Back to London

Royal-Scotsman-scenery4

(Not my picture, but illustrates the journey fairly well)

It’s funny how you can almost instantly tell once you have crossed the boundary between Scotland and England. All the pretty hills become ironed out into smooth, flat farmland followed by a sign that says “Welcome to England”. England looks rather depressing in comparison. Not that I’m at all sad to be back. I’ve missed my family back in London, especially since I didn’t return for the winter break. I tend to call it “winter break” rather than the Christmas holidays simply because I feel odd calling it that, as someone who doesn’t celebrate Christmas. And yet what others call “spring break”, I still call “Easter holidays”, as senseless as that is. Perhaps because it just sounds too American.

I get to abandon “Henna”, my dancer persona, for a couple of weeks and go back to being nothing but my normal self. I’m writing this from my old room that I grew up in while my family bustle around downstairs, completely ignorant of that persona and the blog that goes with it. I was almost tempted to bring along my favourite pair of dancer shoes, but thought best of it. They are so comfortable and good for an ordinary night out without getting painfully blistered feet my the end of the night like normal high heels do. Plus most of my family couldn’t tell the difference (providing that they aren’t the clear plastic platforms that practically scream “stripper!”).My big sister is also hear for the week and would have questioned those shoes in a heartbeat. Part of me really wishes I could check out the local gentleman’s clubs just to see how they differ to the couple in Scotland that I’ve worked in, but I don’t see that being possible. The risk of wandering into another Somali here in London feels just too high.

It has been wonderful being around everyone from home again and hearing Somali being spoken all over the house. I hadn’t even realised how much I missed Somali music either.My sister feels it necessary to correct my pronunciation every once in a while whenever it sounds slightly too Scottish for her liking. It all sounds straight up English to my ears! I’m sure my Scottish pals would laugh at her for thinking anything I say sounds too Scottish. I also heard my mother speaking to one of her relatives in French and Tamashek the other day, which made a change. My mother’s side of the family is not Somali, but Tuareg. Most of her family still live in West Africa and are difficult to track down for a visit since they live a nomadic lifestyle. As a result, I’ve always felt more connected with Somalis and Brits.

One of my many cousins is getting married next week, so my mother, sister and I will need to have a dirac or guntiino ready. There will be relatives coming from Somalia, Kenya, the USA and New Zealand plus probably many more. They had better stock up on bariis! Needless to say, I’m very excited for the occasion!

I might not be able to update too frequently until I get back to Scotland. My sister is terrible for snooping and I really would rather she didn’t find the blog. I can already imagine her endless lectures if she ever found out about my exotic dancing habit. How funny it would be if I found out she was one. She’d never be able to play Holier than Thou with me again!

In the meantime, Salaam to you all.

Pole Misadventures with Jessie Pinkman

For those of you who have read my previous pole-related post, you’ll know that my first attempt on a club pole was not the most graceful. In fact I still cringe when I remember how Vanessa stormed away from me to sulk on a far away sofa, believing I wasn’t taking her teaching efforts seriously. Sadly, I really was trying. I was just doing an appalling job.

I first had the chance to do a public pole dance about two weeks later. By public, I mean in front of a group of customers. It was an unusually slow night. If it hadn’t been, I’m sure a more experienced girl would have nabbed the stage and therefore their attention before I had the chance. There were only four other girls working that night , two of which were away eating/smoking. Eventually, a group of five young Swiss lads came in giggling like Spongebob and Patrick in a toy shop. I was quite thrilled to find that one of them looked like a slightly shorter version of Breaking Bad’s Jessie, only a fair bit more educated. This night was turning out to be not so bad after all!

jesse-pinkman

Basically, like this guy

I warmly introduced myself and began chatting happily to them. They all seemed rather sweet and innocent, a group of uni lads on getaway together. Quite a contrast to the meth cook Jessie Pinkman. Remembering an early scene from the series where Jessie and his two buddies nick the thousands of dollars Walt gave him to buy an RV with to spend on a crazy night with champagne and strippers, I can’t help but think “If only!”

Combo-Rodney-Rus-Jesse-Aaron-Paul-and-Friend-in-MAS

This episode

After a good long chat, they ask about prices for dances. Understandably, they’re a bit hesitant to spend a full £10 on a quick 3 minute private dance without knowing anything about how I dance (they’re hard up students after all, believe me I get that). And so, they ask how much it would be to have me on the pole first. We’re usually expected to do stage dances for free as part of rotation, but no one enforces that on quiet nights like this.  I was quite happy at the idea of being paid to go on the pole. At the same time, I was unhappy that my private dance potential was going to be judged by my pole dancing. I’m not ashamed to say that my private dances are top notch. My stage dancing, on the other hand, was still pretty shit.Still, it was definitely worth a try right? Especially one where I got paid.

I turned to them,”Tell you what, I’ll go on stage for you lot if one of you gives a £5 tip.”

Jessie’s eyes widened “You mean I give you £5 and you dance for all of us?” he asked incredulously, gesturing towards his mates.

I nodded “Yes, a £5 tip and I’ll dance for all of you on the stage” I emphasized. They had better not be thinking they were all getting a private dance while only paying a fiver!

The boys seemed overjoyed by the idea and could barely contain their excitement. After tossing me a fiver they huddled over to the stage next to the bar, fidgeting in anticipation. I shook my head and headed over to Neil, the barman/DJ. And people say I’m too innocent for this place! I thought, looking over towards the lads.

Neil and Sophie, the only other girl on the floor, had been deep in conversation when I approached and explained the situation.

“Nice! How much are they paying?” Sophie asked me.

“Just a fiver, but I’m not complaining.”

“A fiver! Naw, ah wouldnae complain either. Ah usually have tae go on the stage fer free!”

Neil nodded in agreement. “Good thing on a night like this too. So what’s your pole song?”

“Uh…I don’t have one yet.” I replied meekly. “What’s easy to dance to?”

“Use mine if you like. It’s nice and slow and real easy. Don’t nick it though! This is only for tonight, then you need to pick your own alright? I’m sick of bitches nicking my songs!” Sophie then began a short rant on how Vanessa always likes to nick all her pole songs, which was true.

“Thank you! I promise I won’t. What song is it?”

Apparently it was Skin by Rihanna. I can see why Vanessa pinched it. It began slow with sensual lyrics which gradually sped up. I hopped on stage ready to go. Should I wear my shoes or not? I knew I would dance much better without them, but it’s hard to look like a stripper barefoot. I decided to keep my fabulous 7 inchers on.

The lads all looked dizzily delighted now that the show had finally begun. I tried to hide how terrified I was and find the rhythm to the music. I kept the moves simple, mostly dancing sexily around the pole without any impressive tricks or spins. It was going well. I was well into the beat and the lads looked as happy as ever. Bless them. By near the end of the song, I was well into it and fully enjoying myself. I thought I would end with a spin. After all, why not? It couldn’t be going better and I knew how to do several spins really well from fitness classes. It would be pure cowardliness not to try one. And so I decided to finish off with simple backwards spin. I swung back with full force. This was sure to impress them! Then I heard a loud clang, a yelp and a smash. My right foot suddenly felt far lighter than it had a mere second ago. I had forgotten that the zips on the back of my shoes were both broken from when I over zealously pulled on them off to do them up after a dance the other night. My right shoe had been sent flying from my foot and skidded across the length of the bar past Neil and Sophie and knocked over a beer bottle on its way through. Neil looked around himself in a state of shock. “Don’t tell me I have to start wearing a helmet to work here now!  I have enough of that in the day (he does construction work doing daylight hours).

“Sorry!” I shouted over to him meekly. It hadn’t quite been the grand finale I’d had in mind. I began to slink off stage to retrieve my shoe. What a way to end! Once my shoe was back in place, Jessie came up to me. Apparently he had still enjoyed my performance despite my major fuck up. “You are amazing! We all want a private dance.” He looked more than ever like an over-excited schoolboy.

I looked at him slightly bewildered for a second. “Sure! Wait all five of you?”

“Yeah,” he nodded enthusiastically. “How much?”

“It’s £10 per person, per song. Five is a lot in one go though. How about we all do a double dance with Sophie? It costs you the same and  you get to see two girls.”

He looked over towards Sophie. “Okay, if she’s as good as you.” Well yes, I thought. When she dances, her shoes don’t become an airborne hazard.

I went over to Sophie excitedly and told her that we’d both scored danced on this dreary night. “Nice. Wait are they doin’ VIP or just normal dances?” She slouched back down again after hearing that they weren’t up for VIP. “Nah, ah think am alright hen. If they’re no doin’ VIP I cannae be bothered. Ahm just gonna sit here with Neil and ma wine. Thanks though, really.” I was disappointed. It felt like a good way to give back after she had let me borrow her song for my own profit.

Feeling slightly  despondent, I went back over to Jessie and his lads and told them we were on our own. “That’s fine. So all of us together is £10 each, yes? So £50.”

“Indeed it is. So how would you like to do it? Two guys together and one on their own?”

They gave one another a quick glance. “Can’t we all go in? We want to be together.” I explained to them that there’s only so much one girl can do in only three minutes when there are five guys at once. They seemed unfazed and insisted in going together as a group.”Well, okay.” I shrugged. “It’s your party. Let me see which booth has the most room.”

And so I then had the challenge of pleasing five customers at once in a three minute time frame. What had been an incredibly slow night had quickly become a rather eventful one. I did the best I could to evenly split the time to each of the boys, seating two on one side and three on the other where all could see me. Thankfully, they were all really pleased. Not that they seemed a particularly hard lot to please. “Une autre!” called out one and then three of them decided to go for another song. Fine by me. When I had finished with their second song, I went out to chat with them again. It didn’t matter to me if I did any more dances that night. I had already earned by far the most in the club that night. Jessie reached into his backpack and pulled out another £20. “Can you dance for just me now?” he beamed. “Sure!” was what I told him. Internally, I was jumping for joy that I was going to get to do a private dance with a Swiss version of Jessie Pinkman. This was a fantastic night! After the £20 had run out, he then bought another two dances. In less than an hour, I had made £125 on a lonely Monday night.

When Jessie and I finally returned to the club floor, April and Summer, the two girls who had been eating/smoking that entire time came up to me. “Did you just dance for all five of those guys at once?”

“Yeah,” I shrugged. They didn’t want to go in separately. I asked Sophie to do a double with me, but she wasn’t feeling it.”

“Right”, said Summer. “Well don’t do that again. It’s against club rules. No more than two customers at once per girl unless it’s a stag party in the VIP room. Otherwise it’s not fair on the rest of us if you’re the only one making money.” And with that they went off back to hang out in the dressing room.

Sophie came up to me shaking her head. “Did they seriously just bitch at you because they’re not getting the work when you’re the one on the floor and they’re sitting on their far arses? Don’t you worry pal, you did great. If they want paid, they have to learn that they have to work for it like the rest of us!”

I wasn’t at all bothered. I was incredibly merry for the rest of the week after that. The only thing that bothered me was not getting a picture with my Jessie Pinkman lookalike to show all my pals at uni to.

 

 

Empowerment v.s. Oppression; Stripping and Hijab

I find it funny how both strippers and hijabis are seen as oppressed by many people. Particularly as I use both to increase my own personal freedom. Many Westerners see Muslim women as an oppressed group as they are “forced by their families cover up everything but their eyes” (not true in most cases) and equally many Muslims see Western women as oppressed as they “have to walk around naked for men to ogle at while the guys are all covered up” (also, nope).

 

I found an article a while back called “Burkas and Bikinis” which explores how both methods of covering women’s bodies and leaving them uncovered can be used for oppression and are essentially “two sides of the same coin”. The author states that both are forms of sexualisation and objectify the women in each scenario. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to find the link to show you, but I will hopefully find it again soon.  While there are several points in the article that I agree with, I feel that there are several other points to be made. Namely that neither covering nor uncovering has to oppress anyone.

It is true that both a bikini and hijab can be used to oppress women, but it is also true that both can be used for liberation. The main difference which leads to different results is how and why the women are wearing bikinis,  hijab or other types of veil. Are the women themselves choosing how they present themselves or do they simply feel that they have to? If they cover or uncover due to a feeling of obligation and not by choice, I would consider this oppression. This could be pressure from friends and family, bosses, society or even the laws of a particular country. If however, the women are happy choosing what they wear and how they present themselves, I would say that they are not being oppressed.  In fact, just the opposite!

Women who wear hijab do so for a variety of reasons and often not because they feel forced to. The same goes for those who wear the niqab (face veil). For many it’s a barrier between themselves and strange men. They can choose who gets to see how much of their body and hide or reveal however much they choose. Someone who wears a veil often does so because they want others to pay attention to them for their personality and intelligence and not because of their beauty or body. This is partially why I choose to wear hijab when I am not at work. No one can see that part of me when I choose for them not to.

Similarly, those who choose to wear revealing clothing often do so by choice and not because they feel they ought to or have to.  They feel proud of their bodies and comfortable in their own skin and so are not afraid to hide it. Women wear bikinis on the beach because they are comfortable to swim in and let’s be honest; don’t reveal much more skin than the average swimming trunks that men wear. In any case, many women who choose to show off skin are not even doing so to please men. Perhaps it’s just more comfortable to wear less on a hot day and enjoy the feeling of warm sunlight. Perhaps in their society, women’s bodies aren’t sexualised to the extent where they feel they have to cover it up, just in the same way men don’t feel they have to.  Many tribal people, both men and women, don’t see the chest area as being sexual and so little effort to keep it covered. To them, it is seen the same as leaving one’s face uncovered; it’s just another part of them.

young zulu couple dat

Are either of these Zulu people “oppressed” for baring their chests?

Women who strip also do it for a variety of reasons and often not because they feel that they have to. For some, the extra money gives them that bit more freedom. For others, it’s a chance to express and discover their own sexuality (like me) without doing anything that they don’t feel comfortable with. Of course, there are strippers out there who are oppressed people and this is often due to issues with the management rather than the job itself. This could be because the management frequently rips off the girls, because they pressure girls into doing things which they are uncomfortable with or improperly dealing with bad customers so that the girls don’t feel safe. I’m happy to say that this is not true in my case or any of the other girls working at my club.  The wages are fair, no one expects “extras” and those caught giving them are promptly booted out and likewise, bad customers who try to take advantage in any way are also quickly removed from the premises. We have a very safe, friendly environment where we are free to enjoy and express ourselves as we please.

I feel immensely lucky to have the opportunity to explore such opposites and make the most of them. I love the freedom that I gain from both in a way that so few others do.

Perhaps there is another question we should be asking ourselves. Why is it that both the West and Islamic worlds are so keen to discuss whether women are oppressed by how much or little they wear when no one gives a damn about how much men wear? No one I know of thinks of men as being oppressed when they wear neither swimming trunks nor when they cover themselves from head to toe.

So, which of these guys are oppressed? (a discussion you’re unlikely to find on the internet).

 

As far as I can see, it’s only a big deal when a woman is perceived as wearing too much or not enough. Frankly, who should bloody care anyway? As long as someone is wearing something they feel comfortable in, man or woman, it shouldn’t be anyone else’s business.

Best places to get good Islamic fashion and, in contrast, pole gear.

Like many other exotic dancers, I have what I refer to as a “me” or “daytime” wardrobe and a “stripper” one. Both need topping up occasionally, but from entirely different sources. I thought I would share some of my favorites for each with you.

 

 

Modest Islamic Fashion:

Ugaasadda Clothing

A new online shop created by fellow Somali blogger Ugaasadda. Her business is based in Canada and so offers good shipping rates to those who live there and in the USA. While that doesn’t apply to me, the shipping is decently priced for other countries. She has a beautiful selection of hijabs which are constantly changing in colour as they quickly go out of stock ans new colours are made. A personal favourite of mine is the Nectarine Crepe, pictured below. She also has several dresses and shirts which look fantastically stylish.

 

Kabayare Fashion

This is another North American Somali clothing  online shop. As their business has had more time to grow than Ugaasadda’s, they have a much larger selection which contains both Somali tradtional clothing, such as dirac and baati, and generally modest items. All of which are very styish.

diracbanner-4_2

 

Nashata

Fancy going to the gym or out for a run, but concerned about your modesty? If that’s the case you can find sports hijabs in an abundance of colours as well as other modest, yet stylish gear. Just head on over to fellow blogger Fit Muslim Girl’s shop, who sells this brand on the side. I’m yet to buy from her, but I like the styles of her clothing and they all sound incredibly comfortable to work out in.

 

 

Pole Dancer Shoes & Clothing:

 

Mika Yogawear

For thoes of you who are into pole dancing soley for sport and would rather wear sporty pole outfits, Mika Yogawear has plenty of designs to chose from.  Their outfits focus on allowing one to dance on the pole effectively and comfortable rather than looking overly sexy.

 

Pleaser Shoes

Pleaser, as a brand, has to have the largest collection of pole dancing shoes available. They have a vast collection of shoes which contains platforms with heels between 5 1/2″ and 10″. Personally, I have no idea how anyone can manage to walk around, let alone pole dance in 10″ heels!! The red shoes below are 10″, for those of you who are curious. Some have a simple design while others are incredibly bold and interesting. The downside to ordering directly from the site is that you can only view prices after signing up for an account. Depending on where you live, it may also be easier to try a local store which can order in the pair that you like.

 

Banana Shoes

A fantastic place to get club shoes and outfits in the UK is Banana Shoes. They sell a range of brands, including Pleaser, Ellie Shoes and more. Since they are UK based, dancers in the UK and Europe will find better deals on shipping than they would on any US based sites, which should go without saying. An interesting thing I noticed they have that I’ve seen nowhere else are ballet heels, which keep the toes en point. They look intriguing, but excruciatingly painful.

 

 

Both:

eBay

Of course, there are many independent shops on eBay where both modest and overly sexy clothing can be found. Many come from shops in China and are very cheap to buy. You can’t always relay on the quality of these products, but if you wish to experiment with new looks without taking too much of a plunge financially, I recommend finding a few cheaply made versions first.

Learning to Pole with Dignity (not)

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(Nicked from Leen Isabel)

 

Having attended quite a few pole fitness classes before I decided to give stripping a try, I thought that the pole dancing part would be the least of my worries. As you can imagine, I wasn’t entirely right about this.

Having mastered climbing, a few basic spins and some other moves in class, plus with the years of ballet training on the side, I felt ready to rock the pole. The part I was most worried about was having an audience for the first time. That and finding customers and being able to carry out any private dances. I had never been naked in front of any bloke before other than my brother and cousins when we were all little. having said that, I was even more nervous of dancing on stage in front of the other dancers or “pros” as I thought of them.

This one Romanian girl who calls herself Vanessa always looked fantastic on the pole. She didn’t usually do any complex movements unless there was someone to impress. She just danced around it gracefully, giving any customers who were watching seductive glances. Whatever she was doing, it worked well and she would nearly always get a private dance afterwards.

I had told the other girls that I had experience in ballet, but kept the pole fitness classes to myself. Looking back, I am VERY glad that I didn’t. On my third night, the manager thought it was time that I learnt the basics on the pole so that I could then fulfill my duty of appearing stage at least once every night. Much to my delight, he asked Vanessa to show me the ropes. She smiled and lead me over to the stage on the far side. She seemed friendly enough.

I watched as Vanessa effortlessly glided around the pole, swaying gracefully and throwing seductive glances to the imaginary audience below the stage, just as she normally did. “Now you try.” She said, backing away and eyeing me expectantly. Oh boy. Here I go. I took a step forward and gingerly put a hand on the pole. I had always done pole in bare feet or trainers before, not these huge platforms!

“Well, go on!” Vanessa didn’t seem to be the patient type. Just what I needed on my first go. I tried to picture how she had moved around the pole a few seconds before and attempted to re enact her movements. Griping the pole with both hands, I took a swing. The pole didn’t slide under my palms as I had imagined and I tripped over my feet, crashing to the stage floor. My hands felt uncomfortable with something icky coated onto them. i realise now that they use wax as a pole lubricant, which I was not at all used to.

“Is alright, try one more time.” Her thick Romanian accent came from the corner. I didn’t really fancy doing it a second time in front of her, but of course I did. This time I managed to spin slightly further before getting stuck. I hated wax!

“Watch me again.” Vanessa grabbed the pole from me and did her majestic, yet simplistic spin once more. It looked so incredibly easy when she did it. It wasn’t as if I was a completely graceless person either, I could do ballet just fine! Just goes to show ballet training isn’t entirely transferable to pole dancing. I’d better learn quick. Again, I attempted the basic spin that Vanessa had now shown me multiple times. This time I fell backwards.

At this, Vanessa snatched up her bag, turned to me and said “When you want to learn properly, I can show you. But now, you don’t waste my time!” and stormed off towards the large leather sofas to sulk. Clearly, she thought I was simply taking the piss. I cringed internally. Perhaps it was better for her to think that than realise that I was just simply doing a shit job. Oh well, YouTube can be my teacher. YouTube has all the patience in the world, mashallah, and oh boy that’s what I needed.

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.

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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.