After the birth of her third child, Marian had worked hard to get her body back in shape. So when the idea came up to try exotic dancing, Marian decided to give it a try. "Had I not been prepared physically to do this, I could have never done it and would have never done it."
Two years later, Marian makes enough money to care for her family. Since she only dances three nights a week, she also has time to spend with her children. "I think this is a godsend for me in a way, merely because for the first time in a long time, I have money in a savings account. I have a life insurance policy," she says. "Before, I was kind of hanging on by a wing and a prayer."
Marian says she struggles with some people's perceptions that stripping is exploitative and degrading, especially because of her Methodist upbringing. "I even prayed before I started working there. I said, 'Lord, don't condemn me for this because I'm not doing it to thrill-seek or anything like that," she says.
People might judge her, but Marian says she doesn't let her job define her as a person. "It's what I do, not who I am. I think you can have dignity and respect in anything you do," she says. "The one thing I want my children to know is at least I didn't give up. I'm not sitting there waiting for someone to take care of me."
On a typical workday, Marian makes dinner for her children and a babysitter comes over so she can head to work. "I kind of feel like I'm maximizing my time because I'm gone when they would be sleeping anyway," she says.
When she arrives at the club, 4-inch heels and hair extensions transform Marian into her dancer alter-ego, "Charlie." Then it's time to take the stage with the other dancers, sometimes giving private dances to customers.
Marion says dancing naked in front of strangers can be a bit of an emotional challenge. "Sometimes it's scary, and sometimes you feel more de-clothed than others. ... It can get unnerving. I'd be lying if I said it didn't," she says. "Sometimes I'll look around the room, and I'm like, 'How did I get here?' Then again, I just try to keep a smile on my face. Sometimes I view work as a challenge. I say, 'Okay, I want to try to make rent tonight.'"
Marian's 13-year-old daughter, Sydney, says her mom initially told her she was a showroom model. When she learned Marian was really a stripper, Sydney says she "freaked out." Now, with some time to get used to the idea, she says she is proud of Marian. "I think she's really brave to do it," she says. "My mom is not a bad person. She's a really good mom, and she cares about us. Believe it or not, she does a lot more stuff than a lot of those other moms do."
Is Sydney worried what people will think when they find out her mother is a stripper? "Yes and no," she says. "I'm kind of worried about what they might think about me and my mom and our family, but no because I don't care what they think. Our family is definitely not normal, but it's normal for our family."
After talking with Sydney, Lisa says her viewpoint shows wisdom. "If she's not judging her own mom, who gives everyone the right to do it?" Lisa says. "Frankly, Marian is there from the second those kids wake up in the morning, and as soon as those kids come home from school, she's right there. How many moms can say they have that kind of time?"
Marian says she didn't tell Sydney the truth at first because she was worried what people would say. "Sometimes I'm ashamed merely because of people's reaction to it, and it does have a stereotype. You think you're a bad person or think you're a loose woman or whatever. That's what I thought before I started working there," she says.
Marian not only hid the truth from her children—her own mother doesn't even know she is a stripper. "My mother thinks I'm a showroom model, but she will know before this show airs. She's always said, 'If you've got it, flaunt it.' I don't know if this is what she meant, but I think she'll love me anyway," Marian says. "The reason I was kind of trying to spare them [Sydney and her mother], I didn't want them to be embarrassed of me or disappointed."
Stripping has improved Marian's financial situation and provided free time with her kids, but the 43-year-old says she knows it won't last forever. "I don't want to be out here with a cane, you know?" she says.
When it's time to stop dancing, Marian says she wants to find a career with the same perks—good pay and free time with the kids. She says she would love to be a personal trainer. "Fitness is a passion of mine," she says.
After all she has overcome in her life, Marian says she feels "victorious." She says she's ready to tell the world about her life as a single mom and an exotic dancer. "I've kind of lived my life for other people all my life, and I just felt like it was eating at me, and I hate to be dishonest," she says. "I don't feel like I should be put on a pedestal necessarily, but I shouldn't be condemned either. There are a lot of people who haven't walked in my path."
Lisa says she felt very skeptical when she took the assignment to interview Marian. "Spending the entire day with Marian and her kids and then seeing her naked was an unusual experience. It was a little disarming," Lisa says. "But I have to say that I think Marian is a really, really good mom who happens to be a stripper. That's her job. And she feels that this is the path that works for her."
Printed from Oprah.com on
© 2014 OWN, LLC. All Rights Reserved.