Strip Down, Rise Up (2021) - full transcript

Academy Award Nominated director Michèle Ohayon's Verite film follows women of all ages and ethnic backgrounds who heal trauma and body image shame through sensual dance and daring pole dance artistry.


[SHEILA] So I asked for truth,
and I asked for your erotic power

and that beautiful desire.

So I want you to really bring it.

Don't forget that's a thing
that's hard to show.

This is going to provoke you,
and it's going to make you surrender.

Thank you.
Thank you for being the first up.


[SHEILA] If you think
about the society that we live in,

women are trapped
in the culture of the masculine.

There's so much global abuse of women.

Body-image shaming,
sexual abuse, and ego smashing.

[AMY] There's a lot of shame
that women carry

because their body doesn't look
like that body on a magazine cover.

[SHEILA] Finding your erotic body.

[ALI] More Tiffany! More!

Hit them with your hips!

[WOMAN] Just because someone is
dressing some way or looking sexy

doesn't mean that they're inviting you

to be sexual with them.

[SHEILA] We've been shutting down
the feminine body,

curbing women's eroticism.

[DR. BERMAN] It is time for women
to step into their power,

and the time is now!

[SHEILA] The way to step into that power
is through movement.

I believe that taking the pole
and reframing it

allows for personal reclamation

of the feminine body.

[SHEILA] We like to talk
about how forward-thinking we are,

but the truth of the matter is,
the second you say "pole dancing,"

they immediately think

where men go smoke cigars, drink,
and women do lap dances for money.

[AMY] And that's
just a part of what it is.

[JENYNE] It's the world of pole.

It's pole dance, and it's pole artistry,

pole fitness,

pole sport.

It's different things to different people.

It's a journey of growth
and self-discovery.

I wanted to just get my mojo back.

[SHEILA] I am in a war to help women
reclaim themselves.

When you enter my world,

you're gonna feel
like you walked into Fight Club for women.

And if you judge here,
I'm going to ask you to leave.

Baby, this is not for sissies.

Good morning.

I'm 50 years old.

I'm the mother of two children.

And I'm also a widow.

We are coming up
on now a year and eight months

since my husband passed.

[SOFTLY] There you go.

Anyone who knows me

knows that I'm always on the go,

out and about,

keeping busy all the time.

Losing my husband…

So much of me died with him.

I can go to work.
I can take care of my customers.

I can take care of the shop.

Once I'm back in the car,

there's no music.

There's no life.

Right now, the kitchen table
is not a kitchen table anymore.

It's piled with bills.

There's darkness everywhere.

Terry just wasn't my husband.
He was my best friend.

He was stepfather to my children.

I lost all of that in…

in one weekend. [CRIES]

I need to allow myself to be happy.

That's why I wanted to try S Factor.

I opened up the application,

and then I closed it and left it alone.

- [EVELYN] Something told me, "Go back."

"Just look at what it is."

[SHEILA] I already was
a voice for this movement.

[REPORTER] Created by actress
Sheila Kelley,

the S Factor is
Hollywood's hottest fitness trend.

I had already written a book.
I had been on the Oprah Show with S.

Sheila Kelley is back to show us
how to work the pole.

[SHEILA] That happened
'cause Teri Hatcher, she was a student,

went on Oprah and showed some moves.

[TERI] It's very much about empowerment.

There's all size women in the class.

It's not about
looking at yourself or being sexy.

It's about finding this place of comfort

and confidence in your own body.


- [SHEILA] Martha, come on!

Why is it called the S Factor?

It's called the S Factor
after the shape of a woman's body.

The curves of a…

the S kind of mimics
the shape of a woman's body,

as opposed to, like,
a man, who's more, like, of an H.

- We're an H? Oh!
- Well, you know...

- Thanks a lot! [LAUGHS]

Women are an S!

Men are an H!


[SHEILA] Oh, my God!

[SHEILA] I knew
I had to separate it from this male gaze.

I talked about it as fitness,

as something you can do
to get in great shape.

Really, what S Factor is,

it's a lifestyle practice

designed for those that identify as women

to unlock the body
through sensual movement…


[SHEILA] …and to learn

how it can bring you
into a better place in the world.

[WOMAN] Okay.

[SHEILA] When I realized that, I was like,

"Okay, I have to get this to women.
I want to get this to women."


Can you fill these out,
and bring it to me when you're done?

There's a pen right there.


[RECEPTIONIST] All right, we're good.
We're awesome. Thank you.

- What's your name?
- Evelyn.

- Evelyn. Patty.
- Patty.

- Pleased to meet you.
- My middle name's Evelyn. I'm Violet.

- [PATTY] Violet.
- Nice to meet you.

- I'm traveling from Fontana.
- Oh! Is that far?

[EVELYN] My goal is to climb the pole.

I'll be happy if I just get up to the top
and just wave at everybody. [CHUCKLES]

I probably won't be waving,
but you know. [LAUGHS]

That's my goal, is to climb.


- I'm Ava.


[RECEPTIONIST] Right here,
we need your initials.

[AMBER] I am, like,
so not coordinated at all.

- [WOMAN LAUGHS] You don't need to be.
- Super dork.

I haven't had a dance class
since I was in third grade.

- Yeah, that's what I'm talking about.
- Same skills.

I guess... not sure what to expect.

- [LAUGHS] Yeah.
- You know? So it'll be interesting.

[ALL] Hi!

How's it going?


Are you guys nervous?

- [WOMEN] Yes.
- You guys are brave motherfuckers.


[ALI] I'm gonna, um,
ask you to leave your shoes out here.

Come on in here.
Put your stuff on the bench here.


[ALI] Hair down, glasses off, and then
we're gonna sit in a little circle.

[SHEILA] Wow! Look at this crew!

- [SHEILA] I wanna introduce you to Ali,

who will be co-teaching with me.

I'm Sheila, and it's my life mission

to help bring women back

into their wholeness.

So we're about to embark
on a six-month journey,

where we'll reconnect with our bodies
through sensual movement.

And we'll get to know each other,

even though we feel
like strangers right now.

It takes feeling safe.

That is why there's no mirrors,
and there's no judgement.

I wanna know your name, where you're from,
and what you're seeking here.

Who wants to go first?

I think what I wanna get out of this,

I've noticed recently
that I've stopped looking in the mirror…

particularly this region. [CHUCKLES]

Sort of like the shame
of putting weight on.

There's never been a day in my life
where I felt sexy

or where I felt
like I accepted my body for what it was.

I've always been a tomboy.

I never really understand

the true meaning of what being a woman is.

I'm hoping this class will help that
and help me fall in love with myself,

'cause Lord knows I don't. [CHUCKLES]

[EVELYN] I recently lost my husband.
It's been a year and a half.

So, this is a big thing.

I want to embrace being intimate again,

even with myself,

because I let a lot go,

and I want it back.

- [CLASS] Yes!
- Let's do it. Shall we move?


[LISSET] So my girlfriend's
been coming to this,

and she's been opening up
and seeing the goddess in her,

and I'm just like, "I want some of that."


I have three children,
and my baby is 21 years old.

And so I kind of feel like I'm done

with the motherhood part of my life.

If I don't get on it,
I'm not gonna be able to.

[ALI] As your head pulls
your whole body to the left…

Every other woman that I see,
she looks gorgeous to me.

I'm like, "Wow, she's pretty!"

[CRIES] But I can never see it in myself.

[CRYING] And I wanna find that confidence

and feel sexy and not compare myself
negatively to other women.

I look around here,

"Oh, my God, everybody's so pretty!
Like, what am I looking like right now?"

- [SHEILA] She asked you a question.

- [WOMAN] How is she looking?
- Yeah. How is she looking right now?

- [WOMAN] Super hot!


[SHEILA] Every woman
that comes in the studio

has a side of herself that's been hushed.

The world has such incredible judgement

around anyone who carries excess weight.

I went through the process of,

"You're too this. You're too that.
You're not enough of this."

[EVELYN] Growing up,

my father,

he used to call me "Hot Dog."
It was a nickname.

That one little thing just crushed me.

I developed early,

and everybody started noticing me.

[CRYING] And I was being called a slut
because of what I was born with.

[SNIFFLING] I detached myself from it

because I didn't wanna be judged.
I didn't wanna be called names.

[ERIN] Why does being a voluptuous woman,

or even a slim woman with cellulite,

why is that a thing that cannot be loved

and beautiful?

[ALI] I'm gonna teach you to walk.

S Factor style.

The first step of the walk

is to start to drag your toe

from back to front across your midline.

So my whole body is slithering along.

You're gonna stick your breasts out,
your shoulder blades back.

Pull your belly button in
to support your low back

'cause it arches.

And it doesn't matter.

You're not going
in a straight line or getting anywhere.

You're just enjoying how you get there.

That's the journey.



[SHEILA] If a woman is feeling like,
"I can't dance…".

"I feel too awkward, too clumsy…"

[WOMAN] Yeah!

[SHEILA] …that's maddening 'cause it's not
like a "dance on the beat" kind of thing.

It's... no, it's…

it's all about releasing deep, deep pain

and deep trauma in your body.

[SHEILA] So where's your curve right now?

- [CHUCKLING] Where's your…

[SHEILA] Can I have your glasses?

Thank you.

- I can't see.
- [SHEILA] It's great.


Kick your hip out. Just kick a hip out.

Let your hair go. Yeah.

You're like this vixen

who hides in this place,

which we don't want you
to hide there anymore. Okay?

So, how we gonna do it?

In the middle of 2015,
I was diagnosed with lupus.

[VOICE BREAKING] So I had a reason
for why, um, I was frozen all the time.

To want to walk and not be able to,

to want to pick up a cup,

and you just couldn't do it.

So, I became very aware of movement,

and I want to explore that more.

Honestly, I don't have a crazy story.

I just wanted to try pole class.

And that's just something different, new.

I wanna shake my thing.


- This, to me, is a transformative journey.
- Yeah, I'm kind of getting that.

- [SHEILA] Okay.
- So…


It's kind of intense. Yeah.


I'm like, "Wow, okay.
What did I get myself into?"

A lot. You got yourself
into the deep fucking end, baby!

I wasn't scared.
Now I'm, like, a little scared. [LAUGHS]

[SHEILA] You're gonna hold
each other accountable to not giving up.

Emotion is gonna come up.
Fear is gonna come up.

Judgement is gonna come up.
You have to fight through it.

I'll tell you right now,
you're all gonna wanna quit.

You're all gonna go, "This is
too fucking intimate. This is scary."

And then if you are brave enough,

you'll continue forward
and reclaim yourself completely.

If you give in to it,

you will drift off and live
in a state of "Where the fuck am I?"

So, listen, I want you to look
across the circle at someone

and catch the eye of somebody,
and then point to her.

Does everybody have somebody?

I'm going that direction.
I can't actually see.

- [SHEILA] Is someone looking at her?

- You're my girl!
- [SHEILA] Put your hand up. Okay.

That is your mirror for this journey.

She's gonna keep you
and hold you accountable,

and you're gonna create a sisterhood.




[SHEILA] I never set out
or intended to be the founder

of a feminine movement practice.

[SHEILA] Yeah. This is done.

[SHEILA] I was preparing for a movie
where I was playing a stripper.


[SHEILA] I became
fascinated by pole dance.

It felt so amazing

to be that overtly feminine.

When you have been offended constantly

and told what is right and wrong
to do with your body,

you start to take that inside,
and you start to self-offend.

I had an enormous amount of self-abuse.

I was diagnosed with anorexia.

I was a cutter.

This lifestyle and practice

has made me confront

all the things
that have made me self-conscious,

made me feel judged,

made me feel shut down.

One day,

I was dropping my son off at preschool,

and there was a knock on my window.

It was a mom
I didn't really know. She goes, um,

"I hear you do that pole dance."

And I'm like,
"Yeah, go get some six-inch heels."

"Come on over to my house."

So I started teaching.

[SHEILA] Okay, it's ready.

- Let's all sit.

[SHEILA] My kids
came up against challenges,

being the mom with the poles in the house.



The mothers and the fathers would not
let their daughters come over here

because people think, you know,
"A strip club."


- We needed that.

Can we start
every single meeting like that?


[SHEILA] I eventually opened studios
in Chicago, San Francisco,

Los Angeles, Houston, and New York.

[PATRICIA] When I first started,

it just felt like freedom and release.


Even though I wasn't physically crying,

every dance was me crying.

I was just in a really,
really dark, dark place.

My relationship had ended.

I was really devastated.

It just felt like…

"I'm 38 years old,
I'm never gonna get married,

I'm never gonna have a baby,

it's never gonna happen for me."

I wanted to kind of reconnect with myself.

I was feeling very dejected.

I just wanted to feel
more sensual and more sexual.

When I first started,

a lot of what I went through was about
just feeling comfortable in my own skin,

feeling the sensuality in my body.

I didn't know there was a deeper journey.

[SHEILA] There's a fight happening

between two erotic energies.

Between your lust and your fire

has been your fear, your pullback, right?

And what's coming is a lot of hope.

But I want the hope to bring the lust.

Don't leave the lust back there.

[PATRICIA] As a Black woman
in the workplace,

you encounter so many things

that will make you angry.

There's such a stigma
around this idea of the angry Black woman.

That's been something
that I really try to keep a handle on

because you know that people have
those kinds of perceptions

and that your anger is really not okay.

S Factor can be sort of a safe place

to explore that and try to express it.


[PATRICIA] I've been doing S Factor
for about eight years now.

A lot of it is about the deepness
of the relationships

that all these women have
with each other.


[AMY] I went from believing
that pole dancing

was this very solitary thing

to discovering this huge family of people

who are open arms, embrace me,

and would celebrate
all of my wins with me.

Pole is an industry that is unique

because it is built by women.


The original pole studio owners

come from, like, an S Factor background,

or they were strippers,
and people wanted to learn their craft.

This creative industry
has been growing like crazy

because we built our business around,

"How does pole dancing help you become
empowered in the rest of your life?"

"How do you feel bigger and bolder
outside of the studio

because of the confidence
that pole dance instills in you?"

And that's really
the intoxicating part of pole.


[AMY] I love competition.

I always want to win,
and that's just the way I am.


[AMY] I'm also an attorney.

I currently practice pro bono family law.

You can be a pole dancer
and you can be a lawyer.

How cool is that?


[AMY] I generally am known

as what, in the pole dance world,
we call a trickster.

I post a lot of tricks on social media.

I love teaching tricks.

In five weeks, I am competing

at the Golden Gate Pole Championship.

My reason for competing

has always been about telling stories.

Can I tell a story with my body

that I truly believe in,

that maybe other people
can relate to too?



[AMY] I took
my very first pole dancing class,

and I was like,
"Oh, this will be such a nice hobby."

I don't know.
Maybe it was, like, an electric,

magnetic thing
in the stainless steel on the pole,

but as soon as I touched the pole,

I was like, "Oh, I love this."

I literally fly when I'm on the pole.

I'm flying. That's crazy.

I never would've believed
I could have done that five years ago.

- [WOMAN] Amy, did you wash your hands?
- Yes.

[WOMAN] Okay.

[MAN] There she is. Talk to him.


[AMY] I'm the oldest of seven kids.

I was raised in the Mormon Church.

Being Mormon,

women owning their sexuality was something
that was really frowned upon.

You just pretend
that your sexuality doesn't exist.

And if you run into a moment
where it happens to exist for you,

you, like, say your prayers
and you ask for forgiveness for it.

I felt like a bad person

because of this lesson I'd had in my body

about being ashamed of my sexuality.

Like, is this really real?
Is this something I actually believe in?

When I started pole dancing,

I didn't tell anyone about it

because it was still
this weird underground thing.

I want to create a world
where you say that you pole dance,

and the first question
people ask you isn't,

"Oh, are you a stripper?"

It's, "Oh, that's really cool."

- "I've heard that's really hard."

Yeah! Do it again! All right!




[AMY] I own San Francisco Pole and Dance.

I wanted to create a space

where anybody can come,

and they're not ashamed to pole dance.

Whatever face my students put on for work,
they can take off when they come in here.

If they've got a belly
on top of their abs,

let it all hang out.

The reason we don't wear a lot of clothes
is because it helps you stick to the pole.

- [TEACHER] All the way up.
- [AMY] I tell my students,

"I know that you've been shamed
about your body for most of your life,

but I want you to take off
most of your clothes,

strip down to a bikini,

come out here
in front of full-length mirrors,

and I want you to try something
you've never done before

"and that you're
probably gonna be really terrible at."

That's a hard sell right there.


I'm gonna show you guys three, like,
tricksy things today.

We'll incorporate it and kind of break up

the tricks that we learn
with free dancing.

And face! Chest!

Belly! Hips!

And then you're gonna tuck your hips.
You're gonna sit down into it,

pulling your face in towards the pole.

Getting your pussy down to the ground.

I signed up
for the sexy choreography class

because I've never
been in shape or felt sexy.

I like doing things that terrify me,
and I swear, this thing terrified me.

[AMY] Let's do this move together.

One, back.

Two, back.

Kick, drop.

Oh! You queen!

That was fucking awesome! That was great!


[AMY] What is so exciting
about pole dancing

is it helps people, especially women,

rediscover their relationship
with their bodies.


[SHEILA] Here's what you're gonna do.

Take your right hand or left hand,
whichever is dominant.

And you're going to stay
in that beautiful curvy walk,

and you're going to close the door.

And then you're gonna turn around.


[SHEILA] Right?

I want you to think of the pole

as the frame of the artwork of your body.

It's not about the pole.


[MEGAN] I'm from Ohio, originally.

I grew up doing gymnastics.

It just was my life.

When I was younger,
I was repeatedly sexually abused by

the ex-famed Olympic gymnastics doctor,
Larry Nassar,

but it was one of those things

that I stuffed away.

My whole life,
I just pretended like it never happened,

but it was always there.

I gotta breathe for a sec.

[VOICE BREAKING] Um, but, you know, this...

[SHEILA] You don't have to keep talking.


- [SHEILA] You can just be.
- Okay. Okay.



[MAN] Wow!

I was two when I started gymnastics,

and I fell in love with it,

and I immediately wanted
to be an Olympian.

I remember the 1996 Atlanta Olympics,

when Kerri Strug broke her foot.

That was such a big moment.

[MAN] All right, Meg.

[MEGAN] I gave up everything for it.

I didn't have friends
or a social life or anything.

- [MAN] Yeah! Good job, Meg!

[MEGAN] When I was 15,

I ended up having
three stress fractures in my back.

As a gymnast,
what you're told by your coaches is,

"No pain, no gain. Push through it."

So I pushed, and I trained
on those fractures for six months…

and I couldn't walk
'cause there was just so much spasming,

and, like, my body was just so contracted

and trying to protect itself.

We went to a few doctors.
They couldn't find what was wrong,

and so when we found Larry Nassar,

it was like a godsend

that he knew what was wrong

and could treat it. [CHUCKLES]

This is a famous doctor.

All of my heroes saw him.

When Kerri Strug broke her foot,

little do people realize
that it was Larry Nassar

holding his hand out for her.

He would sort of start this massage,

and he'd sort of
work his way up in your inner thighs.

And then he'd camouflage

by standing in between my mom and I,

and he would have one hand massaging,

and then the other
would just aggressively go in.

And it was painful.
It hurt. I'd walk out of there sore

every single time.

It was… it was really intense.

I knew from day one
that something was wrong,

but I was too scared.

I was terrified.

I was terrified to say something.

I didn't even know
that area of my body yet.

[MEGAN] This past year has been awful.

I just kind of stopped living

because I started to deal with it.

And I went to therapy,
and I was proactive,

but I don't know…
you know, I… I don't know who I am.

[SHEILA] You're put on this Earth
to be life force,

and this culture we live in

just robs it from the feminine.

And I am no longer okay with it.

So thank you for joining me on this crazy,
crazy amazing journey of reclamation.

We'll… we'll get there, okay?

Just wanna talk to you
about what you're gonna bring next week.

- Shoes.

- Six-inch to eight-inch shoes.


[SHEILA] These shoes are gonna start
to tell you about yourself.

They will tilt your pelvis
another 30 degrees

and make the curve even louder.

They're also gonna allow your body
to be more heightened in her sexuality.


Miss Evelyn. Yeah?

- What's going on?


[EVELYN] My husband, Terry…

March 6th was a year and a half

that he's been gone.


[VOICE BREAKING] Around that time,
I put my wedding ring back on

'cause I took it off.

[SHEILA] Let the sob happen.
Just sob for a second.

There's no shame here.
There's no cutting back the sobbing.

- No, I...
- [SHEILA] You're grieving.

But what your body needs to do
is move emotion through it.

[SOBBING] But it's such an ugly cry.

- [SHEILA] Oh, my God!

I don't mean it's ugly.

[CRYING] Yeah, it's probably ugly
in the face, but I mean…

this is a cry I've never…


…I've not experienced.

And I know it's different,
and I hear it in the echoes in my house.

And it's horrible.


[SHEILA] Put your hand
where he is right now in your body.

I'm sorry?

Put your hand on where he is in your body.
Where do you feel him most?

- [INHALES] Right here.
- [SHEILA] Right here?

I want you to just move it.

I don't want you to feel…
I don't want you to talk anymore.

I want you to move your body.


I don't think I can.

[SHEILA] Let that hand
and that arm soothe you right now.

If that's where he is,

let that arm soothe you.


[SHEILA] You know how to do this. Breathe.

- Breathe.

[SHEILA] Let it move you.

Have a dance right now.

Come on. Come on.

Move toward me with your breath.

- ♪ Just let it be ♪

♪ Why don't you be you ♪

♪ And I'll be me? ♪

♪ Everything that's broke ♪

♪ Leave it to the breeze… ♪

[SHEILA] That's it. That's it. That's it.
Beautiful, Evelyn.

And let it go.

♪ And I'll be me? ♪

♪ And I'll be me… ♪

[SHEILA] Crawl over to me.
Slow. You know how to do this.





[SHEILA] Keep moving.
Put his… on your… that arm, yes!

Feel him dancing with you, baby.

♪ Why don't you be you ♪

♪ And I'll be me… ♪

[SHEILA] Good!
Now, you're gonna go all the way back.


It's okay to be happy again.

Thank you for trusting us.

[EVELYN CRYING] It's been a long time
since I could trust.

So, thank you.


[DR. BERMAN] Even though
you're not therapists, you, as teachers,

are providing an experience

that is extremely healing
in a therapeutic way.

But you wanna be extra careful,

because if you're triggering
PTSD reaction,

call her over after class
and connect with her.

"Are you seeing a therapist

to give you the support
that we're not equipped to give you

but that you really need,
not only to get the most out of the class,

but to do your healing?"

Sheila asked me to come in
and just brief you,

make sure you feel confident

working with women
who have a trauma history,

or maybe trauma is coming out
right now…

I have a student in my class

that had sexual trauma
at a very young age.

[DR. BERMAN] So what do you see?

- [JENN] Hesitation, locked body.
- [DR. BERMAN] Mmm-hmm.

The key with trauma recovery
is shame release

in the process of reclaiming

your sexuality on your terms at your pace

because the power was
taken away from you,

and shame was put in that place.

Shame will hold you prisoner,

but really all shame wants is to come
into the light and be let go.

"You no longer serve me."


[SHEILA] This movement will bring you
into such an incredible state of peace

and ownership again.


[AMY] It's amazing how pole can be
so many different things

to so many different people.


[AMY] You have your pole competitions
that are more about winning and losing.

They're about performance.



I have a PhD in theoretical physics
and neuroscience.

I got into it to fix my spine.


[AMY] My schools are focused
on building good technical training

with an eye towards competition.

The hands are, like,
making this whole thing. It looks awesome.


Don't lose your audience,
since you're telling them a story.

- You gotta keep eye contact.
- Okay.

[AMY] You have professional performers
like Jenyne Butterfly,

who do pole
at shows like Cirque du Soleil.

[ANNOUNCER ON MIC] Ladies and gentlemen,
Jenyne Butterfly!


My name is Jenyne,

also known as Butterfly.

I'm an aerialist

specializing in pole artistry.

I recently performed five years
with Cirque du Soleil.

And I am also a mother.


[JENYNE] When I was 18,

I was brought to a gentlemen's club

where the best pole dancer
in the country performed.

Her name was Pantera.

She was very intimidating.

I could not believe what I was watching.

She would go up and do a lay-back
and then do crunches,

and then she would spin around really fast

and then drop down

and then do one-handed push-ups on stage.

I couldn't stop thinking about it.

So I started
working at the club as a waitress.

I had set down my tray

and went to go, you know,
try some stuff on the pole.

I couldn't do anything.

And Pantera walked by and saw me.

She said, "You need boots to climb."

She actually gave me a pair of boots.

I ripped the boots.

Then I realized
that I had to build strength.

[JENYNE] I was self-taught.

I try to spend my time mostly in the air

because I'm really clumsy.

I'm only graceful when I'm in the air.

I decided to stop going to college

and really focus on my training.

- Pole became a priority.

I ended up going
to the World Pole Dancing Championship,

where I represented the US.


[JENYNE] That's when things
really started picking up in my career.


[JENYNE] There's so much freedom in pole.

The second my feet come off the ground,

I am in another world.

[JENYNE] There's no right and wrong
in pole.

There's just focus

and the connection with my body.

It's therapy.

It's a release.

You shut out everything else that's
happening in your life,

and you focus on yourself.

It helps you become healthier.

It gives you strength,
and it gives you flexibility.

Good. There you go.

[JENYNE] It doesn't matter
how long it takes you.

You will develop everything that you need

to be able to lift yourself.

You can just start
by taking one class a week.

You know, get off the couch.

When I started pole dancing,

it was still fairly new.

There wasn't anything

as a pole dance instructor.

So when I heard that it was on the news,

I said, "What? This is amazing!"

It was Sheila Kelley.

I thought, "Wow, that's really amazing,
how she's taking it out

and making it available
for so many women."

She's doing this beautiful thing with it

that I knew was a part of pole,

but it was the part
that I had really looked over.


[JENYNE] I felt like
we were going along similar paths,

but I was going the performance route,
and she was going the teaching route.

[SHEILA] I'm not gonna teach you
to do what I do.

I'm gonna teach you to do
what your body wants to do,

how your body moves

into your pleasure and your desire.

That's the whole premise of what I teach.

I want women to feel safe enough
to explore this part of themselves

so that they can rediscover,

reclaim, and come whole,

and fucking shine!


♪ Hey, we're just here to have fun now ♪

♪ Livin' life on the high
We can't come down ♪

[PATTY] Whoo!


I need orthopedic stilettos.

A demure heel.

It's a classic stiletto.

This could kill somebody!


[WOMAN] I'm more of a Converse girl.

Hey, look! Dude!
They have something for everyone!

- They've got something for everyone.


- All right.
- Get up. Ready?


Wow, the air is different up here.


[LISSET] Oh, yes!

[JAIMEE] Oh, yeah!

- [AVA] S Walk!
- I don't know that I can do it.

[JAIMEE] I wanted to…

I feel like I'm walking down the aisle.

I am already getting there.


Walk it straight. One, two, one…


- [PATTY] Hi!
- [WOMAN] Hi!

- [EVELYN] Hi!
- Feels a lot bigger.

Brought my gloves.


- Neat!
- I was, like, really excited.

- Yeah! [LAUGHS]
- [EVELYN] These have been, like…

I'm surprised there's no cobwebs, but…



[WOMAN 1] Yeah.

[WOMAN 2] No.

[WOMAN 3] There's tons of pole dancing,
stripper things on Hollywood Boulevard.

I went to, like, 20 places, literally.

They had nothing that fit me.

"Put on a thong," and I can't wear thongs

because they get lost
in my butt. [CHUCKLES]

- And I'm like… I'm just like…

I'm so fucking pissed off and angry.

And I was like, "Fuck this class."

"Fuck everyone else in it."

- No offense to you guys, but I was like…

But I'm, like, in the mirror, seeing this.

And I remember I'm going on the pole,
and it's, like, wrapping around,

and I was just like,
"I don't wanna do this."

"I just feel gross,

and I wanna feel sexy,

but I feel disgusting."

[SHEILA] Fucking gorgeous.

- [SHEILA] Are you sick and tired yet?
- Yeah, which is why I'm here.

Right now, you're living
with the critical masculine mind.

The critical masculine mind sees the world
with the critical masculine gaze

that measures everything.

Baby! Keep going! Go, go, go!

[SHEILA] All the tools I'm gonna give you
are tools that teach the body,

and the body will teach the mind

if you let it.


A lot of what you learn
in your level-one intro class

is about appreciating your curves.

A lot of the cues they give you,
say things like,

"Stroke your tummy."

And I didn't wanna do it. I…

[LAUGHS] I hate my tummy.

And then I just had this realization of,

"Gosh, if you can't touch your tummy,
who will?"

[SHEILA] What we're doing is
we're changing patterns in your body.

- Anyone immediately feel a difference?
- [WOMAN] Yeah.

Hands. I wanna see hands. Hold 'em up.

It's just, to me, it's so similar…


I don't… I can't even talk now.

- Lisset, what is happening?

[LISSET] I had a very emotional week.

I would look at my dog, and I'm like,
"Oh, you love me so much!"


I felt very open,
like I've been cracked open,

and I can feel everything and everyone.

I've always had a tough exterior,

so moving my body,
I could feel certain things activate

and just started crying.

[WOMAN] I never wear my hair up.
I've always worn it down.

I feel like I use it
as a defense mechanism.

It deflects attention from my features,

but at work,
I actually wore my hair up twice.

It sounds silly to people
who wear their hair up all the time.

I felt confident enough to do it. Sorry.

[CRYING] Uh, for the first time
in a very long time.


[SHEILA] Do yourself a favor,

and don't wipe the tears.

Um… sorry.


It's natural!

- [SHEILA] That's a pattern.
- Yeah.

- Pattern of apology.
- Yeah.

[SNIFFS] I'm happy
I have all of you, by the way.


[SHEILA] Amber,
you felt a difference. Don't lie.

I had zero idea,

like, what a prude I was.

- I mean…

I've run marathons.

I've been an athlete my entire life.

There is nothing that I haven't done.

I left and I was like…


I started crying, and I was like,
"I am so much lamer than I thought I was."

My first thing was, like,
"Okay, I'm gonna quit."

Yeah, you said,
"You're gonna want to quit."

I'm not a crier.

Like, I did not expect
that I was gonna ugly cry in the car.

- Maybe the tears are a beautiful thing.

Well, you didn't see 'em. It wasn't…

- [LAUGHS] It wasn't like…

There was… it was like…
there was some snot involved.

- It was not pretty.
- Know what? I'm gonna keep pushing at you.

I don't wanna cry in here,
but, like, okay. [LAUGHS]

Amber, you excel at masculine shit.

You're a good little man.

- Yeah.

[SHEILA] But you ain't never gonna be
as good a man as a man,

but you're gonna be
a phenomenal fucking woman.


[AMBER] I think
I'll be here next week? We'll see.

[SHEILA] Okay, sweetie.

What I struggle with a lot
is disassociating from my body.

Like, it just doesn't seem
part of me ever.

[SHEILA] Which parts of your body
scare you the most?

I… I think, like,
my heart and what my heart wants, and…

my feminine areas.

[SHEILA] Your vulva?


Yeah, vulva.

Someone stole that from you,

and we need to re-own it, reclaim it.

Yeah, I was thinking back to, like,
the first time I started

to dissociate with my vulva

and learn about that part of my body.

And I was taught from a young age

that this was just bad,

and sexuality was bad.

And that pisses me off
that I was conditioned that way.

It just… like, it makes me red with rage.

And that's okay. Not only is it okay,
we wanna release the kraken.



[WOMAN] What are we doing, Jenn?

[JENN] So,
we're gonna walk around the pole.

Using your half-pint, you're gonna pivot
up on to your left foot.

Cross your left hand across.

Bring that to the right,
and go all the way back here.


Once you're here,
you've already done half the work.

The only thing to do now
is to hold your grip

and bring your other leg behind you.


- So sad.
- [SHEILA] No, that was awesome!




[SHEILA] Work it!



I have never done that!


Next week, you're gonna go up two feet.

And then the week after,
you'll be all the way up.

[WOMAN] Yes!

Upper body strength, gotta get that.


[JENN] When I first started,
it was as a student.

Sheila tapped me in. She's like,
"You should become a teacher."

I'm like, "Oh, my gosh. She's crazy.
There's no way I can teach."

But I was totally enthralled,

came back, signed up
for teacher training, and taught,

and then became the events director.

And it became a mission in my life

to give women
another opportunity, as I had.

- [BOY] Ready?
- [JENN] Ready.

- Am I in now?
- [BOY] Yeah, you're in.

Ooh! Oh!

That was stressful.

- Oh! Whoa!


See that? Oh, no!

When I was 13,

that was, like, the beginning
of just a slow downfall in my life.

- You're out.

[JENN] I was short-tempered.
Some people called me a monster.

I felt like I was misunderstood.

I lost touch with my body.

I stopped loving her.

I went into a raging spiral.

I started putting on weight.

Then I would take it off.

It's been a rise and fall of 40,
50 pounds.

And then I had my children,

so I added another 60 pounds.

Now, I'm over 100 pounds overweight.

I've stopped taking care of myself.

What's on the dinner menu tonight?

Well, since the vines finally,
uh, bloomed a little bit,

I figure we can make tamales.

[STRATY] Does it bother me
if she's overweight?

You know, um…

it's… it's a health thing.

I know she's beautiful,
and she knows she's beautiful,

but there is inherent negativity out there

when someone is overweight.

I could go and teach an S Factor class

and then go to McDonald's
right afterwards…

or go all day without eating

and then come home and do a sweet binge.

I wasn't practicing
what I'm preaching in class.

The idea of looking in the mirror,

I feel like Roger Rabbit,
that girl on Roger Rabbit.

She's voluptuous, and just sexy,

and furious, and just, like… ugh.

Radiant, then I stand in front of the
mirror, I'm like, "You fat motherfucker."

"Who are you? Get out of my mirror!"

My body was just screaming for freedom.

It wasn't until I started moving my body

and coming to terms with my rage,

listening to that vibrating
muscle exertion music

that allowed me to really release

instead of hitting walls.

[SHEILA] Uh-uh. You're letting her win.

They've gotta fight inside,
and you don't let that happen.

[SHOUTS] Uh-uh! I can't hear it!


[JENN] I just had
a lot of oomph and aggression,

and I didn't know what to do with it.

But rage is always with me.



Feel the battle inside!

Feel the fight inside!





[JENN] I'm ready to look in the mirror
and see what everybody else sees.

- That was, um, massive.
- Thank you.

- Massive.
- Thank you.

Do you know what I… it was a rebirth.


[PATRICIA] Within this community,

there is such a level of truth because…

"I just saw you dance,
so I know you're not fine."

I had an experience of molestation
from a family friend.

It's a hard thing when you feel

that no one is protecting you.

One of the great gifts of S Factor

is figuring out a way

to move through sadness,

to feel your emotion

but not let it drown you.

[SALLY] When I first felt that lump,

I knew that I most likely had cancer.

[JANELLE] I'm becoming
a second-time mother here soon,

and the fear of losing myself

in that first year of motherhood.

And it feels terrifying and isolating.

[SALLY] I went through sadness.
I went through anger.

I lost my breasts. I lost my hair.

And for most women,

those are the two body parts

that are so strongly tied

to our femininity.

[JANELLE] Having that dance was

about how lonely it feels

and feeling sometimes

like you just have to scream

and knock down walls, and…

I don't know.

Destroy things in order to be heard.


[SALLY] My teacher asked me
to touch my head,

and I was grossed out and disgusted,

and I couldn't do it.

The moment
where she had me touch my head,

that was the most powerful moment

I have ever shared with a friend

in my entire life.


[SHEILA] You made this.


[CRYING] Oh, this is humiliating.

It's so cathartic.
Just let it keep coming out, baby.


[SALLY] To have a place

that taught me a vocabulary

to move through the myriad of emotions

that comes with being cut open,

having that gift

was especially meaningful.

That's why I believe

that I danced my way through cancer.





The majority of my time is focused

around training for competition.

I've got 32 students

and six instructors competing

at the Golden Gate Pole Championship,

myself included.

Okay. Sit back all the way.



Breathe in. More. Okay. Now…

[AMY] I think that discipline
and that will to succeed

comes from my parents.

My dad was a lieutenant colonel
in the Marines.

My mom was in the first class of women
to graduate from West Point.


[AMY] When I was 19, I ran away from home

and I moved to Los Angeles.

I really wanted to be an actress.

I didn't know how to act.
I didn't know how to sing.

I didn't know how to do anything,
but I had a lot of confidence…

…that I was just gonna be amazing,

and then I was gonna walk into an audition
or be discovered in a mall.

You know, like, very cliché.

I'd saved up maybe, like, $2,000,

and very quickly ran out of that money.

[MAN] I'll pay you $25 an hour
to do nude modeling.

Oh, this is nude modeling?

[MAN] You don't have to do it.

I only make
six dollars an hour babysitting, so…

[MAN] Start by taking off your top.

Lack of funds led me to nude modeling,

and then nude modeling
led to working in the porn industry.

[MAN] Who's this gorgeous face
here before my lens?

My name is Wendy James.

[MAN] Wendy James.
Tell us, Wendy, how old are you?

I'm old enough.

Old enough.

[AMY] I was still a virgin
when I started porn.

And it wasn't until I was in the industry

that I learned,
"Oh, sexuality can be an okay thing!"

- [MAN] Do your friends know what you do?
- Of course, they don't! Are you kidding?


[AMY] I lied to a lot of people

and kind of lived
this double life for a long time.

I was desperate enough.

I also didn't want to admit
to the people I love that I was failing.

I had a lot of shame
about what I was doing

because I was still going
to church and doing porn.

I was tithing on my porn money

like that somehow made it okay.

I told myself I was like Robin Hood.

I was, like, taking from the bad
and giving to the good,

which is ridiculous.

My two worlds collided
when two of the Mormon elders…

they're literally called "the patriarchy…"

they met me in the parking lot
before the service.

They told me they knew what I was doing,
and I got really embarrassed,

and I never went back to church.

I got punished
because someone saw me in a porn video.

They were watching it,

but they didn't get punished.

After six months, I got out of porn.


I started waitressing,

and people started to realize

I was Wendy James in porn movies.

They'd call me a whore,

and they would tell me
that I was a cum dumpster.

There would be these men
who would come into the restaurants,

and they'd be out with their kids
and their wives.

I would get a receipt back saying,

"I've seen how you give great head."

"Meet me in the parking lot at 10:00 p.m."

I would have my co-workers walk me out
to my car so that I would be safe.

I really wondered
if there was a life for me after porn.

"Should I go back?"

"Is this all I can be now…

because I spent six months working
in this industry?"

It was a really dark moment
and it was really sad.

It took me four years

to get through community college

and transfer to Berkeley.

When I got there,

I felt like I was starting over.

I was like,
"Okay, this is a new world now."

"I'm using my mind.
It's not about using my body anymore."

I go to Ralphs that night
to pick up some groceries.

And the first thing
the checkout guy says is,

"Oh, hey! Are you Wendy James?"

[LAUGHS] And I'm like,
"No! It's gonna follow me forever!"



♪ Everybody's got something to prove ♪

♪ So much to gain ♪

♪ Nothing to lose ♪

♪ Just try
What will you do… ♪

[SHEILA] You're gonna enter intermediate
in about a week or two.

And then after July,
when we do the ceremony,

that's gonna be a ritual to take you
into your advanced practice here.

We'll be taking flower petals.
We'll do this dancing a bit at the ocean.

[JENN] So, really quickly, just to review,

it's right hand up, left hand here.

You're gonna bring your foot
over on this side.

♪ Never seen nothin' quite
Quite like it ♪

♪ Give me some
Give me some silence ♪

♪ Never seen nothin' quite
Quite like it ♪

♪ Give me some
Give me some silence ♪

♪ Give it to me straight
Stop makin' me wait ♪

♪ Game on… ♪

[TEACHER] There is gonna be a new one

called "the Corkscrew."

I'm just gonna demo it for you.

♪ Everybody's got something to prove ♪

♪ So much to gain
Nothing to lose ♪

♪ Just try
What will you do… ♪

Who wants to go upside down?
Come over here.

[TEACHER] Inversion is kind of freaky.

You're gonna bring your knees to chest.

Let your head come back.
Lift your hips up.

♪ Game on, game on ♪

♪ Round and around
And around we go ♪

♪ Never seen nothin' quite
Quite like it ♪

♪ Give me some
Give me some silence ♪

♪ Give it to me straight
Stop making me wait… ♪


[ALI] So, here's the thing, gals.

You are just starting to awaken
what we call your "erotic creature."

So what you're gonna do is
you're gonna take your walk

over towards the wall.

I'm gonna reach up,

and then I'm gonna do a wall push

all the way back.

Yes, Evelyn! Beautiful!

[EVELYN] I'm a plus-size woman.

There's judgement,

but in here.

I don't feel different.

The door closes.

The music turns on,

and I feel we're the same.

That's what I wanna get from this journey.

I want to carry it, so it leaves with me.

- [TEACHER] Breathe.

In through your nose.
Out through your mouth. Okay?


- What was overwhelming?
- [WOMAN] I just felt really uncomfortable,

like I don't belong here and,
"What the fuck? Why am I here?"

"You're not pretty enough,
not this, not that. You'll look stupid."

And I just got really…

But you were called
to put this on your body,

which means that she's dying to be here
and dying to be seen.



♪ Give me the love ♪

♪ Give me the love ♪

♪ Give me ♪


[WOMAN] I'm the one
flying from Utah every Sunday.

It's fun to be here

getting on such a high vibration
that I'm just absolutely craving

and loving and wanting more of.

[VOICE BREAKING] But then to go home and…

I don't understand how to explain this

to my very conservative family.

When people see this,

it'll be perceived
as my one-way ticket to hell.

And so that's my struggle right now.

Does your husband know what you're doing?

I think he knows
a little bit about it, but…

I don't know how to share it. [LAUGHS]

Did you sit him in a chair
and do a lap dance?

- Fuck no! [CHUCKLES]

Okay, you have an assignment.


Next time I see you, you will have done
at least one lap dance for him.

So that will explain it to him.

That I learned how to lap dance?

If you do it the way we're teaching you,
which is for your pleasure,

he's gonna feel a free woman.

I have the same struggle,

but the thing is
my family don't watch Netflix.

- So, I don't have…

I don't have to tell them.

So, it's my secret
I am taking to the grave.



[AMY] My husband
is an executive at Microsoft.

He calls me "Wonder Woman."

He believes I can do anything.

He's just my greatest cheerleader.




[KEITH] Being a pole husband can be fun.

At first, pole dancing is very exotic,

and you're like,
"Ooh, look at my wife being all sexy!"

There comes a point when you're like,

"I just don't wanna watch
any more pole dancing."


"I've seen all I can see."

[RICHARD] Oh, nice! Look at this!

She wanted to put a pole
in my little office in the backyard,

and I said no
'cause it was gonna block the TV.

But then we both started working out
at the same time.

I was doing the step on the pole
and against the wall.

He didn't give a flying banana
about the Yankees.

He was just like…

We're 28 years in.

But he's a handful.

[RICHARD] We had a roller coaster ride,

and it was rocky for a while.

[SHEILA] If I didn't have
this feminine lifestyle practice,

I would be divorced from who I'm with.

I don't think we'd be divorced.

What did she say?
"Yes, we would be divorced"?

Know what? Now I want a divorce.

- [SHEILA] I'm totally in love.

This is where I can collapse right here.

He's my everything.

I'm her pole.


In more ways than one.

I do get annoyed sometimes

'cause I'll see husbands and boyfriends

of other pole dancers,

and they seem very ashamed

that their wives or girlfriends
are pole dancing.

I just think
those girls should dump those guys.

'cause you don't need that in your life.

If your boyfriend
or husband doesn't like you pole dancing,

just get a new one.


There's, like, 3.5 billion of them
in the world.


Maybe four.


[ALLISON] The pole
has changed my life in so many ways.

After I had my child, I gained 60 pounds.

I didn't feel confident in my skin,
didn't fit in any of my clothes.

I tried everything I could
to lose the weight.

It wouldn't drop off.

Then I tried pole.

I lost all the 60 pounds.

It's just such a fun way of working out.

I understand that people will judge.

I wish that that perception would change,

because it's not what people think it is.


[ALLISON] My husband
is extremely conservative.

When I first told him
that I wanted to take pole classes,

he didn't understand,

and he thought
that it was gonna be a phase,

that I would find pole
and then give it up.

And then when you hook,

you need to push and come out.

There. Do you see it?

I love him so much,

but he's extremely possessive
of me and my body.

He doesn't want anybody
to be looking at me.

So, I don't have
a social media platform for what I do.

I do feel like my husband is taking
something away from me.

Career-wise, it's limiting me

because instructors will post,
"Here's what I'm teaching in class,"

but I can't do that.

And I also feel like it's my body,

and if it's my body, then I should be
able to do with it what I want.


[ALLISON] I'm a rare breed

in that there are not a lot
of pole dancers who are also churchgoers.

I do know that I am to be
a submissive wife

from a Christian perspective
and respecting and honoring him.

But if I posted a video of myself
on Instagram, where I was told not to,

he would be mad at me.

Is he gonna stay married to me?

I have two kids.

I have a family
and I don't want to lose that.

One thing that I had been taught a lot
through my church

is that my worth was
quite dependent on the men around me,

and that I was valuable
if I married a man who is valuable.

Part of the reason I love pole dancing
is because it's subversive.

I feel like I'm saying,

"Take your societal patriarchal standards
and go shove them up your ass."

This is what I love
and this is what makes me feel alive.

[SHEILA] Drop your head back, Megan.



Yes, baby!

[WOMAN] Yeah! What?

[SHEILA] I teach women to move into
the fullest integrity of their feminine.

Slow. I want you to get slow.
Round off slow.

[SHEILA] Starting with their curves,
their sensuality,

their movement.

Stay right there.

Is it burning? Do you feel it?
Is it pissing you off? Yeah?

Is it? Stay there.

[SHEILA] And when they get
full-voiced in their body,

apparently, that's extraordinarily
distracting to certain people.

The patriarchy.

"Can't control that body.
That's a dangerous body…

unless I can own it, unless it's for me."

The minute my son came out of my belly,

"Be a boy. Be male.
Be strong. Be…"

"Argh! Live as fully as you can
in your manness, your maleness!"

And we tell our daughters
not to live fully in your body.

It's too dangerous.

But to truly be equal…

you better rise,

and you better get that body back.




[AMBER] Well,
I came in pretty open-minded.

I had no idea what to expect.

I had no idea what I was getting into.

We spent two hours, basically,

with women just crying and sobbing.

I just didn't feel empowered.

I felt like I was watching a soap opera.

We were on that WhatsApp.

There was, like, a group.

After I saw the pictures,

it was not something
that I would have chosen

to ever be involved in.


I would never want
my 12-year-old son to see me

in my panties with no shirt on.

Sheila writhing around on the ground

and her whole feely "let it out,"

this wasn't the way
my tribe and I empower each other.

I feel like I'm coming off

like such a huge bitch…

…but I'm just trying to be
as real as possible

because I think
that there are probably other people

that feel the same way I do.

[SHEILA] I have battles all the time.

There's the external battles

with the world
not understanding what we do,

and then there's the internal battles
of the fear.

[WOMAN] Everything is cool when I'm here,
and I feel wonderful and fabulous.

And then as soon as I leave it's like,
"Well, it's back to regular stuff."

I love this class, and I want that.

I want to grow, feel something different,
feel like I've changed.

I don't feel like I've changed at all.

Um, at the party on Friday,

I was struggling. Everyone was sexy.

Everyone was dancing and free
and just being themselves.

At one point, I went and sat by myself.

I was like, "I'm not sexy at all."

I look at my body and I hate my body.

I don't feel sexy in anything.

It sucked to feel like that.

[SHEILA] This is the safest place
in the world for you

because we will protect you

and allow you to be who you need to be.

To want to always hear
somebody say, "You're beautiful,"

it meant more to hear it from him,
and I didn't get that from him.

The last three months when he was alive,

we were finally getting
to where we needed to be,

and then he died.

To want to always hear
somebody say, "You're beautiful…"

[VOICE BREAKING] I want to hear it
from him, and I didn't.

But I just found it

in a fucking text message
to some other girl.


[CRYING] And I thought to myself,

"How… how could you?"

[SHEILA] Your deceased husband
was having an affair?

Maybe a texting affair? Who knows?

And, you know, I can't ask him.

It's just that one word, "Beautiful."

And I'm like, "Oh, my God."

How many times have I wanted to hear it?

Then I thought to myself,
"Maybe it's good I found out

because I was ready
to fucking just fall a-fucking-part."

I was like,

[CRYING SOFTLY] "Okay, I need to come back
and touch this floor",

and be in this room…

"so I can live again."


[EVELYN] Gonna have to just go on.

It has been six years
since I've had intercourse with a person.

I just felt the need to say it.

[SHEILA] I think it's important to say it.

I think it's important in this circle
of naked truthing

to be able to own where you are.

I'll be quite frank.

Your body hasn't wanted to have sex
with another human being yet.

- That's what I'm...
- I haven't.

[SHEILA] There's nothing wrong with that.

Are you gonna be ready for a haircut soon?

I haven't had my hair above my shoulders
in 20 years,

and I have no intention
of putting it there.

Your hair wants to fly and move more.

Okay? So we'll do that.

You're gonna do, like, a makeover thing.

Some people come in
just to learn how to pole dance,

and their minds are blown open

that it touches a part of themselves
they didn't know they had.



[SHEILA] Take a breath
and breathe here and sit back.

I've needed to fall apart for a long time
and I can't seem to do it.

[SHEILA] This is a neurogenic tremor.

It's just trying to release shit,
and so you're holding on.

- It's not...
- I'm fighting it.

[SHEILA] I know.

You don't want to just sob?

- No.
- [SHEILA] Why?

Because if I fall, I don't know
that I'll put myself back together.

[SHEILA] We've gotta
get this shit out of you.

- Right?
- [JAIMEE] Yeah.

Every woman who walks in that door

is coming here to at the very least

get into her sexuality and her body.

So she's signing up for this.

I know she's not asking
for emotional pain,

but she's trying to move beyond that.

And when you are working with her
in a responsible way to do that,

you're giving her a priceless gift.

It is something that is healing.

It's empowering.

But I also get that it's something

that can be triggering.

So, by teaching,

you're also healing yourself even further.

[JENN] You gonna knock on that door?


[SHEILA] You and I have talked
about losing the weight.

How much do you wanna lose?

I would like to lose 100 pounds.

Okay. What are you right now?

- [JENN] Um… 265?
- Yeah.

- Yeah, 100 pounds would be good.
- [JENN] Mmm-hmm.

- [SHEILA] So let's do that.
- Yeah. [CHUCKLES]

That's scary.

- Um, if 100 pounds is doable...
- [SHEILA] Fourteen pounds a month for 100.


- That's it?
- [SHEILA] Yeah.

- Really?
- [SHEILA] Yeah!

All I did was calculate
seven months by 100 pounds,

and it's 14.2 pounds.

- Can we make that our goal?

- Yeah.
- [SHEILA] Okay?

Why now? Why this moment?

I don't wanna die early.

I wanna live for my children.

- I wanna see them grow up. [SNIFFLES]
- Yeah.

[CRYING] I wanna have
a thriving marriage, a healthy one.

- A hot, sexy one?
- [LAUGHS] Yeah.

- Where you can get on top?
- [LAUGHS] Yeah.

[SHEILA] Do all kinds of fun stuff
up there.

- Yes.
- [SHEILA] Yeah. Yeah.

- And it hurts. My body hurts.
- I know. I hear.

- Just now.
- Yeah, now.

[SHEILA] Yeah.

It took you eight years to tell me
what happened to your body.

[JENN] Mmm-hmm.

That you kind of just went,
"Well, this happened."

Do we wanna come clean
with what happened to your body?

I don't know.

It's easier to just forget about it.

No, it's not. It's not "forget about it,"
it's in your body.

Before that incident, were you overweight?

- No.
- [SHEILA] No.

- Mmm.
- [SHEILA] Hmm.

I was taken advantage of

by boys in junior high or high school.




[SHEILA] Will you let those fuckers
destroy your life?

- [CRIES] No!
- [SHEILA] No? Mmm-mmm?

- Will you let them steal your body?
- No.

- Your pleasure?
- No.

- Okay, so it's time.
- Yeah.

- [SHEILA] It's time.
- It's just the excuse

of them being young and stupid.

[SHEILA] No, it was brutalizing.

Not realizing the impact.

And then having my own daughter,
and just…

- I don't ever want her to just…
- [SHEILA] Oof.

…do what I did and let it be.

You did nothing wrong, okay?

Except exist on the planet
as a female creature

that was innocent and,
I don't know, 16, 15 years old?

[JENN] Yeah. Yeah.

So snap every fucking time you wanna say
something like, "Do what I did."

And you gotta get back into class.

You gotta move this, okay?


[CRYING] Um, so, I…

When I was 13, I was raped. [SNIFFLES]

[VOICE BREAKING] Um, and that was…

that was my first,
like, real sexual experience.

I was a virgin. I had not had sex.
I was very insecure in my body.

And I began to feel
more comfortable with myself,

but then I was drugged
and violently raped,

and it really fucked me up.

And it happened again twice in college,
um, two different times.

I myself was sexually assaulted
by a partner.

And I ended up comforting
the guy that raped me.

- [WOMAN] Mmm.
- I know. "How does that work," right?


[WOMAN] I was 20 years old

the first time that I was raped,

and my rapist
was my boyfriend at the time.

I was sexually assaulted

and ostracized and bullied after that

really badly,

that I had to drop out of school.

For years afterwards,

I carried so much shame in my body

and I felt really uncomfortable
embracing my sexuality after all of that.

I felt like it was part of me trying
to be sexual and confident.

- And so I blamed myself.
- [WOMAN] Yeah.

I feel still really unsafe,

like, unsafe in society,

unsafe around men, specifically.

My body doesn't feel like my own.

I feel like a blob sometimes.
Like, I just feel so disconnected.

I was constantly living
in a state of fear.

The fear of just any man could hurt me.

Pure terror, and it, um…






[WOMAN] I really want to learn

how to trust myself.

So that's basically why I'm here,
to really have a confidence within myself,

to trust my inner self,
to just be who I know I'm meant to be.



[ALLISON] I thought you were after me.

- [BOY] Well, I think you skipped me.

[ALLISON] I have decided to go public
with what I do.

- Brycee wins!

My husband found my Instagram account
before I was able to tell him,

and he immediately said,

"You did exactly the thing
I told you not to do."

I said, "You crossed a line,

telling me what I can and cannot do
with my pole life."

"If I want to post pictures of myself,

it's my body, it's my right."

"This is what I do."

"Take it or leave it."

And he said, "We're done."

"We're getting a divorce."

I have nothing to be ashamed of.
I have nothing to fear.

This is who I am.

I've allowed my husband
to control me for a very long time,

and then I realized that I wasn't free.

There's people who question me and say,

"How is what you're doing
bringing glory to God?"

And then I have other people that say,

"You're 40 years old. You have two kids,
and you're in phenomenal shape."

"You're inspiring."


[SHEILA] There are women
who become so full and so rich

and so explosively radiant.


[SHEILA] And the loves that they're with,
the men that they're with,

get so overwhelmed

and don't know how to handle that…

how to hold space for that,

how to be even present

for that kind of power.

Not only are the women gonna grow,

but they're gonna affect everything
and everybody in their path.


What I'm talking about
is an entire paradigm shift

of how we live together,

masculine and feminine.

[SHEILA] I think you all know that I've
invited some masculine energy here.

I think it would be really,
really helpful for you

to confront a male presence.

[ALI] These are heightened, conscious men.

They cultivate that ability

to hold the space for the feminine

and whatever comes up emotionally

is what comes up.

[SHEILA] Thank you for coming.

One of the things I love
when I bring masculine presence

is for you to hold their gaze

with not just love
but the feeling of "I would kill for you."

[ALI] Whenever you're ready,

I'm gonna lead you in

and just find that flow.


[SHEILA] Their one goal is
to make you feel loved and seen

and protected.

Whatever you need.

They're holding masculine presence.

These men do exist.

This masculine energy does exist.

- [PATTY] Can I touch?
- [SHEILA] Ask him.

Is it okay if I touch you?

[SHEILA] Everything above the belt.


[SHEILA] This can be incredibly healing

if you choose that.

Feel what it feels like to truly be seen

in all your feminine splendor.

- [SOBS] I just miss him.
- Mmm.

- I miss him a lot.
- Yeah.



[SHEILA] Can you ask him to show you love?


[LISSET] I never got to come out
to my father while he was alive,

mainly because my mother didn't think
he could accept me.

So I'd like to have
that feeling of acceptance,

um, by a man who represented him.





Yeah. You need to feel a man
who can protect you.



[MAN] I think of women
that I've been with in my life,

before I was breathing
as consciously as I do now,

that I hurt.

I have tons of regrets
of the way that I would treat women.

Being with you was that…

for me, that space of, like…

…being seen in that vulnerable place…

and being held in that space

without the expectation of anything else.

What I wasn't expecting is
how almost all of us became frozen.

Um, and you're like,

"Wow! Men have
really done a number on us!"


[QUAVERS`] It just felt like
our hearts touched at one point,

and, like,
I could feel you, and I felt safe.

And when I held my arms back…

…and surrendered that, it was,
like, full surrender.

[CRIES] I don't think I've ever done that
with anyone in my entire life,

so thank you.


[WOMAN] The next survivor is
Megan Halicek.


[MEGAN] Larry Nassar used to be
an absolute god to me,

but he turned out to be a monster.

He was an unwarranted intruder

to my most private, intimate,
never-before-touched places.

My little child self knew
something was wrong,

but she was petrified to the point
of physical and emotional paralysis.

[VOICE BREAKING] As she tried so hard
to keep trusting this man

she thought was her savior,

the most confusing part was

my mother was
in the room with us while this happens.

[CRYING] When I heard about the abuse,
it was just disbelief.

"How could I let that happen?"

You have an image
of what safe should be, and you're there,

you're there with her,
and she's still not safe.

[CRIES] 'Cause I thought you were safe.

[EXHALES] Sorry.

[MOUTHING] It's okay.

I couldn't trust anyone
to keep me safe back then,

and I can't trust anyone
to keep me safe today.

The world feels unsafe.

Men feel unsafe.

I'm intensely vigilant
that someone, somewhere,

is about to take advantage of,
sexualize, or hurt me.

I will do what it takes

for as long as it takes to heal

so that this no longer has power over me.


- [SHEILA] What's the sound?


[AMY] On Twitter,
there's actually somebody

who's created a fake profile.

So it's @WendyJamesXXX.

It's not an account that I created.

He would send people I know
videos of men cumming on my face.

Here's a pole dance video
that I posted on YouTube.

Of course, some user named "bug man"

needs to call it out like he always does.

"Watch, drain your balls, or squirt,
this woman is very good at her job."

At every turn, even now, 15 years later,

"Did you know she used to be in porn?"

Like it's this terrible thing.

And I don't think it is, but also,
"Why do you care?"

You know? "Why are you still
bothering me with this?"


[AMY] The hardest thing
after we go through social ostracization

is to get up, go back, and say,

"I'm still here. You can't push me down."

Using my story
to help others get over the shame

that they also feel in their lives

is why I believe I'm here.

[AMY] I'm gonna check in.

My name's Amy Bond.


- Oh, my God, you're here! Come!
- [WOMAN] How are you?

- [AMY] Having fun!
- [WOMAN] Good! How are you doing?

- I'm so good.
- Are you having fun?

I'm having so much fun.

My only goal for tonight is
to make somebody cry.

- [AMY] And not fuck everything up.

[EXCLAIMING] Oh, my God!

Can I touch it?

- Yes!
- [AMY] Ahh!

- How far along are you?
- Seven months.

- And you wore heels?
- Oh, yeah.

They're church shoes, you know.

- [AMY] How's the spin pole?
- [WOMAN] It's slow.


[AMY] I'm nervous
about all the different ways

that my routine would go wrong,

worried about my grip and whether
I would be able to hold on to the pole.

I just don't wanna die.
That's all I ask today.

Hold on to the pole and I don't fall off.

[AMY] That will not happen.


[JENN] Tomorrow, I am beginning
a weight loss journey.

I am terrified of the safety
of holding on to my weight

and the fear of what happens
if I let it go.

Over the last 12 years,

I have been releasing layers.

I truly believe
that the moment my healing started

was when I actually acknowledged
it was a rape,

and I didn't make any other excuses.

[MAN] Hello. How's it going?

- [WOMAN] You look very nice.
- Thank you.

So what is going on exactly today?

[JENN] A release.

[MAN] I didn't know until seven,
eight years ago

that she had, um, been raped.

[WOMAN] I can only imagine
what she went through

and how she stuffed it down

all these years.

[CRYING] And I know
how important forgiveness is to a person,

and that was important for me,

that she truly forgive me for being
ignorant of things that happened,

for not being there when she needed me,

for being so busy with work
and taking care of, uh, business

when I should have been taking care
of my daughter.

She is putting her life out there,

but if she can find peace in her heart,

if she can become the kind of woman
that she wants to be,

then I say more power to her.

[JENN] I'm releasing any ounce of the rape

that no longer serves my body

and the thoughts of me
not being worthy enough.


[SHEILA] The next two weeks is
kind of understanding free dance.

We'll be dancing not from here,

but it's finding pleasure
and finding a story

and the conversation
that your body wants to have.


[EVELYN] I don't know
what wakes you up in the morning,

but Katy Perry's been waking me up
in the morning.


- I changed all my alarms to erotic songs.
- [SHEILA] Yes!

- Soulful songs.
- [SHEILA] Yes!

So in the morning, when I wake up,

I lay there in bed, and I smile.

And then I turn just for a second,

and just, like,
"Okay, I wanna start my day."

Hey, I'm not gonna lie,
I'll hit the snooze again, and, you know…


[EVELYN] Music has come back into my life.

- And I bought a thong.
- [SHEILA] I wanna see the thong!

- [ALL] Whoo!
- [EVELYN] I'm wearing a thong.

Who fucking does that?
I mean, I'm sure you guys do that.

- But I… I'm wearing a thong.


[MUSIC CONTINUES] ♪ Girls do it better
Girls do it better ♪

♪ Girls do it better
Yeah ♪

♪ Girls do it better ♪

♪ Girls do it better
Yeah ♪

♪ Girls do it better
Oh ♪

♪ Girls do it better
Yeah ♪

♪ You know we do it better ♪

♪ Innocent girls to the naked eye ♪

♪ Really a bad girl deep inside… ♪

Oh, goodness!

♪ I don't care what you say
I don't care how you feel ♪

♪ You just know when they come ♪

♪ Hey! I'll make a… ♪

[SHEILA] Jaimee! Look at you!


Can we give her some love?

- All right!

[SHEILA] Look at you.

More! More!

That's it. Let your head go.

[JAIMEE] The hair coming off
lifted a veil for me.

I've gotten a lot more confident,

experiencing the journey with this group
of women and having their support.

[SHEILA] Exhale down. Good! Good!

Let it go! Let it play!

As it says, it's alive! Whoo!

[LOUDLY] What? Who are you?
What's happened to Lisset?


I think the last time I saw you,
you were in a crew neck shirt,

and I'm like, "What's happened?"
Girl, you were on fire.

We'd have S women over at the house,
and there'd be a whole pole party.

And I would sit in the corner and go,
"You guys are so sexy."

[VOICE BREAKS] But that's…


[CRIES] That's not me.

Drop your right knee into your left knee.


[SHEILA] It's vulnerable for you to let
the feminine curve come out, isn't it?

You've protected yourself
with the more masculine body,

but you actually have
a very feminine body.

It is you, isn't it?

- It is. [LAUGHS]


[WOMAN] I'm starting to see
how this spills into everyday life.


Did my lap dance for my husband.


Gazing into each other's eyes
throughout the whole thing

was just so magical.

Saved our marriage! [CHUCKLES]


[SHEILA] I get really, really excited

'cause I see change happening.
I see you confronting demons.

I see you fucking turning the fuck on.

And look
how you're just spreading your wings

in this particular world
that you thought was off-limits to you.








[JEN] My dance today is
not about feeling pretty.

It is about feeling powerful.

I was in an abusive marriage
for nine and a half years.


[JEN] I was able to
go get a restraining order.

He was out of the house,
and I was able to finally breathe.

[CRYING] I just want to let
anyone else know that they're not alone,

that they're beautiful and they're strong.

And once you get on the pole and you see
you're doing this for yourself,

then that can give them
the confidence to realize,

"I am a strong woman."



Can I get an Amy Bond?

- Amy Bond?
- Yes.



[WOMAN ON MIC] Welcome to Amy Bond.


♪ It began as a typical Thursday ♪

♪ Sunlight kissed my eyelids
Good morning… ♪

[AMY] I first heard Rupi Kaur
perform this piece about sexual assault

in a TED Talk.

[RUPI KAUR] ♪ We ended up
At a get-together with friends ♪

♪ At the end
You asked if I need a ride home ♪

♪ And I said yes ♪

♪ 'Cause our dads work
For the same company ♪

♪ But I should have known ♪

♪ When instead of driving me home ♪

♪ Toward the bright intersection ♪

♪ Of lights and life ♪

♪ You took a left ♪

[AMY] The story is about being raped

and how to exist in a violated body

after sexual assault.

I relate to the story
because I've been raped twice.

[RUPI KAUR] ♪ Every lover who touches me ♪

♪ Ends up feeling like you ♪

♪ They're not even the ones
On top of me anymore ♪

♪ It's you ♪

[AMY] Building this routine
with the same body that was violated

feels like a reclamation.

It is rebuilding a home in a body
someone tried to take from me.

[RUPI KAUR] ♪ This home is ♪

♪ What I came into this world with
You can't take it ♪

♪ There is no space for you ♪

♪ I plan to step into the bathtub ♪

♪ Wash yesterday out of my hair ♪

♪ Put music on ♪

♪ Sit back ♪

♪ Put my feet up ♪

♪ And enjoy this typical Thursday ♪


I was so nervous that
the audience was gonna start clapping

and then you wouldn't be able
to hear the words.

And it's like they got it.

I really wish I had nailed my jump,

'cause I messed it up last year,

and I messed it up again.
Damn it! [LAUGHS]

But, um, I guess I'll just have to do it
in another competition

because I really wanna nail that move
on a stage

just like I do in the studio. [LAUGHS]

[WOMAN ON MIC] Our silver medal…

- Amy Bond.

[MOUTHS] Thank you.


[JENYNE] I'm so grateful for how
it's all happened for me in my life.

And I can't imagine

where would I be and what would I be doing
if I hadn't seen.

Pantera pole dancing.

A few years ago, I saw Pantera

at World Competition,

and I told her, "Thank you."

I was so happy that I was able to see her.
It changed my life.

Everything that I have,
and everything that I am,

and everything that I do
is because of that.

I'm 35, and I feel like

I'm still not the best pole dancer

that I could be.

I'm still growing. I'm a lifetime student.


[IN GUTTURAL VOICE] Are you ready to riot?


Oh, my God!

Come on!


[EVELYN] Today, I feel hopeful

I'm going to meet someone again
and fall in love.


[EVELYN] It's gonna be hard.

[CRIES] I'm afraid…
what if I give my all to someone again,

and then he just dies on me?

But I know that's part of life.


[EVELYN] I just gotta learn to embrace it.

And then if it does
get a little too crazy, I'll just…


…breathe. [EXHALES]

I didn't do that before.



[JAIMEE] I've been sick for
five years now. I felt the best I've felt.

I'm doing really well.

I know this has something to do with it.

I wanna experience more.


[MEGAN] There's been changes
large and small.

There's been changes sexually.

Things that we just numb out.

You feel a side of yourself
you've never felt,

and it can just conquer the world.

- [MEGAN] I have developed real awareness.

Now, my body's always telling the truth,

and I need to let that out.

I'm sexy!


I feel like I've gotten to a place
where I don't have to pretend

that I didn't do the things
that existed in my past

in order to be accepted by this world.

I think, very subconsciously,

part of the reason it was so important
to me to build this space

is because I was so fearful
of the world for so long.

Instead of living in the larger worlds,

I just decided to create my own.

The worlds where we all come together
as misfits.

People who have been ostracized
and sexually shamed,

and let's dance our hearts out.

And while those people
are over there judging us,

because they think
pole dancing is this terrible thing,

we're gonna be over here,

fucking bouncing our asses on the ground,

hair-tossing and twerking,

having the time of our lives.


[SHEILA] Are these the same people
we had that opening circle with?

What? Do you feel it?

The bravery that it took to come

and take this journey is beautiful.

I am overwhelmed with love for you.




[AMY] Right now
we're seeing this resurgence

of women supporting women.

Pole dancing has stood for that
for over ten years.

What if we just didn't carry around shame

about our bodies?

I think the world would be a better place,

and we'd be able to direct that energy

into helping each other and doing things
that matter more than that.

That's the hard work
that needs to be done.


[SHEILA] Every woman has to take a journey
into reclaiming herself…

and take back what is rightfully hers.

The biggest obstacle is the male gaze.

How do you change it?

It's a battle.
It is a fight for the feminine body.

This is the only body we're gonna get.

We're not gonna let them own it.

We're not gonna be silent anymore.

That's what I help women do.


[JUDGE] It is my honor and privilege

to sentence you to 175 years.

I just signed your death warrant.

[BAILIFF] All rise.



- [SHEILA] You're, like, melting.
- Isn't it amazing?

So what are you at now?

Oh, my gosh. I've lost 35 pounds.


[SHEILA] Get the fuck out!


What needs to stretch?

What needs to grow?




♪ What in the world are we going to do? ♪

♪ Look at what everybody's going through ♪

♪ What kind of world
Do you want it to be? ♪

♪ Am I the future or the history? ♪

♪ 'Cause everyone hurts ♪

♪ Everyone cries ♪

♪ Everyone tells each other
All kinds of lies ♪

♪ Everyone falls ♪

♪ Everybody dreams and doubts ♪

♪ Got to keep dancing
When the lights go out ♪

♪ How in the world I am going to see? ♪

♪ You as my brother, not my enemy? ♪

♪ 'Cause everyone hurts ♪

♪ Everyone cries ♪

♪ Everyone sees the color
In each other's eyes ♪

♪ Everyone loves ♪

♪ Everybody gets their hearts ripped out ♪

♪ Got to keep dancing
When the lights go out ♪