Charleen Hill is first and foremost a mother. She is a mother to her three children, Amanda, Shelby, and Camden, and she is a mother to the dancers at Tattletale Lounge, where she has worked for the past 35 years, and where her mother worked before her. As the House Mom, Charleen is responsible for taking care of the dancers: she makes sure their dressing room is organized and stocked with everything they might need, from hairspray to razors to gum. On their birthdays, you may find her tying Hello Kitty balloons to the poles and carrying cake to the bar to celebrate. She brings the women dinner, listens to their problems, and makes sure they are happy and healthy. She also is responsible for administrative paperwork, and keeps track of the dancers’ hours and earnings. And for some women, Charleen is the only mother they have.
Charleen has not always been the House Mom at Tattletales. She has served in nearly every other position at the club: bartender, server, manager, and dancer. Charleen first started dancing to pay for her second husband’s chemotherapy when he was diagnosed with brain cancer. She stopped dancing after he died, but came out of retirement 14 years later to save up enough money to be able to leave her third husband.
Like Charleen, many of the dancers have specific reasons or goals for doing so. Some are supporting their families, some are putting themselves through school to become nurses, or getting their trucking license, or starting their own businesses. While these might seem like more “legitimate” occupations to some, if you spend time in the club observing how the women work, you will realize that this is a job that requires people skills, salesmanship, and confidence. It is much more than simply getting paid to get naked, as many people assume.
This series explores the life at a strip club. While all women are objectified, one could argue that exotic dancers make a career out of it. These images challenge this notion of objectification, and strip away stereotypes and judgmental attitudes. They celebrate these women as women with agency, confidence, and power. More than that, these images tell Charleen’s story, the story of a strong and hardworking woman, the story of a woman who has seen and done it all, the story of a mother who is both nurturing and tough as nails.