Stories of Impact: Heidi Stephon
“I never thought of myself as a pretty person until I started pole.”
What got you into pole dancing?
I was kind of bored. I didn’t really have any hobbies and just needed something more.
I’m a huge fan of the supermodel Amber Rose and she was a stripper when she was younger, and now she has all this money but she has said that even now she would still dance on the pole, so I thought, “OK, there’s got to be something about this.”
So, I did a taster class and was like, “this is awesome. I’m totally going to do this.”
What was it about pole that drew you in?
It was just fun. People don’t just go into [pole studios] to learn how to strip. I think a lot of people go for sport, and you can add more or less to it.
What was life like for you, emotionally and psychologically, before you started pole dancing?
I was with a guy for like three years that I wasn’t really happy with, and when I told him I wanted to start doing pole, he was just kind of [unsupportive]. He was the only person that gave me backlash about it. Everybody else thought it sounded awesome.
Then, when I told him I was going to start trying out at clubs, he was like, “we’re done, because I’m not going to date a stripper.” So I said, “well, then if all I am is a stripper to you, then I’m not dating you either.”
[The relationship] ended in February, and I have no regrets. I kind of feel, especially with pole, that I’m finally doing what I want.
It sounds like pole has been really empowering for you.
It has, because I’m doing what I want and I can get away with it. If I really wanted to, I could make money doing it, which I plan to. I feel like with all the different techniques [instructors] teach you, and all the moves, it’s like there’s no limit to what you can do. And I like how every single instructor has a different style. None of them are alike in any way.
What else do you like about pole dancing?
Pole is kind of like an escape. Even if I really don’t feel like doing it, when I do I feel so much better afterward. There’s also so many different ways to do it.
Has it brought out different sides to you?
Yes. I never thought of myself as a pretty person until I started and I’ve never really felt better until this year. I’ve never gone out and bought things that I feel good in. I used to just be like, “oh, I’m at Target, I’ll just get some T-shirts.” Now, I’ll get something low cut or buy Dickies pants and wear a crop top with them.
You mentioned you want to start auditioning in clubs. Is that something you ever thought you could do?
No. I’m from Pennsylvania in kind of a conservative area, and when I was growing up I thought strippers were probably just dancing because they had no other resources, but a lot of people choose to do it and it’s not because they’re screwed, it’s because they want to do it.
How else has pole dance changed your perspective and/or life?
I’m definitely much happier with everything. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a better mental-health state or just looked at myself and thought I looked pretty. And I actually have a reason to work out.
When did you start noticing a change in your happiness?
I think once I ditched that dude back in February. Even when talking to my family back home they can hear it in my voice, and I can feel it too. I feel like pole has helped me do what I want [in life].
Where do you think you would be today had it not been for pole?
Probably still with that dude. Probably pretty miserable. I don’t think there’s a lot of things I would be doing. But I’ve never felt better about myself, and I realize I can still be a tomboy and still be sexy at the same time. I think pole had everything I wanted to feel all in one.