I have never been alone before. I always had someone holding my hand. Even though I was treated unfairly for most my life, I depended on the people who did. Since I couldn’t speak up or express myself, I just mimicked the people who were loved more than I was. I would bury my true self and changed my identity depending on who was around me. I admit, I did that with Martha and Clark. This was a survival mechanism due to my abandonment issues. Being alone terrified me. Once I was out of Martha and Clark’s home, I went on to live with Bonnie and her kids. This was my first time ever being on my own and I had no idea what to do.
On top of being clueless, I was getting cyberbullied and attacked by Martha, Clark, and their friends. Martha and Clark both exposed our business to the world and tagged me on a social media post. Eventually, their friends also began exposing me and telling everyone to stay away from me. I received anonymous messages on Tumblr calling me a c*** and other horrible names. I stayed silent and just tried to figure out how to move on.
I was so grateful to Bonnie for letting me move in with her. I never had a roommate, so I was glad she was my first. All I had to do was pay for rent. She did not ask much from me. I do feel bad for eating her food when I had my food binge sessions. I do feel bad for leaving my clothes all over the boy’s room and coming home to it clean. I did not deserve her generosity, to be honest. I took advantage of her home – brought men over and slept with men on her bed/couch making her kids exposed to sex and marijuana smoke in her home. I knew I was a bad roommate, but my borderline personality was at an all-time high.
Since I had no one telling me what to do, I did whatever the hell I wanted. No one was there to tell me I was wrong. I depended a lot on boys. That’s why I loved Tinder. I boy hopped from one dude and met the ones I pushed for. I was so desperate. All I wanted was love. But I was seeking it the wrong way. I put myself at risk a lot. I wasn’t always safe. I was so desperate, I gave myself away to all types of men. I had a lot of one night stands and friends with benefits experiences because sex meant “love.”
I got a job at a Chinese restaurant. In the beginning, I enjoyed working there. I made new friends and got to hang out with them outside of work. But as time went on, I began to despise the job because I found myself tired all of the time. I hated going to work, but I had to pay rent. It was also close to Bonnie’s house and since I couldn’t drive, I had to either walk or get rides from my co-workers. Things changed when I went out one night with them and met my co-worker’s sister.
Let’s call her Melanie.
She had a face full of makeup, fake eyelashes, and colored hair. I remember thinking she was pretty and sweet. After that one night of going to a nightclub, we hung out more and more. We really became close when she asked me if she could do my makeup and I said yes. She said I looked beautiful. She even posted a picture of me on her IG. That’s when I clung to her. That’s when I was introduced into her life. She became my main influence.
It began with me sleeping over Melanie’s house days on end. We went shopping a lot. We ate Pho almost every day. We had fun jam session joy rides. She became my best friend. I eventually ended up moving in with her. Because she saw me as a best friend as well, I did whatever I could to be that. Since she liked to wear makeup, dress skimpy, and take shots of Patron, so did I even though I hated makeup, hated wearing revealing clothes, and preferred beer. I did whatever she did. I followed her around like a puppy. We became closer and closer and as time went on, I began to recognize some odd things.
Melanie never went to work. She said she worked at a call center. But aren’t call centers 9-5 jobs from Monday to Friday? I remember her not working for three weeks. I found it weird, but I never questioned it. If she didn’t want to tell me something, she didn’t have to.
During this time, I was partying heavily. Melanie introduced me to a drug called Molly, also known as MDMA, which is a psychedelic drug. When I snorted the powder for the first time, I remember it being very painful. The drip was horrible and all I wanted to do was drink water. But because Melanie wanted to do it, so did I. I remember one night, all we did was snort. It wasn’t as painful as I did it repeatedly. The partying eventually cost me my job. I was fired due to not showing up at mandatory meetings.
I was now jobless and didn’t know what to do. One day, Melanie and I were just kicking it and she told me she was a stripper. I didn’t know what to say. I knew she wasn’t a call center representative, but I didn’t know this. When she told me I could try stripping, I didn’t really hesitate to say, “Yes, I’ll try it.” I knew I could find another job instead of put myself out there like that, but I wanted to please Melanie. Since I wasn’t making the best money working at a restaurant, it sounded so appealing.
The day before my audition, we got our nails done. I decided to get pink acrylic nails for the first time and I hated them. I just did them because Melanie suggested it. I ended up picking my stage name as our nails were drying. When you are a stripper, you never use your actual name. I went with the name “Leah.” It was short and sweet. After that, we went to the adult store and I purchased my stripper outfit. It consisted of white platform heels, a white bra with gold hearts on it, a white G-string, and white lace panties. I even practiced some stripper moves with Melanie.
I found out that she has been an exotic dancer for two years and no one knew. When she showed me some of her moves, I was so amazed at how graceful and flexible she was. She was also very skilled on the pole, however, since it was my first time, I had no idea how to work the pole. Melanie suggested that I “make love to the floor.” That’s when I learned there are strippers whose forte is the pole, while others focus on floor work. I was learning so much and was actually excited for my audition. But mainly, I was so happy that Melanie and I were bonding through this. She told me she hadn’t told anyone about her secret. I felt special.
When audition night came, I thought I’d be nervous, but surprisingly I wasn’t. My palms weren’t perspiring. My heart wasn’t going 100 mph. I was just fine, but I didn’t know why. This made my audition easy even though I felt awkward. I remember dancing to “Nice & Slow” by Usher. I remember being up there and just doing whatever I learned from Melanie. I swayed my hips, made love to the floor, flirted with men who threw dollar bills at me. I was also required to take off my bra, but was also required to wear pasties, or nipple covers, so it wasn’t as nerve wracking. I had no idea what I was doing, but I got hired. I received about $40 after my six-minute audition. I left the strip club feeling confident and proud of myself. Melanie was also proud. We became closer than ever after that.
Being the only Asian girl was a big advantage. Besides Melanie (who was also Asian) and I, most of the girls were Caucasian. Society stigmatizes strippers as these drug addicted whores, but not all of them are. There were girls in their paying off their student loans. There were single mothers trying to provide for their babies. They are trying to get by like everyone else with a job. That’s how I saw it. I got better and better as time went on. I made $500-$600 during the week and on weekends, $700-$800. My dancing was improving and the number of lap dances I gave raised. I remember getting $100 just by talking to a man. I remember giving one man five lap dances and got $500. The numbers were rising and so was my desperation for money. I just wanted more.
One day, I remember Melanie getting dressed up to go to a dinner. She didn’t wear her usually skimpy clothes. She wore a black dress with her hair halfway up. I kept asking her who she was meeting with, but she just ignored me. When she came back, she had a self-help book with a businessman on the cover in her hand. I knew she was up to something because I’ve never seen her read before. And I knew she didn’t plan on owning a business (at the time). Soon after, she told me she was a “sugar baby,” and why when she wasn’t stripping, she had a lot of money. Some sugar babies don’t have sex with their sugar daddies but, Melanie wasn’t that type of case. One day, she brought one of her married sugar daddies home. I was just in my room when I heard her call my name. I walked into her on top of him and she said, “Join us.” That was my first time prostituting. I was disgusted with myself. I didn’t even enjoy it, but that feeling went away once I saw $300 in my hand. The easiest $300 I’ve ever made. Since then, we became a duo and sold ourselves for money.
Melanie had a lot of clients, even in Oklahoma. We drove two hours to two men and made $325 each. We would’ve gotten $400, but one of them didn’t believe I was over 21. I eventually found clients on my own via the strip club. When I met someone willing to do more business with me, I would charge them $100-$200. I would have them come to my apartment when Melanie wasn’t home. Most of these men were married or slept around with multiple women. I didn’t have to ask – I just knew. Protection wasn’t always used. I didn’t care because all I cared about was the money. It was ridiculous because I wasn’t paying any major bills. I was just using the money I made to buy new clothes, eat out, etc.
Eventually, I started sleeping around for no reason. I was numb at this point because I wasn’t receiving actual love. Yes, I was making more money, but I wasn’t happy. Besides having reckless sex to numb the pain, I also relied on weed. I knew all the stripping, prostituting, wasteful spending, drug abuse, and reckless sex was getting out of control.
I eventually moved out of Melanie’s and back to Bonnie’s. I had nowhere else to go. I went to get tested and found out I had an STD called chlamydia. Thank God, it was treatable. I was so drained from going from one lifestyle to the other because of my Borderline Personality Disorder. I was tired of getting my feelings validated by toxic people. I was tired of feeling like a failure because of my choices. I resented my personality disorder and just wanted a change.
It was finally at the end of 2015, that I began my journey of true self-exploration.