It’s 8 p.m. Chances are you’re settling in for the night, maybe catching up on your favorite TV show before heading to bed. For Josie McCulley, her day is just beginning.
As the cityscape of Los Angeles booms with neon lights and revelers looking for late-night fun, Josie looks at her evenings as a new beginning.
The now-30-year-old, who works as a stripper, had what most consider a “normal” life for much of her 20s. She went to college, worked a desk job in the travel industry, got married and moved to Japan with her then-husband. But it was in this cookie-cutter life where she found the most turmoil — experiencing an unhealthy relationship that was both controlling and suppressive, she says.
“I left him and came back from Japan in October of 2009, and the idea of another desk job made me sick,” she says. “I was browsing through Craigslist and saw the ad.” The ad — the one that would change Josie’s life forever.
“I had reservations at first,” Josie reflects. “It took me a while to decide how I felt about it before I went and auditioned, and then after I got the job, I had to think about it again.”
After a couple nights, she says she sat down to go over her options once more.
“I didn’t want to do it if I had any reservations about it,” she says. “I wanted to be able to shake people’s hands and say I’m a stripper.”
It wasn’t long after she accepted the job that she would say those very words to a man who became her friend first, then boyfriend and now fiancé.
But before you assume Josie has stopped dancing with her wedding plans in full swing, she says her plans include anything but quitting.
“When we first started dating, I would try to start talking about my job in more detail,” she recalls. “But he had no concerns. Part of me wondered if he was being nice or if he was really being that respectful.”
Then the ultimate test came. Josie’s fiancé came to the club where she was working one night.
“The first time he was in the club I was intensely nervous,” she said. “I was worried he wasn’t as comfortable with it as I thought he was. But he stayed calm and collected.”
So how can a relationship work where one person’s job is to be sexy for others? Josie says it’s simple.
“If you sit down and think about it, it’s just another job, especially with how liberal sex scenes have gotten on television and in movies,” she says. “In some cases, my lap dances are a lot more tame.”
As a filmmaker in Hollywood, her fiancé knows that at home Josie is Josie, and when at work, she plays a character. She says she also made it clear from the beginning this was her, and she had no plans to change.
“He doesn’t have any interest in controlling what I do or what I feel,” Josie says, adding that’s an important trait to have in any successful relationship, no matter which career two people choose. “We just naturally go in the same direction. It’s not a drama fest — it’s full of silliness and making each other laugh. It’s healthy.”
Her fiancé often helps her pick out outfits, and will even give her advice on moves that she practices at home. Most importantly, he has never asked to stop doing what she loves — and that respect has built a solid foundation for their relationship, she says.
To many people’s surprise, however, her relationship is not unique in her industry, Josie says.
“The majority of the dancers I’ve known have been in committed relationships,” she says. “My fiancé is not a huge anomaly. There are many men out there secure with the whole thing.”
Though she knows with any entertainment career — whether it’s modeling, acting, athletics or dancing — there is a shelf life, she plans to continue as long as she can.
“There are other jobs that allow a similar level of freedom, like when you’re some sort of entrepreneur, but in my world, I have an extra sense of control,” Josie says. “I make the terms of every sale, I make my schedule, and when a customer makes me mad, I’m allowed to have them thrown out. It’s all incredibly empowering.”
Though others may judge her for her choice of profession, she sees that judgment as a statement of their character.
“I’m always looking to see how people react to what I do for a living,” she says. “It’s the same with my relationship. You can tell a lot from a person if they are insecure or they want to hear more.”
Want to know more about Josie? She writes a blog, Josie The Fiend, about her daily experiences as a stripper and the relationships who have made her who she is today.