Stripping for Scholastic Success

By
April 8, 2004

Mills College Weekly

Crowds of people, money in the air, erotic women performing,
pounding music, alcohol, temptation: a typical scene at Larry
Flynt’s Hustler Club in San Francisco on a Saturday night. And what
would a Mills woman see in this? “Opportunity,” said senior Yashoda
Smith.

Smith isn’t the typical student earning money through a
work-study allotment or getting by on a low-paying job, she chose
to take a less traveled route working as an entertainer.

When Smith started dancing six years ago, she said the decision
was spurred on for many reasons.

“All my friends always had all this money, and I was always
poor. I wanted to travel so badly, and as a student with a
low-paying job, that’s almost impossible,” Smith said.

And traveled she has. Smith speaks Spanish, Portuguese and
Italian. She spent a summer in Europe, four months in Brazil, and
visited places like Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico, Italy and
Switzerland, to name a few.

Smith exudes confidence through her body language and
conversation; she is a woman who is proud of her work. Sun -tanned
skin from her latest trip to Costa Rica, no make-up, a classy hat,
and a pair of simple silver hoops make up her outward
appearance.

Smith is far from ashamed of what she does. She believes that
many people are too quick to judge the industry she is a part
of.

“The way society looks at us is a myth that has been perpetuated
by media and film,” said Smith. “There is no stereotype for a
dancer, not all the women who work here are one dimensional.”

Many entertainers that Smith works with are starting up their
own businesses, while others are putting themselves through school;
many are mothers.

“There are so many stories inside these walls, every girl has a
different reason to be here, some are meaningful and others
aren’t,” said a dancer who is working to put herself through
medical school.

When asked to describe a typical night at work Smith laughed, “I
don’t know. Each night is different.”

Throughout the night, she sits down with different customers and
talks, ultimately, to feel them out for a lap dance or some time in
a private champagne room.

“Usually, they just want someone to give them attention and care
about what they have to say,” she said, “and I have compassion for
these men, but I’m not here to socialize.”

She gets ready in a dressing room with the other dancers. The
‘House Dad,’ Robert Sotello does make-up, hair and eyelashes.

“My job is to do make-up for the girls, but mostly, I am there
as a psychologist,” he said with a chuckle.

He estimates that at least 40 percent of the girls he works with
are in school, along with many others who already have degrees.

Sotello knows many of the dancers on a very personal level,
including Smith.

“She is a dedicated woman who knows what she wants. She’s really
strong and intellectual,” he said.

Obviously, the entertainment industry isn’t all glitz and
glamour, as with any job it has its bad sides as well.

“In the end, the women in here are just little fish; we’re
totally replaceable,” said Smith, reflecting on past experiences
she has had in her six years of work.

“In a job like this, there is also definitely a very fine line
of professionalism, choosing to cross it or not is up to you as a
person,” Smith said.

“The temptation to more than dancing is always there, you will
get many offers in this business,” said ‘Amber,’ an entertainer who
works with Smith.

Each entertainer pays the club to work on a nightly rate. If you
don’t make any money you leave empty handed.

Smith and her co-workers definitely have their good nights at
work, and making lots of money can be difficult to deal with.

“The problem is that no one is there to tell you what to do with
your money; there is no instruction and guidance,” Smith said. “A
lot of the girls have nothing to show for when they stop dancing,
the money’s all gone.”

Smith makes it a point to “give back” to herself, she said.

“I realize that there are some negative side effects of which I
won’t understand until I actually get out of the business, the best
thing for me is to try and ameliorate the side effects by taking
care of myself,” said Smith. She does acupuncture, massage, and
makes eating well a priority.

Graduating this spring as a PLEA major, Smith plans on going
into international real estate.

“The skills that I have learned from dancing are completely
applicable to a future career in real estate: being likeable,
reading people, making them comfortable, acquiescing them,” she
said.

Smith is currently in the process of purchasing her first real
estate property in Visalia, CA.

“Dancing is definitely a difficult job,” she said, “and I know
that I have other choices besides this so I don’t feel sorry for
myself,” she said.

“For me Mills is like a sanctuary.”


Stripping for Scholastic Success was published on April 8, 2004 in Features

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