I was born in San Francisco and raised by a single parent in a loosely organized hippie commune of vegetarian drug dealers. My mom worked at the famous Trident restaurant in Sausalito, and although she loved me, she was checked out and therefore I raised myself for the most part. In addition to selling (and doing copious amounts of) cocaine, the house patriarch trained standard poodles and showed them at stuffy dog shows while gaked out. At the tender age of nine, I knew life was a sham.
I started working at eleven, first cleaning offices and then touring the carnival and craft fair circuit selling crystals and pewter figurines. I moved out of the house just before my sixteenth birthday. I took the California High School Proficiency Exam and stopped going to high school in order to quit my night job and work full-time. My abusive childhood caught up with me emotionally and I started cutting and starving myself, about seven months after I had moved out, I was locked up in a mental institution in East Oakland for general teenage angst, self-loathing and suicidal tendencies. In an effort to get out, I entered and graduated from a thirty-day adult rehab. I eventually went back to school and through hard work and many simultaneous jobs, including employment as a stagehand and steel rigger for the legendary Bill Graham (before and after his untimely death), earned my Bachelor of Arts at San Francisco State University in 1994.
Two years before graduation, I became an exotic dancer. I had money for the first time in my life and it felt incredible. I always say, money isn't happiness, but it sure the fuck is freedom. I worked at Mitchell Brothers O'Farrell Theatre, the city’s premier strip club for nine years and was surrounded by other creative, intelligent, open-minded women like myself. Law school never happened. Like most strippers, I figured I'd dance for a short time as a means to pay for school, save a little dough and have some fun...I never thought that I would do it for over twenty years, but it afforded me incredible freedom, world travel and the purchase of two homes before the age of thirty. I’m a rarity in the sex work field, most women work for two to eight years, but much like the Mob, every time you think you’re out, it pulls you back in.
I tried many other professions during my time as a dancer in the hopes of “getting out” (there’s a ton of pressure put on strippers to quit), unfortunately, nothing quite fit and I could afford to be picky. I excelled at what I did, and I enjoyed it - most of the time - like when the money was good and I was lap dancing all night long.
I moved to Los Angeles in 2001. While attending UCLA’s Recording Engineering program, I worked at Sound City Recording Studios and stripped part-time. Although I loved studio life and recording music, the exhaustive hours and singular lifestyle wasn’t for me, I was back to the proverbial drawing board. In 2004, one of my co-workers asked if I would take photos of her. We set a date and I absolutely loved it. Not only was it fun and creative, I discovered that I had an eye for it. I believe watching women on stage all those years gave me a unique understanding of the female form, including angles and light. I've had two sold out solo shows and been in countless group shows.
I've always loved writing (although I’m terribly dyslexic), and had considered this project (my memoir) for a few years before I started it (mostly at the behest of others), including a couple attempts at the opening, but it didn’t gel. Then one day I had the idea to bring my Composition Book to the club so that I could write while it was slow and it spilled out of me. My manager wasn’t quite as thrilled, but he loved me so he let it slide. The entire memoir was written pen to paper and then later transferred into my computer (I continue to write this way). My first memoir was written mostly at strip clubs as well as in local watering holes around Los Angeles.
During my tenure as a stripper, I also hooked when the price was right and I was single. I stopped stripping in December 2013. I work exclusively as an escort, writer, and photographer these days.
All photos and text by Sita Kaylin ©
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