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: Tracy G of Sway in the Morning


Screen Shot 2014-12-22 at 12.03.52 AMThese days you may know Tracy G as co-host of Sway in the Morning but in another life, she was a burgeoning writer at Vibe magazine, where we met. She is a feisty potty-mouthed Scorpio who is creative, unique, blunt, thoughtful and exceptionally cognizant of her actions, words and intentions (and I love her for being this way, unapologetically). She is also a fan of the fit life so I caught up with her to get a glimpse of how working out fits into her busy life and how she finds zen in a chaotic industry.

How and when did being active become an important part of your life? 

The first time I ever gravitated towards fitness was in middle school when my mother gifted herself with some Tae Bo tapes. I wanted to be more than just a cheerleader for the madre so I joined her in the living room for fun, but then quickly became a Billy Blanks disciple! That led to Tae Bo sleepovers and by the time college hit I was leading Tae Bo Tuesdays and Thursdays in my dorm lounge. Weird I know. (Editor’s note: See what I’m saying about her uniqueness? Lol).

Honestly, working out appealed to me because I could be loud, aggressive, say weird things, listen to loud music, feel amazing, straighten out my life and look awesome all in on session. Of course I’ve fallen off at different periods of my life for different reasons, but to my close circle of friends, I’ve always been known as the go-to chick for questions about getting in shape so, the pressure’s sorta always on, which is a good and wack thing.

What are some of your primary ways of getting fit and why do they appeal to you? 

Right now I am hella into boxing. Shout out to my friend and trainer Percell! I just like ninja activity man! I like physical activities that require a high level of concentration and I guess punching just comes natural to me.

But I also get bored easily so need a great amount of switch-ups and some fake competition. That’s why Crunch is my favorite gym, there’s just a flurry of awesome classes to choose from. Nike also offers super awesome free trainings.

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

Blah. I can’t wait ’til money allows me to roll into Whole Foods with a big cart whenever needed. My diet when I’m focused is usually yogurt or oatmeal in the morning, lots of tea, a mid-morning snack of like trail mix, lunch is a very diverse salad with no damn cheese (sadness) or actually I’ve been having low sodium butternut squash soup from Trader Joe’s with chicken, kale and chia seeds with a piece of Tuscan whole wheat bread a lot. And dinner I try to be completely carb free and load up on vegetables and protein. My diet works as long as I prep the night before and re-up on groceries in a timely fashion. If those things aren’t in place, it’s wrap city for me, especially during that time of the month when all I want to do is be massaged in Nutella.

The media business, especially in dealing with entertainment, can be negative and extremely draining, so how do you find you find your zen space and decompress from work?

Man is this not the darkest part of the truth! I do a lot to keep my sanity intact. Peace of mind is my biggest life priority.

Okay, so I’m not completely consistent with this, but fuck man I’m getting there… because I have to. So in the evening I try my absolute best to not fall asleep, but to go to sleep. These are two completely different things. Going to sleep means peacing out on my computer and phone at least one hour before bed to give my brain a chance to slow down. Our membrane gets confused by the LCD lighting wondering if it’s really evening or actually daytime.

So during my last hour I read something along the lines of personal development. Right now, Battlefield of the Mind by my main, Joyce Meyer is a first pick up. Then I really just talk aloud to God, show gratitude ask for security and listen to this 15min audio of affirmations for women while I detangle my weave and lotion my feet, stuff like that. Also, I’m very into aromatherapy so I light some candles marketed to the hella stressed and I drink some special chamomile tea.

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In the morning, if my room is neat I will wake up extra early, if it’s a storm for some reason my body just wants to buried beneath it. Assuming the former however, my alarm clock goes off to Tony Robbins “Awaken The Giant Within” and I literally say out loud something to the effect of “Thank you God for this day, I will do my part in collaborating with you to make sure it’s the best it can be!” then I do some stretches and/or workout, meditate for like 15min, listen to my affirmations again, eat and be the fuck out.

If during the day I feel like crying, I let myself cry in private, but put a timer on it and I do a good amount of military breathing and talk God’s ear off. I also watch my beauty gurus on YouTube; makeup tutorials calm me all the way down for some reason.

This was all a lot right? I should’ve just said: candles, affirmations, prayer, reading, Tony Robbins, no technology before bed. Oh well. I enjoy scenic routes.

What are your intentions for your hashtag, #sweatwithTG?

Well I didn’t want snapshots of my workouts to be viewed as an exercise in narcissism and shallowness. The majority of folks on this planet are visual learners and so if repetition is the mother of learning… well damn Instagram is in the running for messiah of social networks. I really just wanted to create a hub within IG for folks to *join* me in building and sustaining an awesome lifestyle built on transferable energy, confidence and a nice ass. It also helps me with my own accountability lol.

What five songs do you currently turn to pump yourself up for or during a workout?

Awwww man! I feel endorphins rushing just off the thought these songs. Okay, here we go. In no particular order:

  • “About The Money” – T.I. ft. Young Thug
  • “Party Rock Anthem” – LMFAO
  • “Ass Drop” – Wiz Khalifa
  • “7/11” – Beyonce
  • “Go Hard” – Nicki Minaj


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How do you plan to manifest the rest of your year?

Via prayer, meditation, vision boards, journaling, planning and most importantly motion.

Anything else you want to add?
For anyone who feels particularly discouraged and is dogging themselves like I sometimes do with internal conversations like “You should’ve never fallen off, now look at the work ahead of you.” Blah blah. Cut that shit out. You’re better than the version of you yesterday and you’re better than anyone whose favorite piece of equipment is a couch. Forgive yourself, then applaud yourself for getting back in the game and take the time to review what stopped your consistency in the past so you can turn a “losing” moment into a “learning” moment. And always remember, today’s challenge will one day be your warmup!

Keep up with Tracy G!

Instagram: itstracyg

Twitter: itstracyg

Sway in the Morning: M-F 8a-12p on Shade45

*All photos used with permission from Tracy G’s Instagram.

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: Dawn Michelle Marathons For Change


Dawn Michelle is a publicist and literary agent that I met at some point during my journey as a journalist over the past few years. I can’t pinpoint exactly when or how we met but what I do know is that Dawn’s pleasant demeanor stuck with me. It’s not always common to come across genuinely nice people in my industry so when you do find such people, you keep in touch!

A few months ago, I attended a birthday get together for Dawn. It was a milestone birthday and I was floored by how amazing she looked, because she could easily pass for a mid 20-something. After deeper conversation I found out that she leads an active lifestyle and has a passion for running among other activities. I couldn’t resist featuring her and the timing is perfect because this CrossFit and strength training enthusiast is training for the upcoming TSC New York City marathon. Check her out.
When did fitness become part of your life? Were you active as a child? 

I joined my local YMCA in February 2007 because I wanted to lose 10-15lbs for vanity purposes. Once I lost the weight I needed something to keep me coming on a consistent basis. I enjoyed working out, but I needed a new goal to stay committed. When I was in High School I was extremely active all year around. I participated in Track and Field both indoor and outdoor, played Volleyball in the spring and was cheerleader for basketball and football season. During early spring I was engaged in all three sports.

How did you get such amazing abs? 

Amazing abs?! Oh gosh girl. I’m two short of the six pack I dream about. It’s forever a work in progress. Abs is about the planks, burpees, mountain climbers, leg raises, weight training and cardio. The combination of those along with eating clean is what will allow them to show up in photos. I once did a workout where a medicine ball was dropped on my stomach. Crazy, I know. I like ab work. As a runner having a strong core is important.


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

I don’t diet. If I wanted Fried Chicken today, I would have it. I do fast 2-3x a year for at least 7-21 days during which I eat either one meal after six or only eat chicken fish and veggies. I also eat clean, no processed, fried or wheat based foods when I am dining at home. I save the guilty, rich foods for social dining with friends and family. I once paid $75 for dinner and was fasting so I only ate veggies, never again. I learned from the Whole Life Challenge through Crossfit that when you remove the dairy, wheat, sugar and processed foods from your menu it reduces the bloating and makes digestion easier. This means that if I do a combination of 200 leg raises and crunches in the morning and eat clean the rest of the day my muscle tone won’t be blocked by bloating.

What are your preferred methods of staying fit, physically and mentally.

I like running, CrossFit and lifting weights. As I increased my miles in running, I began to take up yoga. The stretching is amazing! When I have stressful days, running helps me think clearly and relax. I started running after having a broken heart. A friend encouraged me to run until I turned my tears to sweat. I worked my way from one mile to now training for my first full marathon.



Tell us about the marathon you’re preparing for and what inspired you to enter?

I’m running the 2014 TSC New York City Marathon with Team For Kids though New York Road Runners. 26.2 miles was the next level in my running endeavors. My first race in 2009 was a 10k and in 2013 I did a couple half marathons (13.1 miles). Every additional mile that I have run since my first 1 mile run on the treadmill in 2009 has taught me that physically and mentally I can accomplish this run. I like to challenge myself. My goal is to raise $2600 for Team for Kids and to cross the finish line with a smile and not be in agony because I have build the strength and endurance needed. The New York City Marathon, is the world’s largest 26.2 mile race with 47,000 plus finishers. I want to be in that number.

What’s your marathon training regimen like? 

I am following a modified version of the 18-week training program from Hal Higdon for novice marathoners. For crosstraining a combination of spin, kickboxing, crossfit and some bikram yoga. It sounds like a lot but I give myself options so that I am never bored and my muscles are always on shocked.

Where can people donate to help your cause?

Thanks for asking. Team for Kids has set up a fundraising page for me. I need to raise $2620 by Oct 1. Dawn Hardy is running the 2014 TSC New York City Marathon. Team for Kids raises funds to provide free or low-coast health and fitness programs to kids who would otherwise have little or no access to regular physical activity. The programs they run serve more than 200,000 children each year in more than 800 schools and community centers in NYC, across the nation and around the world. TFK is one of the largest charities in which NYC Marathoners raise funds for participation in the race without running the 9+1 events the season prior. Every donation is greatly appreciated. Gym was a requirement when I was in school, it’s not anymore so TFK is a much needed entity to help end child obesity nationwide.

How do you balance your busy career with finding time to train?

As a book publishing professional I telecommute on Mondays and Fridays which allows me to have longer weight training and cross training sessions at the beginning and end of the week. I do my long runs on Sundays. I try to run top of the morning two times  during the weekdays. As summer concludes I am putting my workouts in my calendar as appointments because the 4th quarter is always a very busy season. Staying focused can be hard at times, but then I remember that I am running this race alone in a sense. Only I can get myself across the finish line so I must commit to myself before partying and socializing. I do try to balance by working out with friends that are into fitness so we can spend some time together. Some have even taken up running. Together we do yoga, spin, kickboxing or small runs.

Share some advice for the busy women who want to learn how to be happy and fit.

Be quick and intense. For those who have crazy schedules and just can’t seem to get to the gym, there are thousands of workouts that take less than 15 minutes and will have you sweating and grunting like a beast. Try this for starters: 20 squats, 10 squat hops on each leg, 20 pushups and 10 burpees (repeat this set 3x) This focuses on leg, chest and core. Should take about 8-10 minutes based on fitness level. I did this workout with two Chris Brown songs playing. I was done by the end of the second song.

During your favorite TV show, do sets of 30-60 second planks during commercials. Good core work.

Follow @workouts_and_exercises on Instagram, they post great regimes.

There are tons of fitness meetups and bootcamps for those looking to get physically fit. You can find some great workouts on Instagram and YouTube that take less than 15 minutes. Just get started. Start small and build. Try 200 jumping jacks and 200 situps. Broken down into 4 sets of 50/50 each, first thing when you wake. Early morning, quick workouts will motivate and build confidence. No gym membership needed. Ladies if you are in the gym, please no make-up it is not good for the skin. Grunt in the gym and glam it up after you leave.


Grunty Crush of the Week: Ajia Maximillian the Fitness Savant


I met Ajia Maximillian back in 2011. She was one of my first pole dancing instructors at Shockra Studio. I’d describe her personality as sunshine personified. She’s a patient, kind and helpful instructor as well as a kick ass dancer, IFBB Bikini Pro, and all around fitness guru. I caught up with her to chat about how fitness has become a part of her life, what it is to be an IFBB competitor and her forthcoming event, Poling For Pets.

I know that you have an athletic background, so explain how being physically active played a role in your life growing up. 

Growing up, physical activity was a staple in my life. To the point that I didn’t even think about it as physical activity, it was just how I lived. As a child I was on a swim team, was a competition cheerleader, was on a basketball team and was on a dance team; as a teenager I focused my energy on dance such as West African, Samba, Hip Hop, and Jazz; and now as an adult I believe dance is really what opened doors for me in the fitness industry. Because of my love for and desire to dance, I became a dance instructor who eventually started trying other genres of exercise and realized that I loved exercising with others and helping others find their happy place through physical activity. Soon I found myself teaching bootcamps, stretch and tone classes, and different high intensity interval training courses. I love the adrenaline rush that working out gives me, the camaraderie with others, and the feeling of accomplishment once done.

How did you get into pole dancing and did it come easy for you given your background?

I got into pole dancing completely by accident. I was a nightclub dancer/gogo girl at various NYC lounges and nightclubs such as Avalon, Crobar, Discoteque/Spy, Umbrella, Monkey Room, etcetera and some of these clubs had poles. I have always loved dancing in cages and figured a pole was no different, so I just incorporated it into my routines. It came easily and flowed naturally until I took my first pole class and thought, “Whoa!, that is so much more than what I was doing on the pole!” I had not realized there was a whole pole culture growing so rapidly outside of the nightclub industry and the tricks I was seeing on youtube were mindblowing…I was so out of the loop!

What are some of the things you love about pole dancing? 

I love that athleticism can be displayed with sexiness while dancing. I love teasing my audience and feeling their desire while I am on stage and I love how one little apparatus can help your body to do so much, it’s freeing.

Ajia Max

Describe your pole dance style.

I would describe my style has gritty, sexy, and strong.

Speaking of sexy and strong, what is an IFBB Pro and what are some of the most important lessons you’ve learned about yourself on your journey to becoming one?

IFBB stands for International Federation of BodyBuilding and Fitness and it is a competitive bodybuilding organization founded in 1946 by brothers Ben and Joe Weider and according to many, is the highest level of competitive bodybuilding in the world. Earning my procard in August of 2013 was an amazingly fun, and rewarding journey and taught me that consistency is key. I learned that if I am consistent with my diet, my body will reward me, I learned what foods make me tired, which foods give me energy… and most importantly, I learned how to eat properly because I had never before been taught nor did research on proper nutrition for myself. On this journey I was fortunate enough to have a sponsor who enabled me to focus on competing and my coaches on my team, Team Bombshell, who gave me proper guidance with a nutritional plan and a workout plan.

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

I eat 6-7 times a day, approximately every 3 hours, and my diet works for me because it is catered towards my body type and activity level. My meals are pretty much equally portioned with an emphasis on healthy carbs like quinoa, steel cut oats, various fruits, and spinach; fats like almond milk and various nuts; and proteins like grilled chicken breast, ground turkey, and lean fish. If I could eat grilled octopus and tuna sashimi all day, I would. I am pretty simple, yet specific when it comes to food. I am not big on gravy nor dressings. I usually leave my salads naked or with a touch of lemon, salt and pepper if anything at all. I cannot stand mayonnaise, mashed potatoes, or cream, unless it is really unhealthy Reddi-wip cream, but I will eat an entire chocolate mousse cake once in a while.

What are some of your current fitness goals in terms of nailing a new pole trick, entering another competition etc? 

Some of my current fitness goals are to compete in another IFBB Pro competition before the end of the year, I am still working on when it is realistic for me to compete; get a muscle-up; and make my pole routines more seamless and fluid; never stop improving.

What advice do you have for women who want to start a fitness journey but may be apprehensive? 

Just do it and do not be afraid to ask for help. A good place to start is with a mentor and or a trainer and that mentor and or trainer does not have to start you in the gym, sometimes a good dance class is all you need to get your booty in gear. Also, never underestimate the power of your diet. Good nutrition is key to fitness, health, and looking and feeling good. Meeting with a registered dietician can be beneficial in your journey and many health plans cover these visits now. If seeing a RD is unrealistic, the internet is your friend. While there are many false claims out there, there are a ton of resources online now allowing us to sort through the trash and make educated choices for ourselves. Do not be afraid to experiment, especially with workouts, sometimes it is just a matter of finding what you enjoy and sticking with it. Treadmill not for you? Maybe you enjoy outdoor running instead or even yoga, or walking, or tai chi, or boxing or hip hop dancing–try everything until you find your niche.

Tell us about Poling For Pets. 

After the success of our event last year, we decided to bring Poling for Pets back.

Poling for Pets is an annual charity benefit that features variety acts with an emphasis on pole dance in in order to raise mainstream awareness on the talent, strength and diversity present in the expanding, and at times controversial, performance craft of pole dancing. In addition to our passion for pole, Carolyn Chiu and myself, we are the producers, share a love for animals and use Poling for Pets as a liaison between avant-garde performances and aiding animals in need by donating a percentage of ticket sales, 100% of raffle proceeds, and 100% of donations from the Poling for Pets event to a local animal shelter. Our charity, for a second year in a row, will be Animal Haven Shelter, which is a 501 (c) 3 organization whose mission is to rescue, rehabilitate, and place abandoned cats and dogs into permanent & safe, loving homes.

Poling For Pets
Ajia and Carolyn, founders of Poling for Pets.

This year’s event will be held Thursday, July 10, 2014 from 7-9:30pm at The Cutting Room. The show begins promptly at 8pm and tickets are on sale now at Get them before they sell out. There will be a live vocalist, pole dance performances, burlesque performances, raffle prizes, and pets available for adoption.

Poling For Pets

How can people take your classes and generally keep in touch with you? 

Feel free to follow my class schedule at, follow me via Instagram @ajiamax, and Twitter @ajiamax. I can also be emailed directly via


Fun Facts: 

Ajia loves animals but she really loves pitbulls.

She is the owner of AM Fitness Groove, where she blogs about her fitness lifestyle.

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: 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.).