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!

Detroit Travel & Wellness: A Spa Guide for all Five Senses

Photo Via MGM Grand Detroit
Photo Via MGM Grand Detroit

Detroit is currently experiencing a resurgence, which is causing the area to attract a huge number of travelers to the comeback city. Whether business is what lures you or pleasure, consider taking a moment out to visit one of the local spas during your trip. Between shuffling between planes, and walking around–I found myself needing a few hours at the spa to relax and release stress. Nothing produces maximum productivity and clarity more than a good ole fashion massage and rub down. Find three Detroit spas to consider while visiting below:

 

The MGM Grand

The MGM Grand not only provides lodging and gambling at the in-house casino, they are also home to the Immerse Spa. Designed as an adult’s only spa, they promote peace and tranquility by eliminating cell phones in a smoke free environment. The Immerse Spa offer’s every service you can think of and as a bonus to hotel guest they also do in-room visits.

1777 Third Street Detroit, MI 48226

 

The Woodhouse Day Spa

The Woodhouse Day Spa, listed as being a “Wellness Sanctuary,” is a Detroit staple that creates an oasis that attacks stress and leaves you in a euphoric state of mind. As soon as you cross over the threshold your personal concierge comes out to greet you, then escorts you to your room for your choice of facials, massages, and body scrubs to name a few.

1447 Woodward Avenue Detroit, Michigan 48226

 

Tamara Spa

Our final location has been voted as the best spa in Michigan, and is frequented by traveling celebrities such as Anita Baker, Barbara Streisand, and Tim Allen to name a few. Tamara Spa has been serving the community of Detroit for over 15 years, and was named by Vogue Magazine as the best spa for body treatments. Their menu includes services that cover every inch of your body and soul.

32520 Northwestern Hwy, Farmington Hills, Michigan 48334

Whether you need to step away from the stress of work, want to have a day out with the girls, or a tourist needing a reprieve, Detroit Michigan aims to bring you back to Zen with one of their many spas. Once you’re done, be sure to check out one of their many restaurants and museums in the area. The comeback city of Detroit is a cultural center with many hidden gems just waiting for you to discover.

 

This article was written by Kitty Bradshaw | Website | Instagram | FaceBook | Twitter

Good Gluten Free French Toast and Other Special Diet Deliciousness

French Toast

Once upon a time ago I discovered that gluten sensitivity was causing many uncomfortable symptoms that initially made me believe that I had stomach cancer. Dramatic. I know; but it was that bad. I wrote all about that gluten intolerance drama for Ebony so read that saga when you get the chance but not before you hear me out here.

Many people, when they hear the phrase “gluten free,” self included, get disappointed as all the things they won’t be able to eat anymore starts flashing before their eyes. I have had some slip ups since making that discovery earlier this year because sometimes many times gluten free food tastes gluten free, which isn’t good. You get bread and pastries that crumbles to the touch, rendering them useless, there may be too much sodium used, too much butter, etc–all of which are obviously frustrating.

What I’ve discovered in my gluten free life is that everything you eat in that vein is trial and error. Some things will be really good substitutes, and others not so much. For a long time, I thought I’d have to give up bread because I hadn’t found a brand that I liked until a representative from Glutino contacted me about trying their products with no strings attached. That was one brand I hadn’t tried at the time so I decided to go for it.

I was sent pretzels, pancake mix, various types of crackers, cookies various types of bread and pancake mix. My favorites from that lot were the bread, the cookies and the crackers (cheddar and original premium rounds) but the bread was the real star of the show! I sampled their seeded bread, cinnamon raisin bread, white bread and multigrain bread. I liked each type but the seeded bread was my favorite. It’s enhanced with poppy, flax and sunflower seeds for more fiber and nutritional goodness, and it makes for a killer French toast, see the photo above.

Bread

I already make good French (not to brag but facts are facts lol) but going back to that crumbly bread problem that seems to plague gluten free products, it started to seem like something I’d have to give up cooking because, you know, you have to dip it in that milky/egg mix, but the Glutino bread that I sampled withstood the pressure and I rejoiced. Again, it also tastes really good. There’s something about eating a slice of bread that just makes you feel whole.

Like I said, the seeded bread is my favorite but it’s really just a matter of preference so I encourage you to try the brand.

Here’s a random sandwich made with the white bread, also yummy.

Sandwich

 

And then there were pancakes…

I had discovered another brand of gluten free pancakes that I actually enjoy even more than the standard pancakes that I used to eat, so I thought that I had found the end all be all with them and was skeptical about trying Glutino’s mix but I did it and again, I am pleased. They make it really simple. Everything you need is in the container so you just add water, shake and cook.

PancakeMix

The verdict is that they turned out to be yummy and fluffy goodness. You can adjust the amount of liquid you add to suit your needs depending on your desired level of thickness. I like my pancakes somewhere in between thick and thin so that the edges come out crispy.

Glutino Pancake Mix

In related news, I got fancy with a couple of the pancakes by  adding a scoop of powdered chocolate protein for an extra boost.

ProteinPancake

The downside to the pancake mix is that it doesn’t yield as much as the standard. It was fine for my husband and I and actually lasted us Saturday and Sunday, the only days of the week that we eat pancakes (once the mix is open you need to finish it within a couple of days). If you have a big family this might not be the most economical option but it’s definitely delicious. My husband, who doesn’t have to be gluten free, and won’t eat that way unless he has to, even enjoyed these products, especially the cookies, which he devoured most of while I was away on a business trip, but I digress.

Since trying and enjoying most of these samples, I have purchased items from the brand on my own including the brownie mix and breakfast bars, both of which I liked. The point is, this is a brand you may want to consider trying in your gluten free adventures.

 

Disclaimer: I was not compensated or even urged to write this post for Glutino.

 

 

Under Armour Wants Women to Win

Misty Under Armour

I’m super late posting this but I love Under Armour’s recent marketing campaign targeted toward women. Before I began noticing Under Armour ads featuring women like Misty Copeland, Lindsey Vonn, Gisele Bundchen, and more for its “I Will What I Want” campaign. The idea behind the campaign is that even when you are told no, you can make what you want to happen come to fruition. Copeland, for example, was rejected from a prominent ballet academy for “not having the ideal body type for ballet,” but look at her now. Each of these women in the campaign continued to work toward making their goals happen. Check out the nifty video below, where some of the company’s executive’s explain the vision behind targeting women:

Like I said, this is a late post as the campaign launched in the summer but I just had to do it. Speaking of Misty Copeland, I once got to interview her and she seems to have such an amazing spirit. You can read about that here.

#EmotionInMotion: How I Deal With Feeling Overwhelmed

 

StarrFrustrated

I haven’t written about my emotions in a while, yet it’s therapeutic, so when I was asked to write this post either about feeling glamorous or overwhelmed for Bernadette Pleasant’s #EmotionInMotion Blog Tour along with other emotional and expressive women bloggers, I thought it would be a good idea. I am an empathic, compassionate, sensitive, highly intuitive and emotional Moon Child who knows a lot about feeling overwhelmed.

The picture you see above would be me, of course. I don’t remember much about that day, but I was about 9, it was Easter, and I was definitely overwhelmed by frustration about something. In that moment, I’m pretty sure that whatever it was that was bothering me was petty. I vaguely recall my mother telling me that I couldn’t do or have something and so, I made that face in an attempt to wish her into the cornfield. She sometimes took photos of me making that face in an effort to get me to stop. I still make that face today because I’m hard-headed, and I still get really overwhelmed by my emotions, and especially adulthood, but at least I now look at that photo and chuckle.

If I could go back in time and send that little girl a message based on what I know now, I’d tell her how much more disappointment she’d face and how much stronger she’d become because of it. I’d warn her about the anxiety and depression that she would be so easily overwhelmed by. I’d urge her to focus on things that feed her soul, especially when she’s feeling swamped by the weight of everything, and although this is cliche, I’d encourage her to not sweat the small stuff.

The grown woman that that little girl has become is still an empathic, compassionate, sensitive, highly intuitive and emotional Moon Child but it’s only now, several years later, that she is learning how to cope.

I work in media, a high pressure field that in the height of my depression in 2013, I had to take a break from because it made me want to either lash out or die, sometimes both at the same time. I was so overwhelmed by my desire to feel better and be better that I got stuck and very sick. I made no progress creatively or mentally and while I haven’t been literally suicidal, I’ve come close metaphorically. I have questioned whether I wanted to continue living. I found myself weighing the pros and cons of whether it would be worth it to get out of bed. I beat myself up about my career not going the way I had planned, or hoped. I wondered why a lot of the people I had encountered in my field were so shitty. I had grown accustomed to a culture of staff getting cursed out in meetings or being berated for looks, weight, not having enough Twitter followers and other arbitrary, trite things. I wondered why people in general were so crappy toward each other. It was a stifling phase I was in.

Eventually, tired of being deluged by so many negative feelings and tired of not wanting to participate in my life, I got therapy. I also started consistently pursuing hobbies that speak to my soul, like dance, and pole dance, being active in general, and writing for myself, not some magazine and not an audience. I’ve learned how to say no, how to prioritize, how to eliminate toxic people and environments from my life, how to stop beating myself up and how to get over being overwhelmed to the point where I’m not making progress, and I’m starting to feel better, one day at a time.

Emotions can be transformative as long as you allow yourself to feel, identify and understand.  If you’re ready to further explore those feelings through movement, then keep reading to find out more about Bernadette Pleasant’s #EmotioninMotion tour.

EiM FB Cover 1

Bernadette Pleasant, the creator of Emotion in Motion has developed a safe and sacred day-long journey that engages the mind, body and soul. Weaving together the use of music, percussions, meditation, and hands-on healing. Her January 4th workshop will create an impactful, life-changing experience for each participant! You can purchase tickets here or participate in her latest giveaway.

To enter the giveaway go to her website and leave a comment answering the following question, “When someone says you’re emotional, what does that mean to you?”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

grate.ilov@gmail.com
FB: facebook.com/ilovgrate
Twitter: twitter.com/ilovgrate
ilovgrate.wordpress.com

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.

YogainNigeria

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.

YogiinNY

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 www.ProudJourney.com

TahiniZoodles
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 http://new.proudjourney.com.

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 atNsa@proudjourney.com

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

 

Grunty Workouts: The Low Down on Gyrotronic

Gyro3

The picture you see above is not a torture device although every time I look at it, my mind drifts to this classic Method Man skit. Now that that’s out of the way, what you’re seeing is my feet inside of a gyrotronic machine. What the heck is gyrotronic, you ask?

Gyrotronic is an exercise method that combines swimming motions with Pilates techniques and it’s pretty darn cool.

According to Gyrotronic.com, this is an exercise method developed by Juliu Horvath, a Hungarian professional dancer, that falls under the Gyrotronic Expansion System. Horvath suffered a series of debilitating injuries during his dance career, and began developing the Gyrotonic and Gyrokinesis Methods as a way to heal himself and regain his strength and agility.

I’ve only taken one class with my friend (because we got Groupons) thus far but it was really cool and although my class was an intro to the system, I can tell that this is a method that is great for building strength, stretching and lengthening muscles and for preserving muscles and ligaments. I was extremely stiff and sore from pole the day that I tried gyrotronic and working myself out on these machines felt amazing. It’s not easy but you will get results if you’re consistent so I recommend giving it a shot. Keep in mind that you will feel absolutely awkward on these machines, but it’s because you’re a newbie and all newbies feel awkward when they start something. Plus, it’s not natural for your body to use machines so don’t panic.

Gyrotronic1

 

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I did my intro class at Body Evolutions on New York City’s Lower East Side. It is suggested that you take at least two intro classes before moving on the level one. Body Evolutions is a small studio that promotes a very zen like environment, which I love.

 

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What are you waiting for? Grab your friends and go!

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.

Lyra
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

company?

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:


www.poleiticalclothing.com
 – Main clothing site.
poleitical.com – Poleitical diaries blog
instagram – @poleiticalclothing for biz, @reelsmartcookie for personal.

Grunty Crush of the Week: Dawn Michelle Marathons For Change

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.