Charleen Hill is first and foremost a mother. She is a mother to her three children, Amanda, Shelby, and Camden, and she is a mother to the dancers at Tattletale Lounge, where she has worked for the past 35 years, and where her mother worked before her. As the House Mom, Charleen is responsible for taking care of the dancers: she makes sure their dressing room is organized and stocked with everything they might need, from hairspray to razors to gum. On their birthdays, you may find her tying Hello Kitty balloons to the poles and carrying cake to the bar to celebrate. She brings the women dinner, listens to their problems, and makes sure they are happy and healthy. She also is responsible for administrative paperwork, helping keep track of the dancers’ hours and earnings. And for some women, Charleen is the only mother they have.
Charleen has not always been the House Mom at Tattletales, however. She has done nearly every job the club has to offer: she has been a bartender, a door girl, a manager, a House Mom, and, yes, she has also been a dancer. Charleen first started dancing to pay for her second husband’s chemotherapy when he was diagnosed with brain cancer. She stopped dancing after he passed, but came out of retirement 14 years later to save up enough money to be able to leave her third husband. Like Charleen, many of the dancers have specific reasons or goals for doing so.
Some are putting themselves through school, some are supporting their families, some are doing both. Some women are becoming nurses, or getting their trucking license, or starting their own businesses. While these might seem like more “legitimate” occupations to some, if you spend time in the club observing how the women work, you will realize that this is a job that requires people skills, salesmanship, and confidence. It is much more than simply getting paid to get naked, as many people assume. This series shows the reality of what goes on at a strip club. While all women are objectified, one could argue that exotic dancers make a career out of it. These images combat this notion of objectification. They strip away stereotypes and judgment to find the beauty and diversity in this art form, to show that these women are not to be pitied or looked down upon. These are women whose confidence and power is to be admired and celebrated. More than that, however, these images tell Charleen’s story, a story of a strong and hardworking woman, a story of a woman who has seen and done it all, a story of a mother who is both nurturing and tough as nails.