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The secret life of Snow White
by Kate Zimmerman for the Weekend Post

Sinful Sindy, Kitty and other Vancouver strippers feature in a new documentary about the bumps and grinds of working the bar scene

Kitty had a dirty little secret.

You wouldn’t think a woman who dressed in a low-cut Snow White outfit and then slowly stripped it off in front of a roomful of strangers five times a day could be described as reticent.

But for Kitty, the prospect of her strict Roman Catholic family’s disapproval made her ashamed to tell her mother that she had taken a lucrative job in burlesque … for the second time.

“I didn’t want to tell her because I thought it would just break her heart,” says Kitty, whose sister had temporarily disowned her the first time she learned Kitty had been stripping. “I just didn’t want to hurt anybody and I didn’t want to be judged by my family.”

Sinful Sindy was less circumspect. Her parents have been aware of her profession for years. In fact, at parties, she and her father still tell the story of the time he went into a dance club with a few friends and didn’t realize until the conclusion of the simulated all-female orgy on-stage that one of the naked participants was his daughter. 

But Sindy is an exception. Stripping isn’t a job many women admit to, except in select company. The dancers’ sense of embarrassment is what prompted Kitty (her stage name) to suggest to Vancouver-based documentary filmmaker Lynn Booth of Make Believe Media that she make a story about the backstage lives of the striptease artist, the  “grind” of the bump and grind. Booth’s “revealing documentary,” Bump & Grind, airs April 17 on the Life Network at 10 p.m. Canada-wide.

The problem is that people stereotype strippers, says Kitty, a pretty, curvaceous 28-year-old. Most associate the life of a bar-room dancer with drug addiction and prostitution, neither of which are its necessary accoutrements.

“Every job has its ups and downs,” says Kitty, on the phone from Las Vegas, where she now lives. “Lots of us are just doing this job so we can make it and have a life.”

In what other profession can a young woman bring home $3,000-$4,000 a week? Kitty used her money to re-establish herself in Vancouver after returning there from England, furnishing her apartment, buying herself a truck and repaying her student loan.

She first worked at a strip club as a waitress in her early 20s. When she realized she could get paid more to take her clothes off, Kitty got up on the stage. She liked the entertainment aspect of it.

“Whether the guys wanted to see me as a sex object or not, it was more of an entertainment factor for me,” she says. “The pretty costumes — the Snow White costume, the cowgirl, or schoolgirl or nurse or all the different costumes they come out with — I put a lot of time into those. …”

Still, as the documentary makes clear through the disgusted backstage conversation of the dancers, there are plenty of “pervs” who don’t understand the difference between a peeler and a prostitute. They’re the ones who attempt to fondle and even lick the dancers. Some of the ones Kitty encountered before she left the business five months ago were old enough to be her father.

“For me, it was ‘Look, don’t touch me,’” she says.

Kitty has no regrets about leaving the life behind when she married in March. She misses the friends she made in the dance world, but “The money at the end of the week (was) the greatest reward for me.”

Sindy (also her stage name) is equally appreciative of the paycheque. That’s certainly one reason that she’s still stripping. “I can really express myself publicly and make money doing it,” says the beautiful 28-year-old in an interview in Vancouver’s Make Believe Media office with filmmaker Booth.

But what Sindy really likes is her independence. A boyfriend got her into dancing when she was 20. He then quit his own job, expecting his girlfriend to support him. Sinful Sindy had other ideas. She had discovered that when she’s on-stage, “I feel like the person I always wanted to be.”

The documentary’s writer-director-producer can see the allure.

“It’s a sexy, vital environment,” says Booth, who, despite living in “ a very permissive, libertine personal universe” had never patronized strip clubs until she was approached to do this story.

“I was beguiled, basically. I loved the costumes, I loved the hair. Because I’m not a super-girly girl but there’s that part of me that all of a sudden I got to explore that I never did before. I mean, these are Alpha girls — specialists in traditional girldom, while being incredibly independent, fiercely independent.”

Many of them are motivated enough that they save up and buy a house or start businesses like cafés, juice bars and Internet sites, Sindy says.

“There’s only so much makeup and costumes (that) you can buy,” she points out, laughing. “Everything else is free when you’re a pretty girl.” 

She herself has started an international chain of adult web-cam sites where women will put on private sex shows for clients over the Internet. That and other businesses will likely occupy her whenever she finally decides to hang up her g-strings. “Right now, what I have is good looks and the ability to dance.”

Sindy also has her standards. She may relish the opportunity to display her genitals on-stage to strangers but prostitution is an option she says she has never considered.

It doesn’t bother her, though, if there’s a bordello or massage parlour next to the bar where she is performing. “…if a guy starts propositioning me for sex, I can just send them over there and say ‘You know what? I’m done with you here… You can go next door for that.’ And then it’s quite a smooth transition, you know, as long as there’s no confusion.”

Anyway, Sindy doesn’t think it would be worthwhile to be a prostitute. “Because I can get so much more money out of a guy by not sleeping with him,” she says, laughing.

In addition to tipping generously, some priapic patrons will buy a favourite stripper gifts, pay for her costumes, even sign a credit card over to her. “Money doesn’t mean anything to you when you’re lonely,” says Sindy.

Along with the perks, there are dangers — like stalkers. They’re common, according to Sindy. “Mostly they’re just harmless. They fall in love easily.”

To Booth, more harmful is the ongoing shame many dancers are made to feel. She made the documentary so “people would be less judgmental about the dancers and treat them with more respect.

“If young women choose to be dancers, the worst thing you could possibly do is judge them, isolate them, and make it unwelcome for them to come home when they need to come home,” Booth says. “Of course bad people are going to have a lot more influence on you if you don’t have your family to turn to.”

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