I started dancing when I was eighteen. First year out on my own, starting college and all in Chicago. Far from close family and friends. It was my way of forcing myself to open up. I was a really shy person growing up. Quiet and reserved, unless I was performing. The stage or the ice is where I got it all out of my system without saying a word. I needed to move somewhere I would be left to my own devices and learn to function on my own. It was very hard and sometimes it felt like I could’ve given up.
I grew up being the middle child of five. I finished high school, and got my diploma for cosmetology at the same time. I figure skated since the age of 4-5 and competed all through until I graduated high school. Took ballet classes and even tried some other dance classes. I needed the ballet in order to keep skating because I am pigeon toed. Some days I still feel the effects of it and it kind of hurts my hips or my legs are just in throbbing pain and I cannot sleep comfortably. All in all I was always busy. I had great friends and wonderful times I will never forget with them, while growing up. But moving to Chicago was big for me. It was a move I will never regret.
My first few nights in Chicago alone were difficult. I stayed up all night staring out the window of my student apartment on the forty first floor of the Presidential Towers. Watching the traffic on the Kennedy get busy and then almost empty. I drank a lot of mountain dew and was addicted to honey roasted peanuts. It was my comfort food. My roommate hadn’t moved in yet. So it was very lonely and being as shy I was, I felt a little restless with no way to fix it. Eventually she moved in and it was nice to finally have someone to talk to. She was outgoing and loud but very funny and a sweet girl. We got along really well. I told her I was going to start looking for work because I knew my parents really couldn’t afford to send me much and I wasn’t expecting them too. I was now on my own and I understood what that meant. School started and as I got used to my schedule I started the search for a job. And finally I realized with my schedule that it was going to be very difficult to have a job and go to school. So I started looking at clubs. I was nervous as all hell but something had to give.
I emailed The Admiral Theatre, over on the north side of the city at Lawrence and Pulaski. They asked me for a few photos before telling me to come in and audition. That emailing alone was full of excitement as I might have a new job, and a chance to really do things for myself. I got an email back within an hour telling me to come in that night to audition in front of the director at the time (who used to be a dancer), and two managers. My roommate and a few of our friends came with me but they stayed in the lobby or right out front while I auditioned. I had prepared myself all day for it. I knew I could perform no problem, but strip…fully nude? Totally different story.
I wore these really awesome 7in black, closed toed heels that I got my junior year from a friend. A skirt I got before tenth grade started, and a tank top I had. Obviously I wore undergarments but I always remembered that first impression in anything is important. I talked to the director and one of the managers before going up. She was a nice girl and wasn’t even there much longer afterwards. Never saw her again. The manager that I talked to that night was a shorter gentleman, dressed nicely in a suit and was very polite. But he flat out told me almost immediately, “If we do not hire you, it’s not because you aren’t a pretty girl, you just may not be our type of girl.” He told me that before I even got out of the chair onto the little side stage to dance. My face of course was red the whole way through because I was so nervous. I finally got up and did it. My moves were lacking a lot as I really didn’t know what to do. Another manager sat on the other side of the stage during the audition. After the songs were done they said I could get dressed and come down. When I sat back down all three of them were smiling, these huge and quite welcoming smiles. They told me I had nothing to worry about and that I was hired. Asked when I could start and told me I needed to figure out a name. I told them I could start that Saturday and I would figure a name out.
When I walked out of there I met up with my friends and told them the news. They were so excited for me! Those friends actually made me feel like I could do it and already got the job before I walked in so to come out to that and hear the congratulations from them was a reward in itself. We all got into a cab, went back to PT and apparently they had already set up to celebrate before we left, while I was in class. We get back to the apartment and they started making dinner and called a few more friends over and we all just hung out for the night and enjoyed some really good Mexican food. It was phenomenal. I finally had done something that said hey, I can do this too.
That Saturday I was given the name Natali by another girl, and it was my first night. I made over $500 that night. And I didn’t even talk to people. I didn’t get the chance. I was slowly learning the ways of a stripper. It is a very slow process. I was the baby there. The youngest, I always looked the youngest, and was always working. I call the first phase or few awkward months of dancing the ‘Baby Stripper Phase’ because we are awkward and clunky, a bit clueless and have a false attitude about it. It’s when we make it past that phase that we really are entertainers, and hustlers.
Think what you want about the industry, but we work hard as hell to keep other people happy and to enjoy their night out. We don’t go out and party, we are working those nights of the parties. We are paying our bills and making sure we have everything taken care of. Slowly you’ll see we really are not all bad. Sure there are some bad apples, but every job and position has them. It’s how society as a whole looks at them and stereotypes them. Warning you now, I will be breaking the stripper stereotype, and maybe a few others. I am so far from any stereotype that I really, can’t be labeled with just one label. Nope.