‘Fun and pleasure is everything to me as a performer,’ says drag artist Chiyo Gomes, a long-time resident of Harpies strip club – the brainchild of trans activist Lucia Blayke.
The very first strip club in Europe to forefront queer and trans performers, Harpies first opened its doors in 2019 at Metropolis Gentleman’s Club in London. Since then, Amsterdam has followed suit with the opening of LGBTQ+ strip club, Va Va Voom.
‘It was my mother’s idea,’ says Blayke. ‘I’ve got strippers in my family. When I transitioned, I was googling “transgender strip clubs” and nothing was coming up. I wished that there were strip clubs where I could go and work, and come home with £2,000 in one night. So my mum said, “Well, you’re a club promoter, why don’t you ask a strip club if you could do one night a week there for trans people?” I gave it a go and it blew up.’
Blayke’s first priority was to create the appropriate working conditions to make professional stripping fun and pleasurable – a commendable feat in an industry with historically exploitative managerial practices. Her team makes this possible through on-the-spot educating, as well as asserting explicit boundaries between the performers and the audience. ‘If I see someone looking at my dancers funny, or [if they] laugh or mock them, I’d grab them by the ear and march them off,’ says Blayke. ‘Harpies is our home – you do not come into our home and disrespect us.’
Directed by: Jonangelo Molinari at PIAZZA
Director of Photography: Kyle Macfadzean
Interview: Gisselle Babaran
Post Production by SECONDS"
SFX & Mix by Estudio Paloma