Guest Blog – Camille Adair

Today’s guest blog is by Camille Adair, a former stripper from Southern America, A region known for its racist roots. In this blog post, Camille bravely opens up to tell us her story of what it was like to be a woman of color working in the strip club.

I entered sex work as soon as I was legal. So, by the time I started dancing, at 19, at the very least i thought I knew my niche. My first club was such a good Baby’s First Club experience. I had a schedule, a mentor who gave me a lap dance to teach me lap dances, and this club literally would pay you hourly on top of your tips. If i were a white or Asian woman, this would’ve been my home club.

The patrons were all kind and regulars, the weekends always jumped off. The only issue: I’m not the fetish any mass patronage is looking for in the south. I’m a black woman. I remember already being so nervous and uncomfortable, playing musical chairs with patrons on my first night, trying to get my first dance. Time after time, i would ask, “hehe, is anyone sitting here? Can i sit with you, babe?” Without fail, they would flat out tell me no. It wasn’t uncommon in the beginning of my career to catch me playing pool awkwardly on the sidelines trying to get myself back in the game after being rejected so many times. As i got better, as I got more confident, it got easier to deal with, and i stopped feeling like i was less than, and started being able to see that something was up. I was a great dancer, I was alluring, I was witty, my ass was fat. I was worth money and I was putting in the work, so where was the pay off?

I changed clubs and moved to my hometown. In my shitty town, we had a tragic club shooting that changed the dynamics of the club culture. I remember a DJ very, very frankly making conversation with me about how he wished he could play really good hip hop for me per my request,“but,” he said, “you know that’s really why the {club} got shot up.” I genuinely could not believe in this era of time, I had to listen to someone tell me that hip hop is still the reason for street violence. This was a microaggression that started what became resentment for the club experience. I wasn’t allowed to listen to raunchy, rowdy music. Yet the favored white dancer could listen to all the Kendrick Lamar she could squeeze into a set. It was so blatant as to telling me all my cute chocolate euphemism based names weren’t gonna work. I was told they weren’t believable. I started going by Chase, as opposed to Dove, and Godiva, as all the white women were Vixens and Mystique and Other-Totally-Believable- Names. *cue eyeroll*

So, I dove right into my attempts at assimilation. I tried wigs, i tried fingerless gloves, i tried different make up styles. I tried different dark skinned nationalities, i tried accents. I wanted to make myself approachable and appease the customer base. When i wore my fingerless gloves, i was asked if i identifies as punk. I said, “haha, yes! I was punk in the womb!” To which he replied, “but aren’t you colored?” That ended my journey with assimilation.

I went back to braids, and they were well received in my “mixed” club. My favorite compliments were nights when management would tell me how “not ghetto” they looked, because just “beautiful” is too much to ask for. The double edged sword with my braids were the customers. I was finally getting attention, from men who’ve “always loved black women” to “have never been with a black woman”. Ironically, i think in my entire experience as a dancer, I sold a dance to only one black man (who absolutely loved me), but the rest would pass me by! It was so indicative of my life here in the south. Non black men are one thing, but black men in the south don’t want black women either, at least not my shade.

Naturally, as i start to acclimate, the issues began. I had a manager have another dancer come tell me one night that i smelled bad. She was so embarrassed but i wasn’t, i was obviously grateful. She would later tell me they were legitimately trying to harass me. If It wasn’t this, or that i didn’t comparably make enough money to be there, or that i was fat, it was ultimately the day i got hit by a car. They wouldn’t let me come back to work saying that It was a liability issue. I was fine with that, until I started receiving messages from the girls I worked with. Management was literally bragging about finally firing me. In the end, It wasn’t me who called them on their racism. It was the white women who I worked with. My mistreatment in the club scene was an EVERYDAY occurrence, whether i had a good day or not, i had to brave some form of racism/microaggression that day. It never came from my coworkers. I was always lucky enough to work with good women. It was always unfortunately the men in the scene that absolutely could not stand me.

I want to brainstorm at this point about how to change the industry for WOC but that’s loaded. WOC are born into these transgressions. They deal with It everywhere and in every job. This one isn’t any different than an office job. We speak on social justice as It applies to as as human beings, but we all know social justice ain’t sexy. Men aren’t here to respect us, they’re here to pay us. For a woman of color to survive the industry, she needs support. I was so grateful to find support groups online, to find solidarity and to see and witness my very narrative retold and retold over again. I’ve befriended so many WOC, in other countries, continents even, that preach about the global issue of Anti-Black women. I’ve been guided on so many tips to help me hustle, and help me cope. WOC need to know they are fetishilized, and if they want that money, they have to work harder than the other women in the club to earn It. Hype yourself up, chant the money chants of your ancestors, and lift yourself up. Don’t do this alone. Reach out to your friends, because It is exhausting to be disrespected every single day. I did it, i survived it, and i don’t regret a day of my life i spent doing it. I am 10X stronger than I’ve ever been because of my transgressions.

You can keep up to date with Camille by following her Instagram here.

Have you experienced racism/discrimination while working in a strip club? Please get in touch, your voice matters!

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