The holiday season is in full-swing, but in one North Carolina town, controversy is brewing after a pole dancing studio was featured in its annual holiday parade.
Studio 360 Pole Fitness, Dance, and Gym owner Brianna Owens told Independent Journal Review she was inspired to submit a float application after seeing a pole dancer in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade:
“Being in the parade was something I always wanted to do since I first opened the pole studio. When Cirque Du Soleil had a pole dancer in the Macy’s parade, I was like, ‘It’s my life mission to put pole in parade.'”
Owens, who has lost over 115 pounds in two years using her pole fitness regimen, explained their last-minute decision was even approved by the Chamber of Commerce in Jacksonville.
She and her crew got to the parade site two hours before it began, with a pole in smack dab in the middle of the float for her students and friends to use.
Owens’s dream of educating the public on the health benefits of pole dancing was quickly met with backlash — parents covering their children’s eyes, negative comments on social media — things she said she’d prepared for:
“I mean, the backlash was expected when we put the float together and decided to be in the parade, it was pretty well-thought out that we knew it was going to happen.
But they [Chamber of Commerce] had a 2-hour period to pull us from the parade after seeing our float. The way I see it, how can they stop us from doing it? I paid a fee just like everyone else.”
Owens added that the float was circus-themed and she had kids ages 6-16 who participated, many of whom seemed to enjoy doing tricks on the pole:
Some of our parade pics!Keep it classy Jacksonville!
But not everyone saw it as a wholesome way to promote exercise, like local youth pastor, Dusty Maxwell.
He told the JD Daily News he was taken aback after seeing a lady “performing on a pole in a provocative way”:
“I had to turn the heads of my five-year-old and three-year-old to keep them from seeing it. A family oriented parade is not somewhere that parents should have to worry about their children being exposed to what they were doing on that float.”
Facebook user Patty Wilson argued young kids don’t need to see “classless women” pole dancing at a parade:
“Does not belong in a Christmas Parade. Little children do not need to see classless women swing their bodies around the darn poles. If they want to pole dance get a job at a strip joint.”
The stigma that pole dancing is only for “strippers” is exactly what Owens seeks to debunk.
Owens added that although she did work as an ‘adult dancer’ for two years when she was a young adult, she stopped stripping to pursue a career in management and then to create her own pole fitness studio.
She said she is a God-fearing woman who places no judgment on anyone in the stripping community, seeing it as an athletic job where women can utilize their skills to make good money.
The 32-year-old took notes from her father, who always told her “If you can’t tell the truth about what you’re doing, you’re doing something wrong”:
“I entered the parade because I don’t want to hide what we’re doing and it’s not something people should be offended by — we did nothing wrong.”
Owens also mentioned she regularly trains male Marines, who are looking to her classes to get an awesome workout, but she is often told she has to keep it on the down low:
“We train military personnel, but we’re told not to talk about it because they’d lose their rank if anyone found out.”
As Health 24 reports, some physical benefits of pole dancing include:
- Builds core and upper body strength
- Great cardiovascular workout
- Tones muscles and reduces body fat
- Strengthens your back
- Increases flexibility
Despite the backlash from some Jacksonville residents, Owens says a majority of people in her town have been “extremely supportive” of her business.