"Did I ever think I’d be taking my top off for rent money? No. I was in my mid-30s and had never danced before," said Carla, who asked that we use her stage name and withhold her identity and some personal details. "As a little girl, I never thought to myself, 'I just want to grow up and be a stripper,’ or, ‘All I ever wanted to do in life is climb in the lap of sweaty stranger and take my top off.'
"But, with our economy the way it is, especially in smaller cities ... you strip or you starve," she said.
Carla grew up in the Midwest and moved to the West Coast in the late ‘90s to fulfill her dream of earning her law degree. After graduation, she worked for nine years putting her degree to use, but she had entered the crowded legal profession at the wrong time. When she was laid off in 2009, she couldn't find work.To see the rest of the lengthy article, click here.
"At first, I worked as a waitress, and a cashier in gas station," she said.
As her prospects grew dim, she went back to school to earn a master’s degree, hoping to bolster her credentials. But her financial aid came in lower than expected, her credit was battered and she struggled to find part-time work in her new town to keep her afloat.
"I went around to see if could get a job as cocktail waitress, but there was not a single retail or waitress job. No one was hiring, except for the topless places," she said. “It was an act of desperation.”
She started out serving drinks as a waitress, but moved quickly to dancing "because that's where the money is, and that's what I needed."
On an average day, she earns $20 an hour, but on a good weekend night, she might pull in $50 an hour –enough to get her finances back on track. She can set her own hours, which means she can squeeze in reading and writing papers around her work schedule.