As an exotic dancer, Clarice is the kind of lady who can give a man a heart attack.
“Only men and women with strong hearts, please,” she joked. I met Clarice recently at the VIP section of a strip club in the city centre. She had just come from making a middle-aged Chinese constructor sweat.
“Sorry to have kept you waiting,” she apologised in refined English. “I am all yours now.”
That sounded oddly intimidating. Clarice is a 25-year-old mother of two (she adopted one of the children), who makes her living as a stripper. She thinks her job is crazy, unpredictable and misunderstood.
And like many in the trade, Clarice lives a double life.
“My parents don’t know I do this. Not even my friends and neighbours know,” she opens up.
“I honestly don’t know what will happen if they find out. I have never thought about that.” I had come to the club seeking answers to nagging questions. I sat with her wondering: What is a girl’s motivation for taking her clothes off for a living? Is it out of desperation?
Does she enjoy dancing naked in front of strangers? Is it the money or the attention?
“I studied at a school in Lower Kabete. Although my parents wanted me to go to university (she scored a B+ in KCSE), I wanted to be a dancer,” she recalls.
She was introduced to exotic dancing and has never looked back since then. The men and women who watch her dance are amazed by her skills. She sashayed down the stage and grabbed a metal pole that stuck out from the middle of the stage then stretched her legs. The air was immediately filled with catcalls and whistles. Male eyes peered through the hazy smoke towards her.
I observed as men watched her from all sides. I saw a couple of them drooling.
“There are those who think that I am here to be paid for sex. I am not a prostitute,” she declares.
She explains that the life of a stripper is more demanding than that of a sex worker. A stripper, she says, is an exotic mix of seduction and mystery while with a sex worker it is just about money.
“As a prostitute men care very little about looks. They just want to have sex with you and pay for it,” she says.
Most strippers have an incredible tight and toned body.
They also have upper body strength from hoisting themselves up countless hours during work.
Strippers should be flexible, curvaceous but low in body fat, she tells me.
“When you earn a living from how your body looks, then working out becomes a priority.
How I look when I take my clothes off is key. I have to exercise regularly,” she says, adding that all the strippers at her club have someone to handle training.
There is also lots of makeup and low lighting to diminish the chances of recognition. Clarice’s favourite customers are young women, who enjoy lesbian acts during bridal showers. During stag and bachelor parties, she can make up to Sh20,000 in a few hours.
Does she have a boyfriend? “My last boyfriend hurt me. I am still looking for a man who can truly love me without cheating on me.”