If you’ve ever done a shitty, low-income job, you might have found yourself wondering what it would take for you to throw in the towel and become a stripper. You might have even found yourself Googling “how to become a stripper” and spent a few hours in a YouTube K-hole, watching open-mouthed as glossy-haired girls count thousands of dollar bills after a shift at the strip club.
Welcome to the world of stripper YouTube, a growing niche in which women lift the lid on what life is like for adult entertainers both in and outside the club. With the coronavirus pandemic and amid heightened job insecurity and mass lay-offs, the genre has only grown.
Videos on what to expect from a strip club audition, how strippers handle taxes and stripper hygiene tips provide a new insight into a profession shrouded in question marks, both for prospective dancers and curious onlookers.
Particularly popular are money count videos, which easily net 100,000 views. “Not every night is like this, I got very very lucky,” says Tiffany Bourne, a New York-based dancer, as she sits on top of an enormous pile of dollar bills. The clip has almost a million views.
Part of the appeal is the fact stripper YouTube is fairly drama-free, a corner of the internet the fabled “women supporting women” mantra seems to ring true. Unlike other pockets of the platform like beauty, mukbang and vegan channels, stripper YouTube remains a pretty harmonious place.
“There hasn’t been any drama in a while, it’s been pretty chilled,” Tiffany, a recent university graduate with 161,000 subscribers, tells VICE. “I think the community is pretty positive compared to the beauty world.”
Stripper influencers, who sometimes call themselves “stripfluencers”, are happy to share industry secrets for free, equipping other women with the tools to navigate the industry. From explaining how to deal with your period while pole dancing to advising how not to break your neck in sky-high heels, the content is refreshingly educational.
Armed with the right advice and a bedazzled thong, Cristina Villegas, a Chicago-based dancer with 1.53 million subscribers, tells me anyone can make it. “Everyone has a different type of woman they are attracted to, so with that being said, yes I believe any woman can make it in the industry. You just have to be able to create a fantasy,” she says.
Who’s watching? Yamilah Nguyen, 23, told me aspiring strippers only account for around a third of her 136,000 subscribers. People aren’t tuning in for a manual on making money off horny men, according to Yamilah. They come to be entertained.
“Most of my views are women, who come because I’m relatable and transparent, I don't act too boujee or too good for anyone,” she told me by email. “I drive a regular car and live in a regular one bedroom apartment. I share my flaws and life problems and I talk to my viewers as if they're my homegirl.”
Tiffany said her viewers are 68 percent women. Her male viewers are straight men (“perverts”, she laughs when we speak on Zoom) or gay men watching for fun. A recent comment on her channel reads, “no one here is auditioning for a strip club. Don’t lie. We’re eating in our beds watching random shit.” It has received 16,000 likes. Another says, “me: has no intentions of being a stripper. Also me: avidly watching.”
For women with larger followings across YouTube, Instagram and OnlyFans, being a stripfluencer is more lucrative than stripping itself. “Social media is now my main source of income,” Cristina tells me. “When I first started in the industry my main source of income was stripping. I would make between $2,000- $10,000 a week depending on how good the club was and how many days I worked. Social media ad revenue came later in my career as my platform got bigger.”
Growing a following for being part of a niche means there’s no guarantee people will carry on caring about you if you leave the industry. Herein lies the conundrum for stripfluencers: they draw a massive audience in with stripper videos but still find themselves unable to quit the club.
“I really only go to the club now for the sake of YouTube now,” says Tiffany. “My niche is the strip club and I think a lot of people follow me for that. Right now, even though people may tell you, ‘I love who you are, I love your energy,’ they came to my channel for stripper videos, so I need to build on the connection with my viewers before I move on to the next thing.”
For Yamilah, who started working as a stripper aged 18, the pandemic served as a catalyst to work on building other streams of income – including YouTube ad revenue and selling wigs on Depop – to become less reliant on stripping.
She plans to carry on sharing stripper tips and advice online despite not currently setting foot in the club herself. “I know my audience will still be interested because they will learn who I really am and they fall in love with me as a person, not me just being a stripper,” she says.
Despite celebrities like Cardi B and Blac Chyna making the jump from stripper to success, there’s still stigma around sex work. Outing yourself as a dancer in 2020 sadly comes with judgement. Cristina said her YouTube channel has had repercussions in her life. “I have had a shift in some of my relationships with family and friends,” she says. “It is hard, but the entire reason I started making videos about the industry was to try and change people’s perspective on it.”
Like anyone making online content, stripper YouTubers have their demographic of critics in the comments section. People say that its key players show too much of the good stuff – money counts, lingerie hauls and glam “get ready with me” videos – without discussing the pitfalls of stripping.
These concerns are echoed by Nina Galy, a former dancer who quit the industry because of the toll it took on her mental health. “Some YouTubers fail to be completely transparent about other forms of sex work they do. And they don’t tell you RESULTS MAY VARY. I’ve seen girls watch videos, buy all the body parts, and still aren’t cut out for the industry.”
Nina quit in 2018, after she developed body dysmorphia as a result of her club’s body favouritism. She says she hopes viewers don’t see stripping as an easy option. “For me, it was either dance, or lose my apartment because my situation was time sensitive. Dancing isn’t the worst thing ever, it sure as hell beats homelessness, or barely trying to make ends meet. But I highly encourage anyone who is considering joining the adult industry to think about their long-term plan before they even audition at a club.”