Amy Hazel’s nickname is “Pole-Dancing Unicorn,” which perfectly suits the 24-year-old Australian dancer/aerial artist whose rainbow-hued hair swirls around her as she performs. With a following of 135k, her colorfully dynamic Instagram feed is full of demonstrations, clips from the choreography-heavy classes she teaches, and shots of her toned body in shockingly flexible poses. No surprise she’s also a trained contortionist. In between studying naturopathy, Melbourne-based Hazel travels the world to compete in pole-dancing competitions, which are even more intense than they sound.

What inspired you to start pole-dancing?
I heard a radio ad. I’ve always been into a sexy style of dance, so pole-dancing intrigued me. I started six years ago and literally couldn’t do a push-up. I couldn’t pull myself up; I couldn’t do any of the tricks. I saw the other girls doing it and was like, “I want to be able to do that!” It took about two months before I could lift myself off the ground. After nine months, I was doing the majority of the tricks. I like to be grounded, so I found that if I wasn’t going to be one of the flip type pole-dancers, I’d work on being one of the most flexible pole-dancers.

Do you ever face criticism, since so many people only associate it with strip clubs?
When I tell people what I do, their first reaction is usually, “Ohhh. Which club do you work at?” After I show them some stuff, it goes to, “Oh, wow! That’s like a sport.”

What’s something your Instagram followers don’t know about you?
I have a neck piercing that stops me from doing a few tricks. It’s on the back of my neck, and it makes a trick called a spatchcock really difficult for me. Most people think I can do it, but I can’t—well, I can’t easily do it.

How did you amass your Instagram following?
About two and a half years ago, I had only 1000; then I just kept posting, and hashtagging everything! The brands I was wearing, the things I was doing in them, and it slowly built up. Then once I got my sponsors, like Bad Kitty USA, and they reposted some of my things, the followers just kept growing.

Strip clubs aside, you wear platform stilettos when you’re teaching classes. Are the shoes a prerequisite for pole-dancing?
You don’t have to, but they do add weight. You can think of them as leg weights. Pole uses a lot of upper body, so you want to be sure you’re evening it out and using some leg muscles. Having heels also helps with flexibility because the weight will help bring your leg into a more flexible line. It’s aesthetically pleasing because your legs look sexy, and it’s more work for you.

Do most people take your classes to feel sexy or for fitness reasons?
It’s a combination. Australia is known for being really into exercising, so any form of exercise is really big here. We do have a lot of girls who say, “I work at a strip club and I want to try and learn some new things.” We do both trick-based and dance-based classes. The dance ones are about feeling sexy, and the trick ones are like a personal training session.

What’s your favorite kind of music to perform to?
I don’t really have a favorite. I’ve danced to Ed Sheeran, Nirvana, Aerosmith, Disney, John Mayer, Christina Aguilera, hip-hop, dubstep. I think the theme and costume determine the routine and music.

What do you like best about-pole dancing?
The amount you can achieve. I’ve achieved a lot, but there are so many more things I could do. I can work on my dynamic movement or my flips, the things that scare me. I can work on new tricks. There are still things I haven’t mastered and so many other people to learn from.

What about pole-dancing makes you feel the sexiest?
The way that it tones my body up. It made me fitter. I also love wearing new little shorts or crop tops. I love the long socks and heels, and just being able to show off my body that I’ve created through the art.

Who are your favorite people to follow on Instagram?
Two of my pole idols: Olga Koda for her dancing, and a good friend and mentor of mine Marion Crampe for her tricks.

Last question: Do you have a favorite hashtag?
Hashtag amyhazel! [Laughs]