Grunty Crush of the Week: Keeley Alvarado on How to be Fierce

Keeley Alvarado Pole

My first introduction to Keeley Alvarado was at the 2014 Dangerous Curves Competition. She competed and won with a sassy, dynamic piece.  I loved her attitude and style, and was happy that she took the crown. The multi-talented Austin, Texas-dweller does photography, works as a customer services representative lead, and teaches pole and heels classes. I caught up with her to chat about her life in pole and defying body size stereotypes.

When did being active start to play a major role in your life, and what benefits have you seen?

I have always loved being active.  In high school I played basketball and swam.  My first year of college I was Texas Crew, but I stopped exercising on a regular basis during my second year in college.  I picked back up again after loosing my job in January 2012, and it all started with pole.  I saw a change in how I saw myself.  I would have never seen myself on stage in a revealing outfit and heels 5 years ago.  Being active again allowed me to find a confidence in myself I never had before. My body can do amazing things and I love it now.  Yes, I want to continue to improve on it, but now I use it to inspire people, and to do amazing things I never thought I could.  I attribute all this change to the form in which I got back into being active, pole changed my life.

How did you get into pole dancing and what was that path like?

I took my first pole class with a friend of mine in September 2011.  She talked me into taking a class with her.  I remember being so shaky and nervous before class.  I was surprised to not feel as awkward as I thought I would, and fell in love with moving my body again.  In January of 2012 I joined a studio and my pole journey began.  I have been hooked ever since, never going longer than a week (unless I was sick) without having that piece of chrome in my hand.

At what point did you transition from pole student to teacher and what has been some of the most rewarding things about your teaching journey?

I knew I wanted to inspire people after my first few competitions.  I received amazing feedback.  The feeling was amazing, and I knew I wanted to share my art with people.  My best friend, main pole instructor, and lead instructor at my studio, Dez Raven, eventually pushed me into getting my certification.  Dez had confidence in me, and it helped me have confidence in my potential teaching/inspiring abilities.  I got XPERT certified last year (February 2014) and stared teaching in March at my home studio, Inner Diva Studios.  I had been wanting to teach for awhile, and help instill a sense of confidence that pole allowed me to feel, to other women. It took a little push, but I couldn’t be happier doing what I do.  Hearing from women that I allowed them to open up, or do things they never thought they were strong enough to do is an amazing feeling.  I feel that the most rewarding moment was being booked for my first private.  People invest a lot of money in you when they book a private.  I feel if someone feels that I’m worth that much of an investment, then they are looking up to me, they see me as something of value.  I never imagined anyone would pay to have an hour alone with me. The fact that they do means people out there respect me and admire my work and that me means the world.

What’s the trick to slaying in heels, especially Pleasers?

Heels, in my opinion, are the most amazing part of poling.  I never thought I would be more comfortable in heels, than bare feet.  Honestly I took to it as a natural.  However, the trick is practice! Anyone can slay in heels if they put enough effort into them and practice.  I used to walk around my apartment for practice.  When  you have heels that hot, you want to wear them all the time! Practice can make anyone a heel savant. Another key to working those heels, get used to using that little dip by your toe, it makes pirouettes so much easier, the shoes are designed for dancing in!  Work that dip and practice. Heels will always be my first true love, just don’t tell my husband!

One concern that many women seem to have about pole dancing and many other forms of fitness in general is that they’re “too big.”  Was this ever an issue for you? How did you get over it?

Before my first pole class I had so many thoughts, my heart was pounding as I walked into class.  I remember Googling what the weight limit was for  the poles were, terrified that I weighed too much.  I thought I was going to be turned away at my first class because I was too big. Of course I wasn’t, and I am forever grateful for that.  I was welcomed with open arms, (thank you Ember!) I was hooked after my first class, and I stuck with it.  I think getting through that first class is how you get over it, you realize you didn’t die, no one was judging you, and most importantly you had a ton of fun.

What are some the most important lessons you’ve learned about yourself throughout your pole journey?

That I’m sexy, even at a bigger size.  That I have the right to feel sexy.  Pole hurts, A LOT, but I can push pass the pain because it is something I love.

What activities do you do to cross train, if anything?

I recently started a bootcamp class that I go to 3 to 4 times at week at 5:30am ugh!  I am also going to be starting private weight/strength training with a trainer.
What’s your diet like and why does it work for you?

My diet is my weak spot.  I do not eat like a should, I drink beer and eat cheese  (yuuummmm queso)!  However, it is something I have been making improvements on.  I have started cooking more at home and eating out less.  I recently did the Whole30, and went 25 (Super Bowl Sunday and all this yumminess had me end 5 days shy of making it a full 30) days with no dairy, no bread, no added sugar, no legumes, no alcohol and minimally process foods.  I felt fantastic while I was on it, it helped me with my relationship with food and I carried over a lot of what I learned.

Please share some advice for plus-size athletes who may be interested in competing, performing and simply exploring a new journey in pole or any fitness activity, but feel apprehensive due to their size and/or body type.

Go for it! I will never forget my first competition, which was also my first solo performance.  I was hooked afterwards.  That feeling when you walk off stage is so amazing.  You may not feel confident or comfortable in your own skin now, but pole will change that!  Also, invest in your pole wear.  I felt like finding clothing that was pole appropriate in plus size was so hard when I first started, and that is when you are feeling most vulnerable and uncomfortable.  I recommend Artista Active Wear for shorts and tops.  They carry up to a 2X, which is something you don’t see with most fitness apparel companies.

What’s next for Miss Dangerous Curves 2014?

I have a lot of pole related things happening this year and I’m so excited.  I am doing photography and modeling in a apparel shoot soon for Artista Active WearFirst. I get to travel to Nashville to watch Miss Pole Dance America.  Being a lover of heels, I am so stoked about the people who will be there performing. I will also be performing with the DC Family at the International Pole Convention in Louisiana in June.  I’m competing in Dallas, Texas in July at the Southwest Aerial Art Championships, and I will be submitting to compete in Miss Texas Pole Star in October.  I’m looking forward to all these awesome performance opportunities, and being able to continue to share my love for pole!

Keep in touch with Keeley:



Grunty Crush of the Week: Phoenix Kazree Wins Pole Art Italy

Phoenix Kazree

Phoenix Kazree, the woman who is responsible for creating the Titanic pole move, is an Uh-mazing pole dancer who just won first place at Pole Art Italy over the weekend. She kilt it. Not killed, but KILT that ish man!!! Watch her in action below:

I pray to the pole gawds that one day I will be as fluid and amazing as Phoenix Kazree.

First, I have to get that Titanic, though. I’ve tried and it wasn’t pretty. Anyway, congratulations Phoenix!

Grunty Crush of the Week: Ilov is a Sexy Beast

S Factor

Ilov (pronounced “I love,” and yes, that is her real name)  is a siren. She oozes and owns her sensuality, something I discovered the minute she started speaking. We met a couple of months ago at a Nomadness Travel Tribe meet up where she lead us wanderlusting ladies in a two hour session in Intro to Pole at S Factor. This was the most unique pole experience I had ever had because the focus wasn’t so much on doing spins and working toward tricks, it was about being present, aware of yourself and allowing the music to guide you as you moved with purpose on the floor, on the wall, on the pole–it was about taking up space and spreading your energy. I am someone who over-thinks and gets really self  aware when it comes to dancing, and I have a hard time freestyling because of that. However, I left Ilov’s class feeling inspired to take more free dance type classes. It also helped that her music was amazing. Keep reading to find out how she went from a corporate job to the full time world of teaching movement.

What was your first introduction to pole dancing and how did you fall in love with it?
My introduction to pole dancing happened in 2007 when I took an intro class at Shelia Kelly’s S Factor New York and I was in love by the time the class was over. The experience of being in my body, the fun of the pole and the awesome dance demonstration by the teachers of where it all could lead had me hooked from the very beginning.

Explain how you shifted from the corporate world to teaching pole. 
Initially I was doing both. I worked full time in the financial industry and taught one class a week. Then the company I worked for went under and I decided I’d had enough of the corporate world and picked up more classes. It was the best decision I ever made and I’ve never been happier in my work life.

How has pole dancing enhanced and/or changed your life?
The more obvious changes are physical. My body is more toned, more flexible and I’ve never been stronger. I also find it very difficult to ride the subway without succumbing to the urge to spin around on the poles instead of just holding on to them for support.



What makes S Factor different from other pole studios?
The biggest difference is that S Factor classes are without mirrors and the lighting is low. Slow movement is encouraged to get you out of your head and in to your body without judgement. The focus is placed on the emotional journey of your movement as well as learning pole tricks.


You mentioned that you weren’t flexible at all when you started pole dancing so how did you manage to improve?
My flexibility began to improve from just taking class once a week. I paid attention to my form and breathing into my stretch more than just trying to get through the challenging moves.


What else, if anything, do you do for conditioning and keeping yourself active?
I’m developing a yoga practice and just recently started going to the gym for cardio. While I know this will all benefit my movement, the main reason I started was to be more attentive to what my body needs in this stage of my life.


It’s obvious that you are not only a music collector, but you seem very intentional in putting together your playlist in order to invoke certain moods so, how do you find and curate your music for classes?
It feels like I get music from everywhere… movies, tv shows, students, cars blasting music on the street. Shazam is my best friend and there are a ton of forums for pole dancers to share music that works. I listen to music with my body more than with just my ears. If there’s something in the song that makes me want to move sensually then I know it’s a winner for class. When I’m making a playlist I think of it as a seduction. First I want to make you feel relaxed and comforted, then I want you to get lost in the sultriness of it all until you feel compelled to surrender to the seduction.


What are three of your favorite songs to freestyle to at the moment?
Right now I’m loving “Creeper” by The Acid; “OG Bobby Johnson” by Que–I just can’t get this song outta my system–and “Drive (Part 1)” by Ben Khan.


What’s your diet like and why does it work for you?
I don’t necessarily have a specific “diet” but I make healthy choices when I can. I’ll use raw honey instead of white sugar, drink water instead of soda, have a salad with my steak instead of fries. It all depends on my mood. I’m happier when I eat what I want so that’s what I do (in moderation). Sometimes chocolate cake is preferable to fruit.


What else are you working on (shows coming up, workshops, etc)?
Right now I’m working on the next installment to my lap dance workshop series. Lap dancing is my favorite element in sensual movement so I’m always playing with how to take it to the next level for myself and my students. Past installments were “Finding Your Comfort Zone” and “Master Moves”. The next one will involved chair to chair communication with specific intention and will launch in late January in time for Valentine’s Day.


What’s your latest pole victory whether it’s new trick or even landing a show? 
I’m getting better acquainted with spinning pole. It’s been something I’ve always wanted to explore and now I’m learning to translate my static tricks and having a dizzy blast.


What’s your intention for the rest of the year?
I’m spending the rest of the year reflecting on all the blessings in my life and expressing my gratitude to those who’ve been instrumental in me receiving those blessings.

Want to take class with Ilov? Get in touch!

Grunty Crush of the Week: Nsa’s Instinctive Yoga Travels

Nsa Ntuk Yoga
Nsa Ntuk

Nsa Ntuk in the Nomadness Travel Tribe Group on Facebook. I posted a photo from my trip to Ghana, she commented and although what she said was simple, something about her seemed really cool and I got the urge to send her a friend request so I did. As it turns out, she’s a traveling yogini, an actress whose work spans the U.S. and Nigeria (and if you know me then you know how I feel about Nollywood), producer, founder of Proud Journey, a high consumer of raw vegan foods and much more. I caught up with the bi-coastal, internationally fly beauty to find out more about her passion for yoga and travel.

Where do you practice yoga?
I practice yoga on my mat. And I take my mat wherever I go as I travel but I try to practice outdoors as often as possible. There is something inspiring about fresh air! But I also say I’m on my own yoga tour – when I hit a new city I ask for studio suggestions or yelp to see the closest yoga studio and I go check it out. I like to create a sense of adventure so when I can pair yoga and hiking I know I am in the right place too.

What types of yoga do you practice, how long has it been and how did that become your go to method for fitness?
I generally do Vinyasa yoga for a faster moving class but I also love Yin yoga for a more meditative and deeper longer held stretches. I give myself permission to explore different styles even though I have practiced over 4 years. I’m not against hot yoga but I have accepted that Bikram is just not for me.


As for when I started doing yoga to be honest, I really don’t remember the first class I ever took but it was at least four years ago — I just know that I kept doing it cause it felt right. However I know I became very intentional about my yoga practice in 2011 because I wanted to be very grounded in my body as I went to meet my long lost family in Nigeria for the first time. I was a little intimidated by idea of a whole new culture and language and set of expectations and I didn’t want to be off a beat. I did a 30 day challenge (self challenge) before I left and I felt amazing and centered. I remember missing my mat as I traveled and that’s when I knew. Yoga has been my foundation since then.

How did you start leading an active lifestyle?

I have two older brothers so I grew up wanting to be like them playing soccer for age six to 12 and every other sport available to me at Catholic school (as the only Black kid in the class I think I tried to live up to athletic expectations too). So I played and excelled in basketball, volleyball, softball, heck I even tried flag football in middle school! I also danced in high school and loved the stretching and graceful movement of ballet.

But as a young adult I have had that fall off period where I was not as active or taking care of my body. It think it happens to a lot of us in college where your mind is getting all the attention so other things get ignored: your body and even your spirit. When I started perusing acting I looked for ways to stay in shape from the gym to Insanity to Zumba. But as a high energy person I found yoga was really the best to balance me out. In the craft of acting, staying relaxed and grounded in your body is so important – it was that double benefit that keeps me practicing.

Also after traveling to Nigeria and eating new foods like my aunties were cooking for me I would come back feeling a bit bloated A.K.A. 10 pounds heavier! So instead of trying to please everyone I took leadership over my body got more involved in my auntie’s kitchen and started taking my mat with me.


What benefits have you seen from yoga in your body and your life?

Yoga has transformed my body in the most effortless way. I tried Insanity and the hardcore workouts but it was not as well received by my body. My sister was even concerned that I looked too muscular after 90 days of jumping and getting yelled at by Shaun T LOL! I think I was absorbing more strain that way and with yoga I feel strong but a butterfly suppleness…like I said that effortless feeling.

Yoga has also really helped me in my personal growth and spiritual journey. I have a tendency to be really critical and hard on myself but through yoga I have cultivated a deeper sense of self acceptance. When I have some negative thoughts or moments of doubt I basically work it out on my yoga mat. I also think it is a statement of spiritual gratitude to use the body I was given — how better to appreciate it than to use it!

What’s your diet like and why does it work for you?
After trying lots of stuff from Herbalife shakes to Paleo and high protein diets Jillian Michaels recommends, I have taken a different approach. I have gone to nature — organic fresh foods and my rule of thumb. With that I have been really having fun eating/preparing raw vegan food lately! So it might scare some people but it’s really an au natural approach — eating plant based foods without meat or dairy. The key motivating factor is that food looses a lot of nutrients once heated over 118 degrees so I have embraced this type of eating for last three months and felt intense high energy and satisfied in an uncanny way. I also dropped about 10lbs without counting calories and eating more often than any other regimented diet full of chemicals that trick your body.

What started this was a film I watched on Netflix, Hungry for Change which talks about how diet food can actual train your body to depend on harmful chemicals. They encouraged adding in more green juices and I just started adding in more greens to the point I went all the way raw vegan cause it felt so good. The idea can be intimidating but think of it like this – it’s eating more salads, smoothies and fresh foods that don’t have the dangerous toxins of preservatives. I will be sharing some of the raw vegan recipes I used on my upcoming blog at

Zucchini noodles with garlic tahini sauce with a giant “meatball” made of brazil nuts, sun dried tomatoes and mushrooms prepared by Nsa.

List three things you’ve learned about yourself from being more mindful of leading an active lifestyle?

I have learned so much from parallels of yoga…
I don’t have to be perfect. It’s a practice so it’s just trying new things never a big competitive event to display perfection.

When I fall down I can laugh it off and try again – on the mat and in life. So I learned how to enjoy the process with playful determination.

My body and breath are powerful together — as I try new challenging poses I get excited about what my body is capable of!

What are your fitness goals for the rest of the year?

My intention for the rest of the year is to continue with my daily yoga practice and eat raw vegan 80% of the time. I don’t count my calories or dress size I count is how I feel in my body.

As an avid traveler, have you been to a yoga retreat? Where would your recommend people go?

Yes I love to travel and mixing yoga with that has been my lifestyle in a solo way! As I mentioned I started going back to Nigeria and on my last and final trip I brought my mat and practiced almost daily in an environment where yoga studios were not accessible. So I have lead a sort of solo retreat but I have always wanted to go to one organized by someone else.

I envisioned going to Bali or somewhere exotic but I ended up being very spontaneously lead to a yoga and writing retreat while I was in New York. It was based in Vermont so I got to hike in the Appalachian mountains in addition to yoga twice a day!

So the good news is — I am working on some retreats for 2015 and listing retreats to check out! It’s part of my new yoga focused social enterprise Proud Journey – in addition to sharing colorful African Print yoga bags that empower women in Africa, the goal is to inspire an on-the-go yoga lifestyle with cool retreats included. To be in the know check out the early notification list at

Joyful Nsa

Share some advice for people who might be interested in starting a yoga practice.

I like to strongly recommend going to a studio that has some positive reviews on yelp that is not heated first. An older yoga teacher helped me understand the difference between heated vs room temperature the best. She explained that a heated room will give you a false sense of flexibility so you have to careful not to overextend your body. Some people love the heat and I do too sometimes but get grounded in the heat your own body produces first as you learn proper alignment. If you are nervous about joining a class look at beginner yoga youtube videos to get an idea of what yoga can involve.

Once you have a place to practice try to approach it with an open heart. Explore teachers and styles until you find what works for you. It’s not always about the “yoga booty” you might envision – there are so many lessons on the way you won’t want to miss!
If visit Proud Journey to find out more about how you can get involved in Nsa’s community-based yoga work, and for more information on retreats reach out to her

You can also find out more about Nsa’s work as an actress and producer at her official website.


Grunty Crush of the Week: Danielle Christine Gets Poleitical With Aerial Arts

Poleitical Clothing
Credit: Alloy Images, From PPC 2012

The last time I wore my “Keep Calm and Pole Dance” shorts from Poleitical Clothing, a woman in my class told me that my “ass looked nice in those shorts.” That is the ultimate compliment for any pole dancer and it almost always happens when I rock my Poleitical Clothing gear. I don’t even know how I discovered the Los Angeles-brand but I think it had to do with me getting sucked in to their Instagram page via one of many pole related hashtags, and the rest is history.

At some point in my pole journey, I joined the Pole Dancing Bloggers Association and came across Danielle Christine. I remembered her name from handwritten thank you notes that I received with  my Poleitical Clothing purchases and we’ve been e-friends ever since. We haven’t met in person but I like her energy so I reached out to chat about her career as co-owner/co-founder of Poleitical Clothing, owner and blogger at Poleitical Diaries, blogger at Bad Kitty Exotic Wear, and her passion for pole and lyra.

Danielle and Marlo Fiskin wearing Poleitical Clothing. Photo Courtesy Danielle.
Danielle and Marlo Fiskin wearing Poleitical Clothing. Photo Courtesy Danielle.

How did you get into pole dancing and what is it about pole that has sparked your passion for the sport?

I got into pole around 2006, when a friend of mine invited me to take a class that her friend Tara was starting – it was a combination of life coaching and erotic movement. The focus was really on coaching women through blocks they had in the areas of their confidence, sensuality, sense of self, etc. I found the classes to be transformative. My initial reaction, before signing up, was one of distaste and judgment, but after a while, it dawned on me that my reaction was so strong that it was weird. I took a step back and asked myself why, and it became clear that I was scared of the class. So, I immediately signed up for it. While the classes had more floor work and coaching than crazy pole tricks (we did some spins, that’s it), they remain one of the most influential and powerful experiences of my life, and I am happy to say that it brought some amazing people into my world (one of which is now my editor at Bad Kitty!). After Tara’s classes ended (she moved away), I was out of the pole world for a bit. This was after S Factor had begun, but before the advent of pole as fitness, so there were not a lot of options available. After a couple of years of not really doing much with it, I noticed that I was feeling disconnected again, and I started vaguely looking for classes. I happened to share a friend in common with a pre-USPDF Natasha Wang, and on a group outing, we got to talking about pole. She suggested I check out The Pole Garage in Santa Monica, CA. I started classes there almost 4 years ago, and have been poling pretty consistently since that time.

As far as my passion for pole goes, I think the thing I love about it is that it is always different, and there is always more to explore. There is something for everyone in it, and you can consistently challenge yourself with some new aspect of it, so it’s never boring. I love the experience of working on something that seems impossible one week, and seeing the change a few weeks later. I’ve never experienced anything with such a rapid return on investment.

I started lyra about two years ago, when I was in a pole rut. I had plateaued and was really frustrated, so lyra was a welcome break! I took to it really quickly, and have been in love with it since day one. I started at Evolve Dance Studio, and now train at Aeriform Arts.

Credit: George Grigorian

Describe your polerina style.

I’m really into freestyle movement right now, so I have loved exploring those classes, although my schedule doesn’t always allow for me to go to them. It’s invigorating, challenging, and freeing. I did not grow up a dancer or a gymnast, so I don’t have that sort of natural athleticism or movement, and it’s been a bit of a struggle for me to find what is mine to do. Freestyle movement is closer to what I love, which is storytelling. I was an actor for many years, and I will always be an actor at heart, so I am working to develop that craft in dance. Freestyle helps with that, as it opens up areas I hadn’t thought to explore. I guess, though, if you were to watch me free dance, I’d think you’d see me as a floorwork girl. I don’t get on the pole that much, as pole combos aren’t natural to me. I don’t flow from trick to trick, I have to work at it, but I can roll around on the floor like a boss.

Speaking of pole, tell me about your popular line of apparel.

Poleitical Clothing is a partnership with my friend, Courtney Rheuban. We were both students at The Pole Garage, and we met through a Facebook group for the studio. We had been joking about how we wanted t shirts that said, “Keep Calm and Pole Dance” on them, and one coffee date later, we were starting a company! We began in mid-2012, and debuted the line at California Pole Dance Championship that same year. I credit Courtney with a lot of the drive behind the initial creation of the business – she had experience in fashion and in starting a business, and I was just along for the ride and excited to be there. As we’ve developed, we’ve grown into our roles: Courtney handles a lot of our “business” end, with financials, wholesale ordering, etc, and I’m more of the customer contact, social media, and design side. We collaborate on each of our designs, going back and forth on possible ideas, possible products, and my background in art and design (college) comes in handy with sketching out our ideas. Our personal styles are very different – Courtney works in fashion and has great, fun, stylish taste, and I am way more casual/all over the place. Mostly, I am a jeans and white t shirt girl. I think our goal is to select wear that we find cute, but also comfortable, and we’re very careful to look for things that will look good on most figures. One of our long term goals is to expand into larger offerings, particularly with plus sizes and men, and I personally would love to begin making our own clothing, as opposed to printing our designs on sourced items. I just need to learn how to sew, so I can make some prototypes.


Who is responsible for the designs, and what type of preparation went into launching your


Courtney and I will send each other ideas pretty consistently, and we have a backlog of ideas that we’ve saved up. We try to debut something new a couple of times per year, whether it be a new style of clothing, or a new art design. Once we settle on a new concept, I usually sketch out the artwork and send it to Courtney for approval, and if we need a designer to create a digital copy, we reach out to a friend of mine who helps on that end. While I went to school for art and design, it was right around the time that the shift to digital art was happening, and I was very much old school – I loved to get my hands dirty – so I never really got the hang of sketching in a computer program. Luckily, my friend who assists us is awesome at it and translates my real-life sketches and notes into beautiful digital files!

When we initially launched, we were beyond excited about it, and things fell into place really quickly. Very early on, we were approached by Leen Isabel from Pole Dancing Adventures about doing a giveaway on her blog, and her support was instrumental in getting the word out about our brand. She was our Pole Fairy Godmother! Since then, we’ve worked hard to build our online network, and we continue to do things like participate as vendors at local LA events, donate our shorts to events for the pole bunnies, and run fun giveaways, particularly through Instagram.

Credit: Roselle Photography
Credit: Roselle Photography

What are three of the most important lessons you’ve learned about yourself as a small business owner in the fitness apparel world?

1) Don’t get too upset when someone tries to do a riff on our Keep Calm artwork. It happens. I don’t like it, and I totally give a side eye to the other artwork, but it happens.


2) I love social media and really enjoy interacting with our fans through all of the different platforms. I’ve developed some solid skills in that arena, and I’m looking forward to learning even more!


3) It’s easy to have a passion project, but much more difficult to turn it into a money making enterprise.


Do you have any tips for small business owners in this lane? 


Try to be original. Try to cater to more than just one subset in the industry – specialty items/offerings are great, but if you only cater to the super advanced (for example), you cut yourself off from a whole revenue stream, and that’s just silly to me. Be choosy about your partnerships– if somebody has a bad rep, know that your association with them may cost you business.


If you’re starting a studio, vet your teachers and ask for feedback from students – and really consider the feedback. Don’t assume you know everything, or that your opinion/vision is the best. If you’re starting a product line, take care in what you offer, and take pride in it.


Going back to pole, what was your latest most exciting pole dancing victory?

I just performed at the NorCal Pole Presentational, which was a victory for me! I hadn’t performed in a public setting in over 2 years, and I would not consider myself a great choreographer, but I was proud that I put together a piece with a story and stuck with it, despite some minor hiccups. While training for the piece, I finally got my aerial invert to not be so wretched, and that’s a big deal for me! I also was proud that I figured out my Reiko Step Up to Cupid on spin pole with a week left before the performance (I had to throw out something that wasn’t working and needed a replacement). I’d really like more opportunities to perform, but I feel like the only real offerings in LA are to compete, which I’m ambivalent about. I am competing at PSO’s Pacific Aerial in September, but it’s on Lyra, not pole, and I signed up mostly to get the chance to perform.


How do you balance life as a business woman , as an everyday woman friends, and as an aerial artist?

I don’t really know, to be honest. I kind of just do what is next on the schedule and try to be kinder to myself if things don’t work out as planned. I do try to make a point to be at home with my boyfriend, if I know I’ve been super distracted with work, or busy with classes, and I try to find time just for me if I am stressed – whether it be going to a class, or just reading a book.


What do you wish for yourself for the rest of the year?

I am working to get myself into a new day job, so that’d be up front! I’m hopeful that my routine for the lyra competition will be smooth and fun, and I want to launch some new stuff for Poleitical Clothing. I have also really loved contributing to the Bad Kitty blog, and I’m excited about the new pieces I have in the pipeline! My hope is that I can continue to bring interesting material to the table and to grow as a writer, both for their platform and my own. I’m also REALLY excited to be attending Aerial Amy’s pole retreat in October – it’ll be my first time teaching anyone but the occasional friend, and I am excited about the workshop that I have planned for everyone. My wish for the end of the year is that the things I’ve been working toward all pan out in great ways! I’d also love to find new performance opportunities, or to even develop them myself. I’m really interested in exploring the storytelling side of pole – beyond competition and beyond “here’s a sexy night of pole” – and I hope to find a way to develop that creative side of things, for myself and for others.


I did this interview back in September so feel free to catch up with Danielle in real time at these places:
 – Main clothing site. – Poleitical diaries blog
instagram – @poleiticalclothing for biz, @reelsmartcookie for personal.

Grunty Crush of the Week: Esosa E’s Lovely Locs

An African City

This week’s Grunty Crush is about Esosa E’s lovely locs, but let me backtrack…

I got caught up in a new web series called, An African City, a few months ago. It’s a series about five African women who spent most of their lives in the UK and the US respectively who return back to the Motherland and get readjusted to life in Accra as they navigate the dating scene and their career lives.

All of the women are super duper fly but I especially couldn’t keep my eyes off a character named, Ngozi, played by Esosa E. Like I said, Esosa has gorgeous locs, and a killer sense of style (all the women do) so I zeroed in on her and decided that I needed an interview.

After doing some research I discovered that she was born and raised in the United States but is of Nigerian heritage, she travels often, and not only is she a talented actress, model, writer and director, but she also has a blog dedicated to her raw food vegan lifestyle (Raw Girl in a Toxic World). I chatted with her about raw food, her acting career and her lovely hair and got so much information that I had to break the interview up. You can read about her raw food vegan lifestyle over at Ebony, the interview about her acting career is coming soon, but for now, scroll down to get the goods on her luscious locs and how she deals with having a unique natural hairstyle in a business where people can be extremely judgmental.

What inspired you to start your loc journey and how long have you been growing them?

Before I chose to loc my hair, I kept meeting gorgeous men and women with locs. I thought I would wait until I was in my fifties or sixties but then one day I just said why not? In 2003, I went through the big chop where I had all of my relaxed her cut off and kept only my new growth. Shortly after I started my locs. It’s been a little over 10 years now.

Do you style them yourself, especially on An African City?

No, I have an amazing hair stylist who is based in MD. I went to my salon and got it styled in two strand twists before I left for Ghana because I knew it would make it easier to style quickly. Once we were working on set we had a team of wonderful local women who helped with hair styling and would pin it up in different ways.

Your hair is  gorgeous! Like, it’s supernaturally shiny and radiant. How do you achieve that sheen?

I learned it’s best to do hot oil treatments regularly to keep my hair from getting dry and to keep it healthy and shiny. I’m also sure my diet plays a big part in keeping my hair healthy.

Esosa 2

Who are some of your loc crushes, aka, people you look to for style inspiration?

I don’t really have any. I  tend to change my hair with my mood and what I’m feeling. I love to change things up and try something new and I’m grateful to have stylists who are able to translate what I want into reality.

How has having dreads impacted your modeling career? You’re obviously able to get jobs but have you ever dealt with people’s negative opinions of your hair as far as your career goes?

Yes I have dealt with negative opinions about my hair and dealt with reputable agents in the past not wanting to take me on because of my locs or asking me to please change my hair. Others have told me I could have more consistent work if I just cut my hair. The positive is that there are many clients out there who love my look and book me. I chose to continue doing my thing despite negative opinions because I love my hair the way it is, and I know there is a huge audience who would love to see more loc’d women and men represented in entertainment. I don’t intend to stop anytime soon.


Try avocado oil for an sumptuous hot oil treatment whether you have locs or not.

Grunty Crush of the Week: Caprice Burrell of Alter Ego Pole Fitness


Caprice Burrell is the owner of Alter Ego Pole Fitness in Newark, NJ. She took her first pole class in January 2008 and says she was hooked at first twirl. She’s also an actress, wife and mother who seems to juggle all of her titles fiercely. I caught up with the savvy businesswoman to chat about how tragedy encouraged her to launch her business, and how she makes her respective passions for family, pole dancing and business work.

Tell me about Alter Ego Pole Fitness, and explain when you had the epiphany that you should create that space. 

Alter Ego Pole Fitness opened it’s doors in 2011 and has catered to thousands of women seeking pole training and pole parties in a comfortable setting while discovering their “Alter Ego’s.” Ninety-five percent of our students have no background in dance or gymnastics but yet we have turned them into beautiful pole dancers.

As a former pole instructor, the push to open the studio happened in 2010 after the sudden death of my former employer of the studio I was teaching in. I had established a relationship with my students and when the studio we poled at shut down, no one had anywhere else to go that was close by. It took us one year to set up Alter Ego and continue where we left off.


What steps did you have to take in order to see it through from business plan to reality?

The biggest steps taken was staying focused. I gave up my entire social life for a period of time while we were setting up. It was a lot of hard work. I owe a lot of thanks to my husband who is also my business partner for keeping me on task. I think every owner needs that one person who is going to be that voice of wisdom and keep them focused.

What sets Alter Ego apart from other pole dancing schools?

What sets Alter Ego apart is that aside from giving great pole classes (beg, int and adv) and being a very nurturing environment for our students, we converted our studio into a pole lounge that hosts a free after work pole party for anyone to attend on 1st Thursdays of every month and we give the best pole parties in NJ. We hosted over 400 since we’ve opened.

Describe your personal pole dancing style.

I consider my pole style sexy, sassy and artistic all at the same time. I like body rolls and sexy spins as well as tricks that accentuate my strengths. Not every trick is for everybody. Spinning pole is my favorite.

How do you balance your personal fitness life with being a mom, wife and business woman?

I don’t have a formula on how I do it, but teaching pole classes often does help because it’s helps me to stay active while I’m at the business. I also attend a gym with babysitting so that helps as well. As long as I’m staying active overall I’m able to do a lil’ each day to maintain.

What are some important lessons you’ve learned about yourself as a business women in the years since launching Alter Ego?

I’ve learned that I have a lot more patience than I thought, I’ve learned that you cant make everyone happy all of the time, and I’ve learned, that as long as you continue to be professional and reliable your business will thrive.

What advice do you have for women who are considering pole dancing but may be apprehensive?

I would tell them to give it a try but make sure they go to a studio that makes them feel comfortable.

Do pole instructors ever stop learning?

No they don’t….the real ones are always trying to learn new ways of teaching as well as new tricks. That’s why workshops are very important to take and I try to have as many as I can at my studio. If I can’t get out to train, then I will bring the instructors to me lol. Right now, I still consider myself a student even tho I’ve accomplished so much. (Editor’s Note: Caprice gets really fun people in for workshops. I haven’t been yet but it’s on my to do list!)

Fun Facts

Caprice plans to enter her first pole competition this year. She is currently training.

A second Alter Ego Pole Fitness location is in the works for the near future.

Caprice appeared in The Best Man (first movie) as a bridesmaid.

Grunty Crush of the Week: Michaela Angela Davis Leads 30 For 30

Michaela Angela Davis Fit is Fly

This week I’m highlighting Michaela Angela Davis. Davis, who is one of the founding editors of VIBE magazine, has been at the forefront of the advancement of brown girls everywhere  for years. One of her biggest movements is “30 For 30,” where women who are interested in being more active make a pledge over the course of 30 days to be active every day, or to at least make more conscious decisions with regard to their respective diets in order to strive toward a healthier and happier being. Each “30 For 30” ushers in a new season.

We’re in the middle of our Spring Equinox edition but it’s never too late to join on Facebook, where we share photos, anecdotes and inspirational words about our respective fitness journeys. Check it out!

Grunty Crush of the Week: Elizabeth Allen Overcomes With Zumba


I met Elizabeth aka “Nobody Beats the Liz” Allen on the New York independent hip-hop scene where women were scarce. She stood out because was usually the go to photographer and also one of the coolest people anyone could meet. We bonded last year after discovering that we were both attempting the Whole 30 and from there I discovered that she was on a transformative journey to shirk bad eating habits that she picked up during childhood, and to lose weight.

We bonded about how sometimes people, often friends and family, mistake a fitness journey for a crisis. You know, when mom tells you that you’re getting too skinny yatta yatta…anyway, Liz, who has learned how to effectively manage that, has stepped up her path to wellness by becoming a Zumba instructor. Here, she chats with me about how she deals with yo-yo’ing, family trying to force feed (out of love, of course), doing what’s best for her and strategies to try for getting started on a weight loss journey.

When was the moment in your life that you decided you needed to choose better habits and get serious about fitness?

I’ve had a couple of “light bulb” moments where I made the decision to lead a healthier lifestyle. The first was maybe back in 2002. I had gone clothes shopping and was showing my mom what I had purchased. She tried on a long skirt I had bought and when she zipped it up, I had the most shocked look on my face. My mom is shorter and was heavier than I was, so I never expected us to be able to wear the same clothes. I joined a gym the very next week! My second moment was when I was my father fell ill due to complications from diabetes and high blood pressure. He had to be hospitalized and I weighed myself on a scale in his room, where I discovered that I was 188lbs (Editor’s note: Liz is under 5’5″). Both my mother and father deal/dealt with diabetes and high blood pressure (my father passed away in 2010 from complications of both), and seeing my father suffering scared me into trying to get healthier. I didn’t want to spend my life taking bottles and bottles of pills. I lost about 25lbs, but by August 2011, I had already gained back about half of that weight. I wanted to nip that weight gain in the bud, so I joined a gym again. I’m still working on maintaining healthy habits.

Elizabeth Allen Zumba
What’s your diet like and why does it work for you?

For the most part, I try to stay away from most refined sugars and processed foods. I don’t drink soda or juice (unless I make it myself), and I mostly drink water and tea. Over the past year and a half, I’ve tried so many different “diets” and I’ve learned that what works best for me is eating real food. I see the best results when I abstain from sugar, dairy and wheat/grains (all of which I LOVE), but I eat a little bit of everything. I love to eat! I usually start my day with a smoothie and a couple of bananas. I recently started incorporating juices into my diet, and I’ve noticed that they give me a lot of energy. I have been toying with the idea of embracing a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, and I’ve tried both for a short while, but I’d much rather just have everything in moderation.
How did Zumba become your drug of choice and what made you become a teacher?

I was about two or three weeks into my current fitness journey when I discovered Zumba fitness. I was watching a class led by Ronnie Davidson while on one of the machines, and I loved the music and the fact that the participants were dancing. I love great music and I love dancing, so I figured I’d give it a shot. I became hooked very quickly. Three times a week turned into five, and then some days I’d take two classes! I was amazed that the weight was literally falling off of me just by dancing and making better food choices. By May 2012, I had lost 25lbs! Some of my Zumba® instructors as well as my boyfriend at the time encouraged me to get my license because they noticed how much joy it gave me. I was unemployed at the time, so it would also be a cool way to make some money. I was nervous because I don’t like to be the center of attention, but at the same time, I wanted to show my friends, family and my community that getting in shape could be fun. I became a licensed Zumba instructor in September 2012, exactly a year to the day that I began my fitness journey.

Zumba Certification

How has your body surprised you now that you’re on a new path?

I am currently smaller than I’ve ever been in my adult life, even smaller than in college. I know have a better understanding of how my body reacts to different foods and when I consistently eat clean, I find that my skin is clearer, I sleep better and I have more energy. I’ve managed to lose 50lbs from when I was at my heaviest and maintain it for the most part; it is something I am very proud of, even though I still see room for improvement.
You once mentioned that some people around you seem to think that you eating a better diet means that you’re starving yourself. How do you deal with that?

It’s hard because I know that I’m not starving myself. As I said before, I love food and I would never want to risk developing a food disorder just to be skinny. Sometimes I get caught up in what people are saying and find myself eating more just to please them and then putting on weight. Then I feel discouraged and disappointed in myself, which has led to me trying various fad diets to try to quickly drop the weight I’ve lost, which is just as unhealthy. I’ve had to learn to stick to my guns, which has ultimately paid off. I understand that people may say things because they care about me and my well-being, but I also need them to understand that I can’t please everyone and be happy with myself.

What are you fitness goals and intentions for the rest of the year?

I would like to lose about 10-12 more pounds, keep chasing those elusive abs and finally reach my ultimate goal, which has always been to just feel comfortable to work out in a sports bra if I ever felt like it.
Share some advice for people who want to start a fitness journey.

Start slow. I went to the gym three times a week, about every other day. Don’t try to do everything at once,  you’ll end up overwhelmed and be more prone to quitting. Find something you like to do and stick with it. Walk, bike, run, swim, dance, try a group class, work out at home with DVD, whatever works for you.

Tackle healthy habits one at a time; once you have one down, add on another.

You don’t have to starve yourself in order to lose weight – what’s most important is that you’re putting the right foods in.

Read your labels, or try to eat more things that don’t come in a package.

Find a workout buddy – I joined the gym alone, but there I found many women who frequented that same classes as I did, and we kept each other accountable.

There are going to be times when you feel like you aren’t making any progress. Try to switch something up in your routine (diet or exercise) and eventually things will get moving again.

Tell the people when do you teach!

Mondays at 6:30pm – Slope Fitness (808 Union St. in Park Slope).

Tuesdays/Fridays at 7:30pm & Saturdays at 10am – Brooklyn Stuy Dome (312 Kosciuszko St. in Bedford-Stuyvesant).

Wednesdays at 6:30pm – Flushing YMCA (138-46 Northern Blvd.).

Thursdays at 7:30pm – Lucille Roberts Jamaica Ave. (162-01 Jamaica Ave.).

Grunty Crush of the Week: Paparoxi Speaks Faith, Fitness, Triathlons

5 AM Club

Today’s Grunty Crush is Khaleeqa “Paparoxi” Rouse. I met her a couple of years ago through a mutual friend on Twitter after asking a fitness related question (to which she gave a helpful answer). We’ve kept in touch since then and she even created a mini documentary on me, as well as a moving photo collage of my wedding. She’s extremely talented, down-to-Earth and has an amazing sense of style. At first glance her killer style could throw you off from the fact that she is an experienced triathlete, but don’t let the smooth taste fool you!

Rouse, who is the executive director and founder of, was always active growing up but she got into a sedentary phase during a rough patch as an adult that kept her from being healthy and happy.
Eventually, she was over holding herself back, so she started a new fitness journey where she revamped her diet, got into extreme sports and started documenting it via her website where she explores fitness through faith, whole foods, and positive vibrations.

I caught up with her to chat about her fit life, her #5AMClub, and her passion for triathlons.

How did you embark on your current journey?

Fitness and being active has always been apart of my life. I grew up a girly tomboy wherever we would go my mom would dress us with incredible detail – super girly. I remember always having a change of sneakers or wearing shorts under my dress so I could race my friends, cousins or any other child that would be at family gatherings. In high school I was on the track team, swim team and volleyball team and I was varsity in all three.

My latest fitness journey and what inspired me to start Paparoxi was from a setback. I gained weight the end of my college career and into my young adult life and I endured the growing pains of being broke, overweight and ending a relationship. That is what prompted me to get back in shape and start a vehicle that would inspire other people to do the same.


Explain your journey of becoming a triathlete and what you learned about yourself.

I signed up for my first triathlon in 2010. I was going through a really rough patch in my life and I wanted to start doing the things I had always dreamed of doing. Since I was a child, I always wanted to do a triathlon, I remember watching Ironman Kona on TV dreaming of what it would be like to be there. My first triathlon was amazing, I had so much support from my family and I signed up to do the race with Team in Training so I had support from a team and a coach. I also raised money for Leukemia, everything surrounding my first triathlon was very special. That was the kickstart for my love of the sport and the community.

The biggest thing I learned about myself and continue to learn to this day is what discipline really means and how to take small steps everyday to realize a dream.


What’s your diet like and why does it work for you?

My diet is a bit harry right now, I am trying new things and working with a nutritionist. I use the word harry because I don’t have a title for what it is that I do, I just eat very simple foods. I try to eat things that are as close to nature as possible. A typical day includes tons of apples, bananas, avocado, quinoa, spinach, sweet potatoes, kale, coconut oil, salmon and whatever foods are in season. I really try to limit processed foods, high sugars and unhealthy fats.

Are there still habits from your past life that you struggle with? If so, how do you find balance? 

Yes! I struggle with over eating. I always want more, and that is a problem even if it is healthy. I recognize that I over eat when I am not focused or stressed so I try to be aware of my emotions going into a meal. It is a hard balance because I am training now for an Ironman distance triathlon and I am hungry more often then usual but I have to still be cognizant of my portions, so working with a nutritionist has helped.

What is the 5 AM Club?

#5AMClub is something I started February 2013 in an effort to start my day off better. I wanted to combine my mornings of worship and Bible study with my love of fitness. So every morning I started sharing via Instagram an inspiring thought that God laid on my heart and whatever fitness or healthy routine I am doing. I use the tag #5AMclub to keep track of myself and other people who have joined. It really has changed my life for the better.

Why is it important for you to combine faith and fitness? 

One of the things I noticed when I lost all the weight and became this ideal version of myself was that I was not satisfied. We all think that if we just get to a certain size, get that job, marry that person that everything is going to work itself out and the truth is it doesn’t. I found myself just wanting more, and never resting in being “good enough.” I know the hole I was trying to fill was a God sized hole in my heart, that no amount of exercise could fix. I had to find out the truth about God for myself and by accepting Jesus and letting his love take hold of my life my hole went away. I am not perfect, nor is my relationship with God but I have found peace. So that is why I share faith and fitness, because it is more than just looking good or being fit.


What can you do now that you never thought you could before you got super fit? 

Last weekend I had to do a 4 hour bike and 8 mile run back to back and I just did it. Looking back to 2008, I couldn’t even run a mile without breaking out in a coughing fit and feeling as if I were going to vomit. So I really have come a long way. I don’t really think about it often because I am surrounded by people doing the same crazy weekend workouts; but it is incredible looking back to that time.

Share some of your plans and goals for the rest of the year.

This year I will be doing my first ultra distance or ironman distance triathlon. This includes a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile run. So my life until July will revolve around this training. Through my training I am raising money for an organization called Rahab’s Robe that helps with the prevention and rehabilitation of women and children involved in human trafficking in India. I will be traveling to India in August to volunteer with this organization. I am looking forward to these experiences, its the ultimate combination of faith and fitness.

What advice do you have for women who want to get serious about their health?

My advice would be to just give yourself a chance. I think many women settle, thinking this is it, that life has no more to offer and this is just who I will be. However, I changed my whole life when I got tired of just settling for the hand that life had dealt. So if anyone reading this is truly tired of being unhealthy and broken than you have what it takes to turn your life around. Use that emotion to fight every day for who you want to be.

Fun Fact: “Paparoxi” got her name when she pledged Delta Sigma Theta.