Charlie and I are pals from the old days, before we became strippers. Charlie’s part of the Canadian mafia (yes we all know each other and this is the only time I’ll ever admit that), and, like a lot of Canadians (myself included), yearns to earn that USD every once in a while.
[Jacq]:When did you start stripping?
[Charlie]: I wanted to be a stripper when I was 18, but my family and friends were like YOU ARE SO UNSTABLE, don’t do it. I was wise enough to wait a few more years, and first tried it when I was 24.
It was fucking weird. When I got on the stage, you have to pick a slow song and a fast song. The first song was - I’ll remember this til I die - LL Cool J, "Doin’ it Well" followed by Motley Crue "Looks that Kill." I was lucky because there were a few really friendly girls there who took me under their wing, and explained how it all worked. I thought they were just really high on speed, that's why they wanted to talk so much, but they showed me around, clapped for me when I went on stage, and made me feel like I wasn’t alone.
What do you love about it?
The freedom, man. Making your own fucking schedule. Deciding who you talk to. When we were bartending (editor’s note: Charlie and I used to bartend together before we each separately discovered the dark arts), you have to smile to anyone who comes up to the bar. You don’t have a choice in staying and being nice or leaving. If they're shitty, you still have to be nice to them. If you want to keep your job, you have to slap on a happy face.
With stripping, I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to. If I don’t want to talk to deal with someone's rude behavior or shitty attitude, I can walk away.
And, of, course, I love performing. I put so much time, work and love into my costumes and my stage shows. But it’s a labor of love, man.
So, like a lot of Canadians, you go down to Florida in the winter. The difference being that you go down to work, while the rest go to work on their sunburns. I worked without a visa in the states for a long time. It’s fucking stressful, man. The cash, the uncertainty, the glaring eyes of customs officers…
It’s fucking intense. I’m covered in tattoos, I’m definitely not the girl next door… I’m an artist, so even before I started stripping I would get pulled over at the border. So I always know to erase all evidence before I do any travel. Like, THEY WILL LOOK IN YOUR PHONE and if there’s ONE photo of you wearing plastic shoes, you’re fucking done, man.
I used to post my stripper gear in the mail. Do you do that?
Oh hell, yes. Like, I can bring bras and panties, but not if they’re the deep v-string, or clip-ons. I can bring normal lingerie, but not garter belts. So I shipped all my Agent Provocateur.
I would never wear Agent Provocateur at work! It’s too nice. No one appreciates it!
But in Miami, wearing expensive lingerie really makes a difference. I just sit there and drink champagne, and with this really ditzy voice say, “I don’t wanna take my bra off cuz the AC makes it sooooo cold.”
Here in Canada, if you wear Agent Provocateur, it’s too much... you seem unavailable and not human. When I wear a g-string and a cut up t-shirt, it's way more approachable.... I seem to change personalities from club to club. Here, I go by Charlie. But when I got to Miami, Charlie wasn’t working out. So I tried Nomi, Like Nomi Malone from Showgirls.
But it was too trashy! Then I met this gorgeous French girl. I admired the shit out of her. She was like, ‘You need an old name, something with CHARACTER.’ So I became Vivian, like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman.
Charlie is like the bachelor party bro-stripper, and Vivian is this classy lady of leisure with epic hair extensions and matte red lipstick.
I also found that I really had to try harder to ‘fit’ into a club that would take me since I never had papers.
I worked at this one club in Miami where they had three different managers for the audition. You had to get a 'yes' from all of them in order to get hired. And I got one 'no.' So I took a cab from one club to another, and they were all like, “You’re beautiful, but I can’t hire you without papers. And then one doorman said, “you’ve got tattoos, don’t even bother getting out of the cab."
One old guy who smelled like moth balls wouldn’t let me audition because my hair wasn’t long enough.
It’s really stressful, because you have to buy a plane ticket to get there, sort out accommodation, and after all that’s said and done, you don’t even know if you're going to get hired.
Stripping is hard enough as it is. You don’t know if you’re going to get hired, and if you do, once you get inside, the place might be empty. So being illegal, on top of that, is just fucking gruesome.
And it’s consuming. When I strip, I can’t do anything else in my life. It’s draining. When I work nights, I’m not able to be an artist during the day.
I’m the same. I find I need at least a week off if I want to get any writing done.
It’s so much work to always be smiling and nice and to fake being interested in somebody. It’s fucking DRAINING. It’s like, ‘Dude, if I saw you in the street, I wouldn’t even FART your way.’ It’s well paid, yeah, but fuck anyone who thinks it’s an easy job.
It used to be about shopping and travel, now it’s about my career and my art. I just turned 30, and I see things differently. And that makes NOW a better time to hustle than ever. I’m ready to take the money I make, and invest it in my career as an artist. That’s how I explain it to my boyfriend. I go to a place that’s safe and fun, and I use my body to make intelligent people so dumb that they become a human ATM.
To make art is to hustle. Hustle on, beauties.