On Wednesday night I sat down to speak with a local exotic dancer who goes by the name Victoria. I joined the dancer at her comfortable suburban apartment to talk about her unorthodox job and hear about infamous strip club stories.
The warm air is filled with the smell of pasta cooking in the front kitchen room, the patter of her child’s feet echo through the home as he chases their cat Nahla, while the sound of a reality television show and a children’s iPad game play in the background. She is folding clothes while urging her son to stop making noise.
“Stop please. We are doing homework,” she warns.
Then I turn to her and we begin.
How old are you?
I am 22 years old.
When and why did you start stripping?
I started when I was 18 years old, right before my 19th birthday. I was working at Dunkin Donuts, making crappy money while going to school… I had a friend who danced who used to always tell me about how great the money was so I started by just waitressing at a club two or three days a week. I made more money those two days then I did working 40-50 hours a week at Dunkin, so I quit.
What’s the money usually like?
It’s changed quite a bit… When I first started, three years ago, you could easily make $500-600, but even that was considered a crappy night. Now, it’s kind of like you have to work for that $500 but there are still some nights where I can come home with $1400.
How did you decide what club to go to?
The first club I worked at I was a waitress and I only danced one or two times. I was terrible! It was an urban club where there’s a fascination with big butts and twerking—which I can’t do. One of the girls from that club told me about the current one where I work now.
I like it because I’m able to show up late and there’s more of an even playing field for me. Here, everyone’s pretty much an average sized white girl so I don’t have to worry about shaking my butt.
How do you get along with the other girls?
When I first started just about everyone there did hardcore drugs, they were very caddy and people would steal from one another. I just didn’t relate to any of them.
I remember I got into an argument with one girl. I called her a cokehead but they all were, so they all got mad at me. But now, it’s better. I keep the peace with them because it is a job but I wouldn’t call— Well, maybe two of them are my friends.
Have you ever seen people doing drugs at work?
Oh yeah, for sure! Girls would be doing their makeup and sniffing a line in the dressing room. There were a couple times you’d go in the bathroom and see someone had left their spoon in there from doing heroin. It was bad when I first started but not as much anymore.
What are the hours like?
So you have to wait to cash out your money. Usually, this happens around 3-3:30 in the morning. It can be rough… I try to leave by 3 so that I can be in bed by 3:15 to get a few hours of sleep before I have to be up to take him—my son— to school. Then I have to pick him up a few hours later because it’s only a half-day program; I go to school and just continue on with my day.
What are the customers like?
It’s changed a lot over the years. Recently we’ve been getting a lot of younger guys who come in and just want to date you; or there are the young kids who just want to see boobies, but we still get those older businessmen. Those are my favorite! They’re the ones who actually have money.
How often do you work at the club?
Right now, I’m only working weekends but I also bartend at another bar. I mean, you really just can’t beat the money. Even a shitty night at the club is better than any money I make bartending.
I’ve tried to get out of it but the stress of trying to work all these hours at the regular job while being a mom and in nursing school is just too much. I’d rather just dance two nights a week and not worry the other five days of the week.
What was your opinion of dancers before you started?
I had a friend who was a dancer so I never really thought about it. But when I was younger I found out my mom was actually a dancer while I was a baby. I remember I used to say she was such a slut and a prostitute. I was really nasty about it then but, obviously, four years later, here I am.
Do you feel comfortable on stage?
When I first started I thought I looked really awkward but now I don’t really care. I can do pole tricks and walk in a circle pretty eloquently so whatever. It works for me.
What are some of the craziest strip club stories you’ve heard about?
There have been guys who’ve asked for girls to pee or poop on them. There have been guys who want to buy dirty underwear or used tampons. There’s a guy who wants girls to come into a private room with him to just scream and bang on the walls. There are tons of guys who just want to massage or suck on your feet.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I really love to just sleep because school pretty much owns my life right now.
You’ve talked about how you analyze people in the club to decide who to give attention to, how has this influenced your relationships with people and everyday life?
When I first started I almost never recognized anyone from the club in my real life. In the last six months I’ve noticed someone from the club almost everywhere I go. People don’t ever say anything because they’re usually with their girlfriend or wife. You know… There are people in there who are schoolteachers or lawyers… They don’t want anyone to know anymore than I do. It’s actually happened while I was out on a date before. It is starting to feel like an invasion of privacy, which is why I would like to move away after I graduate in December.
Tell me about your childhood and high school experience.
I was always a good student and I did cheerleading in high school but throughout my entire childhood I just moved a lot. After I graduated high school, I got pregnant with my son, ended up dropping out of college then I started stripping and went back to school.
What’s your favorite childhood memory?
I don’t remember much about my childhood but I do have a memory of eating so many strawberries one time that I threw up. I also remember driving my Barbie car around the playground a lot and watching older kids do the boondoggles.
How has being a mom changed you?
At this point, Victoria’s roommate who was sitting with us in the living room intervenes. She asks if she can answer this question and Victoria agrees…
“I think she became a bitch. She graduated high school the year before me and she used to be so fun but after she had her son she completely changed.”
Again, I ask Victoria how she thought she has changed.
I think that having a kid changes your viewpoint on a lot of things. It changed how I felt about life, relationships and the things I once cared about. My tolerance for little shit has just changed so much. I’ve learned to stand up for myself, pick and choose my battles and be a strong independent person. If that means I’m a bitch, I’m cool with it.
How is your relationship with your son’s father?
We’re cordial but we only really talk when we see each other. It really just frustrates me because he just sits around and barely works. I’ve had to sacrifice my time, my body, my pride and dignity but he just doesn’t do much.
What’s something you want people to know about you or exotic dancers?
We are not all on drug addicts. We are not all prostitutes. We are not all bat-shit crazies. We are not nymphos. People really come in with the impression that we are just these sex crazed, drug addicted whores that will do anything for a dollar and there’s so many misconceptions about us.
Yes, there are some girls who are like that but you could say the same about girls who are out at Pearl Night Club right now, but because those girls paid to get into the club it’s somehow different? There are girls who work here who have boyfriends, husbands or families.
The best way I can describe dancing is that it is either your job or your lifestyle.
I treat it as my job.