I’ve never been happy following a traditional path, whether it’s with my education or my income. Maybe I’m just stubborn, but I downright refuse to do something I hate, even if the money is great. Living in this sort of head space, I’ve often thought about the “other” ways to make money – that is, by taking advantage of being a young woman and capitalizing on it. Because if anyone is going to make money from what I have to offer, physically or mentally, it really ought to be me.
In moments of frustration or perhaps even financial desperation, I think I can speak for a fair amount of my female peers when I say we’ve all thought, “oh screw it, I’ll just become a stripper.” But it can’t be that easy, right? Upon further analyzing that thought, I came to realize that I – like the majority of the population – actually have very little knowledge and understanding of what goes down in these mysterious, late night venues known as strip clubs.
In an age where sex sells more than ever and owning one’s sexuality has become the trend, now seemed like the right time to explore this underground and often heavily stigmatized industry. Lucky for me, I’ve got a good friend who’s been working the clubs for several years and she very graciously agreed to answer my questions on the topic and then some. On top of making an absolute killing by stripping full time, this babe is also an artist of many sorts, an almost upsettingly talented writer, and my very own Australian muse.
Opinionated, intelligent, awake, and self-aware, Nicoletta Ross is the type of woman I aspire to be like. She’s got a sharp tongue and a carefully curated vocabulary, and when she speaks it’s always with honesty, intention, and respect. Not to mention she’s at least a 15 out of 10, and photographing her was a dream.
LF: Hey babe! So stoked to welcome you to Live FAST! We’ll cut the fluff and get straight to it. How did you get into stripping?
NR: Dakota Gordon pimped me out. No, that’s not entirely true. I was about 22 and I had just moved back home to Sydney with no job, no money and no where to live. She said she had a few friends that were dancing and that I should try it. She was doing club photography next to Showgirls in the cross, and she came in with me to set up a trial night. Although I didn’t start full time or consider it a career until I was 25.
LF: Overall, there are a lot of misconceptions and a certain stigma about stripping. Can you clarify what it is you do and what service you provide?
NR: I don’t think there’s anything set in stone as to what a ‘stripper’ provides. It’s all very contextual. Some men come in wanting to see nothing but pussy for a bucks night. And others come in because they’re not getting what they need emotionally from the women in their lives. You’ll get the 18 year olds who might spend $65 because they’ve never seen or touched the female form and on the other end of the spectrum you’ll get the businessman who’ll drop 2 racks in a night to close a deal. No matter which way you spin it, to sum it up aptly, I would say I’m in the business of selling fantasies with a miniscule amount of throwing ass.
LF: What is the difference between a “dancer” and a “stripper”?
NR: On the surface, nothing I guess. We’re all in the same club doing the same thing. But a dancer is a performer who strips. At the end of the day we’re all there to make money. You need to understand how to maximize your income, and a ‘stripper’ is going to be less of a performer and more interested in cashing out at the end of the night. You have to know the art of hustling, the art of getting what you want. Regardless, I refer to myself as a stripper. I’m not trying to glorify the career, and I’m not offended by the term either.
LF: If you could, would you make stripping a life-long career? What are your plans for life after stripping?
NR: This is the mother of all questions. I feel like every time you meet a stripper they’re studying to become a nurse or something, but 10 years later they’re still at the same club. Which isn’t to say they never studied. I know girls with double degrees and multi-million dollar houses that have never worked a 9-5 in their lives. And that’s generally because they want to maximize their earning potential. So yeah, I plan to dance for as long as a I can. It allows me to focus on my art. Taking photos and writing is a huge part of my life and always has been. I work all night and take photos and write all day. My plans for after stripping are to keep focusing on being creative.
LF: You meet a LOT of different kinds of people because your work. What has stripping taught you?
NR: So many things, it’s actually insane. Stripping has been church for me in a sense. I’ve learned never to judge someone on external appearance. I was somewhat unaware that I had a very deep seeded hatred for men and I would go through phases of not making money when I first started. I realized it was because I was treating them as the enemy. Once I began to see my clients as human beings, not as a source of income, or the opposite sex, my income greatly increased. I learned how to ask a stranger how they are and care about the response they gave. That sense of common respect for another human being is the most important lesson I’ve ever learnt. Being understood and cared about is all we really want. Once you learn how to cultivate that from a sincere place, the opportunities and energy given and received are absolutely limitless.
LF: What motivates you? What inspires you?
Money motivates me, I’m not going to lie. I grew up with nothing and watched my Mum go through life broke, depending on shit dudes for financial stability. I never wanted to be in that place. Never having to ask anyone for money or help is the most liberating emotion. I’m also motivated because it funds my art and travel.
I’m inspired by everything, all the time. I see a lot of beauty in sadness, which is weird because I think people associate strippers with being all about the turn up. And that’s cool, it’s like that, it can be fun. But no one watching the girls on stage gets to see them in the change room, getting ready, putting on their makeup, critiquing every part of their body and comparing it to other girls. It’s really tough. Being a woman is really tough. When a stripper is having a bad night, 95% of the time you’re not going to find them hustling harder, you’re going to find them in the dressing rooms applying more make up. Think about what that translates to. Which is why I’m halfway through a series of photos for one of the zines I’m working on, it focuses on imperfection, all taken in the change room.
LF: You’re a very goal oriented, hard working, and independent woman. What are some goals you have for your future self?
NR: I’m on 5/6 nights a week and no one really understands that, it’s almost not necessary. But I put in work now so I can relax later. Although, I used to think it was important to have a G Class and the million dollar property. All of that is nice if it’s organic and you can genuinely afford it. But I’m too used to seeing girls sporting LV bags while their cars are being repossessed because they’re late on repayments. My only goal is to be happy, to continue traveling, for my art to progress, and to live a balanced life. I’d like to open a store specializing in press with a gallery attached, that’s my focus right now.
LF: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be and what would you be doing?
NR: I’d be in Japan taking photos of weird shit. I’m obsessed!
LF: Who is the most important person in your life?
NR: My Grandmother. I don’t even think I fully understand how much she means to me. Any time I visit her, I ask if we can go through old photos and the last time I was there, I stumbled across a picture of my Grandfather with another woman. I asked her who the woman was. She said ‘He used to date her, before me. She really tried, even when we were married, she tried, I’ll tell you that. But I got him’.That was the first time I realized the burdens women carry but never speak about. She was the first strong woman I’d ever encountered.
LF: When you’re not at work how do you spend your time?
NR: Right now my life consists of taking photos, spending too much money on organic food and planning travel. I’m never-not trying to nourish my body and soul.
LF: You’re big on making collages and messing with photography. What do you think makes a photo or work of art strong?
NR: I think a strong body of work, for me personally is derived from emotion whether it be sadness/anger, or a general sense of restlessness/awkwardness. In terms of what I think makes ‘art and work’ strong aesthetically? The subject doesn’t matter to me anymore. As long as the intent in honest, it translates to a piece in which no matter what age, race, religion can relate to. I’d say a sense of longevity and relevance is something a lot of artists feel anxious about. I guess the greatest artists never date.
LF: If you could have a conversation with anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why?
NR: I would hit Eartha Kitt’s line and take a leaf out of her page.
LF: Describe your creative process.
NR: There’s no real form or structure. I know people make mood boards for shoots and whatever. I don’t really vibe with that. I usually get super creepy and shut myself in my apartment for like a week, watching and reading weird stuff, compiling and editing photos or looking through publications for collages. I like having my friends around while I work, it gives me a mental break from what I’m looking at. But yeah, it’s normally me feeling weird/going hard at being a weirdo and whatever grows from that is the end product.
LF: Best advice you’ve been given or biggest lesson you’ve learned in recent years?
NR: Don’t panic.
LF: How fast do you live?
NR: I’m slowed all the time. It’s a lifestyle.