April 6, 2021
Gizelle Marie loves her job as a stripper. She loves it so much, in fact, that she has become a leading voice for progressive reforms within the industry — for herself, for other dancers, and for the generations that will follow her. Racism, colorism, misogyny, and wage theft are all issues Gizelle Marie is fighting head-on. Sticking one’s neck out to challenge the status quo is risky in any industry, let alone one as stigmatized and marginalized as stripping, but Gizelle Marie is a risk-taker. Despite being banned from working at a number of clubs, likely due to her advocacy for the rights of individual dancers, Gizelle Marie is undeterred. She is aware of her relative privilege as a cis-gendered, lighter-skinned woman and is dedicated to using this privilege to ensure that all of her colleagues have access to safe and fair working conditions.
“Gizelle Marie always puts others before herself. She’ll go without something to be able to give it to someone else. I’ve seen her do it over and over again,” says DSW’s Melissa Sontag Broudo. Gizelle’s devotion to her colleagues and improving the way society views and treats sex workers is evidenced regularly through big actions and small gestures. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and many sex workers lost their ability to earn an income, Gizelle Marie launched a mutual aid fund that raised nearly $60,000.00 to support them. She has taken club promoters who fail to pay dancers what they should to court, co-organized the largest demonstration for sex worker rights ever to take place in the U.S., and recently handed over her pair of brand new shoes to another dancer who didn’t have any.
Gizelle Marie credits her grandmother, who raised her, for instilling a deep respect for others and their struggles. She says, “my grandmother made so many sacrifices to be able to take care of me. I’m inspired by her. It’s because of her that I want to help people as much as I can.” It angers Gizelle Marie that because of the way most clubs are structured, dancers are pitted against each other, and it can feel like a competition to earn a living. She wants to change this. Gizelle Marie wants sex workers to feel that they’re “all one” so that they can support each other and find power in numbers.
Gizelle Marie’s ultimate goal is the decriminalization of all forms of consensual adult sex work. She explains that though her work as a stripper is legal, all sex workers face unnecessary risks until all forms of consensual adult sex work are decriminalized. Criminalization increases stigmatization, violence, and other factors that put her community in jeopardy.