Tell me, what does your favorite superhero do? Do they fly around in a red cape, or do they lurk the alleyways in all black as they catch criminals in the dead of night? Mine does absolutely neither: she’s a fantastic, blonde Candian that swings on a silver pole, calls out shitty male behavior via a plethora of comics and witty novels, and brings humanity back to the concept of a “stripper” — an enigma that far too many of us, surprisingly, don’t comprehend.
Jacqueline Frances (also known as Jacq The Stripper) was made for the stage — but, which stage she’s on is to her own accord. The multihyphenate has made a name for herself through a variety of mediums: art, stand-up comedy, a handful of critically-praised books, and stripping. The Jack (or rather, Jacq) of all trades recently worked on the upcoming film Hustlers (in case you haven’t heard: a star-studded Ocean’s 11-meets-Showgirls rendition on The Cut’s famed investigative piece on the New York City stripclub, Scores) as not only an actress, but a consultant for true representation and authenticity. Why would such a big-budget film need a stripping consultant, you may ask? Well, for one big reason: mainstream media, quite frankly, sucks at representing sex workers.
But, Frances isn’t stopping at one major film to get her point across. Through every medium she’ explored, there is one message that rings true: her admiration and for her fellow strippers and sex workers, and the love she wants them to feel.
“I want strippers and sex workers to feel good, and I want to entertain them,” Frances told Cools. “I want to make them feel amazing because all sex workers do throughout the day is entertain other people. We’re always the butt of everyone else’s joke, and I’m tired of that. That makes sex workers feel like the work they do isn’t valid, or like what they do isn’t real. Sex work is real work, and I want to celebrate that. ”
Below, we talk to Frances about Hustlers, society’s skewed take on the reality of sex work, and more:
View this post on Instagram
@rachellenaesterline and I met on the Internet in 2016. I was embarking on my first tour, having just barely recovered from shingles, and I was manically trying to DO IT ALL, all by myself. She took me under her wing, chilled me out with some THC, we took some photos and she sent me on my way to slay my first solo show in San Francisco. Being a touring performer is exhausting (especially when you’re a solo act) and learning to accept the kindness of strangers is integral to your survival. Rachel isn’t a stranger anymore, she’s one of my closest friends and most magical collaborative partners. Even when I’m feeling dark and depleted, she finds my light and reflects it back to me.
Why did you decide to take part in Hustlers?
I was invited to audition for a role in the film, and they offered me one. From there, they also invited me to be a consultant, and I really appreciated both of those offers. I read the script, and I was like, this is fun. I just couldn’t see myself not being involved with it — it’s a stripper heist movie, and it’s directed by Lorene Scafaria, an amazing woman who’s done amazing work.
How was that experience as acting as a consultant on the film? How were you able to help portray a realistic depiction of strip club culture?
So, consultants are becoming more popular to have to portray a more realistic depiction of sex workers. But, they’re also there to make sure that all of the actors on set are comfortable with what they’re doing. We just wanted to make sure that the world of the strip club within the movie was reflective of the world that I experienced. Also, we had to educate the actors on what strippers would actually do in certain situations. If the actor is comfortable with what they’re doing, then that’s great, but if they aren’t they don’t have to do anything that they don’t want to do. There’s this misconception that strippers and sex workers just have to do whatever is expected of them, and that’s not the case. It’s your body, it’s your boundaries. If you don’t want to dance a certain way you don’t have to dance that way.
Do you think the film did a good job with portraying the actual strip club experience? I know that the film was inspired by real-life events, do you think it reflected them properly?
The film was inspired by an article on The Cut called “The Hustlers at Scores,” written by Jessica Pressler. I think overall the film did an amazing job at reflecting everything that happened. This was a real thing, these events actually happened, for the most part. I offered my insights with them on what was realistic and where we could add authenticity. My job was to advise, in certain ways, and I did that. And I think we all worked together and did a pretty good job with that. I haven’t seen the final film yet, though, so hopefully, everything came together.
How do you think the style and costume design reflected the reality of working (or rather, dressing) at a strip club?
The wardrobe department got really fun with it. There were some amazing costumes, and the film takes place in 2007 so it really reflects the style of that time. Stripper style is always ridiculous, amazingly over the top, and just very “extra.” So, I think they went with that concept and has a really fun time with it.
As you probably know, there’s a lot of excitement around the film — not only for the stellar cast, but for the story itself. We actually talked to a few dancers about the film, and a lot of them were actually very excited for Hustlers. Usually, the media doesn’t show a true portrayal of strip clubs and dancers, so everyone’s pretty excited to see this refreshing take.
Well, this isn’t your average “stripper” story: it’s about a very specific group of women who pull off a very impressive scheme. That’s not the average thing that happens in a strip club, it’s a very sensationalized part of what stripping could be like. It’s not the daily shift of working at a strip club, but it’s still a pretty cool story, and I was so excited to see it become a film. I read the script, and all I could think was, Oh my god, these girls are bad bitches.
It’s definitely exciting to see this film get so much hype. Mainstream media has given such negative connotations to strip club dancers, and it’s really refreshing to see them as the heroines.
I think it’s a testament to how hard sex workers have been working just to get to the point where we are now. There are still so many flaws in the way mainstream media depicts us, but we’ve come a long way to speak our truth, tell our stories, and hold media accountable for their faults and their appropriation of our culture. The stigma is so toxic, and the way we’re portrayed only furthers the challenges we experience on a daily basis. I hope with this film, along with all of the other amazing content out there, we’re able to push mainstream media and society to do better.
Outside of Hustlers, you also do comedy, art, and have written a few books. Most of your works goes back to your experience as a stripper. Tell me a bit about why you decide to focus on that aspect of your life the most.
I just became a stripper because I needed money, and that was the job available for me. I thought it was going to be awful, but by the end of my first day, I was completely surprised. It was fascinating — sometimes, ridiculous — but not disgusting. When it comes to my writing, I’ve always been a writer, so I just started writing about my experience. I get bored easily, so that’s why I experiment with so many different mediums and how I tell stories. Everything I do has somehow organically influenced each other.
My first project was my book, The Beaver Show. At first, no publisher gave a shit. So, I had this book that I really wanted to get into an agent’s hands, but then I just started drawing while I tried to get my book published. I didn’t really even think about it, it just kind of… happened. I started drawing these comics of what was happening in my life and at work, and I shared it online. If it weren’t for social media, I don’t know if my art would have taken off as much as is has. Then, I started doing stand-up comedy because I met a washed-up comedian and I thought that what he was doing looked fun, so I gave it a try. So, all of these things kind of sprung up on their own, and I’m glad that this all happened. They’re all really fun outlets to contrast one another, and everything else can be a nice break from stripping. The attitude of stripping is letting other people speak their truth, rather than you speaking your own. Sometimes, it feels like you’re holding up a mirror for them in hopes that they’ll pay you. I talk a lot as a stripper, that’s just my hustle, but sometimes I’m not able to entertain people in the same way that’s truthful to how I actually feel about the people I’m selling to, which is what I can do when I’m exploring my other mediums. So, it all kind of depends on each other — there’s no grand trajectory, it’s all organic. And now I do all of these things and I’m able to integrate them together, and it’s so awesome because I still love performing, but I get to do it for different audiences. At the strip club, it’s 90 percent men, but when I’m doing stand-up it’s mostly women. They’re two completely different performances. I just do it all! Who knows what medium I’ll explore next.
I feel like social media has been able to allow sex workers to express themselves in and out of their jobs. But, it still has a long way to go in terms of censorship. How do you think social media has helped (or worsened) representation for sex workers?
Well, I think social media lets people speak their minds and show their true accounts on what being a sex worker is really like. People with real, genuine ideas are getting more deserving attention. Social media has been incredible, and I wouldn’t have the career I have today without it. I tried to go through traditional avenues to be an author and an artist, but I had zero chance of those avenues coming through, so I had to put all of my work on social media.
It gives us a lot of opportunities and an outlet for our voices, but it’s also being challenged and taken away. Certain barriers to social media that were meant to end [sex] trafficking only made trafficking worse. Everything has become so heavily censored; speaking about sex work online has become so limited because it “violates guidelines.” In terms of expression, social media is going completely backward. We’re no longer safe on Instagram, we’re slowly being canceled by them. And people need to understand that the issue is way more than being able to post pictures of your nipples. Sex work is never going to go away, it’s the world’s oldest profession. So, the attempt to end something that will always have a high demand is, to say the absolute least, messy. It’s a human need, and it’s something that people will always be willing to pay for. So, it’s pretty embarrassing that there are all of these intense efforts to try and stop it. And when you think about it, the more society resists it the worse human trafficking is going to get. It’s a huge problem, not only in the sex industry but in other areas of our society: agricultural trafficking, domestic mover trafficking, even our own garment industry has this problem. And if people aren’t concerned with where their fast fashion outfits are coming from, but they are concerned about an adult consensually offering sexual services for a fee to another adult, then they really have to check their moral compass. But, we’re working on it.
View this post on Instagram
“Jacqueline Frances is a Canadian stripper, author, comedian and YouTube-educated artist. Aquarian by birth, she bores easily and therefore pursues the art of storytelling in a variety of media. Her upcoming works of watercolour, #MotivationalBimbos, debuts this Thursday at @bodyandpole.” 📷 @rachellenaesterline
There’s one moment in The Beaver Show where you talk about the other strippers you worked with and how they would do their makeup. One thing that really stuck with me was when you noted that they would use foundation or concealer on their butts to hide any marks. Do they show any of this realness in Hustlers, and what does the average beauty routine for a stripper actually look like?
Well, every stripper is different. I’m very low-maintenance in terms of my beauty routine, and I don’t really enjoy putting on makeup. I enjoy makeup itself, but I don’t enjoy a length process because whenever I go over the top with it I look very old and like I’m trying too hard. But, some women really take their makeup to the next level and they look amazing. One of my friends performed at one of my book releases, and she showed up and took two full hours to get ready. She said getting ready is her favorite part, and she takes a really long time just crafting her look and tying it all together, from her makeup to what she’s going to wear for the night. I love that about her because if my makeup takes more than three minutes it’s not going to go well. The beauty rituals are just so different for everyone, and I’ve never been a body makeup girl because I’m afraid of it rubbing off, but some girls cover their whole bodies in self-tanner and they look amazing. It’s so amazing to see what people do in terms of makeup, everyone has their own little twist.
One thing I recently learned is that some clubs actually have makeup artists on-hand.
Oh yeah, it’s a huge thing. A lot of the bigger clubs have makeup artists, but you do have to pay them. But, most of us do our own makeup. Although, in New York, you have to pay the makeup artist even if you don’t take any of their services. You can bring in your own stuff and do your makeup and hair, but even if you do that you have to pay out the makeup artist, which is a little irksome considering that many of us don’t use the services.
People don’t realize that a lot of the money dancers make at the end of the night is going to tipping out other people at the club, like the DJs and the bartenders.
Definitely. Many people don’t realize that even if you work at one of the best strip clubs in Manhattan, you’re spending around $100-$200 of the money you make just by showing up. It’s criminal, and it needs to change, but for now, that’s what we have to deal with.
How are you trying to change the industry through your work?
My number one goal isn’t to change other people’s minds. My goal is to celebrate strippers and how hard they work. I want strippers and sex workers to feel good, and I want to entertain them. I want to make them feel amazing because all sex workers do throughout the day is entertain other people. We’re always the butt of everyone else’s joke, and I’m tired of that. That makes sex workers feel like the work they do isn’t valid, or like what they do isn’t real. Sex work is real work, and I want to celebrate that. I want these women to be inspired by the work that they do, and to feel pride and advocate for themselves. You should be able to fight for the rights you deserve, and I want sex workers to feel good about the work that they do. Everything else that happens as a byproduct of that is a win.