“Jas, sit down, we are not done!”
Tatin calls me when I jump off the stool to take a break. Layer after layer of foundation is painted on my face and I can’t feel my forehead. The first two layers make me look a bit Caucasian, yet my skin is brown because I am mixed. We still have more layers to go. My cheeks are sore from the furious rubbing and I feel like crying. I have to stay calm for Tatin to finish the process. My face has to look like a twenty-five-year-old lady, not some seventeen-year-old teenager that I am.
“Can we leave it like this today, please?” I beg Tatin, giving her my sad face. The whole process is painful and I want her to spare me today. Though, looks like she is not ready for my pathetic rambling. She gives me her bitchy face, that she throws at me when I wrong her.
I sit down and let her do what she does best when she is not dwindling on the pole trying to sell her moves.
She picks the Fenty Foundation, and I can’t help but appreciate her choice. The velvety texture of the foundation glides effortlessly across my skin, instantly cooling and soothing my face. As Tatin starts to apply it with a makeup brush, I close my eyes, surrendering to the gentle touch. At first, her strokes are delicate, like an artist carefully sketching on a canvas. But as she progresses, her movements grow firmer, and the brush bristles create a distinct sensation on my cheeks, like a pen pressing down on paper, leaving its mark.
The forceful application causes a tingling heat to spread across my cheeks, and I can almost imagine the color blooming beneath the surface. It feels as if my skin is on fire, and a part of me wants to wince or shed a tear. However, I resist, knowing that this is a necessary step to achieve the desired outcome. Tatin’s unwavering determination prompts her to add more layers of the foundation, meticulously working to ensure an even complexion.
Despite the initial discomfort, I trust in Tatin’s expertise, knowing that she is sculpting me into the desired image of a confident woman. The blend of smoothness and pressure against my skin creates a paradoxical experience, both soothing and intense. I hold onto that sensation, reminding myself that enduring this temporary discomfort is a small price to pay for the transformation that awaits me.
You are probably wondering, why layers and layers of makeup. Well, let me tell you the story of this teenager.
My name is Jasmine, that is all for my name. I have been a stripper for two years. You might think, well, she has money. Yes, it pays well, for a well-curated club but for me, no, it doesn’t pay well for starters, am a minor. My manager, George, says that some of my pay needs to cater for the little bribes that they give to the authorities because they know am underaged and they might arrest him or me. George says that, if I get to eighteen, I will have my full pay. I can’t wait to be eighteen; that is another three months to come. For now, as long as I pay my bills and rent am good.
Is it risky? It is a club, I am a stripper. If am not flaunting my assets on the pole, am walking around, lifting the silver metal plate while serving shots or glasses of beer to customers. Once in a while, you will get your ass grabbed but it’s a club, and you need money and you don’t have a mommy to report all these to. All you have to do is smile and move on, it is life. The first time, a customer placed his hands on my thigh, I went crying to George but instead of helping he placed his hands in the same place and told me, “It is either you want to work or get your ass thrown in the gutter, chose one.” Despite it being a club, I don’t engage in sexual interaction with the customer. Tatin and other strippers get paid to engage in sexual interaction in an important room, Cloud Nine. I have never been there. Tatin said, once I am eighteen years old, I will get a chance. Out here, I just serve drinks and sway my ass on the pole. Though I don’t think I want to get in there, some ladies say not every customer is gentle, some have broken their legs or been infected, and there was a rumor that a lady had lost her life in there, it scares me.
“Look, it is done!” Tatin says while clapping as if she has won a beauty award. I showcase my thirty-two to show how proud I am of her work. I sit on this chair every day for one hour just to get my face painted over and over again. cleaning it will take me another thirty minutes, if I accidentally fail to wash it properly, I will wake up with angry pimples fighting all over my face. You haven’t seen my head; wait till Tatin places the big wig on it. You will mistake me for some drag queen but am just a seventeen-year-old.
“Thanks, what will I do without you?” I say sweetly while holding her hands. She kisses my head and massages it.
Tatin is like a mother to me, she has groomed me ever since I came here, pampering my face to make sure no one identifies me, and she shows me new moves on the pole and how to do things in the club. She has been a friend and a parent I wished I had.
She holds the blond wig high, its golden strands shimmering under the club lights, and delicately places it on my head. The weight of the wig settles upon me, a constant reminder of the transformation I undergo each night. It clings to my scalp, trapping warmth beneath its synthetic fibers, but over time, I have learned to endure the heaviness and the heat, knowing it is an integral part of my persona.
With Tatin’s assistance, I secure the wig firmly, making sure it aligns perfectly as if it were my regal crown. As I step onto the stage and feel the vibrations of the crowd beneath my feet, a surge of confidence electrifies my being. The moment I stamp my feet, the audience erupts, their voices joining in an anthem that echoes throughout the room. They know the queen has arrived.
With each graceful movement, the wig becomes an extension of myself. It swings and dances with me as I twirl around the pole, captivating the eyes of every patron in the club. The men, enraptured by my presence, yearn to possess even a moment of my attention. They scream my name, a chorus of adoration fills the air, and in their fervor, they generously shower me with tips.
If only I could collect every tip that cascades towards me, a testament to my allure and the power I hold over them. But for now, I relish in the sensation of being the center of their desire, my blond wig serving as a beacon that draws them closer, eager to bask in my radiant performance.
“Is your crown perfect?” Tatin asks as she straightens it out. I nod and apply some lip gloss even though my lips have been painted with red lipstick, they are numb and I bet if I bite them, I won’t feel anything at all.
“And we are done!” Tatin announces and I am left to admire the girl on the screen. Who is she? This is not Jasmine, but Candy! That is my stage name, Candy. I wish I couldn’t do this, this has never been a dream, the dream was to be a doctor, or a pilot but look at where it all ended. One day, I hope, but we all just hope.
Tatin leaves me to finish with my little costumes before I start the day. I want to touch my face but a hand quickly reaches and I don’t get to it, “Don’t even think about it!”
George, the manager at Dawn’s Club. He picked me to practice as a stripper and with time I was perfect. Sometimes I feel like I got lucky, if not for the assets that I possess, I bet he would have just left me to sweep the club and wash toilet puke and throw me my thirty cents. He says, am a natural talent, I don’t know, maybe it is because he thinks I kiss better than the other girls he has had here.
“Sorry, I wanted to remove a strand of hair,” I mumble as I pick the makeup items from the table. I don’t want to look at him, his wicked smile terrifies me and I never want to be left alone with him. Every time he walks closer, the hair on my body stands still, and a bit of me is scared that he might want more from me apart from kissing his tobacco brown teeth and giving him a blow job.
I feel his hands near my skin, I want to push away but I remember Davin was fired just last month because she couldn’t kiss him, that was the rumor. I wonder if I will fall into the same hole. Tatin also said that I should agree with everything that he says. like when he took my three-quarter earning because he pays off the bribe. I close my eyes and let his hands wonder where they want to wander. Lucky for me, today, they only wandered on my cheeks lightly.
“I knew I made a good choice, choosing you. One of these days you will make me a good price!” The terror that comes out of his voice, scares me, even when he speaks gently, I don’t feel the gentleness, I am consumed with fear. I just hope he won’t sell me to the higher bidder.
Davin had said that he might be a human trafficker, I hope he doesn’t choose me for that. I slowly open my eyes to give him the smile that he wants after reminding me day in and day out that he saved me, “I will always be grateful.” I say while loading the brushes into the container beside me.
With that, he walks away, his heels hitting the ground loudly. I let out one huge sigh. I didn’t realize that I was holding my breath. I could slowly feel my fear walking away and once again, I feel confident and safe without him near me. Do you get why I hope?
I tape my boobs the way they are supposed to be concealed. Just the nipples but my other part is out there, screaming at me to protect her but I know I can’t do that. I slowly powder my thighs to make sure I don’t slip on the pole, Tatin has once fallen off and she can’t climb the pole higher than before plus her recovery journey was a long one.
Before I start my work, I always pray that the night ends well. Well without tripping on my heels that are too high even for me, I pray that I don’t end up getting touched inappropriately but it is a club, what will I do, some days my prayers get answered, and some days, I have to deal with the customers and make them happy. Lastly, I pray for a good tip. some customers tip me privately if George sees it, he asks me to give him, when he doesn’t see it, I get lucky and I hope today he won’t see it.
I look at myself one last time in the mirror before I open the door to get into the main arena. I gently adjust my wig and apply the powder the last time, let us hope!