FKA Twigs opened up about her experience as a hostess at a gentlemen’s club.
The avant-garde singer and performer wants to help workers who have been hurt financially by the pandemic.
But some want her to acknowledge how she’s profited from the culture.
FacebookFacebookTwitterTwitterPinterestPinterestLinkedinLinkedinWhatsAppWhatsAppEmailEmailFKA Twigs has launched a new fund to help sex workers who have been affected by a loss of income during the ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic. The British singer announced the fund on August 4, adding that she is partnering with the Sex Worker Advocacy and Resistance Movement (SWARM), as well as Lysistrata, an emergency fund for marginalized sex workers in the U.S., and East London Strippers Collective, which aims to unite dancers in an effort to improve working conditions in strip clubs.
FKA Twigs kicked off the GoFundMe account with £10,000 of her own money. Aiming to raise £30,000, the fund will provide “direct financial support to strippers and sex workers.” The singer wrote about her inspiration for the fund and touched on her work in gentlemen’s clubs in a new Instagram post, calling for an end to the stigma around sex work and an overdue move towards implementing more rights for sex workers and safer working conditions. “I was 19 when I learnt my first pole move, I learnt a back hook spin from a stripper when I was working as a hostess in a gentleman’s club,” wrote FKA Twigs (born Tahliah Debrett Barnett). “For those of you who don’t know, hostessing is when one person pays another person for their time, anything from a conversation over dinner to sex work, and the club gets a cut of the fee. My lived experience as a very young woman in these environments has not only informed the strong and formidable woman that I am today, but also a lot of my work as a music and visual artist – sometimes even subconsciously.” Continuing, the singer wrote, “I feel like now is the time for me to step forward, pay respect, and shine a light on the challenges facing sex workers, especially during these uncertain times. Sex workers I know and have met have discipline, craft, talent and work ethic – not only do they deserve better long-term, but their income has been wiped out by the lockdown and many are invisible to the financial aid available to others.”
FKA Twigs has long incorporated pole dancing into her work, both in music videos and live performances and although the singer worked in a gentleman’s club, she didn’t perform on stage and instead learned how to pole dance in 2016 for her “Cellophane” video. In an interview with Nylon, FKA Twigs’ trainer Kelly Yvonne, a pole dancer who doesn’t strip, confirmed that she taught the British singer to dance. Although the Grammy nominee is helping to propel a much-needed discussion around financial support and workplace safety for sex workers, the singer is also being criticized for her actions, which some say is the latest instance of FKA Twigs not properly recognizing the sex worker community for its impact on her career. Instagram user Selena The Stripper (aka @prettyboygirl) has accused FKA Twigs of being a “culture vulture” who has profited off a sanitized and glamorized version of sex work without acknowledging the people who inspired her performances or appear in her videos. Selena has also accused FKA Twigs of deleting comments by sex workers who have criticized the singer on her social media pages. Selena points to Kehlani as an example of celebrity with a major platform who properly crediting sex workers and the culture at large for influencing her work. In July, Kehlani released her video for “Can I” and included the IG handles for all the women who appear in the video. “Support sex workers!!!! ESPECIALLY BLACK TRANS SEX WORKERS. The most vulnerable. Sex workers deserve proper pay, protection, and to exist in their careers without consistent shame and violence,” wrote Kehalni, who ended the video for “Can I” with a quote from writer Da’Shaun Harrison, who succinctly explains the need for decriminalizing sex work, which disproportionately affects BIPOC and members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Selena adds that FKA Twigs is not the only artist to profit from the knowledge and experiences of sex workers without crediting those who helped educate her. Recounting a story told to her by another dancer, Selena shared a problematic interaction with actress Constance Wu. “Remember the scene in Hustlers when Constance Wu gets her first lap dance? That was almost VERBATIM a conversation she had with my friend who gave her her first lap dance of her whole life. And my friend didn’t get credit. And Constance Wu even tried to distance herself from the interaction, asking my friend who is a stripper not to post the photo they took together. This happens again and again, and it is not okay.”
As Amnesty International explains, laws against sex work “criminalizes drug use, the policing of sex work exacerbates stigma, compromises access to resources, justifies violence, and is steeped in racial disparities.” Violence against sex workers typically goes unreported because sex workers fear they will be arrested. The recent pandemic and the increase in demand on food pantries and shelters has only exacerbated the need for more health and job safety protections for sex workers who are out of work.
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