FOR many people, the stripping industry is a bit ‘taboo’. Though most people don’t have first-hand experience in the field, many still judge those who build careers out of taking their clothes off.
Emma Lea Corbett is a 34-year-old yoga and pilates instructor at Yoga Bare - a yoga and massage therapy studio serving the McGraths Hill area. She has spent much of her working life as an exotic dancer (expanding into competitive pole dancing and teaching) and is determined to shed some light on the oft-maligned industry by telling her positive story in a new book called The Stripper Next Door.
“For 17 years I was really secretive of my real identity. I think there’s a misconception that women turn to this when there’s no other option - which can be true - but I chose this job,” Emma told the Gazette.
“I think I was really blessed to work in this industry from a really young age and be surrounded by body-confident, powerful women.”
Emma attended Galston High School and spent her teenage years between the Hills and the Hawkesbury where many of her classmates lived. A keen gymnast while growing up, she said she had always been confident with her body.
“I was always really drawn to things that were about sexuality. I got into The Rocky Horror Picture Show when I was 15, and I’d dress-up and go to the midnight cult screenings in the city every Friday night,” she said.
At 16, she signed-up for life modelling. “I was always really comfortable around nudity, and I was never taught that nudity was an issue or was something that should be covered up, so stripping was always something that fascinated me,” she said.
Emma was 17 when she landed her first stripping gig, and created her own ‘stage character’ called Suzie Q. She began by performing in pubs and clubs and for ‘strippergram’ clients, and has now travelled all around the world - including to Paris and London where she’s performed as a showgirl, and South Africa where she was a feature performer with Sexpo. In 2008, she was crowned winner of the Miss Nude Australia competition.
“I really enjoyed it and the different opportunities that came up. Then I started to get into pole dancing - I was one of the first teachers at the first pole studio in Australia, Bobbi's Pole Studio - and I started competing in pole in 2005,” she said.
Emma has gone on to win the Australian Pole Championships on three occasions, most recently in December when she and her pole-dancing partner Toby were named winners in the Pairs Division. Next month, they’re off to Guatemala to lead circus and yoga artist residencies, before heading to the US in July to compete in the North American Pole Dance Championships.
In writing The Stripper Next Door, Emma wanted to provide an alternative narrative to the one she thought was often portrayed in media, and give readers an insight into her “overwhelmingly positive” experiences in the stripping and pole dancing trades.
I think there’s a misconception that women turn to this when there’s no other option - which can be true - but I chose this job.
“Most people don’t have personal experience and they make up their opinions about stripping or pole dancing second- or third-hand, so I wanted to be open, honest and funny, and give them an insight into what it was like for me,” Emma said.
“It also ended up becoming a big, cathartic look at my life - why I am the way I am. I think it’s a really good exercise for anyone to do - writing your life story - whether you intend anyone else to read it or not.”
The book follows Emma’s journey through the industries, including owning her own pole studios in Sydney and the Gold Coast (“I had a merchandise line and ran big events for the pole industry as well, but it was time to move on,” she said), her passage into yoga and meditation, and a questioning of identity.
“I created my character Suzie Q at 17, and I’ve been living my life as her for 17 years. Now, I’m making my journey back to Emma,” she said.
“For a long time, Emma was something I felt I needed to protect. But I think we all have a Suzie Q - a personality we put on in different situations - and who we are at home is different to who we are at work.
“It is obviously a growing dichotomy in the stripping world, that not all pole dancers are strippers and not all strippers are pole dancers - they are two different things, but I am, in fact, both.”
Emma will be hosting a book launch for The Stripper Next Door on Saturday, March 10 at 11am, at Yoga Bare (8/68 Industry Road, Vineyard). The event is free, champagne will be served, and attendees can pick-up a signed copy of the book and ask Emma about her experiences.
- The Gazette has two signed copies of The Stripper Next Door to give away. For a chance to win one of these, send your answer to the question ‘What is Emma’s stage name?’ along with your full name, daytime phone number and suburb to firstname.lastname@example.org by 5pm on Tuesday, March 13, 2018.