The Naked Truth

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Money may be the bottom line, but there’s more to the story when it comes to why some South Florida women shed their threads on adult-entertainment stages throughout the county. Five local exotic dancers—from a college student to someone who sought a surprising change of habit—share their reasons for baring it all.

Stevie sits in front of a mirror, head tilted sideways and mouth open as she skillfully applies her spider-like false eyelashes, making her already iridescent blue-gray eyes pop. She presses her lips into a Marilyn pout, glides on bright pink gloss, smacks her lips and cracks a wide smile, revealing perfect pearly whites.

Her platinum blonde hair is teased and pinned back from her face, which she covers with one hand while the other casts a final halo of hair spray around her head. One last look at her reflection, and she seems satisfied. She undoes the clasp of her blue floor-length gown and carefully begins sliding it down over her breasts and her plastic platform stilettos, revealing a silver sequined bra and matching thong panties.

Stevie is getting ready for work—but instead of putting clothes on, she’ll soon be taking them off.

For the past decade, Stevie, 28, has worked as an exotic dancer, or, as she prefers to be called, a “pole technician.” As a seasoned veteran of a negatively stigmatized profession, she knows from experience that outsiders would be stunned to learn the back stories of some of the dancers at prominent gentlemen’s clubs throughout Palm Beach County—as well as the circumstances that drove them to the main stage.

“The biggest misconception about stripping is that all the girls who do it are stupid, lazy, drug addicts or prostitutes,” Stevie says. “Not only is that untrue, but there are women who are married housewives, medical or legal professionals, teachers, mothers … you name it.”

Clearly, cash is the common motivator when it comes to baring it all, especially in the post-recession economy. But as it turns out, a woman’s decision to take off her clothes for money isn’t always as big of a leap as people might imagine.

According to Public Safety Department data in Palm Beach County, more than 900 women over the age of 18 paid the required $75 between August 2012 and August 2014 to secure the “adult entertainment identification” that dancers must have to work in a gentlemen’s club. That’s more than double the combined number of IDs (approximately 410) issued during 2008 and 2009.

“Some dancers have master’s degrees, but they can make three times the money dancing compared to the field they went to school for,” Stevie says.

Over the course of several months, Boca Raton spoke to exotic dancers from all walks of life working at county-based establishments—from Rachel’s in West Palm Beach to Wild West Gentlemen’s Club in Palm Springs. Some offered insights into the industry. Others consented to lengthy interviews. All of them had a story to share.

For more on this story, pick up the January issue of Boca Raton magazine.