Elizabeth Gunto, staff writer
For a lot of students, college can be difficult to afford. Even with loans or help from the folks, many people struggle with paying tuition and and bills while in school. One way some students make money is by working as an exotic dancer.
At the the former Trophy Club, now the Treasure Chest, there have been many students working from the University of North Carolina Asheville and A-B Tech over the years.
The reasons dancers stated for working there varied.
One woman, Felicia, who works at the Treasure Chest while going to A-B Tech said she had worked as a bartender in New York, but the work was hard and the hours were long.
Another woman, Molly, said that she needed her job because she was about to get kicked out of school because of inability to pay tuition, and she needed a job with a good schedule. She had worked as a chef before and found the work to be too cutthroat.
Felicia said that sexual harassment was rampant at her bar-tending job, but at the Treasure Club, the bouncers are vigilant to ensure the women’s safety, and they throw out anyone who is disrespectful to the dancers or anyone who tries to be physical with them.
“Bouncers watch out,” Molly said.
Felicia thinks that her job is empowering.
“You own what object you are. Dancers here don’t fit the cookie cutter image,” she said.
She feels that dancing creates a sense of ownership. “Some dancers have had kids; they’re in their mid-forties.I recommend it. It’s helped me with my body issues. In dancing, there’s lines and curves. It’s art. Men and women appreciate it.”
The flexible schedule was a big pro for many students working at the Treasure Chest. Felicia said she can choose to work on school nights or weekends, but since the job takes place at night, it can be difficult to get up for class in the morning.
The money was another driving factor. Molly said most nights, she makes a couple hundred dollars, and the smallest amount of money she made in one night was $90. North Carolina requires dancers to buy a $500 license before they start working, but Molly said that most dancers make the money back within their first week working.
Rose, another dancer, said a plus of the job is developing good people reading skills.
A big con for Felicia was not being able to tell her parents.
“My mom is open-minded, but she wouldn’t understand,” she said.
Rose said that it can be hard to form romantic relationships or friendships because of stigmas and people’s misconceptions. She also said that drugs and alcohol can become a big issue for a lot of dancers. She mentioned one dancer who died of liver failure at the age of 24. “It’s easy to lose yourself completely,” Rose said.
“Of all the places I’ve worked, the girls here are the nicest,” said Molly.
But Rose also works at the front desk, and she said that she’s seen dancers get in brutal physical fights. She remembered an incident a few months ago when one dancer misunderstood a comment she overheard another dancer say. Thinking that the dancer was insulting her, she and some other dancers spilled the contents of the woman’s bag into a dirty puddle and urinated in the woman’s body spray.
“Don’t make friends with dancers. Keep to yourself,” she said.
Different dancers have different plans for the future. Felicia is going to A-B tech for art and plans to work at the Treasure Club for a few more months.
Molly, who has a culinary degree, is an accounting major at UNCA and is going into the navy. Rose was getting her degree at A-B Tech in Vocal performance and plans to quit soon. “I’m going to hang up my thongs,” she said.