Talented, Jordan Kensley, has made a profitable career out of her passion for pole dancing. She’s an athlete, pole dancing instructor, model and yes, a stripper!
She’s inspiring because despite experiencing resistance from members of her family, nothing is holding her back from doing what she loves. Touring the world to compete in numerous competitions, teaching pole workshops and dance classes, designing monster heels, modelling, stripping and showcasing her skills on social media, I can’t help but think Jordan’s upbeat, confident, yet no bullshit personality is a projection of her self-fulfillment.
Within the pole ‘fitness’ community connections between pole dancing and stripping remain prominent and continues to create tension and negativity, many pole fitness hobbyists try to distance themselves from exotic dancing but Jordan addresses the real issue of social stigmatisation towards female sexual expression.
I hate when customers ask me this question but how long have you been stripping for?
My first experience stripping was in a club in Tucson in the summer of 2012, and then when I moved to LA that fall I started dancing at a bikini burlesque bar called Jumbos Clown Room. I still work there regularly, but have also started back at a topless Gentlemen’s club in the OC & am planning to head to Vegas a bit now, and was hired at Cheetahs & Spearmint Rhino.
Did your love for pole begin before or after you became a stripper?
I actually saw someone on youtube pole dancing and thought it was the coolest thing and started stripping within days because of it. So my love for stripping came because of my fascination of pole dancing, and I think that entrance into this world has given me a very stable and understanding perspective of both worlds, without the stigmatisation of either side.
What’s the difference between stripping and pole dancing for you?
Honestly, for me these worlds are very similar, just the audience is different. I’m performing similarly for both pole dancers and strip club clientele (they all love the same shit), the biggest difference isn’t my opinion of it but rather society’s opinion.
I find that many pole dancer’s from more liberal areas/countries are able to recognise the roots of pole (coming from the clubs), and honour that memory, but for the majority there’s still a major debate. Some pole dancer’s are trying to steer away from any connection with the ‘sexy’ side of pole, and to me, I feel that this separation is usually based in a fear of sexual expression and for that 100% blame societal pressure and perspective. For example, if women weren’t shamed for their bodies I believe that we would be more proud of them and all they can do- regardless of the audience- because our understanding is self-aware and not based on peer-opinion. There’s a ton of history on sex work that backs this idea, and some of my more scholarly friends can better express than I can. If you’re interested Toni ‘Misty’ Mansell, a stripper/pole dancer and Socioeconomist from England is very passionate about this topic and a much better resource for a full perspective.
Do you experience many classist or shame implying comments from other pole dancers in regards to you being a stripper? What would you have to say about that?
Honestly, not to my face. But I think at this point I’ve been deemed a force to be reckoned with (which is hilarious to me but I’m happy for it). My Pole Persona **on stage** is very aggressive and very demanding and very powerful, and I find that many pole people believe that to be my real personality too- which is not the case, but perception is everything.
Additionally, I have always been on the more exotic side of pole, even when I wasn’t trying to be— certain competitions are not friendly with the sexy side so you have to find characters that might be deemed more acceptable, and it’s usually the shoes and skin they look at: I chose salsa dancer with ballroom shoes, burlesque dancer (most risqué outfit) with no shoes, killer santa clause and with monster shoes. General Public & Pole People are very specific about what isn’t acceptable and I’ve managed to find a way to dance in a grey area of sex appeal and sport technique that has allowed me to gain popularity before sexy pole was popular again.
Occasionally I’ll get into discussions on social media about sex work & all that goes with it, and for me I’m happy to discuss these issues as long as the conversation stays friendly, even if it’s passionate. Basically don’t call me names or insinuate I’m immoral and we’re good. Occasionally it happens, predominately by women no less, and I’ll respond in full force with academic aggressive debate mode, which is super direct and factual but without using inappropriate names so, in the end, the other person (hopefully) feels shameful about what they said as well as a little flabbergasted at how i obliterated their opinion based argument with facts. And if they try to continue being rude after that then I just block them because I won’t waste my energy when it’s clear the other person won’t change. But I haven’t had to block a person in many years, thankfully.
I noticed you prefer to perform in Classique motion pole. Could you please explain what ‘classique’ is and why you prefer to compete in the category?
So overall I consider myself a sexy style dancer- Classic pole dancer. Now that Sexy style has been growing in popularity there are many different styles that have emerged within the sexy style, and I would consider myself a mix. The three GENERAL styles are Stripper Style— low flow, fluid, simple and melty, and Classique Style— hair flip heavy, timed choreo, split heavy, more similar to an 8 count routine, and Russian Style— ballistic, dynamic, hard lines, gymnastics heavy, comparatively. This would be a super simple explanation of the sexy styles, with many subcategories from there. My personal style would be a mix between Stripper and Russian (choosing only from these three) and I think that speaks heavily to my background growing up in pole on the stripper side and the pole side equally.
As for competing, I prefer to compete in sexy-accepting competitions because that’s what I identify with. And there are so many types of competitions and shows now, that I choose to perform for an audience that knows what they’re in the audience for. I tried once to compete a sexy piece in a competition that wasn’t against sexy but also wasn’t sexy friendly and it didn’t go over well. It was the only competition I’d ever come in last place for and the only notes I received were variations of “HEELS- NOT THE RIGHT COMPETITION”. And so now I go where I’m wanted. It’s just like hustling in the club, you figure out what fantasy girl your client wants and you give that persona to them, or you find a client who is looking for who you want to be. So I do the same with pole, I compete and perform where the clients (Audiences/Judges) are looking for the fantasy that I already am.
You’ve competed in a lot of competitions! How many have you won? Which performance are you the most proudest of your performance?
This is easier to answer if I tell you that I’ve placed in every competition, except two, the one mentioned above, and one directly after— both. And I’m really proud of most of what I’ve put on stage, including the routines I’ve lost. I don’t compete to win — I compete to perform. And as long as I put on a good show & gave it my all, regardless of if I hit all the timing or tricks, I’m proud that I took the time and energy to be on stage. I’ve come off feeling lousy about what I did and ended up winning my category, and third overall – that’s when I realised that the tricks don’t matter as much as your performance and engagement do.
You are (and have been) traveling the world tour to provide pole workshops and teach at pole camps. What life like always on the move?
It changes all the time. Some times I’m really loving being out and about all over the world and seeing all this amazing people I’ve grown close to through the internet or random travels…. and sometimes I just need to be home with my partner and my cats eating ice cream on the couch. And even still there are some days when I need a complete reset from the world and I go offline for a few days to just be.
But overall, I love to travel. My mom is a flight attendant and so I’ve been lucky enough to have a child hood where I grew up traveling, and traveling standby (which for those who don’t know, is a free ticket but only if there’s room after everyone else) and that was always a bit hectic, so nothing I’ve been through has been quite as crazy as flying with the whole family trying to get on multiple planes to the same place & hoping we get there together.
What’s some of the biggest challenges you have experience because of your career choice?
The biggest one for me on a personal level has been my family. My dad and I had a huge falling out when I first started & he didn’t and still doesn’t (to my knowledge) know about my club life. But when I first started competing he and I stopped talking for about 2-3 years, and then it’s been on and off since then. Only recently, when I started touring full time, and he realised that I was able to build a career for myself, did we finally find a way to have a healthy (well healthier) relationship. My mom has been supportive since the beginning, though I know my choices of being ‘out’ as a dancer have really pushed her boundaries as well. She’s proud of me, and tells me all the time, regardless of the stigma. And my sister and I just don’t discuss specifics on anything really.
To put it in a bit more perspective for everyone: my father is arabic, christian and a republican. As is his entire family, including my sister, and my mom’s whole family is Italian republican. Only my mom and I are liberals whereas the entirety of my family other than us is conservative. Overall nice people, but really selfish and small minded in my opinion. Only my immediately family has travelled anywhere outside of the state, and even still my family lives in the middle of nowhere USA, so they only know what they’ve always known.
You collaborated with @tiffanyglitterheels to create a series of Monster heels. They are so tall! Tell me more about this process and why you prefer Monster heels?
Tiffany is great to work with and I love her designs! She approached me about doing a monster heels series and I was thrilled to be part of it! We wanted a different “persona” for each of the heel colours, and I think we’ve done it. Each of the designs was thought up by me in a very generalised way, but Tiffany’s genius is what brought them to life. I would show her photos and inspiration of the look and feel I wanted the shoes to have and she would work her magic and VIOLA
! ICE QUEEN
& FIRE GODDESS
Shoes. Each of these colours represent a different part of the type of aggressive energy I feel like I bring to my performances. And currently we’re working on the final look – the black monster heel. It’s still in the works so I won’t say anything more than that.
I prefer Monster heels because I love the weight. I know thats probably what most people dislike about them, but for me it’s so much easier to live in my movement when I have the extra 5lbs on each foot— plus it’s a great workout! I also love the way the height makes my legs long, and I’m only 5’2” so being 6’ has been a dream. I’ve always been envious of the beautiful tall goddesses in Pole because their lines are so striking, and with my monsters, I get to be striking too!
Though I will say, for those who are curious, I only wear monsters to perform in now. Teaching has become a bit precarious to bring them with, since I never know what the studios space will be like, and I’d rather not kill a student during a demo! (haha)
When buying outfits and costumes, where do you prefer to get yours from and why?
I get all my pole class gear from @CLEOTHEHURRICANE
. I love the way her ole gear fits, and a lot of it is ready made for the stage as well. If I need something a bit more feminine, I usually just wear lingerie I have in my drawer. For those that know me, you’ll know that most of my lingerie is from Agent Provocateur (and from when I had a ‘real job’ and club money). But I love the way this lingerie looks on my body and it’s one of the only non-pole companies I’ve found that fit my tats- everything else lets those babies escape, and since they’re real they move…. a lot .
When working in strip clubs do you often climb up the pole so you can avoid talking to customers?
HAHAHA! NO WAY! I do pole tricks as a way to stand out at the club! I want customers to talk to me! Otherwise how would I get their money? <3
Have you ever been injured and unable to compete or teach? Do you have body insurances?
I have been injured – I don’t know of any pole instructors who haven’t been, honestly. When I was younger and a ‘baby poler’ I competed and took class with my injury and didn’t know what it meant to take care of my body. Now, if I even feel slightly hurt, or overworked I give my body the break it’s asking for. I absolutely have health insurance as well – what we do is so dangerous, even though we’re so used to doing it, and it’s always better to be safe and prepared for the worst.
You have a massive following on Instagram! Has it been an instant success or gradual?
Oh gosh – definitely gradual, and time consuming. But worth it! I love seeing everyones progress and lives. IG and FB make me feel connected to people I don’t get to see very often, and it helps to stay inspired by their progress!
I’m sure, like most ‘out’ strippers on Instagram, you’ve receive slut shaming comments. Does it affect you? How do you manage it?
I’m actually very, very lucky in this regard. I’ve rarely received anything inappropriate and the few times I do, I can tell you I don’t take it lightly. If someone comes onto to my page and is rude or cruel for no reason I go straight for the kill and make sure they know exactly why what they’re saying isn’t acceptable and I usually use aggressive language to make sure they know I’m not going to fuck around with that nonsense. If it continues, I block them. I don’t have time and I won’t allow that kind of discriminatory action in my life or on my page.
Your boyfriend is a great photographer! Has he taken a lot of the photos of the images you use?
Haha he says thank you! He’s actually a cinematographer (he shoots movies), and just brings a camera of some kind every where we go. So most of the photos he’s captured are not planned (except the bath tub photo – that was a fun time for both of us). But most of my promo photos are actually by an incredible dup called ALLOY IMAGES
. These two have been my good friends for years and they have such an amazing way of making me feel comfortable in front of the camera, and they’re able to bring out all the best sides of me. They also both dance and shoot movement often, so their ability to see good form & lines & technique is unparalleled in the industry. If there’s ever an opportunity to do a shoot with them, take it! You won’t regret it!
Would you describe yourself as a feminist?
ABSOLUTELY! I think we need equal rights for both men and women across the spectrum of sexuality/gender/colour. And until we do I will always fight for that. My hope is that we can all have a dialogue that is constructive and understanding, so that even though our opinions might vary, we can all see each other’s needs and help make those happen for ourselves and each other.
Why do you think it’s important to be a feminist in the strip club?
I think it’s important because sexuality is still very much tied to morality, but they are not mutually exclusive. And I think we as a society need to start recognising that some women do enjoy being sex workers, and that that is ok. And that some women don’t want to be related to sex work at all and that’s ok too, but no-one should ever shame someone because of their history in or out of sex work. It’s a “your body, your choice” situation, and we need to respect each other’s decisions. ((SIDE NOTE: men and women in the sex industry who do not want to be there and are being forced to be there, is never acceptable, and I think we can all agree that this kind of situation should be at the forefront of our fight, to make sure that consent is always mandatory & never coerced.))
The general population needs to start having and understanding more discussions about personal boundaries, and consent, and sex and even just bodies, in general. Our society is so afraid of communicating about these things that there’s a huge discord between those who are pro sex work and those who are against. And both sides have valid reasons because both sides are usually speaking from a place of some kind of experience. Until we can start making discussions about sex/desires/boundaries a normal thing, and not something that’s shameful, we won’t be able to progress. And it’s this shame & fear of speaking up due to lack of discussions that allow for boundaries to be crossed, and that is never ok.
All of this is important to stripping because it’s one of the few consistently legal places for this type of work to exist, but one of the most stigmatised work environments.
Who are some of your favourite activists in the sex community?
Oh god- Jacq the Stripper
, and Lux ATL
& my British beauty Toni “Misty” Mansell
. These women are smart and well spoken and courageous and confident. And none of them take their beliefs lightly, and they aren’t afraid of telling it how it is and explaining why it is how it is. Plus they’re all strippers and are speaking from a place of knowledge on both an academic experience as well as a personal one.
Who is your inspiration?
Oh god, so many people for some many different reasons. Basically if you’re living and pushing through, you’re inspiring to me. Students, teachers, regular people, different types of dancers, sex workers, office workers, LGBTQ, POCs, literally everyone. We’re all fighting our own shit, and if you can find a way to still live your truth through all this crazy, you’re inspiring to me.
Thank you Jordan for taking the time out to answer our questions!
Visit Jordan’s website to find out more about her International Tour Dates, Workshops and Performances – www.jordankensley.com