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Art

3.29.2017

Jacq Talks 'STRIPTASTIC!' & Why Strippers Are The Realest Bitches She Knows

Jacq The Stripper has no qualms with telling it like it is: simply put, her new book STRIPTASTIC! is “a celebration of dope-ass cunts who like money” (that’s a direct quote) and each and every page is devoted to paying homage to her stripper sisters. And no, they’re not interested in your pity, or piety: to the contrary, these ladies slay.

The stories of these women (291 of them) are precious cargo, and Jacq is fully aware of her duty to properly represent. And represent she has; with 176 pages of full color illustrations and interviews that walk its reader through the days (and, of course, nights) of the stripper. And rest assured: this project is fully feminist, fucking hilarious, and delectably educational enough for even the most informed of readers. You’ll have to wait until April 7 to purchase her book; until then, peep our interview with Jacq below while you wait.

I know that you surveyed, or talked to, almost 300 strippers for STRIPTASTIC!. Can you tell me about that process?

Well, basically I conducted a stripper survey through my social media pages and I was sort of just working on a new project, I knew I wanted to make a book called STRIPTASTIC!, I knew it was going to be a collection of the illustrations I already had and then some. So I was like, “Maybe I’ll get some other opinions,” because a lot of my drawings were things that other people have said. So I just drew a little doodle saying, “If you want to participate in a stripper survey, hit me up in the DMs.” Don’t ever ask people to do that! [laughs] I thought maybe 20 girls would participate and I was really looking forward to it, but it ended up being over 300 so I had to cap it, I think 291 was the final number, so many women wanted to participate. Honestly, I was so thrilled. It was about a 30 question, short-form, long-form, very open-ended questionnaire and so many people wanted to participate. But yeah, it was hugely successful, and it ended up being around 300 sort-of short essays, and insights into what these women’s experiences are like.

I had no idea how powerful and how much this would affect what I was creating, because people really took the time to answer the questions and to really share what their experiences. Something that I really aspire to do is to create a safe space for women to share their experiences, because strippers and sex workers are met with a lot of judgment, which is just a hindrance to talking about what your life and what your work is like. And so I was like yeah, let’s talk about it. And you know, I don’t ask the crappy questions like, “How much money do you make,” or “What’s the worst thing that has happened to you?” Those are awful questions that you shouldn’t ask anybody, never mind a sex worker. It ended up being hugely successful, and I have this archive of beautiful stories from all these women, and I did my best to illustrate that data and surpass it. I’m really excited. I feel like I’ve just barely scratched the surface, but it’s a start.

So when you get all of these super intimate and personal stories, and it’s your job to put them all together, how do you make sure you do everyone justice?

I mean I know that I won’t. Distilling everything into an illustration—and there’s a handful of personal essays in the book, but it’s mostly just like a synthesis of data and quotes that are pulled—I’m certainly not trying to write the biographies of each of these women. I tried my best and I hope that it makes my stripper sisters proud. So yeah, there’s no way that I could do each individual woman justice, but I really tried to kind of synthesize and distill experiences that might not be told at other venues. I’d love to do more with the information later, though. I’m a lifelong stripper and stripper ally. I hope this just, you know, kind of keeps the dialogue going and invites women to come out and talk and share in a candid, non-dismal atmosphere. So that’s the goal.

Yeah, and like you said, our culture doesn’t exactly encourage those women to speak out because I imagine it’d be scary, so it’s cool that you have a place for them to do that and honor their stories.

Yeah, it’s still dangerous to come out as a stripper, and I did it because I knew my whole life was going to hinge onto that because it’s been so influential, but if you want to pursue something else afterwards, it’s such a risk. If you want to pursue nursing, or teaching, or you want to work in finance, it’s not that you can’t but it’s a huge risk to come out about your work history. I would like that to change because stripping has taught me so much, and I know that all of the women I’ve worked with are capable of so much. I mean you can hustle, you can sell, you have excellent time management skills; the things that I’ve learned are just insane. I would like them to be able to put it on a resume some day.

So it was two years ago now that you released The Beaver Show. What has changed since that book came out?

Yeah, the last two years I’ve really started designing more merchandise and stripper paraphernalia and I have an e-commerce business called jacqthestripper.com. And I’ve been really inspired to draw a lot more, because when The Beaver Show came out, I had just sort of started drawing. There were a few drawings peppered between the chapters and I had drawn the cover, but illustrating was kind of a new venture for me and it’s really taken off since then. I’ve really pursued illustrating and comics a lot more seriously, and I’ve built a business out of all of the stuff I draw and create. It’s been really rewarding and cool to have my hustle manifest online and in an e-commerce way. That’s been really cool and exciting, and the coolest thing ever is when people buy your stuff and they post on Instagram, “Yeah I love my pin,” and it’s something you designed and dreamt of and people want to buy that. I needed to write The Beaver Show to get my story out there and figure out how I felt, and then it kind of gave me the space to receive the stories of other people and the creative energy to do things. So I toured with The Beaver Show and met so many strippers all over the United States and Canada and I’m actually touring again with the next book, so I just feel so much stronger in my community since The Beaver Show came out and since I started drawing more. So that’s sort of what’s been going on, and more collaborations with more strippers have been happening and I couldn’t be happier.

So what’s the reception been like, either from women that you’ve talked to for STRIPTASTIC! or for The Beaver Show?

So for The Beaver Show, the women who reached out, they related to it deeply, especially strippers who are just starting out because The Beaver Show is the first day I became a stripper and the first year coming out to myself as a woman and as a stripper and I think a lot of strippers related to that. The more I started drawing, the less it started being about me and the more it started being about a stripper in general, because when you draw a cartoon it sort of depersonalizes the individual. I’m not taking a selfie—I’m drawing a caricature and that can be anybody. I think it’s easier for women to see themselves in a cartoon than it is to see themselves in a memoir or in a selfie, so I think I’m a lot more relatable when I draw things and that’s sort of what has brought me closer to my community, which is pretty amazing. When people tell me that my stuff is empowering, that’s the dream and that’s what strippers have told me. It makes my heart sing, because there’s not a lot of stripper empowerment out there, there’s a lot of shame. Strippers are the realest bitches I know. They’re so tough, they’re so humorous, they’re so determined, and there’s no narrative out there telling that so that’s the narrative I’m putting forth and I really hope that that’s coming across. I just want strippers to be proud of everything that they are. Because I’m proud and I’m proud of them and the fact that other people shame us just for doing a job, is ridiculous. If I can empower strippers and make them laugh, I will do that forever.

There’s such a need for that. I feel like you’re the only person that I’ve ever spoken to that has said something about it, especially with the platform that you have. I know that the book is about to come out and you’re about to go on tour, but what are your plans for the rest of the year, or more long term or short term?

Yeah, STRIPTASTIC! launches in April, and I’m really excited to announce that I’m going on a tour with Kristen Sollee who wrote a book called Witches, Sluts, Feminists, and she’s a friend of mine and we’re touring the West Coast together. We’ve called it “The Sex Witch Tour”. We’re going to be hosting Sex Witch slams and talent shows; I’ve hosted talent shows before of strippers doing other things beyond stripping and it’s super fun. So I’ll be doing that along the West Coast, we’ll be touring over the summer. I’m excited to pursue new media; same shit, new pile, a new medium I should say, not same shit. The same slutty, funny, feminist narrative; I’ve done words and now I’ve done drawings, so I’m looking into pursuing some moving images stuff, and that’s all I can say now. But yeah, I’m really excited and we’ll see what happens, but the book tour is going to be really fun and it’s kind of a dream, just to go to every city and meet a bunch of strippers everywhere. I had no idea that this was my dream, because I’m absolutely living it and it’s amazing, but I’m looking forward to that for the next five or six months.

Stay tuned to Milk for more strippers who slay.

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