“A Week In The Life” is a weekly Zikoko series that explores the working-class struggles of Nigerians. It captures the very spirit of what it means to hustle in Nigeria and puts you in the shoes of the subject for a week.
The subject of today’s “A Week In The Life” is Debbie, a stripper. She tells us about how stripping changed her life, why she wants the Nigerian police to do better, and how she plans to fund her dreams of living an expensive life.
My days are unpredictable so I have no fixed time to wake up. On some days I’m up early because I have to leave my house for an appointment. Other days, like today, I lie on my bed pressing my phone until 10, 11 a.m. My work revolves around anything entertainment-related — stripping, acting or video vixen — and Mondays are usually slow. I get up from the bed and set up my camera because I’m tired of being idle. I’m going to record myself dancing, singing and just having fun. When I’m done, I’ll upload the video on my social media pages and reply to any comments. While setting up, I remind myself not to forget to satisfy my craving for beans and plantain after I’m done shooting.
Before I return to my camera set up, I have to defeat an enemy called low inspiration. So I seek the help of a trusted friend called Igbeaux. I can feel myself loosening up and my appetite roaring in the background after some puffs. While I’m running through what I want to shoot in my head, and figuring out what part of my room to use, NEPA takes the light. Well, there goes my ability to create content and be useful today.
Today was better than yesterday mostly because I spent my time reminiscing. Anytime I see how far I’ve come with stripping, I can’t help but thank God. People don’t believe me when I tell them nobody taught me how to strip — I learnt from watching other girls on the pole and practising over and over again. Sometimes, I’d fall and hit my bum bum. Then I’d go home to massage it while telling myself, “We move oh.” I no longer try to learn too many moves because some routines are hard abeg. It’s not every routine a stripper must know.
I remember being scared, shy and happy when I started stripping. On my first day, I couldn’t even pull off my clothes. I remember summoning the courage to remove my bra and subsequently turning to face the wall. It was the money I picked up at the end of the night that gave me ginger to continue.
There’s a big difference between American strip clubs and Nigerian strip clubs. In Nigeria, there’s a belief that people who go to strip clubs are devilish people, and there are people who come to strip clubs and say they don’t want strippers to touch them. Regardless of all this, I still hustle and make my money. Depending on the club you work at, and how people turn up, you can make ₦40 – ₦50k in one night. Other nights, you can make more or less than that. Funny enough, the highest amount I made in a night — ₦100-000 – ₦200,000 — was from one house party and not even a club.
There’s money in stripping, and there’s also a lot of wahala, but most people don’t see that.
People assume that strippers aren’t meant to be in a romantic relationship. That’s their business because I’m seeing someone. To be honest, the reason the relationship works is that my boyfriend is a crazy person and I’m a shameless woman. He always says he’ll do worse things than stripping if he were a woman. The fact that he knows my story ensures that my job — giving lap dances and customers touching my boobs or tapping my ass — doesn’t pain him. Sometimes, he’ll tell me, “Go get your money, girl.” I love him so much, and I pray God keeps us together.
My mum is also aware of what I do for a living, but I’m not sure if my dad knows. Funny story: my junior sister is also a stripper. One weekend she came visiting and begged to follow me to work. Even though she was just a spectator, she picked almost ₦40k from the floor that night. And that was how she started her stripper career.
Sometimes I think about how every fucking thing in my life has changed. In the past, I’d cook jollof rice to eat for four to five days because I couldn’t afford what I wanted to eat. Now, I barely cook. I also couldn’t afford to help my siblings financially, but now I’m chief of the house. And for me to be the chief, you know I got it. Hahaha.
At work today, we’re discussing the many dirty names Nigerians call strippers. It’s funny when people say we’re opening our body to make money. In reality, everyone uses what they have [brain, connections, body] to get what they need. I don’t care about what people have to say. Well, except for the Nigerian police.
I demand better treatment from the police because they’re always harassing strippers. If I dress sexy or the way I like, policemen talk to me anyhow. When policemen stop me on the road, I don’t smile and I guess that increases their anger towards me. How can I be smiling with people who raided our club during the Covid curfew and took me to the station wearing only a pant and a bra? I ended up paying ₦70,000 to conduct a Covid test that turned out to be negative.
I can’t even afford to be spending money anyhow seeing as strip clubs haven’t fully re-opened. It’s house parties we’re managing for now. If this Covid thing hadn’t disrupted all of 2020, by now I should be counting millions. Instead, everywhere red and the brokeness choke.
It’s up to the stripper to determine if they want to move things forward with the client or leave it alone at just dancing. When clients request a happy ending, I tell them I don’t do that. I’m happy that even without the happy ending, I still make money. I’ll forever be grateful for my decision to move from the mainland to the Island because it increased my earning potential. Mostly because there are no big strip clubs on the mainland.
I love expensive life, and I spend today thinking about the fact that I’m on my way to living the kind of life I wish for. Although my life is currently not expensive, I still love it. In addition to stripping, I also make and sell my own perfumes and perfume oil. I also sing at events somewhere in that mix. Before I sign out from being a stripper, I must have my own strip club and ensure that all my queens learn how to make their own money.
I know God is going to do many things in my life, but I just don’t know where he’s going to start. Until that time comes, I’m married to capitalism.
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