We live in an extremely over-sexualised society, which the Daily Mail loves to point and gawk at in a sort of “Ooh, look at HER, so unsavoury… she has LADY BITS *boke* *retch* *retch* let’s take a million pictures of her and put her on the cover” way. To a degree glamour models are contributing to it, but they are also a symptom of it as well. We grew up in a perfect storm of sex, celebrity, and reality TV fame, moreso than any other generation that has come before. Sex is part of our landscape, part of our reason for being, and what validates us as members of society in some weird messed up way. We live in a society where our supposed role models are Katie Price and the Kardashians, morally vacuous cyphers who are only as good as their respective surgeons and sex tapes. Why have we picked these women to represent us? Because trust, we have picked them not the other way around. I can mock Katie and Kim as much as I like but that fact is: it was my gender who made them rich. And I don’t know about you but that fact seems pretty shameful to me when there are far more deserving people out there. Women who have worked hard in business, medical science, literature (and by literature I mean REAL literature, not ghost written bollocks or Mummy porn). But of course, those women don’t look good with their kit off in a lad’s mag so they are largely ignored and as a result young girls turn to the women that ARE seen, creating the situation we have now. Can you really blame girls for wanting to be glamour models or strippers when the overriding message to women in society for the past 20 years is that you are only as good as how sexy you look and how much money you make? Our skewed society has created twisted priorities… and massively fucked up kids.
It figures that society and the media then perpetuate this myth that all women in glamour and stripping are minted. I’ll call it the £100,000 stripper myth. This idea that these empowered women are going out there and making all this money by exploiting men’s base needs and laughing all the way to the bank has been perpetuated by the media since the late-nineties. It was part of what got me into stripping when I was a teenager, with the lure of easy cash and the desire to be seen as sexy - like Sara Cox and Denise Van Outen - and all the other sexy TV girls I saw on the covers of lads mags. I was 19 years old, incredibly sheltered, and fully duped by this idea that I could earn thousands by getting naked. Of course, it wasn’t true. I realised pretty quickly that the economies of stripping were weighed heavily in the clubs’ favour, not the girls, which I shall attempt to explain.
On an average night at an average Spearmint Rhino’s there will be around 200 girls working and maybe 15 to 20 customers if they are lucky. The door fee is around £20, drinks are about the same and a dance is £20. In order to work that shift a girl will pay the club a ‘house fee’ of £80-100 (sometimes more on busy nights), but for argument’s sake we’ll say £80 because it’s a quiet Wednesday. £80 to a girl is 4 dances, 4 painfully embarrassing dances that they do, for free. In order for every girl to make her house fee and go home breaking even, those 15 guys would have to have 800 dances between them, which of course, they won’t. Instead it will work out like this: out of those 200 girls 1 or 2 will take a sugar daddies shine and make the big money (anything up to £2000 or more) which generally involves being nice to an ancient fat hulk of a guy with a sweat/halitosis problem for hours at a time and pretending you fancy him; 2-3 will turn ten dances and make a profit; 10 will cover their house fee; and the rest to go home with nothing at all with the honour of still having to pay the club up to £80 for the privilege of being there. This leaves the majority of the girls working that night worse than with nothing, it leaves them in debt. Is this empowerment? Baring your all, working 8 hour late-night shifts for nothing and paying others for the privilege… seems to me like exploitation. Clubs argue that the girls ‘could’ have earned money that night, that the POTENTIAL (you’ll hear this word a lot) was there, while at the same time overstaffing the club with more girls than they know will earn money as it looks good for the guys coming through the door. The club makes money from the guys AND the girls (on this particular night, at least £16,300, not including drinks), so more than men exploiting women or women exploiting men, essentially it is the club who is exploiting the needs of BOTH. The only people who win in the room are the waitresses, as no matter who comes through the door the only guarantee to anyone is that they will drink. A lot. I used to know a Spearmint Rhino waitress. She had a shoe box with £10,000 in it under her bed. Didn’t know any strippers with that kind of cash…
Now, loosely transfer that logic to the glamour industry. Within the UK there are 3 national newspapers that employ glamour models, 3 monthly magazines that regularly employ models (with 10 or so that occasionally do) and 2 weekly magazines, giving you in total 18 print outlets. With each modelling agency housing hundreds of girls - lets say 2000 combined - 3 or 4 will become household names, around 50 will become contracted (ensuring regular work from 6 months up to 1 or 2 years), 200 will flit between magazines working regularly and the rest will work sporadically with some not working at all. As you can see already, they are pretty similar. Like the strip clubs it is a number’s game - agencies take on models not necessarily in the model’s best interests, but to provide the most variety to clients to get a bigger return on their investment.
The average fee for a day’s shooting across the board is £250. “Wow, that’s a lot of money for a day’s work” you’re thinking, and you’re right: it is. In fact, it is these figures that TV shows and newspapers like to quote when telling you a model’s earnings. But these figures they claim as fact aren’t based in reality, they’re based on potential earnings (“If girl X earned amount Y every day for a year she would make… A MILLION POUNDS!”) aka, what could be made, aka, dreams and wishes. Because here’s the thing; most models DON’T work every day. Even the top models have slow periods. Sometimes that £250 shoot might be the only job they get that month. It happens. And what do you do then, huh? You find another income, because after you take away your agent’s fee (20% plus an extra 20% booking fee charged to the client) and tax, you’re left with about £180, which on it’s own isn’t enough to live off.
So, let me put a glamour model’s wages into perspective in real terms. Work 4 shoots in a month and you’ve earned yourself a below-average wage. Work 6 shoots in a month and you’re on the same earnings as a graduate or school-leaver after a couple of years of work. Work more than that and congratulations, you can now dance off into the sunset with the mermaids and the unicorns on the back of a giant rainbow. I’m kidding, but you remember what I said further up about only a few girl’s making it? They are the 1%. Their earnings in the few years they are active will set them up for life. Chances are - unless you are massively lucky - you won’t be one of them.
In the past, top strippers and household name models would earn anything up to £100,000 a year or more (hence the £100,000 stripper myth) but with recession on the rise and print media in decline, these figures don’t really exist anymore. Even in the past these instances were very very rare. I can only name a handful of girls in the glamour industry that have earned this kind of money, and while some have worked harder than others for it, it is very much a lottery who gets picked. You are but a pawn of the industry’s whim and you generally know within your first 6 months if you are one of the lucky ones, in both modelling or stripping.
New recruits to either should factor in two things 1) as a self-employed person, nothing is guaranteed, and 2) this is not a long-term career. One month you could earn a few thousand pounds and the next you could earn nothing. Trying to save and plan ahead when you don’t know what your next pay check is or when you’re going to get it is hard. Obviously contracts help stave off the uncertainty but they don’t last forever. Plan ahead, form other interests, and have goals larger than finding that sugar daddy or getting on the cover of a magazine. You’ll need them.