T-Pain may have expressed it best singing, “I’m in love with a stripper” — because the truth is, he’s not the only one.
Throughout the world, women (and men) are removing clothing for money – and lots of it. While these entertainers are on the job, making cash, some are meeting their significant others, and falling in love, too.
We had to know what dating is like for those in the business.
Off the pole (but on the record), we chatted with two female strippers about how often they get hit on, how they meet men and how their stage names came to be.
Kitty Kat Demille (real name: Kat Thomas) is 38. She dances and lives in Las Vegas. Nya Lee (real name: Tolley Ingram) is 25 and resides in Fort Lee, NJ. The retired stripper is now pursuing a rap career.
Beyond stage names and dollar bills, here’s what really happens when clothes come off, and the lights turn on at the end of the night.
Do you prefer the term stripper or dancer or something else?
NL: It doesn’t matter to me. Girls get offended by the term, “stripper”, but it is what it is. I could care less.
KKD: I always say that I'm a “dancer who strips” versus a “stripper who dances” since my background is as a professional dancer and specialty artist. That being said, if I had to choose one, I'd call myself a Stripper. I know many professional dancers, but being a Stripper is something completely different. Most people think that being a Stripper is all about being sexy, but it’s really about being a mental ninja. I will tell you a secret: the prettiest girl at a club doesn't make the most money. Stripping is about sales, selling the commodity of your presence. For any sales job – really anything in life – the person who's the most confident wins the game.
How many years have you been in the industry?
NL: I’ve been Stripping since I was 18 [now 25].
KKD: I came to straight stripping only a few years ago, but I've been doing Burlesque for five years [now 38].
What was your first gig or introduction to the job? Where was it and what was that experience like?
NL: I entered an amateur strip club contest at Sin City in the Bronx, and I won. I won $500. My first gig was at Riviera in Queens. On my first day of work, I was nervous, but a b*tch made $1,200 on my first night! I was sold!
KKD: My first job in a strip club was two years ago. was living in Los Angeles as a freelance artist hurting for money. On a lark, I drove Las Vegas to try dancing. The first club I went to, I was hired on the spot! I was ready to work that night, but I didn't have my Sheriff's Card or Business Licenses – two things you need to work in Vegas. Stripping is a fun job, but it’s still a job with paperwork requirements. But after a few days getting documented and fingerprinted, I was ready to roll. The first few days of dancing, I was discovering what my boundaries are. Stripping is an industry where you learn what your lines are real quick: what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable; where people can touch you and where when they touch you you’ll slap them – playfully, of course, and then you’ll call them a “naughty” boys. There were lots of amazing experiences and lots of learning lessons on my way to becoming a mental ninja.
Do you choose your stage name?
NL: I chose the name Nya. No stripper ever uses her real name. I added on the last name Lee, because there was a ring to it. I have gone by the name Nya Lee from day one.
KKD: Yes, I, like most strippers, have had many. My burlesque name is Kitty Kat DeMille, so I usually try to do a derivation of that. It’s easier to remember that way. Stripper Names have included: Kitty, Selina, DeMille, etc. My first Stripper name was actually Suzy. The first day at my first club, I picked the name Kitty, unaware that this is one of the most popular names at a Strip Club. 24 hours later, I needed to find a new name, so my manager and I pulled out the trusty phone and Googled "Top 100 Stripper Names." Because I was working at Hustler– one of the largest Strip Clubs in Las Vegas – I went through all 100, with every name already in the computer. Because hundreds of girls dance there, there are strippers with stage names that are every type of sports car you can imagine – from Ferrari to Tesla, almost every state in the Union, and even numbers, such as Seven and Ten. In the end, my manager suggested Suzy. It wasn’t in the computer, so I became Suzy.
How many days, or nights, do you typically work a week?
NL: When I stripped, I worked 3-4 nights a week.
KKD: It really varies. If I don't have any other work that week – such as performing burlesque with companies such as Pin-Ups On Tour, The Green Light District, and Workin’ The Tease – then I'll try and work five days in a week, just like a regular job. The choice is really yours; Stripping is a fantastic job for anyone who likes to be their own boss. You're an Independent Contractor, which means you don't have a fixed schedule. As long as you can rock the audition process, you can walk into any club in the area, audition, and be working there 30 minutes later.
Are you in a relationship?
NL: I met my man in the Strip Club while I was stripping. He was the quiet dude in the corner. While other girls were flocking to the dudes spewing out dollars, I couldn’t help but notice E. He was in the corner alone, chillin’. I went over and offered him a lap dance. The rest is history. We have been together for three years.
KKD: I actually just started dating someone new. We've been dating a few months. It’s funny, we’re roommates. Because we were roommates from the beginning, he knew I was both a stripper and a burlesque dancer. He actually thinks its super cool. He appreciates the job in many ways: for the physical prowess of being a pole dancer, the mental ninja element, and the fact that he’s dating a stripper – which makes him awesome to his friends.
What was your last relationship like? How did you reveal your occupation?
KKD: With any romantic relationship, I always find it better to get in front of the bus when it comes to the fact that I take off my clothes in front of strangers for money, either as a Burlesque Dancer or a Stripper in a Strip Club. People are always as judgmental of you as you are apologetic. The more you're in front of the issue, the better off you are.
How do you typically meet men?
NL: I typically met them in the strip club, or at lounges where I am hosting events.
KKD: Really everywhere. The amazing thing about stripping is, as long as you have the mental fortitude for the industry your confidence will soar. And thus, you'll meet them everywhere because flirting becomes an absolute sport.
Is it difficult to maintain relationships in your line of work?
NL: There is a lot of jealousy with men in any industry. Some are understanding and know what it is.
KKD: Guys either get it or not. The ones who stick around – or that I let stick around – understand that I can make a lot of money at this game while not having a permanent schedule, and there are very few jobs like that. Jealousy usually shows up when they have their own issues with self-confidence. Insecurity is one of the unsexist attributes to me so I don’t usually keep those guys around. The nights can be hard if your honey works days, but like any good relationship, if you want it to work you’ll figure out at way.
Do you have kids? If so, do they know about your career?
NL: I am now the mother of an 18-month old daughter by the name of Winner. She is too young to know anything. I am transitioning my career now because of her.
KKD: I don't have kids. I have companies -- such as This Way Adventures, my creative media company, and The Green Light District, our cannabis entertainment company. I’ve never had to go to the bank and ask for a small business loan. My “daily grind” at the club is for them.
How often are you asked out by men at work?
NL: I have been asked out by men every single night of my stripping career. I would consider going out with them if he is well known and/or a celeb. I would never go out with an unknown. That would be spooky, right?
KKD: I get asked out practically every night I work. I fall into the "The Girlfriend Experience" at the club, which means everyone wants to take me home to their mom. For me, if I’m going to interact with you outside of the club I need a great connection. During my time stripping, I’ve connected with people both in romantic situations and in business situations. When I first started stripping, this was my biggest shock: how many people I met inside the club that I then went on to work with in a business capacity.
Is dancing forever? If not, how many more years will you likely be involved?
NL: Nah. Dancing is not forever. I retired because I met my man, fell in love, and had a baby. Now, I am pursuing my career in music full time.
KKD: Dancing was never forever. But, it has been a great side hustle as I transitioned from working for someone else to starting my own company. Because I was dancing, I never needed to get a small business loan – which was awesome. I'm on the tail end side of being the "pretty girl" – great genes and dark lighting have customers peg me 10 years younger than my actual age, including plastic surgeons – but that's okay, because striping has allowed me to grow into being financially independent. If you play it smart, stay broke: a.k.a. don't spend all your money on shoes and handbags, and invest wisely you can set yourself up for life. I know strippers who own five houses – five houses!
What is the biggest misconception about women, or men, in your industry?
NL: Everyone thinks that strippers f**k for money. That is not true. We go in, get our dance on, and get the f**k up out of the club. Period! If we are dancing, it is because we need the money to fund other things such as our family, career and/or education.
KKD: That we don't have anything inside our heads. Some of the smartest entrepreneurial females I've met out there are strippers. I was Phi Beta Kappa at Boston College, graduating Magnum Cum Laude. I'm the CEO of my company: This Way Adventures. I've written four books and three screenplays. I’ve performed in 29 states nationwide. I’ve produced burlesque shows in 45 states with my work with Pin-Ups on Tour, Workin’ The Tease, and The Green Light District. In the last five years, I’ve helped raised $50,000 for Veteran’s charities and $23,000 for Planned Parenthood. I'm a professional photographer with clients all over the country. I've had my artwork featured in art shows throughout Los Angeles.
Any rumors you’d like to put to rest?
NL: No. I don’t care about what anybody thinks of me.
KKD: Strippers are strong powerful females who were bored with the standard operating procedure when it came to life, so we chose a different story. It’s a story of hustle and grinding away, but it’s an absolute blast with lots of money to be made!
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