable in.

Go online and read reviews. Visit TUSCL.net (the ultimate strip club list) for a comprehensive list of venues. Yelp can be valuable—but please read all reviews with a grain of glitter, since negative reviews are often left by bitter ex-patrons who were ejected for poor behavior.

Visit clubs during various hours so you can get a feel for the vibe and crowd. Staff—and especially patrons!—can vary wildly by just a few hours. A day crowd might be blue-collar workers on lunch break, while Friday nights will feature millennials doing Jell-O shots.

What are the house/club rules? Do you agree with them? If doing a full-contact nude dance for $10 sounds too low (it is), keep looking for a place that encourages the workers to be able to financially support themselves. We’re all here to make some money.

Are the strippers at the club protected? Does a bouncer walk them safely to their cars after shifts are done? Are there rules regarding touching and drug use? Find out. Also, ask about the hiring practices.

Most clubs will have you fill out a form, hopefully make a copy of your ID, and will require an audition of at least one song on stage. Yes, you will have to get naked on your audition! That’s what you’ll be doing hundreds of times over if you get hired—so let’s make sure you can at least walk a few steps without falling down.

Figure out your brand.

Congratulations, you’re hired! Now you’re tasked with figuring out how you wish to portray yourself in order to encourage the most revenue.

What kind of fantasy are you selling? Are you a nerdy gamer-girl nymph? Punk-rock Barbie? Burlesque siren? Runway model? Girl next door? To a large degree, the way you style and carry yourself will define your customer base.

If you dress like a pro dominatrix, you will attract men who expect you to act domineering. If you wear little makeup, have hardly any tattoos, and keep your hair one color, you’ll attract a wider audience that probably views you as less assertive.

Before picking out your attire, find out what the club requires. Do you need to change outfits every hour? Can you wear the same outfit for years until it falls apart? How tall do your heels need to be? Ellie and Pleasers are two go-to, stripper-friendly shoe brands strippers rely on for footwear.

Whatever your attire, ensure ensembles are resistant to Jack Daniel’s stains... and can be removed easily. I avoid complex strappy contraptions; because the time it takes me to untangle a pentagram harness literally takes ticks off the clock when I could be hustling to do lap dances. Find what works for you.

Become a good talker.

For many, this is the hardest part of the job. You will hear a lot of the same questions. What’s your real name? Why do you do this job? Are your boobs real? What do your parents think? Do you have a boyfriend? Were you abused?

To which you can certainly respond: My real name is Sapphire, but you can call me Diamond when I meet your mother. Because I have a great work ethic. Is that a real question? My parents know that I’m an adult so it doesn’t matter. Yes, a few actually. Only by this conversation.

Don’t let anybody pressure you into talking about what is YOUR personal business. If you can counter passive-aggressiveness with polite assertiveness, you’ll be successful in weeding out the would-be customers who are more trouble than they’re worth.

A simple, "Have you been here before?" or "What did you do today?" can go a long way. A stripper’s hustle is akin to speed dating: You’re trying to gather information and get to know a total stranger in a very short amount of time. Some folks want to talk, others want to listen to you talk, and many people will be happy to open up once you establish a rapport.

Avoid the soap opera.

Avoid the hierarchy. Every competitive industry has back-stabbing co-workers. Be polite to everyone, don’t repeat gossip, and lock up your items. Thieves lurk everywhere!

And PLEASE don’t fall into the trap of dating your co-workers or bosses. This rarely works out well.

Your time and labor come with a price, because that’s how transactions work. Practice saying, "No thank you, I’m not going to do that." Clientele will try to haggle you for prices, touch you more than is allowed, or simply refuse to pay you.

Remember that your time is an asset! You as a worker are able to refuse service, especially if someone is indicating that they don’t respect the house rules or your personal boundaries. Get the money first if you can. And if the guy asks (and they will), "You don’t trust me?" that’s when you smile and bat your lashes twice. "I don’t trust anyone, silly."

Practice good hustle habits.

Stay off of your cellphone. It’s just bad salesmanship. If you went to a comedy show and you could see the headliner scrolling Instagram while waiting to be announced, you’d see him as half-assing his job, yes? If the waitress is texting while taking your coffee order, it’s rude, and if the car salesperson is yelling at their boyfriend in the finance office, it’s bad sales. Just put your cellphone away for the shift.

And don’t take rejection personally. Some nights, people aren’t going to be kind to you. Understand that their poor behavior is a reflection of their insecurity or self-internalized issues.

Value your money.

Talk about tenuous! I’ve left a six-hour shift with $30, and earned $200 in a matter of minutes. Strippers do not make an hourly wage! With such an unreliable income, I tell new strippers to save at least 10% of their tips in a savings account that does not link to a credit or debit card. Buy a fireproof safe, and be the only one with the combination. Talk to your bank or credit union about an IRA account, or some other option to grow and store your savings.

And be sure to save your receipts. If you’re filing taxes, you can claim all work-related purchases as write-offs. That means hygiene items, clothing, makeup, and fitness and health purchases that specifically impact or relate to your job.

And DO NOT talk about your money. Ever. There is no reason for anyone to know your income. You might be 24 years old and making $80,000 a year; but boyfriends, girlfriends, family, and so-called friends will find ways to encourage your spending... most especially if it benefits them.

Practice good health habits.

Don’t drink too much, and avoid hard drugs. It’s not sustainable. I’ve let loose more than a few times, to be sure. But hangovers stop being cool when they’re part of your daily routine.

In liquor-serving establishments, it’s easy to get caught up in a wave of gratuitous drinks. But doing so means losing money, hurting yourself, getting in arguments, or being at a terrible disadvantage should an abusive situation arise.

And holy shit, people are so annoying when they are on cocaine.

If you use substances to escape the stresses of work, you need another job.

Be safe.

Be very selective with whom you give your personal information to. I have had stalkers, and I have had privacy concerns. I rarely recommend giving out a phone number. It costs only a few bucks to decode a cell number, and creepers will pay that in order to get your personal information. I am reminded of how much I value my privacy every time my post office box receives fan mail from a correctional facility. If people want to schedule club visits, create a stripper-specific email account and keep in contact that way.

Understand that this job has a timeline.

I would love to be able to strip for another decade. But the truth is, I’ve seen young entertainers be forced into retirement by things like spinal injuries or torn meniscuses. Your body and mind will endure greater longevity if you take care of them both; so be sure to save money for when you are too stiff or stressed to be able to dance for dollars any longer.

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