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Tales from the strip club: Kitana



This tall Asian beauty was hard to miss in the club. Being about a foot shorter than her, I had the pleasure of talking to her boobs most of the time. If there was drama or a stripper beef in the club, it never involved Kitana. She had the type of presence and personality that forced you to smile around her. She was someone that no matter what kind of night I was having, I was happy to have there.

Kitana grew up in a happy two parent home. She had a typical and healthy home life as a kid. Growing up in a liberal Lutheran household, she now identifies as Atheist. Her parents were happily married until her father passed when she was in her thirties. She went to public school with the exception of one year of private Christian school. She graduated with honors, earned a scholarship to a four-year college, was on the Dean's list and ultimately finished with a Master's degree in English Lit.

After earning her bachelor's degree and moving to California from the northeast, she went with her husband along with another couple to the strip club. After a couple of trips, she decided to try amateur night, which also served as audition night. She got some advice from someone she knew and spent some time practicing for her first stage.  Despite thinking that she was prepared, her first stage was a self-described disaster. She said she was all over the place. With one of her friends going so far as to say she looked like a frenetic dog looking for its bone. She gave it another try, made second place, and was hired that night.

Kitana was in her mid-twenties and married when she started stripping. Having recently moved to California, the strip club was a place for her to make friends and earn cash while she worked on her master's degree. Many women start stripping much younger, usually before they can even legally drink. Starting later gave Kitana an edge on those who didn't have as much life experience or maturity. Having a clearer sense of self and image, makes avoiding the pitfalls such as drugs or toxic relationships easier to avoid.

She didn't avoid all the hard lessons though. One of the first pieces of advice she received from another dancer was to wear regular heels as opposed to the high platform stripper heels. Stripper heels have a high platform that gives the illusion of a higher heel without the discomfort. Kitana being the smart cookie she is, switched from the ill-suggested regular heels to the more appropriate stripper heels after only one painful night shift.

"She told me 'Don't get those stripper heels, just wear regular high heels.' Which was the worst advice anyone ever gave me. My feet hurt so bad, after only one shift."

Growing up in a Christian household, she wasn't completely comfortable with nudity or being nude. But she was able to compartmentalize herself being nude at the club while performing, as opposed to being naked in a different context. Like most other dancers, she enjoyed being on stage but didn't have a performer mode as some develop. Some performers create almost a separate sense of self on stage. Kitana didn't feel that however, she was the same person on and off stage as she was in the rest of her life. While she liked to perform, she didn't do it for the attention, so much as just the sheer joy of performing itself.

"I felt weird about being naked, and thought this might help me get over some of that."

Many strippers enjoy the stage and the sense of validation it brings. They talk about finding confidence, self-esteem and a strong sense of self. Perhaps because she was relatively older when she started, she already had that confidence and was comfortable with who she was. She didn't need to find herself because she became a stripper with all that figured out. While that didn't protect her from the bad shoe advice, I think it protected her from what can be the mental and emotional struggles that often come with the profession. Kitana never felt empowered because she never felt like she lacked power in the first place. Rather she describes feeling in power, because she was always in command.

"The feeling of being on stage is not an act of exhibitionism, as some may think. We are dancing in a sexual manner, and the fact that we have no clothes on is kind of irrelevant, to a degree. Instead of people applauding us, they throw money."

Being Asian worked to her advantage. Being a fetish served her well inside the strip club especially because she looked quintessentially Asian and was thin with big boobs. She doesn't remember guys specifically telling her they liked Asian women. But she says that walking around in the world as an Asian woman she became kind of desensitized to the fetishization of Asian women and learned to ignore it most of the time.

She was never one to beg for, or as is usually referred to, hustle for dances. Many times lap dances require an extensive sales pitch, but Kitana had a more cavalier approach. If they wanted a dance great, if not that was fine too. Their acceptance or refusal only impacted her pocket book and not her self-worth. This is an attitude and outlook that is not only rare, but difficult to attain. She knew at the end of the day what these random guys thought about her didn't matter. When customers walk through the door, they relinquish all control. The strip club was her domain as it is for all strippers. She is the one who makes them feel good because a pretty girl is listening to them. Whatever their motivations are for coming in to the club, she had the final say in what happens. Whether that means she is fulfilling a fantasy, lending a sympathetic ear, or they were just trying to get off, she was the one in control.

Kitana didn't mind lap dancing. She remembers most of the customers that she danced for were respectful. Most of them were lonely, looking for companionship, and sometimes conversation. She says about 70% were cool, while the other 30% not so much. But the not so great ones tended to be easy to forget. The pleasant ones often became regulars and friends in some capacity.

"Some were really cool, some were not so cool. 70% were the shit, while 30% were just shitty. A lot of them were lonely; they just wanted someone to talk to."

She had a great relationship with the staff and the girls. She showed up and did her job, and didn't ruffle any feathers. Kitana never did any drugs, or drank at work. Kitana only recalls one unpleasant incident with a customer where she was disappointed with how one of the mangers handled it. After a customer exposed himself during a lap dance, she stopped the dance and told a manager. Rather than simply throw the guy out, he was almost coddled before being asked to leave. But because she always felt in control in the strip club, staying away from both difficult customers, other entertainers and staff was easier for her. So she didn't have many instances like this.

Kitana was concerned about the stigma of being a stripper though. She didn't tell any of her family, and some of them still don't know. She was hesitant to tell new friends and only did so after attaining a certain level of comfort with them. It's hard to know how people will react when you tell them that you are or were a stripper. She is less hesitant now to tell people, but is still cautious.

While she was still dancing, she interviewed with a prospective employer. An admitted wine snob, Kitana applied to work evenings at a restaurant in their wine shop. The interview went well and the person she interviewed with pretty much offered her the job on the spot. But when he asked about her other job and she told him that she worked part time as a stripper. She didn't receive a call back.

"At the end of the interview he asked about my day job, and I told him I was a dancer. His entire demeanor changed and I never heard from him."

Kitana is completely supportive of stripping and sex work in general. She feels like more oversight will make it safer and a viable job option for many. She would tell women that are thinking about being a stripper to have a backup plan, go to school. Treat it like a job, stay away from drugs and alcohol. Don't go into dancing because you want approval, adulation or validation from men because you think it will fill some void you have. Kitana did things a little backwards having started dancing already having a boob job, being married, and already completed most of her schooling gave her a huge advantage.

Kitana liked dancing but the second it started to feel like a job, it wasn't as fun anymore. She danced for seven years from 1999 to 2007. When she finished her master's, she quit. She is now a freelance writer, editor and proofreader.

*Originally published by Only Sky Media

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