"In my book, my daughter Gennifer is already a star."I wrote my dad an email telling him excitedly about my cover on Asianweek. The subject heading read "Your daughter is a star." I wrote about how I somehow landed myself on the cover of this mainstream Asian American newspaper and that now, if all of the Chinese relatives in our extended family didn't know I was a dancer, they would surely know as they passed by my half naked image in a bin on Clement Street. He wrote me back "in my book, my daughter Gennifer is already a star." The comment about my extended family was a joke between us because about a month ago I had wrote him another email thanking him for this amazing PBS documentary on burlesque that he copied for me. It was a heartfelt email where I talked about how I really apperciate all his understanding and support for what I do as a dancer and an artist and that burlesque is the direction that myself and the asianprincess character want to go. An unrelated ending, the end of the email I wrote down a url for a website filled with these awesome photographic images of global sympathizing and sadness for the September 11th attacks. "Hey, check this out, you'll like it." One of the main things my father and I relate on besides "depending on the tips of assholes to pay the rent" (He's a blackjack dealder in Reno) is photography. My dad was and is an amazing landscape photographer, he and my mom ran a photographic copy service in the Sunset for 15 years.
He was so moved by the images on the website he forwarded it (along with my note on burlesque)to his entire email list including all of our extended Chinese American family. I wrote back to him. "DAD! I hope you just realized you just outed me as a stripper to your whole family!" But for some reason, I was laughing. Dad didn't even think to delete my words before forwarding the email, but I thought it was kind of funny and very typical of my father. I really didn't care if they knew really, because they found out because they happened upon an email where I was telling my dad something extrememly personal. I didn't tell them anything. So if they wanted to judge me based on that then, I thought, let them judge away.
In the interview with Kevin Gardner, the writer of the piece, I stressed to him the significance of my coming out publicly as a sex worker to the Asian American community and my family. "In print you have to talk about my academic and career achievements, the two businesses that I run, my teaching, my activism;
A lot of people who didn't know before are going to know now, so please make sure you make me look like more than just a dumb stripper."
I love it when things come full circle in life and I can truly see and apperciate how much I've grown and healed and how many obstacles I have conquered. 3 years ago, I was an over-achieving idealistic fine art and asian american studies senior working on a year long project of insane proportions called "Re-Orientating Representations of Asian Women" This is where everything all began. I met Hima B. and Dawn Passar and I was so fascinated with their lives and their ability to be leaders in the community, even as sex workers. "You're beautiful, you should just try it." were more or less the words of both of them even though I know now that Hima B. was working hard on her own transition out of the industry and a job that she no longer liked. 3 years later I have already reached my ultimate highs and lows with dancing and now am working on my own transition out.
I have no idea when that will be, or how long it will take, but I have stopped beating myself up for still doing this work and have focused on ways to bring light and humor to my situation and recognize how fortunate I am to have the ideal artist situation. I am a full time artist, and that has always been my dream. I am not a starving artist. I make enough to live comfortably, support my expensive photography habit and run my businesses. Stripping "full time" for me only consists of 3-4 days, about 18-24 hours a week. I also teach art to 1st-4th graders in San mateo twice a week. It took me exactly one year from the time I decided I wanted out of the sex industry to get my first transistional "real world" job. The school has no idea of what I really do, and they will probably never see the paper, but like the relatives, if they see it, let them judge away. I would absolutely fight them all the way to Supreme Court if I was fired for the Asianweek story.
The cover image and story is extremely progressive for Asianweek. I am not on the cover of "The Spectator" or "Oriental Dolls." I am on the cover of a mainstream Asian American news magazine and the feature story is about the same exact topics i have been doing activist work around consistently for the last 3 years. I wanted to be a model when I was a teenager. They told me I was overweight and too short but happily took my money anyway and made me feel totally inadequate. I have since pushed my way onto the pages of a national magazine, and Asianweek is the second local San Francisco publication where I have landed a cover. My sexual assalt offenders tried to take away my soul but I have since walked away and triumphed as a shining bright surviving example to anyone who has been unjustly punished for celebrating their sexuality.