Gemma Rose is a stripper, OnlyFans content creator, professional model, sex worker rights activist and instructor. And yet, a while back I realised had committed a crime: I’d never interviewed her for this blog! It was time I made up for it. I am so excited to share this interview with Gemma, a super important voice and role model in our industry and beyond. Hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!
Why I love Gemma Rose
Gemma Rose has made a name for herself both as a pole instructor / performer and as a sex worker activist. With her fab, ASMR like Essex accent and sparkly voice, she has taught the UK and international pole dance industry so much in terms of sex worker rights, how to pay respect to the founders of our industry and how to help UK strip clubs to remain open. Part of the Northern Sex Workers Collective, she has been campaigning against strip club closures across the United Kingdom and has been creating sex-positive and sex worker positive offline and online spaces for every pole dancer who wants to listen.
Gemma Rose and I have exchanged many IG DMs and passionate voice notes, and she’s someone I really admire – not just because of her activism, but also because of her killer moves. And yet, somehow, she remains humble and she’s one of the easiest people to chat with in our industry. So without further ado, get to know Gemma if you don’t already… and really, have you been living under a rock?
Gemma Rose’s pole dancing career
Gemma Rose describes her dancing style as “sensual strippery goodness, the sluttiest it gets, all the eye fuckery and undulations,” which, in my humble opinion, is life. Her style, I think, reflects her training: she learnt from none other than the iconic Doris Arnold at Le Studio Françoise, in Paris.
Teaching wise, Gemma Rose and I have had a similar journey. She started teaching around the same time as me – 2019 – when she became an instructor at Off The Ground Pole Dance in Sheffield, the studio she now calls her pole home. Teaching gives Gemma Rose great joy: “Helping students get in touch with their sexuality and finding ways of how they want to sexually express themselves is everything to me. My class atmosphere is usually super sexy but a great laugh at the same time!”
Like me, she thinks she owes her teaching success to the pandemic. She says:
“It’s been hard on so many of us, including myself. However, I feel the industry stopped, took a big breath and has allowed for new people to step forwards into the limelight via social media. People started to notice me mostly for my activism work and then a few stuck around for my dancing and teaching I guess!”@gemmarosepole
Gemma Rose adds:
“I totally didn’t expect to be joined by people from all over the world – like you, [people] in the Netherlands / Australia / America have heard of me?! Something about being confined to our homes had allowed the elitism in our industry to dissipate and people wanted to learn authentic stripper shit from a stripper that also has a pretty loud voice about sex worker rights.”@gemmarosepole
Gemma Rose’s online classes did so well that she set up a Buy Me A Coffee profile (the same platform I use to sell my tutorials, a very similar set up as Patreon but more flexible) so that people could access recordings, and that helped her grow even more. She used her BMC to campaign to reach the goals of paying her bills each month. “And fuck, the people came through for me and some,” she says, grateful of the support. Teaching online during the pandemic gave Gemma the opportunity to perform in online shows and teach online guest classes and camps.
Since studios have started to reopen, Gemma has been traveling to different locations for workshops, a dream that she never thought would come true so soon. She says:
“I’ve managed to build the start of my dream career during perhaps one of the most globally difficult climates we will ever see. I’m shocked, I’m proud of myself, I am grateful to every person who has supported me. Thank you for this award *kisses trophy*.”@gemmarosepole
Managing teaching during these uncertain times was a challenge at first, especially with the constant threat of further lockdowns looming. But with studios reopening, Gemma Rose reduced multiple weekly online classes to the odd zoom workshop, and then stopped running live online classes when in-studio teaching seemed to fully come back. She says:
“I’ve kept teaching for studios that have me as an online instructor, as promoting my online classes would have been too much on top of teaching in person again. I felt pretty sad that I wouldn’t be seeing my regular online lot each week, but they still have my Buy Me A Coffee recordings and I get to see students via online privates too! I genuinely love teaching online and it suits my teaching style really well. Both online and in person have their benefits and I would like to continue both.”@gemmarosepole
Gemma Rose and stripping
The many people who know Gemma Rose as a staunch sex worker rights supporter may be surprised about her ‘origin story,’ and about the fact she became a stripper after she took up pole as a hobby.
“This may come as a big shock to many, but when I first started pole I was actually SWERF (Sex Worker Exclusive Radical Feminist, aka anti-sex work) AF. Yep, I was that bitch saying how it was pole fitness and how strippers were giving us a bad name and it’s a sport now and did you actually know pole came from Indian men *vomit*. I am never ashamed to admit that this is where I started, it gives me the hope that others are capable of the growing process I went through.”@gemmarosepole
She links these beliefs to the places where she started learning pole, which she said were anti-SWer spaces. Luckily for all of us who know and love her as the filthy activist she is, at university Gemma Rose was introduced to the sexy side of pole and was absorbed in a super SWer inclusive space, which made her do a 180 degree turn.
Her new environment made her re-evaluate her beliefs around the relationship between pole and sex work. She says: “I remember going back to my first studio in the holidays, stripper heels in hand and the studio owner saying something like, ‘We don’t wear trashy whore shoes here.’ And I was like yeeeahhhh…I’m never coming back here!”
It was at university that she decided to go into stripping, pretty soon after her epiphany. She was paying for her studies and supporting herself by working as a cleaner in McDonald’s. At that time, she had recently delved into the sexy side of pole more and was really enjoying it. It was time to change jobs. She says:
“The Maccy’s job was simply horrible – cleaning up a variety of bodily fluids and dealing with shitty customers for minimum wage was not the dream. It was my mum who suggested that I should try stripping! She said how good I was at pole and how beautiful I am (bless her, slightly biased opinion) and that I could make way more money doing something pretty glamorous.”@gemmarosepole
We love a supportive mum! Of course, Gemma Rose then found that there were a lot of inaccurate myths and beliefs about being a stripper, but just like with many other jobs, you find those out only once you’re working. She says:
“Yeah I was decent at pole, but it’s not the part of the job that earns you money in the UK, it’s the lap dances. Yeah I was beautiful (according to my mother), but that doesn’t mean you know how to sell yourself or talk to customers. Yeah on the surface the job seems glamorous, but you only need to work one shift to see that it really isn’t. I didn’t know these things, but I’m lucky that I fell in love with the job for what it really is. Three years later, I’m still dealing with a variety of bodily fluids and shitty customers, but at least I’m getting properly compensated for it most of the time!”@gemmarosepole
Gemma Rose now says she feels like she has “amnesia” about her old self. She can’t relate to her anymore, and even though she was anti-sex work in the past, she can’t relate to SWERFs either, because she views that part of her as “dead”.
Sometimes, being a stripper makes her want to both abandon and change the pole industry from within. She says: “Not a single day goes by that I don’t see something problematic with how the pole industry interacts with strippers, it’s incredibly draining for me.”
But Gemma Rose is now being selective with the battles she picks, and wants to help towards this much-needed change. She adds that she feels optimistic about pole being more sex worker inclusive: “It isn’t all bad though, I am so grateful for many individuals and companies in the industry that advocate for us and elevate our voices. I’ve been very lucky to interact with mostly supportive polers who are on-board with my journey and value what I preach.”
Her now fiancé is an important source of support in both her dancing and her activism. After a very emosh and cinematic engagement – more of that in the post embedded below – Gemma Rose, her partner Brandon and her cat Ducky (essentially a pole cat-fluencer) have a lot to teach us in terms of being supportive family members for pole dancers and sex workers.
Gemma Rose says: “I am THE luckiest girl in the world, my fiancé and the Duck are my everything. The most important element in any relationship is communication, this is absolutely crucial when you are conducting a hobby or doing a job which is linked to severe societal stigma.”
This is the secret of her relationship with Brandon, so much that her hobby (and then work) have never been a problem for them. Brandon is a dancer himself – they met through salsa – so he really appreciates the art in what Gemma does and respects it.
“When I was first considering entering sex work, I told him immediately and we had a great conversation,” she says. “I said I was thinking about trying stripping and how he’d feel about that, I’ll never forget his reply. ‘I don’t feel great about it, but that’s my problem, not yours. I will deal with that. It’s your body, if you want to do it, I support you.'”
What did it for him, Gemma thinks, was how she talked about the job: he saw she enjoyed it and that customers were just customers. “Bringing home the equivalent of a month of his wages in one night didn’t hurt his perspective either!” she says. “‘Sex work is work’ has so many different meanings, this is one of them. I see a lot of sex workers’ partners who unfortunately don’t understand what we do is a job. Brandon really gets it and it’s been a pleasure to bring him along beside me on my allyship and activism journey.”
Gemma Rose and activism
Gemma Rose is Vice Chair of the Northern Sex Workers Collective. She joined Toni Misty, the Chair who I interviewed earlier this year, right at the beginning, when she founded the collective. The NSWCUK was mostly born out of a lack of united response to Blackpool Council pushing for a nil cap on strip clubs (basically banning Blackpool strip clubs). There was a petition to oppose this, but it barely got any responses. Gemma Rose says:
“This made us realise that there wasn’t much unity or networking in the north among sex workers, nor an organisation driving for change in the north to advocate for sex workers. So Toni formed the NSWC to fight for sex worker spaces, to drive further change in sex work policy and to provide northern sex workers with community and support.”@gemmarosepole
Gemma joined in to help Misty out. From the get-go, they both worked tirelessly on the Blackpool public consultation and organised their first fundraising showcase – the fantastic Norty Northies, which I also joined and which was a massive success. The NSWCUK now have funds to drive the collective forward and take action on Blackpool when the time is right.
For the NSWCUK, Gemma Rose has been heading the creation of community support networks. She says:
“It has been incredible to grow our northern sex worker family. Even though this is only the beginning for us, you can tell how much this group means to our members. If we’ve had a bad day at work we can talk to each other, if we need SW related advice we’re there for each other, we celebrate our successes. I’m really excited to build on this wonderfully supportive group of people, get in touch with more sex workers and offer as much support as possible in all kinds of ways!”@gemmarosepole
Building communities is, of course, increasingly hard as a sex worker. Gemma Rose’s Instagram profile was deleted last summer, greatly affecting her ability to organise – so much that even her back-up accounts were often deleted and/or under threat of deletion.
Luckily, through what looks like a mix between community support and some of my chats with IG, her profile came back – inexplicably so, after we were told it wouldn’t be. Yet, whatever the reason, one thing is certain: Gemma Rose is back on the ‘Gram, she’s more outspoken and filthier than ever, and we’re all better people just because we get to hear from here.
Where to find (and support) Gemma Rose
- Gemma is just about to launch her permanent online home at http://www.gemmarose.co.uk, something she worked really hard on after she was made “Internet homeless” when IG deleted her account
- You can buy her classes on Buy Me A Coffee here and in-person workshops here
- Look out for her merch line (which will be available to buy on her website)
- You may (or may not, depending on Insta’s whims) be able to find Gemma on IG under her various accounts: @gemmarosepole, @gemmarosedancer, @gemmarosedancerr
- Follow her modelling account @arieltaylormodel (her modelling name)
- Find her on OF at Twinkle Toes
- Follow the NSWCUK here
- Gemma REALLY wants you to look at Bristol’s public consultation to save their strip clubs. There’s an open letter to sign here and a survey to complete here.