I mentioned a couple of months ago that there was a movement bubbling called “Black Girls Pole,” and that it was spearheaded by one of my pole crushes, Dalijah Franklin. She is super dope. Do yourself a favor and look her up on YouTube. The idea behind Black Girls Pole is to connect Black women who love to pole dance and the people who them and support the idea, to come together, network, and learn from each other in the name of fitness and badassery. But let’s keep it funky, pole dancing isn’t just any kind of fitness, it’s a game changer. For many, self included, pole dancing can change lives but you wouldn’t understand unless you do it (more on that later).
Dalijah celebrated the launch of #BlackGirlsPole back in June at Body and Pole, with a series of workshops that culminated in some dope performances from fierce ladies like, Nicole “the Pole” Williams, Crystal Belcher, Meritza Chang Heyward, Delijah (of course), Ajia Maximillian, Roz “the Diva,”Sasja Lee, Caprice Burrell, and more. I’m still high from the experience. Not only did I meet some cool women with like interests, but I was also motivated to work on the craft again, and I can’t wait to see what else Dalijah has in store. In the mean time, check out what Dalijah told me about her inspiration for starting the movement, some recap footage of that epic night and general inspiration about pole dancing.
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.
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.
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 www.thecuttingroomnyc.com. Get them before they sell out. There will be a live vocalist, pole dance performances, burlesque performances, raffle prizes, and pets available for adoption.
How can people take your classes and generally keep in touch with you?
Feel free to follow my class schedule at AjiaMax.com, follow me via Instagram @ajiamax, and Twitter @ajiamax. I can also be emailed directly via Ajia@AjiaMax.com.
I stumbled upon #BlackGirlsPole due to some Facebook controversy. Long story short, there was a pole dancer who bitched about why it exists and claimed that it didn’t promote unity and that people would be mad if there was a “White Girls Pole” all that typical entitled bullshit. She created a stir but I later found out that this is what she does in general, so BGP just happened to be that day’s target. I digress.
After that drama, I started to explore the movement and it’s simple. It was founded by Dalijah Franklin, and the point is for anyone who so chooses, to celebrate Black women in pole dancing and to encourage other women to consider pole dancing as well.
I get why this exists and I like the idea of it, especially since Black women are pretty much at the highest risk for everything that’s terrible in the world of health, so I wanted to share it.