When one of my porn industry sources (let's call her Miranda) told me she had traveled over ten hours north of Montreal by bus to strip at a strip club in Fermont, a mining town in North Quebec, I thought she had gone insane. Then she texted me a photo of how much money she makes during her annual trip: roughly $5,000, and I began to understand.
Fermont is not an ordinary town. Due to the freezing cold climate, most miners and their families live in a single giant building that includes apartments, a grocery store, a bowling alley, schools, and a bar that serves as an after-work hangout, a first date spot, and a strip joint. Strippers like Miranda can come to Fermont and make a mint dancing, but hardly anyone else has reason to visit.
In between her hectic dancing schedule, Miranda skyped me to discuss stripping in a small town, how to travel to Fermont, and the similarities between miners and sex workers.
VICE: How did you become a stripper in a mining town?
Miranda: I've been coming here for about eight years. When I started stripping when I was 19, I heard that it was really good money here because they only send very few girls at a time-it's an agency that takes care of everything. They pick us up at home, they drive us here, and then they pick us back up. Every week they bring different girls. They try to have variety because there's only so many people here.
How did you hear about the agency?
I heard about it from strippers. I contacted this agency, and the reason why it's a really good place for us is because, first of all, there's only one bar. So even the few women that live here, if they want to go out on a Saturday night, they have to go out to the strip club. And then, there's about-I don't know the actual statistics-but there's, like, eight men for every woman here because everybody is related to the mining industry. Anybody from a mechanic to a welder makes about $45 an hour. They have a lot of financial resources and very little to do during their time here-everybody comes here to make money, including the strippers.
Do some of the girls marry guys they meet in Fermont?
Yeah, they'll fall in love because of the guys here. There's all kinds [of guys]. There's young-there's like 18-year-olds here that make $150,000 a year-and there are people that have been living here or working here since the 70s. They're almost retiring. There's every kind.
Does it get weird at the club?
The guys are actually really polite. Basically, the only two things to do when you're here is work and/or go to the strip club. It's a fucking loony bin, and there's a huge rate of drug and gambling addicts here.
Where do you live when you work here?
There is a hotel, and there is one section of the hotel that is for us. We're treated pretty much like scum when we get here, so it's one of those things where you really have to put your ego aside. Basically they hate us here. The very few women see us as a threat, like we're coming in and grabbing their men, and [the agency has] sent some girls that really were hookers and were kind of going after-hours and fucking people for money. We have very strict rules [at the hotel], like if we leave our room we can't pass through the lobby, we can't use the phones. We have to pretty much hide whenever we're not at the club.
Does it just look like a regular hotel?
Everything is really kitschy and dated here because there hasn't been much improvement since the 70s. We're rooming three in a room right now and it's very basic, but it's comfortable, it's fine. I haven't had a breath of outside air since I got here last month.
Does staying inside make you go crazy?
Yeah, definitely. When I was 19 and really dumb and was doing a lot of cocaine, I stayed here and dated a guy-[this was] like eight years ago. ([He's] still here by the way.) I was 19, and I was super into older guys, and I just stayed here for a few months, and I went crazy.
Is it awkward when you run into him when you're in town?
Basically everybody knows everything here-it's like a fucking high school. When the new girls get here, there's a lot of people on the first night who want to see the new arrivals. It's kind of like new meat, and then they'll go in the mine the next day and be like, "Oh, there's this one girl that has tattoos, and then there's this," and then everybody knows about everything. Everybody knows who I've fucked in this city, and the 20 or 30 women that are single here basically can fuck whoever they want-it's just that they get a reputation.
Is stripping in a mining town purely a business decision?
It's strictly a business thing. I think anybody who comes here, whether it's the strippers or the [miners], come for one thing-because this is not a fun place to live. You come here for money. It's the only focus and the only thing on everybody's mind here.