I started doing aerobics when I was a teenager. I absolutely adored Charlene Prickett. Then, when I was 19 or 20, I got into doing Renaissance Festival in Minnesota, where I saw the breath-taking Cassandra. I was hooked and started taking her classes, which I continued up until I moved for grad school, a decade later.
I initially met you because you make and sell PoleSkivvies. Tell us first about that!
PoleSkivvies is the original pole fitness apparel - when I started the company, nobody but me was thinking pole clothing should mean anything other than lingerie. First and foremost, I wanted a good pair of athletic shorts that didn't gap in the crotch and wouldn't get in my way on the pole. Trickier said than done, but I figured it out!
You also run J. Michelle Marketing, focusing on pole studios. What kind of advice are you offering new businesses?
My feeling is that, for the pole community to thrive, the pole studios have to thrive. That's where the bulk of the students learn about pole, and that's where the non-polers learn about pole. I began J Michelle Marketing to teach studio owners how to market their business so they can grow. At first, I was doing coaching as a side project of PoleSkivvies, but the service came into its own in August.
Right now, I'm working on some new marketing products that should be available by the end of September. They will help pole dancers looking to launch a studio or pole party business, as well as increase sign-ups at an existing pole studio.
You clearly have a passion for pole dancing...
Yes! I do! It's a wonderfully fun, strengthening motion that is such a contrast to belly dancing. For me, the two combine into a perfect workout.
What is your fitness routine (on and off the pole)?
Basically, I walk the dog a half hour a day (yes, he gets taken out to pee more than that!) and try to do 20-30 minutes each day (give or take) of walking briskly (meaning, not stopping to sniff or pee on things - so no doggie on that jaunt) or dancing just to play to the music.
My more serious workout starts with a belly dance warm up, drilling all the belly dance moves, then progresses to some arm warm ups for pole, then spins, then climbs, planks, and inverts. I do that once a week and, a few days later, do just a pole dancing workout, without all the strength-building exercises or drills of the other.
What kind of diet do you follow?
I don't eat meat or most dairy (if there's butter in a croissant, no worries; cheese on pasta, can't do - I get a little tipsy from dairy). My main goal is no food made with preservatives or artificial ingredients. Not only does it ruin the flavor, but I don't think those things are good for you. I also drink a lot of water - preferably warm, with honey.
Do you have a dance background?
Yes, belly dance. I've studied belly dance for over 20 years and, at various times, have taught and performed.
Do you compete (pole fitness or any other kind of fitness competitions)?
No, not a dance competition type.
What interested you about pole dancing?
It was something new and I loved the contrast with belly dance. Plus it was such a cool way to finally build up my upper body strength.
Do you have a preference? "pole fitness" or "pole dancing"
I prefer to watch the dancing, but my workouts are often more pole fitness-y, simply because I'm still learning so many moves. With belly dance, I don't have to think about moves; they are ingrained in me and all I need do is give in to the music. I can't do that yet with pole dance, so I try, but it always frustrates me because it isn't where I'd like it to be yet. I mix in a lot of belly dance, though, and then I feel it suits me better.
What do you think about the stripper vs. fitness debate?
I think people need to get a grip. Strippers are how pole started, just accept it already and grow up. It's not an evil profession, it doesn't sully you if the naughty stripper girl is doing the same move you are. Dance is erotic, pole's origins especially so, just accept it, and move on. There's room for all kinds of people - and all kinds of dance styles - in the world of pole.
What is your favorite product to help you stick to the pole?
Summer. LOL - the only thing that really helps is waiting for summer. I do have some Mighty Grip gloves, though, but I just bought them in June so haven't tried them out yet. Won't need to for another month or so yet ...
Do you like to dance in heels or barefoot?
Actually, due to some bone problems in my feet, I can't dance in either. I use flat dance shoes that have a soft leather sole, and I have to put arch supports in them. Sigh. :)
What is your favorite thing about dancing on the pole?
It feels like playing!
What is your favorite song to dance to (at this moment)?
I am always a fan of Prince from the 80s and 90s. Also love Annie Lennox, Lady Gaga, and the French Kiss soundtrack.
Do you have any upcoming events you'd like people to know about?
The Jade Tank Top will be available in late September - it's a beautiful tank top in the PoleSkivvies signature, sweat-wicking fabric. Cute enough to go out dancing in it - regardless of whether you'll be on a pole!
I'd also say that now would be a good time to sign up for the PoleSkivvies and J Michelle Marketing newsletters - lots of fun stuff on the way!
What else would you like people to know about you or your businesses?
That the more people tell me what they like and what they want, the more I can adapt my businesses to meet their needs. It's all about listening to the customer!
What made you decide to start blogging?
With PoleSkivvies, it began as a way to get people to come visit my site when I really didn't have much brand recognition for PoleSkivvies and when there was only one item for sale.
For J Michelle Marketing, it was a way to give voice to the business side of pole. I write a lot about dancing pole on PoleSkivvies, but, obviously, in running a pole-related business, I've learned a ton about marketing to pole dancers and getting a pole business off the ground. I feel there's a need for professional business information in the pole community, so I started blogging as a way to get the word out about that.