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The Truth About Using Your Body To Make $$

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    This story was originally published on May 9, 2016.


    For centuries, women were burdened by the idea that we’re “the weaker sex.” We couldn’t vote, own property, and we didn’t have much control over our bodies. Things have changed drastically in the past century — heck, even in the past six months — as women have proven time and again that we aren’t to be held to different standards than men, especially when it comes to our physical strength and ability.

    Ahead, we interviewed four women and one transgender man who rely on their bodies in order to excel at their work. They are just a few inspiring examples: If you look around, you’ll be amazed to see how we’re anything but weak. Women are now taking on combat roles in the military, dominating in professional sports, and making considerable strides in industries once ruled by men. We aren't just stronger than ever before — we are closer to a world where girls grow up believing their career options are limitless, and instead of looking at their bodies as a hindrance, embrace them as powerful vehicles that can help them achieve their dreams.

    29Rooms — Refinery29’s magical art and fashion funhouse – is back for its second year, kicking off during NYFW, from September 9 to 11. We’re bringing our commitment to women claiming their power to life, through the event’s theme, “Powered by People.” To celebrate this sense of possibility, we’ve curated content that embodies our theme and pushes you to do more — start the conversations you want to hear, make change. We built our dream world and want to inspire you to power your own. For more information on the 29Rooms event and our initiative, click here.


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    Roz “The Diva” Mays, 31, has been working as a personal trainer and pole dancer for the past eight years, teaching what she claims are “obnoxiously loud” classes all over New York City.

    What is your favorite body part and why?
    "The mahogany tree trunks I call legs. They’re not regular branches, either: My quads are the stuff they build basements out of. Dr. Jennifer Ashton from The Doctors called me ‘quadzilla.’ That’s the best compliment I’ve gotten in my adulthood."

    What body part(s) do you rely on to do your job?
    “Dry, ashy skin is the Holy Grail of pole dancing. You could be strong as an ox, but if your sweaty ass can’t stick to the pole, none of that strength matters. Secondly, I’d like to shoutout my left and right booty cheeks for being able to twerk independently of each other.”

    How did you become interested in pole dancing?
    “Pole started as just a class I took on Friday nights at the gym. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but the most fun.”

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    Did you ever have second thoughts about doing this for a living?
    "In my brokest days, when I was on food stamps and paying my rent with credit cards, I never once regretted choosing pole over a regular job. Absolutely never. I’d re-cry every tear of uncertainty before writing another TPS report."

    Were you surprised that you ended up doing something so physical for work?
    "Overweight Roz will forever be perplexed that she’s a professional gym rat."

    Do you think you’ll be doing this for the rest of your life?
    "Hell, no! This is far too strenuous to do for the next 60 years. But the next 10? Sign me up."

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    Hennessy, 31, is an actor, writer, personal assistant, and podcast host. If that doesn’t keep him busy enough, he also manages to work as a bike messenger on the side.

    What is your favorite body part and why?
    “My eyes. They allow people to see me.”

    What body part(s) do you rely on to do your job?
    “My entire body is crucial for my job as a bike messenger. Weaving between vehicles and other bikers and pedestrians not only requires use of my legs and feet for velocity, but my core for balance, and arms for direction and keeping steady on sharp turns.”

    Why did you decide to become a bike messenger? What are some perks of the job?
    “I’m an actor and artist. I’m also cohost of the Kill Me Now podcast with Judy Gold. My schedule and income fluctuate from gig to gig, and work (or pay) is never guaranteed. Messengering gives me the flexibility to work my own hours around my actual career, and the opportunity to make money and still be able to attend rehearsals. There’s also no boss looking over your shoulder, and I don’t need a gym membership.”

    That’s a super-male-dominated industry. Have you ever come up against discrimination on the job?
    “Since I haven’t changed my outer appearance, I’m often mistaken for a girl, but I pick and choose my battles. I’m discriminated against mostly because I am assumed to be an identity that I am not. But for the most part, in this particular job, I don’t have to work with anyone at all. I see the customers for a minute at most, and then I’m off. That’s one of the beautiful things about this job — no one to explain my existence to.”

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    In a 2014 Buzzfeed short documentary, you discuss how you identify as male, but aren’t planning on transitioning. How has that decision changed the way you feel about your body?
    “I wouldn’t say ‘I’m not planning on transitioning.’ It’s always a realistic option for me; I just want to make sure I’m doing it for myself and not just for others to ‘see me better.’ On one hand, I have been raised with and live the ‘female experience’ because of my appearance. I understand women, and the born stigma that we female-bodied people fight against every day. As a trans person, I actually identify most with the elderly and women, in that they are identified in society by what they look like (even subconsciously), not by who they are behind the wrinkles or tits. And I will never make fun of your period. That shit is no joke.

    “On the other hand, I have the mind, thoughts, instinct, and identity of a guy who happens to be straight. So I also have the experience, not only of a woman in this country, but a homosexual woman.

    “And I struggle with my male ego, trying not to wake up every day feeling emasculated — because honestly — I believe women have had to evolve through so much projection of ideas and identities of what women are and how they appear and what roles they are expected to fill or not fill. This obstacle course of a life and having various tactics, practices, and advice learned and passed on to women in order to progress and survive has made them, in my experience and opinion, the stronger and more evolved sex.

    “So the decision not to 'pass' as male is hard, because it feels as though I am living in a costume, yet I am so grateful that because of the steps I’ve walked in this body, I have the insight and connection and welcoming into a powerful, loving force that is the female community. I’ve been able to see and experience things that most men are not privy to or expected to experience. And that makes me a better man.”

    You’re also a writer, actor, podcaster, and personal assistant. How do you juggle all these jobs?
    “To be honest, I don’t always juggle my jobs well. I get overwhelmed and stuck and I drop the ball a lot. But I try to change little things and never stop trying. I’m really good at what I do and have a hard time saying no to stuff or turning gigs down, and my plate gets too full. But I’m learning. Hopefully that will never stop.

    “Also, check out the legendary comic and actor Judy Gold’s podcast: Kill Me Now! Judy Gold is the best!! (See what a good assistant I am? Damn, maybe I need an assistant… )”

    Can you tell us a little about the one-man show you’re working on?
    “Ugh, I hate the term ‘one-man-show.’ I promise it will be better than that — so much cornball stigma associated with the genre. Let’s call it a 'solo show!' It’s a funny play about a boy whose penis never grew in and how he dealt with it. At the moment it’s called typecast, but that title may change. I will be doing a workshop of it soon to show its production to prospective creatives who may want to be involved. Stay tuned!”

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    Dr. Tracy-Ann Moo, 36, is a breast surgeon at New York-Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center and is seven months pregnant with her first child.

    What is your favorite body part and why?
    “Right now, my tummy. It's changed so much and brings me so much happiness when I feel my little one moving.”

    What body part(s) do you rely on to do your job?
    “My eyes and my hands. Surgery is both an art and science; I couldn't do my job without both.”

    Why did you decide to become a surgeon? Why did you choose to focus on breast health?
    “I loved the intensity and pace of surgery. It's also a field of medicine in which you can immediately see the results of your intervention on the disease process. I chose specifically breast-cancer surgery because I love working with women, and I find great satisfaction in not just curing a disease that affects so many of us, but also forming long-term relationships with many of my patients. It's immensely gratifying to see a women who's completed all her treatment, put the disease behind her, and is going on with her life.”