Inside The Lives Of Strippers — On & Off The Stage (NSFW)

From Sin City's dark glamorization to We're The Millers' glib stereotyping, the media's representation of stripping is as one-dimensional as the female characters themselves — usually limited to either "sexed-up vixen" or "stripper with a heart of gold."
Director and photographer Poppy de Villeneuve and producer and director Chloe Hall, however, are sick of the clichés. This is why they have spent the past six months delving into the stripping scene of Dallas, TX. While creating a documentary on stripping in the Bible Belt, the pair has gotten to know strip-club employees both inside and outside the clubs themselves.
The U.S. has more strip clubs than anywhere else in the world, de Villeneuve and Hall point out, and yet our understanding of the industry remains limited. Poppy and Chloe "aspire to uncover a new version of the female experience and to humanize an industry that has long been a source of criticism," by way of their feature-length film.
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The documentary — working title The Dallas Project — will explore the experiences of strippers and managers, each of whom carries unique reasons for his or her involvement in the industry. "I hadn't seen behind the curtains of a strip club before starting this project," Poppy tells me. "We discovered all sorts of women — and men, for that matter — looking for love, family, money, and power. [These people] aren't necessarily so different from the rest of us. We have talked to many young women [who are] learning about themselves and trying to find some sort of security in a chaotic, turbulent world."
Poppy and Chloe are funding their documentary with an Indiegogo campaign that ends today at midnight — so if you'd like to support their cause, now is the time. (You can also view the trailer for their film.) "Stripping is a highly gendered occupation," the campaign's profile reads. "Women strip, men watch. However, this film does not present stripping as an act of feminist expression. Instead, it examines several different experiences and suggests that the reasons a woman might choose to strip are too complicated and unique to warrant summation."
Poppy shared with us a sampling of the photographs she has taken throughout the process of creating the film: a glimpse into the private and public worlds of women who are often misunderstood. The photos show the strippers on stage, but also speak to their roles as mothers, wives, sisters, girlfriends, friends, and more — just as The Dallas Project seeks to do justice to all facets of their personalities. Click through for the 17 perspective-altering shots.
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PHOTO: COURTESY OF Poppy de Villeneuve.
"This is a photograph I took about six years ago in Virginia," Poppy tells us. "I think of it every time Chloe and I arrive in Dallas — how one sees these signs along the road when driving around America, and now we are learning what's inside...Illusions, indeed."
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PHOTO: COURTESY OF Poppy de Villeneuve.
"Maria is an expert pole dancer," Poppy says. "She has such a beautiful face. Onstage, she calls herself 'Chaos.' Her boyfriend is a DJ and he calls himself 'Destroy.' 'Chaos' and 'Destroy' — what could be better?

"Maria started dancing when her car broke down in front of a strip club and she didn't have the money to tow it. An incredible athlete, Maria...attacks the job with force. She’s determined to master the craft of pole dancing and regularly competes...for large cash prizes, honing her craft and refining her technique."
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PHOTO: COURTESY OF Poppy de Villeneuve.
"Tatum in the locker room. When she came in, she looked like an ordinary girl, just out of school in her sweats," Poppy explains. "We watch this transition happen. It was just after Independence Day, hence her blue-and-red outfit. Addicted to the money and all that comes with the lifestyle, she confesses that the club is an environment to live out her many selves: slutty, shy, and ever-changing. She still sees this point in her life as transitional."
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PHOTO: COURTESY OF Poppy de Villeneuve.
Personalized lockers in a club dressing room.
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"This is one of the dancers at Fantasy Ranch," Poppy tells us. "They have been amazing giving us access — we know the girls' routines and talk to them in the locker room to get a sense of how business is going that evening. The light show is in full effect here. "
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PHOTO: COURTESY OF Poppy de Villeneuve.
"As you might imagine, you see lots of tattoos in the club," Poppy says. "They can be like camouflage — distracting...encouraging the eyes to go to certain places.

"I loved these bows; [we] tried to hunt this girl down to interview her, but she was evasive and changed plans on us a couple times."
7 of 17
PHOTO: COURTESY OF Poppy de Villeneuve.
"These three ladies work at a club called Platinum," Poppy says. "The locker room was pretty intense. When we were out on the floor with the girls...waiting for the customers, they were singing sweetly and bobbing their heads... The music is more soulful at Platinum than other clubs. These ladies were also incredible on the poles."
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PHOTO: COURTESY OF Poppy de Villeneuve.
"We didn't film with this girl — she didn't want to get involved. She did let me take her picture."
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PHOTO: COURTESY OF Poppy de Villeneuve.
"The body creates incredibles shapes under the lights of the club. There is a loneliness to being on stage," Poppy shares. "One girl described it as 'dancing in your bedroom on your own.'"
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PHOTO: COURTESY OF Poppy de Villeneuve.PHOTO: COURTESY OF Poppy de Villeneuve.
"Sarah and Cole were a breath of fresh air the day we met them," Poppy says of this couple. "Cole comes from a stripper family: His mom and two sisters all dance, and it seems he doesn't judge Sarah because he understands.

"Sarah has a map of Texas [tattooed] on her thigh, and dreams of being a veterinarian at a zoo."
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PHOTO: COURTESY OF Poppy de Villeneuve.
"The scenes in the club remind me of old paintings and photographs," Poppy says. "There is a timeless quality to the naked body within the darkness — shapes revealed in corners. I often think of the Storyville characters from New Orleans, as photographed by Bellocq."
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PHOTO: COURTESY OF Poppy de Villeneuve.
"This is Brittany at a strip-club managers' pool party," Poppy tell us. "We talked about her pagan beliefs and her thoughts on organized religion — she has a clear head. She is so sexy and elegant and has a long, successful career ahead of her."
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PHOTO: COURTESY OF Poppy de Villeneuve.
"This is a good example of a rotation. The girls have two minutes per song, then switch, next stage, then switch. The girl in the foreground is on main stage."
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PHOTO: COURTESY OF Poppy de Villeneuve.
"Paige was shy, so we didn't talk very long, but when the camera was turned to her, she was a whole different person... This sense of becoming a different person is a theme among the girls, and it's fascinating to hear them talk about it."
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PHOTO: COURTESY OF Poppy de Villeneuve.
In this photo, Rusty, who will be featured in The Dallas Project, dances onstage. "She's originally from Russia," Poppy says. "She told us she has a 'calm life' compared to many of the other dancers, as she's looking after her young son."
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"Kimberly's stage name is Secret and she has five children. We spent the day...getting lost on a trail in the countryside in East Texas with them. They are one of the sweetest families you could meet, and Justin [is] an incredible father," Poppy shares.
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PHOTO: COURTESY OF Poppy de Villeneuve.
"This is Destiny and her daughter," Poppy says. "They are living in a motel at the moment, while she is between places."
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