Arts & Culture

Auntie Penelope’s Advice for Baby Strippers

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Hello, there! I’m Leilah (stripper name: Penelope). I’m a writer, creator, host of A Stripper’s Guide Podcast, and the founder of A Stripper’s Guide: life, leadership, and relationship coaching for queers, creatives, and sex workers.

In this column, I typically write about the intersection of sex work and broader social issues, but, today, I’m taking it in a different direction. Today, I’m giving advice for new strippers. So listen up, Buttercup.

I’ve been a stripper for seven years. About three years into my career, my club made me a trainer for fresh hires. Since then, dozens of new dancers (known in the industry as “baby strippers”), and people thinking about dancing, have contacted me through social media or mutual friends, asking if they can bend my ear for some startup advice. I’m always happy to chat with new and prospective strippers about the basics, but, I do so on such a regular basis, I figured I might as well put the bulk of it here in one place, in case you or someone you know needs some ground-floor advice.

I have learned several important things through the process of onboarding new dancers: one, there is a predictable set of questions for which new strippers need answers. Two, there are some things new strippers need to know, but don’t know they need to know. Lastly, looking back, I realize that if I’d had some guidance early in my stripper career, I could have fast-tracked to more consistent income. Since I didn’t know any strippers when I started out, and didn’t know it was okay to ask questions, I learned by making a lot of avoidable mistakes. I hope that, after you finish reading this, you’ll be able to sidestep some of the errors that marked my early stripper days.

Baby Stripper FAQs

Q: I’m worried because I don’t know how to pole dance. Should I take lessons before I audition at a strip club?

A: Please do not delay auditioning for this reason!! There are plenty of clubs that won’t require you to do pole tricks. If you want to learn to pole dance because you think pole dancing is cool, go for it, but, in many clubs, it has very little bearing on your hireability. I, personally, have never done a pole trick at work, although I do them sometimes in my living room for fun. That being said, definitely call ahead and ask the club (or visit it) to find out whether they require you to do pole tricks.

Q: What’s the audition process like?

A: Every club is a little bit different, but, typically, you’ll have to dance on a stage for one song or less, and strip down to that club’s “bare minimum” (lol). For example, if you’re auditioning at a topless-only club, you’ll likely have to get topless. If you’re auditioning for a fully nude club (as is the case with most Massachusetts clubs), be prepared to get fully nude. Understand that you are auditioning for an industry with patriarchal beauty standards, and, so, removing body hair for your audition is probably a good idea.

Q: What should I wear to my audition?

A: This is one of the need-to-know questions that people rarely ask me, because, if you’ve never stripped before, you may not realize every strip club has its own dress code. For example, some clubs don’t allow sheer lingerie, some clubs require you to wear a robe on the dance floor, and some clubs require you to wear dresses instead of lingerie. Every time you’re preparing to audition, call ahead and ask the club about the audition process and dress code. If you’re new to dancing, do this before you buy a bunch of new outfits. When buying your audition outfits, please, please ensure that they are easy to take off! Anything complicated, such as corsets, button-downs, and even some zipper closures, are never a good idea, and especially not for your audition. Go with something easy to remove, and, even better, something that slips down your body instead of up over your head (over-the-head is a threat to your balance, as well as your hair and makeup, especially if you wear wigs).

Q: I’m scared I’ll break my ankle in stripper shoes. How do you walk in those things?!

A: I think of stripper shoes as the “sneakers of high heels”. They are actually very sturdy, as far as platform stilettos are concerned. You can find them at your local stripper store or online, and sometimes even at a regular sex shop. Get a simple pair with an ankle strap to begin, and, if you’re intimidated by very tall heels, start off with a 6” heel height. Pro tip: if you’ve got a pair with clear plastic that goes across your foot, blow a hair dryer over that part (for no more than five seconds!) before you slip your feet in. That will form the shoe to your foot and help you avoid blisters.

Q: I’m a plus-sized person, will I get hired?

A: Not at every club, but there are definitely clubs that are size-inclusive, though it may take some trial and error to find them. For anyone new to dancing, or even those who are just switching clubs, I recommend visiting new clubs as a patron before you audition as a dancer. That’ll give you a feel for the demographics, of both dancers and customers alike.

If you are not thin, white, or cisgender passing, you may experience hiring discrimination. I’m not telling you that because I think you’re unaware of the possibility; I’m saying it because the strip club industry is wildly unregulated and the discrimination you may face could be more blatant or extreme than in other industries. And it will not stop at the audition. Especially if you are not white. If you work at a club that caters mostly to white customers, you will experience racial fetishization and discrimination from the customers, the management, and, sometimes, other dancers. That being said, there is a thriving community of support online for all dancers, and particular support for those of marginalized identities. There are also plenty of Black-dominant strip clubs throughout the US, particularly in the South, and a sparse scattering of queer ones. I encourage you to listen to this podcast episode, where I interview four of my Black/AfroLatinx colleagues about racial discrimination in our industry. It’s an important issue for all strippers and non-strippers to be consciously aware of and engaged with; especially if you’re a white dancer, you must learn how to show up for your BIPOC colleagues. We are all in an industry that requires immense psychological fortitude, and dancers supporting dancers is a crucial element of our ecosystem.

What You Need to Know, But Probably Don’t Know You Need to Know

Once the basic FAQs are answered, a lot of strippers stop asking questions. I suspect that this is because learning the basics means we gain a ton of knowledge very quickly, and that type of quick learning curve can trick the human brain into thinking it knows all it needs to know to survive in a given situation. While it is true that adhering to basic audition instructions can give you access to a job at a strip club, it’s also true that, once you’re in there, you need to learn how to do your job. Yes, you need to learn how to give a lap dance, how to check in with the DJ, and how to pay your house fees– those are the “hard skills”, and someone will teach you, probably during your first shift. But what you also need to learn are the soft skills– how to approach customers, how to cultivate and sell them a unique experience, how to handle rejection without letting it ruin your attitude, and how to work together with your colleagues.

How to Approach Customers

How to approach customers, and how to cultivate and sell them a unique experience, are not skills you will master quickly. It is a common misconception that strippers just show up, look pretty, and money falls on us. No. Our job is mostly about showmanship and the ability to entertain. We must adapt to the energy and personality of each unique customer, and figure out how to keep him spellbound. You will learn to do this, and become great at it, through a combination effort: you must be willing to try and fail, and try again, and fail again, and so forth. You must learn to read the person in front of you, and read him for the right factors: how much money he is able to spend, what he is looking for, whether he even knows what he’s looking for, and, most importantly, whether he is willing to receive the type of experience that you can offer him.

A hugely helpful way to gain these skills is to work with other dancers. I still gain skills all the time by teaming up with, and observing, my colleagues.

The Most Common Baby Stripper Trap: He Who Hath No Intention of Paying You

If a customer shows no interest in lap dances, but he talks your ear off in exchange for buying you drinks, he’s likely a long-time patron who preys on the vulnerabilities of novice dancers. He’s relying on the idea that you think you need to “practice” having conversations with customers. He’s wrong. You need to practice on customers who might actually pay you; those are the customers who are willing to receive your services. Strip club patrons who refuse to pay strippers are obsessed with power and control, even if they seem mild-mannered, or they have a vivid fantasy where strippers just like them so much that we don’t mind it that they never pay. You do not need to practice on he who hath no intention of paying you. That won’t sharpen your skill set. Learning to reject him will. Learning to reject him is a practice in protecting your boundaries, so you can save your energy for an actual paying customer.

On that note, please, heed Auntie P when I say: don’t ever take advice about stripping (or any form of sex work) from your customers. Take advice only from your colleagues, especially those of us with years of experience.

Working With Your Colleagues

As a new stripper, or even if you’ve danced before and you’re just new to a particular club, it’s important to form alliances with other new dancers. The club can be competitive (healthy competition will help you sharpen your tools, but some clubs can be real cut-throat, and you need allies). Veteran dancers at a given club have the automatic advantage of knowing each other and knowing the customer base. It’s important that you work with other new dancers so you can share skills and strategies, and start to make some money together. That doesn’t mean you have to be friendly towards, or want to work, with everyone, but see who you vibe with, and learn who has your back.

As important as it is to work with new dancers, it’s equally, if not more, important that you put yourself out there and work with the OG dancers at your club. There’s a lot you can learn from them. Be open-minded, be willing to learn, be humble, but don’t be afraid to approach established dancers and ask if you can team up with them. Some might snub you, but don’t give up if that happens– some will be happy to help. When you collaborate with more experienced dancers, observe them. Watch how they talk to customers; pay attention to how they overcome price objections and make sales.

Just as with other baby strippers, you will find vets you click with and some that you don’t. Work with people who align with your energy, and work with those who protect and respect your boundaries (physical boundaries, as well as boundaries with substances like drugs and alcohol). Never let anyone, including another dancer, pressure you into something you’re not comfortable with.

I hope this was helpful! If you have other questions about dancing, or want to work with me 1:1 as your coach, contact me on Instagram.

Good luck out there, and make that shmoney!
Xo,
P

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