Hot Girl Somos

Poletic Justice Instructor Mona Marie Is De-Gentrifying Pole Dance

Welcome to Don’t Yuck My Yummm, Unbothered’s sexual wellness column and digital diary aimed at destigmatizing Black womxn’s intimate experiences. Trust us, this ain’t your mama’s how-to-guide. From the policing of our bodies, the antics of respectability politics, and the rise of toxic male "dating coaches", Black womxn are in need of a safe space for storytelling, education, and advocacy when it comes to sex. Don’t Yuck My Yummm is an opportunity to amplify the voices of folxs who are doing the work. We encourage you to turn the mirror on yourself and join us on our self-discovery experience.  
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Nowadays, it seems like everyone is looking to let their freak flag fly a little. The soccer moms that once huddled in groups with their Lululemon ‘fits and yoga mats are trading them in for spandex, knee pads, and twerk cardio. Yep, twerking, sensual movement, and pole culture have gone mainstream.
What was once whispered about and hidden in dark studios is now on full display for everyone to criticize, gentrify, and perhaps ostracize. But when the world gets its fill and moves on to the next trend, where does that leave the women who have dedicated their lives and careers to this form of dance? For Mona Marie, a queer Afro-Latina dancer and entrepreneur, it's all about preserving the craft and making space for Black and Brown folks in her community. 
We spoke with the Puerto Rican-Cuban-Jamaican founder of Poletic Justice, a holistic aerial fitness studio in the Bronx, to learn more about her pole journey, how she handles the non-believers, and her plans to continue to bet on herself.
Tell me a little bit about your pole journey. 
In my early 20s, while I was in my third year of college, I walked into a gentlemen's club, and I saw these two phenomenal ladies at the top of the pole. I was absolutely intrigued. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. At the time, there were no classes, schools, or studios to learn. The only way for me to learn was for me to go and actually join a gentlemen's club and become a dancer. And that's exactly what I did. I went home, had a pow-wow with myself, and I asked myself, "Do you want to start this journey?" My main motivations were to stay out my momma's house and to be able to have my own voice. I felt like starting this journey was going to give that to me. I went and auditioned, and I got hired. 
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Oh wow! So you're all self-taught?
I'm literally self-taught. I stayed at the back of the club, which at the time was called Bottom Bay, and I just watched what the ladies were doing on stage and practiced. Then it just took on a mind of its own. I left there and went to Sin City two months later. Sin City was like the Holy Grail that really allowed me to create a name for myself.
How many years had you been dancing?
I’m a dancer. I started dancing when I was 12 years old, doing dance, step, and modeling. So when I was 20, I already had that stage presence. Adding pole was just so I was able to stand out. I wanted to treat it like a job and a career. I wanted to do it right. If I'm going to do it, and I'm going to have to deal with all this stuff from family and friends, then I wanted to give them something to talk about.
From all of this, how did Poletic Justice come about?
In 2016, I booked my first major gig with a legend in the entertainment industry, and she was absolutely phenomenal. The fact that she took a chance on me and saw something in me made me start to realize that I needed to see something in myself. I realized all this talent that I do have, all these skills I've been developing for years, what can I do to give back? Truth be told, being an entrepreneur was not something I would have thought was going to be in my cards. That was not the case. I was supposed to be doing public relations.
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It's funny how sometimes life has other plans.
Exactly, but I wanted to give back to my community, especially the Bronx because that’s where I’m from. I realized that even at my job, I would always get questions like, "How do you stay so fit? How do you have all this confidence?" I'm just a confident woman, and I developed that confidence from being an entertainer. Pole allowed me to really develop as a woman and to really love myself because I was forced to have to take care of myself. So when Poletic Justice came about, I wanted to give back. I wanted to help women feel just as empowered as I do. And I wanted to give back to people of color mainly. There's not enough spaces for us to feel safe, to feel comfortable, or where we can be ourselves. I want to create a space where we don't have to worry about anyone looking at our curves or anyone judging us. I really just wanted to create a space that was a safe haven where we’re able to come and actually heal. And that's what Poletic Justice is about. 
As you know, pole and pole culture has gone mainstream. How do you go about differentiating yourself in the space? 

Pole allowed me to really develop as a woman and to really love myself because I was forced to have to take care of myself. So when Poletic Justice came about, I wanted to give back. I wanted to help women feel just as empowered as I do."

MONA MARIE
We focus on breaking down every single wall that you put up for yourself. Sometimes clients say, “I don't have this strength” or “I'm this size.” We break down every single one of those walls because, for us, pole is more mental than it is physical. And how I teach my ladies, how I show them, it's like they get it. They're so much in their head that they can't even try to do the move. And I'm like, “just lift your toes off the ground. The pole, she's going to do the work. Let her do her part.” It's a partnership. You don't have to be independent up here. 
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Now there’s a gem. The pole is a partnership. 
It is a partnership. You got to love her. Listen, as women we are so used to being independent. We mastered it. We thrive. But at some point, you have to allow yourself to be soft and allow yourself that help. That's what pole is. As long as you embrace her, she's going to embrace you. You just allow yourself to trust just a little bit and let her take the rest of the ride. You will thrive, but you’ve got to get through that first step of lifting your toes off the ground, even if it's just a little bit.
As you said, Poletic Justice is really about creating space for communities of color. As a Black Latina, how do you feel your culture has played a role in how you view your body and sensuality?
I always ask my ladies, “Do you know what your power is?” And I'll get every answer besides the one that I'm looking for. Your yoni is your power. You are connected to your yoni, and you are connecting to her and realizing that you have this whole portal in between your legs. There's a reason why you are shaped the way you are. There's a reason why your skin does not burn and literally glows when the sun kisses it. There's a reason why your hair defies gravity and warps water as if it's thirsting. There's a reason why you are connected to the universe from your portal.
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For me, I always remind my ladies that they are God. When I look at you, I see God. I want to help you see that, too. I want to help women because it took a long time for me to get to that place and see that for me. I spent every single day working on how I can become my own affirmation. That starts with really falling in love with yourself.

"There's a reason why you are shaped the way you are. There's a reason why your skin does not burn and literally glows when the sun kisses it. There's a reason why your hair defies gravity and warps water as if it's thirsting. There's a reason why you are connected to the universe from your portal."

Mona marie
Do you feel like your culture and how you were raised has helped you go on to empower other women?
Definitely. You know, my culture has a huge part to play in it and how I was raised. But I think it's just my healing journey. I think it's the fact that I picked a career that was absolutely negative in everyone else's eyes, and I turned it into a positive. I closed off all the outside noise, and I created a lane that's my own. And I'm continuing to create a lane that's my own to help empower other people that's on the same journey. 
What do you say to those people who bring up those stigmas about pole culture or try to devalue your work?
I tell them to look at my résumé. Look at what I'm doing. I started off as a dancer and now I'm an entrepreneur. Now I pour back into my community; I pour into my ladies. This is my everyday job. I don't wake up and work for someone else. I'm not making anyone else's day better by showing up to do their work. I'm doing my work. I'm walking in my purpose, and I'm helping ladies find their own purpose on their own journey. That's the blessing. Yeah, I've gotten used to the negativity, and I had to deal with it myself for many, many years. I've been doing this for a long, long time. But you cannot allow outside people that will never walk a day in your shoes to have any power over you. You have to take back that power because you can say all you want to say about me, but would you ever take that step in betting on you?
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Tell me, what has your experience been like as a Afro-Latina entrepreneur? This space has become extremely whitewashed over the last few years.
To be honest, that is a part of the reason why I created Poletic Justice. It will forever be a place where it is for us, by us, and I will not be whitewashing my business. I know for a fact that's part of the reason why I don't get a lot of support and I don't have much of the funding, because I'm not catering to a certain group, but I don't care. At the end of the day, I want a space that you feel comfortable in, that you want to be able to be yourself in, that you don't have to worry about outside noises and worry about what Becky has to say. No, this is our space. And it will forever be our space. I totally get the need to cater so that you can be recognized and be considered professional.That's cool. I'd much rather keep it how I've been doing it and I'd much rather keep it true and keep it authentic. 
How do you advocate for yourself as a businesswoman in an industry that some folks would say is considered taboo? 
I will continue to speak out loud. I speak with confidence. I look a person in the eye when he asks me what it is that I'm doing, and I tell them that I run a pole and aerial fitness studio located in the Bronx. When they ask me what it is or what it is about, I let them know about the wellness and the holistic side. And I just make sure that even though it's so difficult to get the funding that I definitely need, it's just very important for me to make sure that I'm not talking myself small, that I'm letting them know what the bigger picture is, that I'm showing them that I've been in business for this amount of years, that I went through multiple hurdles, that I've done certain things to navigate obstacles to still be here and to still continue to grow. We will be a permanent space in the community, and that will lead to us creating more permanent spaces for people of color in our communities.
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What have you learned about yourself during your journey?
I'm a lot stronger than what I thought. It's been a battle. I had to shut down two locations. I survived Covid-19. I went through months of not having anything coming in. But I had to stick to it. This is what they talk about when they say, "even when your back is up against the wall, just keep going." Because you have a whole bunch of people who are relying on you to be there. The blessing has always been, especially when it came to my students, the fact that I see their growth. I see how much they have overcome and what they have accomplished. It's just so beautiful to witness, and it's so beautiful to watch because it's like, "Yaaaassss, see you, be you, love on you, bet on you, and fill up on you." 

"I want a space that you feel comfortable in, that you want to be able to be yourself in, that you don't have to worry about outside noises and worry about what Becky has to say. No, this is our space. And it will forever be our space."

MONA MARIE
What is the first thing that someone should know who is interested in exploring pole?
The first thing that they should know is, yes, it's sexy and it's really cute, but it is not easy. It is going to be difficult, and it's going to be a battle between your physical and mental selves. Just understand that it is more mental than it is physical, because you will stand there for a whole 45 minutes and be in your head about getting off the ground. The reason why this usually happens is because you're telling yourself, "I don't have any upper body strength" or "I got to go and do some pushups." All this nonsense. I always tell my students, "Baby girl, just hold on and let go." So that's the first thing I would say is just to just be mentally prepared to let it go, because you have to step out of your own way in order for you to do more. And that's the hard part.
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So what do you say to someone who maybe isn't ready for a full-on class, but they are interested in unlocking certain things in themselves? How does one go about unlocking their sensuality? 
I usually give ladies homework, full mirror work. I tell them to dim the lights, stand in front of their mirror, and just dance. Don't think about having to move to the music; just let the music move you. Allow yourself to move and do that for four minutes of that song. Do it at least once or twice a week and see the difference of how you start getting connected and really feeling yourself. If you need to take a little shot, take a shot of tequila. Let it roll, and you stare at yourself in that mirror. When you do look away at yourself, ask "why am I looking away" and write down your response. That's how you get to the bottom of it.
What are your go-to songs for when you're doing your mirror work and just letting it flow?
When I do mirror work, I love sensual music. I've always loved sensual music. So I like Janet Jackson's "Would You Mind?" Also, there's this song called “One” by Ocean. It's like affirmations through songs. I listen to that when I'm just sitting down, staring in the mirror, looking at myself, and singing the words to have that connection with myself.
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