My Dear Anushka, the Stripper


shoe pile 2


It was a while before I finally found out that Anushka had been stripping. She had probably been at it for a good month or two before I caught her out, which is impressive since we live in a small flat together and have relatively little privacy.

One afternoon we were expecting a group of friends around for supper. I had finished making lamb curry (microwaved from Tesco’s) plus some fluffy rice and angero (not from Tesco’s), so I was focusing on looking presentable before everyone came over. Anushka was still in the kitchen working on her kapsa (Saudi chicken and rice).

I asked her if I could borrow a scarf of hers I liked. “Sure,” she said “It’s in my wardrobe somewhere. Go have a look and if you can’t find it I’ll help you.” So I went to her room to search for it. Now, it’s rarely easy to find anything in Anushka’s room. She is great at keeping the rest of the flat clean, but her room invariable looks as though it has been hit by a hurricane. Simply walking over to the other side, a mere four meters or so, can be extremely hazardous. It was tidy once, but this was long before she had moved in. Nevertheless, I made it over to her wardrobe without breaking anything. With difficulty, I manage to open her wardrobe doors and an avalanche of shoes come flying out. Anushka really is a shoe queen. I swear, she must have at least fifty pairs of shoes in there, which is incredible as it is such a tiny box-sized thing.

I find the scarf, the green McQueen, on the top of a pile towards the left side and put it on. Not bad, I thought to myself. Only the scarf’s skull design, it did give me a slight “Somali Pirate” look. I then gazed at Anushka’s massive shoe collection in chaotic pile at the bottom of the wardrobe. She has so many wonderful shoes. If we were the same size, I would borrow them whenever possible. At the top of the pile I could see a fair few impressive labels. It was too tempting not to have a quick rummage while I had the chance.

I dug in and began to explore. A pale pink Miu Miu mule sat at the top. An understated, yet sleek black kitten heel by Prada. A brightly coloured ballet pump decorated with cherry blossom by Mary Katrantzou. Many red soled Louboutins. How did she ever manage to find pairs? No wonder she was always running late! Then, my fingers wrapped around what looked like a clear plastic stripper shoe. Huh, she must have bought this to take to pole class. That’ll be interesting to see, I thought. She’s only danced in flats and bare feet before. Now I really wanted to fit in her shoes. Curse my big feet! I went rummaging again to see if I could at least find its partner. I didn’t find the pair to the clear stripper heel, but what I did find was even more interesting.

It was a giant stripper shoe with a platform decorated with a pattern of pound notes, Euros and Dollar bills, plus some I didn’t recognise. Then I looked closer and saw that it wasn’t just a pattern. The platform was stuffed full cash! And there was a wee slit on the side with Tips in big golden letters. What had I just found? The heel had to be a good eight inches tall! I was fairly dumbstruck for a minute before deciding that there was probably a very ordinary explanation. Anushka hoarded all kinds of one-of-a-kind shoes in her collection. Mind you, I suppose being a stripper was indeed a fairly ordinary explanation looking back.

I decided to question her quickly before our guests came. “Hey, Anushka! Are you sure the scarf looks alright?”

“Come here and show me then!” Drat, I had forgotten she would still be cooking. I could hear the voice of our other flatmate, so didn’t dare take the show out to her.

“Please? It will only take a minute. And I’m trapped in your maze of a room.”

She gave a heavy sigh. “Really? Fine I’m coming. If my rice burns it’s your fault.” As soon as she popped in, I practically shoved the shoe in her face.

“What is this?!” I said waving it around like a loony.

Anushka’s facial expression froze for a few seconds before she collected herself. “You found them! That’s where I keep my cash stashed for emergencies. I haven’t been able to find it in ages! Thanks!”

“You’re telling me you use stripper shoes as some kind of piggy bank? Huh.” I was a bit crestfallen then. That actually made sense. But wait a minute… “So you keep like seven different currencies in here just in case?”

“Leftover money from holidays and stuff. Yeah.”

Drat. That checked out too. But hang on… “Okay, okay. Yeah, I see the leftover Euros from Spain in there. And the Austrailian Dollars from that trip you were talking about. But what about the Hong Kong Dollars? You’ve never been there.”

My aunt gave those to me because they look cool.” She told me coolly.

“Your aunt just gave you three $1,000 bills as a keepsake? I know your family has money and all, but come on! That’s like, 90 quid each! And three 1,000 bills look exactly the same.”

And then she crumbled. She closed the door hastily and hissed at me. “Okay, fine. But you must swear what I tell you must not leave this room.”

“I knew it!” I hissed back. “Why Annie, why?!” I was both shocked and fascinated. Shocked that Anushka had hidden something like this from me and that, well, it was Anushka doing something like this. Had it been one of my non-Muslim friends, I would probably still have been shocked, but not like this. I was also fasinated about the whole thing. What did she get into it? Why did she do it? It certainly wasn’t for the money. What was it like?

I bombarded her with questions until the smoke alarm went off.




From Ballerina to Rocking the Pole

Something that provokes curiosity in both the other girls and customers alike is how does someone go from being a good Muslim girl to a stripper in the first place? While I can’t speak for the few other Muslim dancers I have heard about, I can attempt to explain my own story and a bit of Anushka’s since she was the one who lead me into it. Truth be told, it was a slow process. I’ll start with our first transition from classical dancer/non-dancer to a rather modern type.

When I was little, I used to do ballet. I was fairly good at it and moved up grades with relative speed. I often got a lead role in the end of term show and even won some competitions back in the day. This was put to an end when hit puberty at around twelve and I began to develop hips, a bum and a hint of bosom. Several of my aunts began hinting to my parents that perhaps I was a bit old to be doing this type of dancing as I had to wear such form fitting gear. My parents eventually agreed and forbid me to carry on dancing. I loved ballet and was deeply saddened by this.  I now know that it is in fact possible to pursue ballet while wearing more appropriate clothing. A quick Google on “Muslim dancer” or “Muslim ballerina” can show you.



Once I was in my first year at university, I had a quick look through all the different sports and activities offered at the Sports Union. Seeing that they did ballet classes, I immediately knew which I wanted to do. No one could stop me from dancing now!

I told Anushka, one of my flatmates, that I had decided to take up ballet again and how excited I was by it. Her eyes lit up and she suggested we do some type of dancing together. Since she had never done ballet before, we decided to choose something we were both beginners at so we could be in the same class.

The Sports Union at uni didn’t have a suitable ballet class for me since they were all aimed at beginners. Anushka and I then started to search for a local dance center where I could find a good ballet class and where we could find a class that the two of us liked. We found one and began to search through all the differnt kinds of lessons they offered. Salsa? Nah. Ballroom? Nope. Tap and jazz? Meh. Then Anushka caught sight of something that made her almost squeal. “Oh look Henna, they do pole dancing! How cool it that!” I eyed her suspiciously, nope sure if she was being sarcastic or was genuinely intrigued by the pole dancing classes. “Seriously, pole dancing? No offence, but I think you’s make a really funny pole dancer. In fact. so would I.”

This made her grin more. “Exactly! Let’s do it for a laugh! Look, it’s an all girls’ class, so no harm in doing it. And besides, I hear it’s really good exercise. Pole is probably much better at toning all your muscles than ballet.”

She had a point. Plus, it would be funny to see the look on people’s faces whenever we told them we did pole dancing. It was decided. Plus, it turns out you can also do pole dancing while modestly dressed. It’s just much harder to grip onto the pole.



Pole dancing is great fun and really is fantastic for the body. I also know a few blokes who take pole dancing just to tone up and increase their overall strength. There is absolutely nothing wrong with your average Muslimah taking pole lessons. Most of the girls we took the classes with had never seen the inside of a strip club, let alone worked in one. It is essentially a form of vertical gymnastics that takes years of training to perfect. There were other factors that played a part in Anushka and I turning from vertical gymnasts to fully fledged strippers.

“You know you’re a stripper when…”

Salaam all.

So, I was having a discussion with some of the other girls while we were getting changed back into our regular clothes. As you may have guessed, we were trying to think up circumstances “when you know you’re a stripper”. Most of the other girls have been in this business a fair bit longer than I have, so they had some fairly interesting ones. While I’m not usually into “listy” posts I feel that this would be a good way to summarise it all.


“You know you’re a stripper when…”



  1. You absent mindedly shove pound notes/dollar bills/ euros into your bra for safe keeping (of course, I also know many non-strippers who do this).
  2. Someone random calls out your stage name and you immediately turn around to it. Even though you’re not working and it isn’t your real name.
  3. You have to think for a moment before introducing yourself to someone or signing your name paperwork.
  4. You know all the local restaurants that are still open past 3am.
  5. You have a full wardrobe for your “normal” self and a separate one for your stripper self.
  6. Your stripper wardrobe could probably complete with a drag queen’s.
  7. You always have new bruises popping up as a result from pole work.
  8. When you can glace at someone’s boobs and can tell whether they’ve had a boob job.
  9. You hear a good song on the radio and immediately think about how you could make it work on stage.
  10. Particular songs remind you of specific clubs you have worked at.
  11. You’re out dancing with friends at a normal club and you have difficulty in not going into “stripper” mode.
  12. You find yourself trying out pole tricks on public signs.
  13. you consider coming home with £200 cash a bad night.
  14. Other people being naked around you seems fairly normal.
  15. Having a stop on your bum is worse than having one on your face.
  16. Jumping  and swinging around in 6-8 inch heels is no longer much of a challenge.


Only the last one was my own input. It’ll be interesting to hear if the others come up with any funny ones.