Thursday, December 29, 2011

Pioneer of Pole: Sheila Kelley and S Factor

Sheila Kelley is one of the most famous pole pioneers.  She definitely makes pole more of a lifestyle than a workout.  If you have not been to an S Factor class, I suggest you try one!

My first-ever pole class was at S Factor in San Francisco about three years ago.  I was really impressed (and surprised) with how safe the studio made me feel.  It was kind of dark but warm and very inviting. I know you first got into pole dancing for a movie role and realized the increased fitness was an added benefit.  What made you decide that the sensuality of exotic dance was an important part of the workout?

Hi Lori, thanks for reaching out to me! I love talking about S, sharing my passion for elevating the feminine, which has become the passion of so many women, and every opportunity to "wake the S up" in the world.  It wasn’t the sensuality of traditional exotic dance that became a part of S Factor, it was the natural sensuality of a woman's body that I began to acknowledge in my own body.  The no make-up, hair undone, no frills, pure, organic S shape of our hips, butt, shoulders, wrists, the inside of a woman's elbow, everything top to bottom, right down to our baby toes.  Women are sexy!  Right out of the womb.  And that sensuality in the shape of our hips, also lives inside our hips.  We are circular natured and we are built to move naturally in a circular, sensual way.  It's enticing to men in an exotic dance environment because (well they are enticed by women whether we are moving or standing still!) we're exaggerating those S shapes.  But for women at S, we're just doing what comes naturally in the privacy of our S studios, and the sensuality of it is inherent.

I remember busting out a CRAZY hard core workout before we got anywhere near the pole.  How important do you feel it is to build a strong foundation before you stick ladies to the pole?  

I designed the S Factor Workout to cover every base of feminine fitness that I (and so many of my girlfriends) had tried for years to find in multiple forms of exercise.  We were taking Pilates for the ab work, yoga for long lean muscles and stretching and meditation, different kinds of dance, jogging, biking, hiking, treadmilling, weights, ahhhhhhhhhH!  It was too much and none of it worked.  I tried everything alone and in every conceivable combination and it just felt like this uphill battle that one could never catch up with, especially after having children.  When I built S Factor I wanted to create something "total body" that could be achieved in 2 hours once a week.  That's why S Factor's copyrighted sequence of circular fluid feminine movements is multi-directional and isometric.  You feel it in your entire body because a woman's entire body needs and craves movement in order to feel balanced.  It is designed to prep women to do polework too!  In Level 1 and 2 of the S Factor Original Series session women learn signature S Factor polework that builds their upper body and abdominal strength, which then prepares them for more advanced signature S Factor climbs and inversions as they progress to Levels 3 - 6 of their Erotic Creature Journey.

You were at the forefront of bringing pole to the every-day woman. How do you feel about it going mainstream?

It's like...I keep waiting to wake up.  It's really something.  I never imagined when I was teaching S Factor to women in my house back in 2001 that something like this could have such a tremendous affect on the world and history.  Nothing like S Factor existed on the planet.  And there we were, these extraordinary women and me, just celebrating our femininity and having fun.  To be an innovator of something brings with it a lot of responsibility.  I receive thousands of letters from all over the world from women who have tried "pole dance fitness."  Some I have to say have had a different experience than what S Factor is defined as.  While I love that there is a growing community of women exploring new ways to move their body, I wish I could be everywhere in the world at once with an actual S Factor studio on every corner because we do more than just dance on a pole.  And that "more" has become the impetus behind my Soulfully Sexy DVD Series and the Wake the S Up movement.  S = Feminine.  The idea of women having a culture of their own is what I hope will become mainstream, versus simply the act of pole dancing.

I have met many amazing dancers who have come from S Factor backgrounds: Natasha Wang, Claire Griffin Sterrett, Amy Kim, Sheena LaShay, and my own friend here in California, Jenny Gain.  I'm sure there are many, many more I'm missing.  How proud are you of your ladies being in the pole world limelight?

The women who currently teach S Factor at our studios are some of the most phenomenal women I have ever met in my life.  Our highly trained staff have inspired many women in the world.  S teachers do more than just guide women through the workout, or teach them pole tricks.  They dramatically change lives.  They are therapists, body whisperers, confidantes, nurturers, healers, they are in the limelight of each and every life they touch through the two hours they share once a week with women from all walks of life.  And I am proud to have them as sisters and friends.

Do you participate in pole competitions?  

I don't personally because the dark, rich chocolate fudge that is S Factor movement itself off the pole is what I aspire to journey deeper into.  However, S Factor is very proud of our S teachers Barbara Dial in New York and Jen Campo in Houston who have won major pole dance competitions due in part to the uniquely feminine nature of S Factor's signature style.

Recently, some of my pole dancing friends who are mothers have had issues with their children's friends making fun of their mom for being a "stripper."  Did you ever have to deal with that.  If so, how did you handle it?  If not, how would you advise someone to handle it?  

Hmmmm...this is the first I've ever heard of this happening.  I guess I would say that children tease other children about a whole slew of things that are untrue.  There really isn't anything that can be done about it, it's just kids.   I know that many S moms bring their daughters in to our Mother-Daughter classes and events and the little ones have a perfect understanding of the difference between S Factor movement and "pole dancing."

Men on the pole is a very hot topic right now.  S Factor is very famously a place for women only.  Do you foresee a change in that policy any time soon?  

There's been some confusion about this.  Actually S Factor is very open to teaching men.  I even taught Conan O'Brien (  And there's a note about it in the FAQ section of our website.  Due to the nature of the Erotic Creature Journey,  S Factor classes are not co-ed, but men may call their nearest studio and request a Private Lesson or Private Party.  I've taught S to a bunch of men (we have a few guys who work upstairs in the LA offices who have taken a class or two) and it's fun to see them find their feminine side.  They get a kick out of it and they really get it.  They get that it's no different than men basking in their masculinity on a golf course or basketball court.

What kind of "diet" do you follow?

Diet is an evil word and I don't do it.  I eat clean and healthfully, and I do S Factor!

Do you like to dance in shoes or barefoot?

I love, love, love my 6 and 7-inch stilettos.  They make me feel larger than life.  But some days a girl's just gotta go barefoot!

Is there anything else you'd like us to know about you, any upcoming events or S Factor?  

YES!  The S Factor Retreat is like...where do I begin?  Imagine a world completely ruled by women.  Imagine everything you see, hear, eat, sleep, breathe, say, do, feel, smell,'s all been hand-selected to cultivate your feminine side.  You are surrounded by other women who are there for the same purpose and it's just a frickin' lovefest of what it means to be a woman, what we struggle with together and apart and how easy it is for us to elevate our minds, bodies, hearts and souls when we pull ourselves out of the every day stresses of life and retreat in every sense of the word, into our femininity.  We can be emotional, we can be sensual, we can be loud and wild and young and free, we have no responsibilities except to ourselves and our own desires and pleasures and needs.  We can play (and we do in luxurious outdoor locations and indoors at 5-star resorts!!), smile, laugh, dance and live authentically in our skin with no apology.  It's heaven.  It's bliss.  Women come from all over the globe and I personally teach the classes and seminars along with the best of the best S teachers from our studios across the U.S.  It's an awakening that's like jet fuel propelling women toward achieving their greatest desires and becoming more successful in all areas of their life.  I've also taught mini-retreats as part of Tony Robbins' Platinum Partners retreats and the philosophies go hand-in-hand.  This is for women who are ready to be reborn as superwomen.  We'll be in Miami this coming February!  We may be sold out by the time you read this but we're working on opening up more spots because the retreats are so popular.  We limit registration so that I can really spend a lot of one-on-one time with each woman and really give them an understanding of the mind, body, heart and soul of S Factor.  Miami in February will be our 4th retreat I have hosted!  Women can go to and get all of the details.  I'm looking forward to meeting your readers and you Lori if you can come!

I know Sheila is a busy lady and I really appreciate her participation in my blog.  S Factor has four locations in California, two in New York, one in Houston and one in Chicago.  Check out for more info!

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