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The Tasteful Nude The Tasteful Nude

How to Create a Stripper Persona

How to Create a Stripper Persona: Hair and Makeup by Emma Parkes

Hair and Makeup by Emma Parkes

Welcome to The Tasteful Nude, a new series in which stripper, comedian and writer Kasey Koop gives us an unvarnished and often hilarious look at life onstage and backstage in L.A.’s strip club scene. Check back every Thursday afternoon for more.

As an apparel design major in college, I dressed to the nines, avoiding the collegiate uniform of sweats and UGGs. The three years following school were a trudge through LA’s comedy scene, which reduced my appearance to frumpy clothing that wouldn’t detract from my “message” of pussy jokes. By the time I was ready to become a stripper, I was in the middle of a statement about underarm hair that took a few razors to shave off.

For me, that transformation looked something like the scene in Miss Congeniality where they make over Sandra Bullock’s cop character into a beauty queen. Years of doing stand-up had decimated my femininity, and I was eager to reclaim the girl in me who loved playing dress-up and doing my friends’ makeup before we went out clubbing. Grooming my new identity involved more than a stripper name generator; it required a process of uncovering and embodying my most marketable self—and a self that I happen to like very much.

Here’s how I grew into my stripper persona.


BECOMING DAKOTA
The strip club is a nightly costume party where you can be whomever you want. In that world, my name is Dakota.

A co-worker says that Dakota has the airheaded innocence and schoolgirl flirtatiousness of Selma Blair’s character in Cruel Intentions. My tattoo artist, who’s also a regular, touts Dakota as his favorite version of me—which might have something to do with the fact that she trades him lap dances for tattoos. (We may be the last Americans still using the barter system!) In a way, Dakota is charming, energetic and clean-shaven. She can twerk in high heels and she laughs at your bad jokes. Not that Dakota is entirely contrived; the character is who I am, distilled down to a palatable lady. Outside of work, I’m too much of a ball-buster to put up with the asinine conversation and male entitlement that pay my bills. Dakota has the endless patience that only cold hard cash can inspire. But beyond that, playing stripper a few nights a week allows me to unabashedly express my girliness. It feels as cathartic to exercise my femininity at the strip-club as it does to flex my masculinity on the comedy stage.

FINDING HER VOICE
Watching a stripper’s stage personality develop isn’t far from seeing comedians find their voices. In both fields, you observe your friends performing nightly and how they weed out the unfavorable elements of their act while nurturing the parts that work. At my club, each girl exhibits a personality that is distinct to her. There’s the gangster, the diva, the punk rocker, the dominatrix, the girl-next-door, the hippie, the goddess and the nerd. One of our dancers performs in roller skates; another fire dances, and yet another juggles LED hula hoops. Some of the girls balance stripping with festival performances, professional dancing gigs and modeling. We’re vagabonds, returning to the club between stints of burlesque dance and comedy tours. People think strippers are all single mothers—which, of course, there is nothing wrong with—but I’m only a stage mom to my inner child.

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DIALING THE LOOK
Turning myself into a saleable asset was hard work. Becoming Dakota reminded me that gender is a construct. (Appropriately, the locker room at work looks like a construction site, littered with cosmetics, hair straighteners, wigs and other stripper accoutrements.) The first thing I did when I decided I was going to start stripping was get a Brazilian wax, which hurt far more than any of my tattoos, proving that manicured women are tougher than inked-up bikers.

I was still serving at a restaurant at the time and struck up a conversation with a sketchy patron about wanting to venture into exotic dance. The guy happened to be a strip-club DJ and he gave me the names of stripper clothing stores on Hollywood Boulevard that he took his dancer girlfriends to. I walked into the first shop nervously under a sweatshirt hood while Fergie’s “Big Girls Don’t Cry” taunted me over the speakers. The “whore store” offered every accessory I’d need to transform into a seductress, from bikinis to false eyelashes to body stockings. I hadn’t donned high heels since college three years prior, and I found that wearing them is just like riding a bike: utterly exhausting. Seeing myself dressed up as Dakota for the first time was at once liberating and terrifying: I was finally free to be someone else, someone prettier and more confident than me. I was afraid of sabotaging this newfound power like I had the other good things in my life.

DROPPING THE MASK
Committing to Dakota can be difficult when I’m genuinely attracted to a customer. Sometimes I want to go off-script and scream, “MY NAME IS KASEY KOOP AND I LIKE YOU!” But it’s not fair to the men—most of whom are overlooking their own cynicism to commit to the strip club fantasy—for me to break the fourth wall. It’s annoying enough to deal with guys who refuse to accept my stripper name and argue that I’m full of shit through our whole interaction. Plus, the cute ones usually don’t believe my compliments; they think it’s just a part of the act.

Recently, I slept with a guy who has been my customer for nearly a year because I enjoyed our chemistry and, well, he owns a home. I’m not even accustomed to dudes owning a box spring. His being rich enough to have a yard made me realize the appeal in outdoor porn. Watching his enthusiasm for me fade after we (well, he) finished having sex was painful. It was as if he saw me as a person without the strip club’s hazy, red-lit filter and was disappointed. Men go from promising you the world to realizing you’re just a human like them who has baggage and debt and insecurities. Whose opinions differ from theirs. Whose real name is Kasey. Who is just trying to get by.


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