By Deborah Kennedy
"Exfoliate until your ass is red," says Reagan, a dancer at Sassy's on Southeast Morrison. Reagan's mother was a stripper, so she comes by her knowledge naturally. "Don't be shy. Just scrub your ass off."
Stripping is hard work. Regardless of what movies like Showgirls and Flashdance would have us believe, it's not all Cristal and getting swept off one's feet by a rich businessman.
"It's exhausting, both physically and mentally," says Maybe, who, like Reagan, is a four-year veteran with time at Sassy's, Union Jack's and Magic Garden. "I've had to take some breaks to do other things just to recharge."
Much of the blood, sweat and tears of exotic dancing goes into the backstage beauty routine.
After sitting down with Reagan and Maybe at Sassy's on a slow Monday afternoon, I am convinced that women the world over should drop their Vogue and Allure subscriptions and turn to strip-club dressing rooms for beauty tips. If you have a question about makeup application, hair removal or product selection, chances are very good Reagan and Maybe could answer it.
"I have very sensitive skin, so I can only use natural products," Reagan says. "Heavy makeup really takes its toll, especially if it's full of chemicals. You can break out and it irritates your eyes. I'm all about the natural stuff. Tarte, mostly, which I buy at Sephora."
Reagan has a fair complexion and curly red hair. Before her shift at Sassy's, she usually takes a bath and lets her long locks air dry.
"I don't style it much or use a lot of sprays or anything and men really seem to like that," she says. "I get the 'you look like a mermaid' comment a lot."
She's allergic to perfume, so she counts on her coconut shampoo and rose soap to do the trick.
"I know some girls who pour on the perfume or bathe in cheap, Fruit Loop-scented body spray, but my customers say they like how fresh I am," Reagan says. "They're glad I don't smell like a lollipop."
"I learned the oil thing from watching a soft core porno when I was 17," Maybe says. "Two girls were in a bathtub and they were shaving each other and they used baby oil, I think. But I'm a hippie so I use coconut oil and it's wonderful. No red bumps."
Maybe likes to take an Epsom salts bath on work days to keep her skin supple. She shaves her upper thighs against the grain (bikini line with the grain, upper thigh against) and applies her favorite perfume, Calvin Klein Euphoria. Then she straightens her wavy hair. If it's going to be a busy night, she adds extensions for extra flare.
"Sometimes it's fun to have super long hair," she says. "At first I was really timid about the extensions. I'd hold my head all stiff and was worried when I was on the pole they'd get caught in my armpit and rip out, but now I know they're not that delicate and I have fun with them."
Prior to hitting the stage at Sassy's, Maybe uses bronzer to accentuate her cheekbones and highlighter to freshen up her eyes. She gets her nails done about once a week and sometimes dons false eyelashes, which Reagan eschews, unless she has a photo shoot.
"You lose two to three lashes every time you wear them," Reagan says, "and they take months to grow back."
She isn't against a little glitter, however. "The whole guys don't like strippers who wear glitter' thing is a myth," she says. "Dudes get their beer goggles on and suddenly they're raccoons. They're like, 'Oooh, something shiny!'"
Reagan turns to Triiangleh, a young German Instagram star with more than 30,000 followers, for other eye-makeup do's and don'ts.
"Check this out," she says. "She's got these tutorials on everything, eye shadow, liner, mascara. I've really stepped up my eye makeup game thanks to her."
Reagan also credits her clean diet—she doesn't eat dairy or gluten—with helping her get into the best shape of her life. And she doesn't have to worry about reapplying deodorant between sets. "That's another bonus of eating clean: You can pretty much eliminate your body odor. It's a miracle, really."
Another challenge comes from Sassy's strict no-lotion policy. Lotion is banned since it can make the pole a dangerous place. Reagan found this out the hard way a few years ago when she slipped and injured her shoulder.
"You get used to having dry skin," Reagan says. "We have a joke here, that we're all alligators, not just because our skin can get dry but because we have callouses in weird places from the pole, like the insides of our thighs, behind our armpits, down our sides."
Ever consider buffing them off? "No way," she says. "They're necessary. They're a defense."
Both Reagan and Maybe get their exercise at the pole. It's also where they've learned to love their bodies. "Getting naked in front of strangers in an intimate setting like this has made me more comfortable with myself," Reagan says. "I didn't use to have very high self-esteem. I was really socially anxious, and I felt bad because I didn't have porn-star teardrop tits, but now I know, men don't care. They just like boobs. They just want to look at them."
- To get your plastic stripper shoes to fit, use a hair dryer to heat up the material. It will then mold to your foot. And always wear shoes with straps. Every dancer has a story of hitting a customer in the face with her strapless shoe. If you’re having trouble pulling on stubborn, tight shoes, a little baby powder will help.
- Speaking of baby stuff, baby wipes help keep you smelling nice between sets. If your private arena is on the sensitive side, wipes PH-balanced for women are also available.
- Shave with oil rather than cream, you’ll be less prone to angry red bumps. And if you missed the notice from Seventeen magazine as a tween, shave your legs against the grain but your bikini line with it.
- Keep your skin supple with Epsom salts baths. Skip the lotion, though, unless you feel like turning the pole into a slippery lube tube.
- Consider a little glitter, no matter the stigma against it. Remember, you’re not primping for a middle-school dance.
- You might think stripping while on your period would be a no-no, but men are like bears. And sharks. They might not know it, but they love the smell of blood. And ovulation. Dancers take home a lot of tips during their time of the month.