For six years, Joanie Smith led a double life. To most she was Joanie, the young single mother putting herself through cosmetology school. To others, she Regina, the woman who danced for money.
“At the time I was a single mom, it seemed like the easiest thing to do,” said Smith. “I was desperate for money, it was desperate.”
Smith was able to keep her double life a secret from her family the whole time she was dancing in nightclubs.
“It was pretty simple, I was going to cosmetology school and I was working for my mom so it was easy to pull off,” said Smith.
For some women, stripping is not just a quick and easy way to make money, but is the only way for them to survive financially. Yet this industry has a way of taking women desperate for money and making them desperate for drugs.
Smith, whose name has been changed for privacy reasons, is an anomaly in the stripper world, as she has come out of it stronger than most.
At age 20, Smith started working in clubs like, Curves Cabaret and several others around Tucson five nights a week.When walking into the club for the first time, Smith said that she felt very nervous, insecure and lost.
“There was a lot of insecurity the first night, but at the end of the night, I was excited to see the potential of how fast the money could be made,” said Smith.
Although Smith was making good money, she had to overcome a lot of struggles.
“I was young, there was a lot of competition,” Smith said. “It was worse in the beginning, especially the first two years. Once you become more secure, after that it is like any job.”
“People start giving you compliments, you realize you’re good, you get money and it becomes easy.”
Like Smith, many women in this industry deal with insecurity issues, however, insecurity is one of the more minor issues in the industry. Fortunately for Smith, she avoided a lot of the other issues because she stayed sober while she worked.
“I see a lot of the women still, it is sad to say that most of the people who are in that industry don’t come out in a positive way,” said Smith. “They get wrapped into drugs; I never did.”
“I am a control freak, I like to control my situation and know that I am in control of the situation.”
For years, Smith watched the industry tear women apart while it fed their drug and alcohol addiction.
According to Smith, some of the dancers would be so drunk, that they would have to run to the bathroom between dances to throw up in the trashcan.
“These women felt they were doing something wrong. They would go the extra mile because of the drugs.”
Many women felt they needed to do more than just dance on stage in order to get more money, get drugs or just build their confidence. Smith never went the extra mile with her clients, which she attributes to her sobriety while working.
“One day you can feel like you’re a million bucks, and the next day you can feel so ugly,” said Smith. “As a women, it can be mentally disturbing. That’s why I think a lot of these girls had to be on something or drunk.”
Unlike many women in the industry, Smith was able to differentiate her double life. Smith knew that when she was not Regina, she had a baby girl to take care of and a mother who she worked for who she had to look in the eyes everyday.
“It was like I had two personalities, one for the club at night and one when I went home. If you’re not strong enough, you’re not happy when you get home. A lot of these girls had to face reality and then got topless for a guy.”
“Not everyone is strong enough minded to go through with that, I don’t know what kind of person that makes me.”
Although Smith’s sobriety during her six years as Regina helped her stay levelheaded, she still came across other issues besides insecurities.
“The trust with men was definitely gone, that’s what led me to being with a female for a very long time and I wasn’t even gay. I felt like men were the enemy.”
It wasn’t until Smith met her now husband, Shon, who she met through her mom, that she started questioning what she was doing.
“I didn’t trust anyone. The only reason I started trusting Shon is because the girl I was with ended up cheating on me, taking my trust away. I realized that people are people.”
It didn’t take long after meeting the love of her life for Smith to stop being Regina and started being Joanie fulltime.
Smith is now happily married with two daughters and successfully runs her own in-home salon at her house.
Despite Smith’s comfortable life, she still has some issues from her past life. Everyday, Smith is still dealing with insecurities from being Regina.
“There will always be a part of me that will be different, there are a lot of body image issues, in reality, you are always going to expect yourself to look a certain way because for six years, I always wanted to maintain a certain look, and to this day I will judge myself. You forget how great you are, all of the sudden you quit and you have no on telling you how great you are.”
Smith’s family eventually found out about Regina, however they still do not know how long and how often she was doing it.
“My dad never talked to me about it, it was just the idea of it. With my mom, it was the same thing, thinking of her daughter in that atmosphere.”
Smith said that if either of her daughters wanted to get into the same industry, she would convince them not to but at the end of the day she would be supportive because she knows that if they want to do it they are going to do it anyway, just like she did.
“I see why, and I don’t blame the girls who just completely fall down and become and alcoholic or a drug user, I don’t know how I did it.”