Lux ATL is known as the “stripper with a PhD.” A sex-positive dancer, teacher, businesswoman, storyteller, speaker, and all-around badass, Lux wants to empower women through radical expression of the sensual self.
Currently on tour for Stripcraft, her workshop for women seeking to reconnect with their inner magic and excellency, Lux took took the time to chat with Dirge about the forthcoming Stripcraft Spellbook, an interactive, multimedia experience that combines sensual dancing (to include polework if you’ve got a pole), mind, and body spells meant to ignite the parts of womanhood that have been repressed, for a worldwide network of women ready to change their lives – and the world.
Dirge got a peek at the first two chapters of the Spellbook and it is the real shit. You’re gonna dance naked under the moon and join a worldwide coven of women in telling fear to fuck off. And, Scully, this isn’t some woo-woo nonsense that’ll steal your lunch money and give you vague advice you can find on Pinterest — Lux knows what she’s talking about and will hold you accountable. Believe in that.
Dirge: In the intro to the Stripcraft Spellbook, you describe using magic as a “metaphor for radical redefinition of womanhood, drawing on the subversive trope of the Witch.” What do you think it is about witchcraft that resonates so much with today’s women?
Lux ATL: The Witch represents notions of a strange, unconventional, frighteningly powerful womanhood. The Witch lives on the fringes of society. The Witch is a woman outside of the status quo. She is a rule-breaker. She is magical and powerful. She is servant to no one.
I think women find this archetype attractive, particularly at this historical moment. We’re sick of taking shit and are becoming more aware of our worth and rights than ever. We are now reaching mainstream awareness of the ways women have been and continue to be constrained by cultural narratives that were designed to see us lose. We’re ready to fight. I know I am.
I should note that I am using the notion of the Witch metaphorically, not literally. I do not practice witchcraft. I do use the trope of the Witch to encourage cultural blasphemy and subversion.
Can you expand a little on what you mean by “cultural blasphemy”?
I mean doing things that are against social rules and undermine the status quo. For example, fat women loving their bodies is cultural blasphemy. Black people celebrating blackness is cultural blasphemy. These are actions that undermine the “Truth” that dominant culture feeds us–that fat is unlovable, that blackness is unlovable.
Female ownership of sexuality is, of course, another example.
The Spellbook discusses the importance of shrines and talismans: places and objects in which you focus your energy and intention. What do you keep as your talisman?
Lux: My writing desk is next to a bunk bed made of unfinished wood. Occasionally, I host weekend retreats at my home — this retreat is called Stripcamp, and that bunk bed is for the campers. I encourage all of my Stripcampers to sign the bed as they would a yearbook — and now that bed is covered in signatures and notes of encouragement and love. I look at that bed whenever I need to be reminded why I do what I do.
When was the first time that you looked around at society and thought, “this is total bullshit”?
Lux: Junior high school, when my boyfriend announced that we’d had sex at the lunch table, and his popularity rose, and mine sank. We had both wanted to do it. I was the only one to pay the price for it, though. I was labeled a slut when I was 13 and carried that label until I left town five years later. That characterization has been the most formative of my life.
A witch can work alone or as part of a coven — is there a group of women you call your coven? How have they helped you grow your individual power?
Lux: Yes, absolutely, so much of my success is due to the support of other women. My clientele consists almost entirely of women; women are my priority and whom I wish to serve. They are my friends; they are the ones I relate to most deeply. My community of women is large and largely virtual. My inner circle online exists in a private FB group for Stripcraft alumni. They are the ones I go to for advice, or to confess some shit. In real life, I always keep two or three very close girlfriends who provide me emotional support and lots of laughs.
Your output is incredibly multidisciplinary — the athleticism of polework and dance, the critical thinking and empathy of teaching, the technological know-how of online media, and the marketing knowledge necessary to get your shit in front of the right people without feeling like an asshole at the end of the day. What parts of this come most naturally to you and which did you have to work the hardest at?
Lux: Interestingly enough, pole dancing is the skill I had to work the hardest for — although of all my skills, it’s the one that secured me my first real audience, my first real fan base. I did not grow up dancing, nor was I athletic in any way: I was always a dark poetic kid — playing sports and going to ballet conflicted with my teen angst. I developed my dance skills on strip club stages across the South over the course of my 16-year stripping career — not in a dance studio.
I’ve been a writer ever since I learned how to write. I’ve been telling stories for as long as I can remember. Storytelling is my gift, and though I’ve taken great pains to hone this skill, I was born with this ability — to craft lessons into narratives that speak to people.
I’ve been engaging with online media since LiveJournal and ICQ. As soon as my family got dial-up internet when I was a young teen, I’ve immersed myself in online communities and digital publication. How to internet well is a realm of expertise for me, simply because I’ve been all the way on-board since its inception. I am very comfortable in that space.
And believe it or not, dude, I love marketing. I learned how to sell in the strip club. My marketing strategy is pretty straight-forward: bring value to people’s lives through kindness, funniness, good ideas, pretty pictures; actually engage with the folks who like you — show some real interest in them; be transparent and authentic. I’m never selling snake oil. I always believe in my products, be it my lap dances in the titty bar, my workshops in pole studios, the Spellbook, my retreats, my art. And importantly, I know what I’m worth, and I’m not afraid to ask for that. People respect that shit, and frankly, being any other way would be untrue to my ethos.
You’ve done some spoken word and currently have a podcast called Stripcast: True Stories from a Stripper with a PhD. Have you always been drawn to storytelling, and where do you think this love originated?
Lux: Storytelling is my natural talent. I find again and again that most of my successes draw from this ability. Incidentally, I also have a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing and a PhD in American Lit.
I’ve always searched for poetic ways to interpret events, larger meanings to gather from scenes in life, metaphorical ways to connect experiences — even as a child. My first forays into writing and publishing was my “Little Bear” fiction series, a bold rip-off of the Berenstain Bears written at 6 years of age. I would then go on to spend my middle school years ripping off Edgar Allen Poe’s poetry and fiction. For a 6th grade writing assignment, I wrote a story of a woman being bricked into a wall by a jealous lover — shamelessly Poe-derivative. In high school, I moved to poetry — most of it overblown but some quite good, even now. I spent my early twenties writing fiction (again), and my Master’s thesis was a novella about a murderer and glue-huffer hiding out in a snake handling community in West Virginia (this was in my Faulkner rip-off stage). Now, in my thirties, I’m all about creative non-fiction, and my next big project will be my memoir, which draws largely from my podcast.
Storytelling is my favorite art and I think it always will be.
Photo: Lux ATL
Conjured is your short film about a woman who was committed to a mental hospital. Do you want to make more films? What would you do creatively if you had unlimited funding?
Lux: Hey man, thanks for mentioning that film. The art and scholarship I produced for that project means a lot to me, and was by far my most fulfilling work as an academic.
If I had unlimited funding, the first thing I would do would be dedicate myself to finishing my memoir and finding a great book deal. The memoir is a big priority on the horizon for me. I could knock out the remainder of the book in a few months.
The next thing I would do would be produce an epic multimedia performance art show featuring spoken word, film, dancing, live music, sick lighting, all organized under a single governing narrative — something mythical, a parable. That’s a goal of mine one day.
Tell us a secret.
Lux: As of the writing of the interview, I haven’t showered in three days. #Tourlife.
What media have you consumed and enjoyed recently? Tell us about books, movies, performances, and anything else that’s captured your attention.
Lux: I enjoy true crime immensely. One book that recently captured my imagination was the true crime nonfiction account of Ted Bundy’s killing sprees, The Stranger Beside Me.
Music has always been a huge inspiring force for me. I am currently rediscovering my old favorite poet and songwriter, Bright Eyes. I also really like Twentyone Pilots. I love Amy Winehouse. I love Childish Gambino. I will always love Tool and the Deftones.
What albums or lyrics were critical in helping you understand your personal power?
Lux: Growing up, I always had this sense that real excellency, actual awesomeness, was not something that was possible for me. I watched my brothers receive attention and accolades for sports, for music, for performing acts of badassery — yet all of these things seemed somehow nebulously off-limits for me, although I couldn’t quite understand why. Now that I’m older, looking back on that, I see: I thought I couldn’t have these things because I was a girl, and I didn’t see a lot of girls being rockstars. The girl rockstars, the badasses, the ones everyone thought were cool: they were tokens, unusual, something to remark upon, aberrations. They were “the girl baseball player,” or, “the girl drummer” — but never just a baseball player, never just a drummer, never quite a full anything, their badassery always first qualified with their femaleness.
When I was 13, I heard Tori Amos’ first album Little Earthquakes for the first time. I was stunned and addicted. Here was the woman, singing about girls as if girls were powerful — here was this woman, being powerful — here was this woman fucking the status quo with pride. She was a badass. She told her truth with no apologies. Her truth, incidentally, seemed so close to my own.
I was a dark kid. I was a sad kid. I was a hated kid. I was suicidal. Tori Amos spoke in such complex poetry all of the feelings I was experiencing as the loathsome high school slut, the girl who wanted to be somebody, a badass like her brothers, but felt she couldn’t. Tori Amos’s art set me on fire to create my own.
My greatest dream is to make art that speaks to girls who feel as if no one is speaking to them or for them. I want my art to say to these girls, like Tori Amos’s art said to me, “hey sister, I see you, and you can be a badass like me.”
If there is any famous person I’d like to meet and thank, it’s her.
Lastly, has there ever been a specific audience reaction that’s stuck with you?
Lux: Yes. Two years ago I performed a pole dance piece that graphically illustrated my experience with domestic violence. After the show, an elderly woman approached me with tears in her eyes, and took my hands into hers. She told me, “That’s my story you told, the story I could never tell.” That moment will be in my heart always. She is who that piece was for — her, exactly. Man, that connection? That’s art.
Feature photo of Lux ATL by Trent Chau, Trent Chau Photography.