Your Body Looks Like a Stripper’s

When I was 13 years old, my good friend Caroline told me, ” Wow, Alex….your body looks like a stripper’s!” After she said that, I was beaming. I couldn’t help it. I thought to myself, “That is the nicest thing anyone has said to me all year!” I was being genuine. At the time, I was completely unaware of its fictitous association with human trafficking and prostitution.  I only understood a stripper to be somone who was womanly and confident about her body. When my friend said that my body looked like a stripper’s, to me she was saying as “Wow, Alex…your body looks very feminine!” ……and she was right! No one had ever told me that before. At 13, I had very curvy hips, thick thighs, a flat stomach, and perky breasts.

Earlier that year, my parents had sent me to an all girls boarding school  in VA, about 100 miles away from Harrisburg, PA, my hometown. In Harrisburg, PA, I was the only African-American student in my class from kindergarten to 8th grade. Because of presumed stereotypes of African-American culture, I was never viewed as attractive while I was growing up….at least it felt that way. No guys ever had crushes on me, no guys ever asked me out on dates, no girls ever gossiped about me going out with another one of my classmates. In their minds, the idea of me having a crush on a guy in my class was impossible. I specifically remember my classmate Angela in the 4th grade saying that I couldn’t have a crush on my classmate, Colin, because he was white. From then, I assumed since no boys in my classes had any crushes on me, that it was because I was black and my blackness made me “un-feminine” or not physically attractive.

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I carried that idea with me to boarding school at age 13. So when my friend Caroline told me that my body looked like a “stripper’s” I took it as, “Wow! Your body looks physically attractive. Guys are gonna love that!” I was a teenager. I meditated on that compliment for weeks. I felt attractive.

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My First Breakthrough Pole Dance Competition

The first time I ever strutted a two piece pole outfit and 5 inch high heels on a stage was in October 2010.  The event was Battle of the Pole Dance Studios hosted at a venue in Baltimore, MD.  It was group competition that I signed up for three months after I had just started poling. I’m certain that the only move that I could do properly was the pinwheel. The song we performed to was called “Porn Star Dancing.”

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I don’t remember any of it. I was too nervous wondering if one of my friends from college was in the audience.

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We won 1st place.

iLuv Curvy Girls

When I told one of my colleagues that I was writing a blog about plus sized women, the first thing he said  was this:

Honestly, Alex, I’m really attracted to women who are curvy and athletic! I’m not attracted to girls who are skinny at all. It looks weird to me. 

My two immediate thoughts were:

I really don’t care who you are attracted to. Wait….why are you telling me this? 

AND

You are probably saying this because I’m a curvy, athletic, woman standing right in front of you.

The truth is this: it’s so brainwashed into our minds that a women’s sole purpose in life is to be the object of a man’s affection; that her primary life goal is to find a husband, have children with him, cook, clean, and to help raise a family with him. We are that beautiful person that he has searched his whole life to find, right?

It’s brainwashed in our minds so much that my friend could not see the distinction between writing a blog about curvy women versus how much he finds curvy women attractive. He thought it was the same thing. These are two separate events: how a woman feels about herself and how a man is attracted to her. The fact that most people lump these two ideas together OR assume the later is a reflection of how we view women’s life purpose in our culture.

Pole = EMPOWERMENT

It might seem like a paradox, right? Most people believe that when a woman dances seductively at a party or a club, she is degrading herself. That dancing exotically makes her look cheap and that she gets around. When she exposes her body freely to everyone who wants to look, she is not modest. She is not embarrassed or bashful. She shows off her curves more and more with each angle that she creates with her body as she bends over and arches and crawls. If you told your everyday father that his daughter would grow up to become a pole dancer, I’m sure he would feel as if he had failed as a parent. So….why would this style of dance be empowering?

Understanding how pole is empowering can be a bit complicated, but let’s just start off by saying this: it’s not about your friends, your family, or anyone else in your social circle. It’s for you. Just you. It’s a way for you to become more self-aware and to become comfortable in your own skin. When I attend class, I don’t pole dance for other people. I pole dance for myself and to embrace myself. Instead of being the subject of other people’s desires, I am just embracing my own femininity and confidence.

While I was going through engineering school back in college, I quickly learned that in order for myself to be heard and taken seriously, I had to suppress my femininity. I had to act like one of the guys. This way, my male classmates would not dismiss my rational thoughts as emotional or fleeting. At the same time, I was a committed member of a religious student organization that lead women to believe that if we don’t want the men in our organization to be tempted, then we should always dress and behave modestly and also be aware of how our beauty can cause them to backslide….

….but once I started taking pole classes, I realized that was never my responsibility. The moment I started pole dancing was the moment I started to feel like myself again. Pole dancing allowed me to be feminine and sensual without feeling a sense of shame. When I’m in pole class, I begin to recognize who I am, what I look like, what my strengths and abilities are, and what I can challenge myself to learn and do. You would be surprised to find out how many people don’t know what their own bodies look like.

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For most members of the pole community that I know, this is our mindset during class. When we dance, we are saying:

This is my gorgeous body. This is my femininity. We are not ashamed of it. We embrace it. We feel positively about ourselves.  We don’t feel contempt towards or guilt about our bodies.  We are not hiding our femininity to make other people feel better about their social standards or moral conduct. Their moral conduct is not our responsibility. Our responsibility is to be ourselves. We acknowledge that we are strong and beautiful as we dance. We love ourselves for it.

Good Morning! It’s a Beautiful Day to Pole Dance.

I took my very 1st exotic dance class in June 2010 at a studio called Body Talk. I was invited by one of my friends from my bible study. One of our girlfriends was getting married and she wanted to surprise her by taking a class with her. Since our bible study focused on and strictly practiced abstinence, it was really meant to try to help her get ready for her big day. But only one month after my attending my undergraduate graduation ceremony, going to a pole dance class was the last thing on my mind. Nevertheless, I went so that I could support my friend.

We took a chair class and I wore a black wife beater, grey basketball shorts, and black 3 inch heels (the tallest heels I owned at the time.) I was a little nervous and uncomfortable at first, but as the class went on, I realized that it wasn’t as taboo as I thought. After the class, the instructor gave a pole dance demo. She climbed up the pole, went upside down, wrapped her leg around the pole, came right side up, and dropped down to the ground into a split. I was done. It was love at first sight. I knew I had to pole dance.

Four years later, I’m still pole dancing. I’ve visited several pole studios along the East Coast. I’ve competed in 4 local and 2 regional pole fitness competitions.  Did I place in any of them? Nope. But that’s no biggie. Pole dance, like any art form, is always a work in progress.  I’ve become stronger, more flexible, and more coordinated. Most importantly, my confidence has sky rocketed!

This blog is for:

  • anyone in the pole community (curvy or not)
  • people who are curious about trying out a pole dance class
  • people who are just beginning to pole dance
  • full-figured women who are learning to pole dance
  • full-figured women who are looking to compete or perform in competitions

I’ll be sharing tips on:

  • Pole Dance Fundamentals
  • How to Pole Dance as someone who is curvy / full-figured
  • How to improve your pole technique
  • Exercises that can help with your pole dance training

I’ll also be sharing with you my personal stories as a pole dancer/ fitness athlete/ performer/ aerialist/ whatever floats your boat. ;D

Thank you for reading my first post! I’d love to hear from you. Leave comments below and let me know what you would like to learn more about or if you have any questions. Of course, if I see any comments that have profane or indecent language; threats or defamatory statements, hate speech of race, color, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, age, religion, or disability; or promote or endorse services or products, I will delete them. You can also reach me at curvypoledancer at gmail dot com. Happy Poling!