Nicole The Pole interview

Nicole The Pole is a professional pole dancer with a career to die for: Rhianna made it rain on her in the Pour It Up video, she has appeared on everything from The Ellen Show to Access Hollywood, and has starred in music videos for the likes of Bruno Mars, Ne-Yo and Cardi B. This year, she has been uniting the pole community as the lead performer during Snoop Dogg’s world tour, hiring pole dancers across the world to join her onstage with the legendary artist. Please enjoy my massive fangirl moment as I chat with Nicole about her pole career, the story behind the ‘Nicole The Pole’ moniker, her advice for performers and her all-round wholesome energy.  

Who is Nicole The Pole?

Nicole The Pole is 42-years-young and has been pole dancing for 16 years – in fact, she thinks the day we spoke (May 2nd) is her 16th pole dance anniversary. A professional pole dance performer, instructor, life coach, Reiki practitioner, sound bowl healer and all-around legend, Nicole The Pole is up there with the stars who have made an impact on the pole dance industry.

“I’m everything mind, body, spirit and I love empowering people,” says Nicole when I ask her to describe herself. She’s about “being good energy, bringing happiness and joy,” and watch this space, because the theme of energy and joy is going to be recurring throughout our chat. Nicole embodies good energy, and that good energy comes back to her. 

Nicole’s main business is pole. She was the first African American to create a pole dance instructional DVD series. She now mainly teaches clients from home, where she has four poles, after having closed her two Los Angeles studios, Allure Dance and Fitness, in 2016 to focus on performances and 1-1s. She also does pole parties, music videos and TV shows. 

After an intense month of touring, the LA-based pole dancer is finally getting to enjoy some well-deserved quality time with family and friends. “I’m currently in Atlanta. I came here to visit some friends and I’m taking my mum to a Jill Scott concert tomorrow,” she tells me when we first start speaking on Zoom.

I caught her during this very rare down time, after her whirlwind, Insta-famous, month-long Snoop Dogg world tour, which took her to 21 cities and which turned her from performer to agent, creating opportunities for pole dancers all over the world to bring their passion to international arenas with an iconic artist. This article is her story, sprinkled with her advice and her coaching – something every pole dancer needs to grow both as a performer and as a person.

Nicole The Pole shot by Sean McMahon – @seandotcomm – during Snoop Dogg’s Dublin show

Nicole meets The Pole 

Nicole’s first encounter with pole dancing was at a house party, where someone set up a stripper pole and she saw some girls doing tricks. She knew she just had to start doing pole from the moment she saw them: “I was like, ‘That looks like something I can do,’ you know, being an athlete. I loved flipping on monkey bars already, so I asked them to show me a couple of tricks.” 

When the girls showed her some tricks, she knew she had to take it up. “I thought it was amazing. I don’t even know what it looked like because it wasn’t like there was a mirror in the room. There wasn’t even a video of it – this was in 2007, there were no camera phones back then!”

A few months later, she talked a friend into buying a pole for his house so she could practise, and then got her own home pole, to teach herself in her living room and from videos on YouTube.

How Nicole became Nicole the Pole

Having a pole in your house wasn’t common in the 2000s, but if it’s a thing now it’s also because Nicole The Pole was the person bringing poles to houses at house parties. “I was the person going to people’s homes for a normal party and being like, can I set up my pole? And they’d say yes, and so I became the person in LA known as the girl who was always setting up her pole everywhere.” 

The name “Nicole The Pole” was born. Nicole doesn’t fully remember how it all began, or who first came up with the name, but she is pretty sure it started on Facebook. 

“Somebody said it one day, in one of my posts or something, and then a lot of people started commenting on it, like, ‘That’s funny,’ or ‘That’s a cool name.’ And then I don’t know how it stuck, but it stuck. One day I just changed that on my Facebook and my name became Nicole the Pole Williams – and it has stuck since then.” 

Nicole The Pole

Bringing poles to houses was how Nicole sparked people’s interest in pole dancing. “I wanted people to see how cool and fun it was,” she says. “You didn’t have to come to a class, but at least you had an opportunity to do it in a different setting, at someone’s house where maybe you wouldn’t feel so insecure about doing it.” 

Nicole essentially wanted people to see how fun pole dancing can be, with no judgement or expectations: “Like, see? You can do cool tricks and things that you don’t normally think are possible. I love for people to be able to see they are strong enough.” 

“Most people, and particularly women, say, ‘Oh, I don’t have the upper body strength,’” Nicole says. “And I’m like, that’s a lie. Stop saying that because you’re really plenty strong.”

Nicole The Pole’s dancing style

“I am a sporty, sexy entertainer,” Nicole The Pole says about her pole dancing style. She has always been strong and fit, but she was not a trained dancer when she took up pole. 

“I wish I knew how to ‘for real’ dance,” she says, laughing, making inverted commas with her fingers. “I’m just now starting to take dance classes and it’s been 16 years [since I started pole]. Like, I wish I would have done it before because I see so many amazing movers and I’m like, I wish I could move like that. I feel so stiff!” 

Read that? Even someone as fierce as Nicole The Pole faces challenges when pole dancing or dancing. “I was strong and I could do the tricks, but it didn’t look cute when I first started,” she says – a reminder that everyone, even your idols, are working on something and have struggled with pole. And that’s ok, Nicole says: “You can look a little messy [when you learn]” she says “and you’re going to.” 

She adds: “I had to learn how to be a little more fluid in my body, and to move slower, and to point the toes – that was the stuff that was hard for me when I first began. And even now I’m still working on slowing down, on looking a little softer.” 

Still, these challenges shouldn’t stop you: “I tell people it doesn’t matter,” she says about having a trained dance background. “I’m not a dancer, but I’m a dancer because I move my body. I don’t have a skilled vocabulary in the mechanics of dance, but I have a skilled background in the movement of the body, as an athlete.” 

“I love the style of dancer that I am, because I feel like I resonate with anyone else who doesn’t have the softness. I’m the tomboy. So if you’re the tomboy, you’re going to resonate with me. If you’re the person who doesn’t have a dance background, you’re going to resonate with me. So even though I want to add that in, I still like that the focus and the core of who I am is a ‘not a dancer’ person who became a pole dancer.”

Nicole The Pole

Pour It Up

Everyone’s pole journey is different and, like many of the polers I admire the most, Nicole The Pole’s career was made by being an entertainer instead of going through the conventional competition route. Her career highlights are a showreel of iconic moments, but she cites Rihanna’s Pour It Up video as her big break. “Because of that job,” she says, “I’m still booking jobs – because someone saw me in the Rihanna video. That is just amazing.”

At the time, the video’s production team hired her pole dance studio for auditions, so Nicole asked if she could audition for the video too. She auditioned, and ended up getting the gig. 

“It didn’t seem like a big thing at the time,” Nicole tells me, as we look back to her breakthrough performance. “It just seemed like a video, but because my audition video went viral, it led to more publicity. It was unexpected.” When she talks about it, you can really hear her commitment to attracting good energy. 

“That was just one of those things where if you follow your passion and you do what you love, amazing things come your way. If that can happen because someone else sees something in you, like… for Rihanna to see something in me from watching my audition video and to decide to pick me, and then for them to put out my audition video before the [official] video release and highlight me, that’s insane.”

Nicole The Pole

Nicole The Pole finds her career a blessing, but she worked for it. She earned it, and keeps attracting – and creating, and giving – opportunities together with that good energy. 

Nicole’s career highlights

When I ask Nicole The Pole about the other highlights in her pole career, I can’t help but think she’s not just part of the history of pole – she has made the history of music and pop culture as well. In an industry and a world that often erases Black women’s contribution to our history, Nicole is that history. 

“When I think about the Snoop Dogg tour – that just freaking happened! It was an international tour, which I had never done. I had toured with Snoop before, but it was in California. To have gone out of the country, seeing all these different places and to meet all these different people from around the world… That’s still mind blowing to me!”

Nicole The Pole

The Snoop Dogg tour was a full circle moment for Nicole, taking her to perform at the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam, where she’d previously performed with Bruno Mars. But her resume is so insane that she sometimes remembers just 10 percent of her achievements. From the Ellen Show to Access Hollywood, from helping Dominique Fishback and a series of actresses with their pole dance scenes for TV and film, from the Rihanna music video to a series of other video credits, I don’t blame her faltering memory. It’s a lot to remember!

Yet, despite the impressive performing CV, it’s her everyday interactions with students that she cites as one of the highlights of her career: “The real highlight is just teaching everyday women and having my studio. To see people who were students of mine who are still pole dancing today really touches me.”  

The friendships, the everyday interactions coming out of her studio are as important as the world tours: “To see people become best friends, to see friendships that were formed out of my studio and that those people still know each other, that’s huge for me.” She adds:

“It’s not about putting all your energy into trying to work with a celebrity – that’s not where 90% of your work is going to come from, it’s going to be everyday people that book you. Those are going to be your biggest jobs. The celebrity stuff seems cool, like, it’s cool to say you did it, but it’s not the stuff that’s going to feed your soul. And it’s the real people who are the ones that pay your bills.”

Nicole The Pole

Booking dancers for Snoop Dogg’s world tour

If you follow any pole dancers on Instagram, you probably noticed that throughout February and March 2023 there was one topic dominating our conversations – and that, for once, it wasn’t the Instagram shadowban. It was Nicole The Pole’s call for auditions for Snoop Dogg’s world tour, where she was not only the lead performer, but where she also took charge of booking four to five pole dancers for each show in each and everyone of those 21 cities. This was another full circle moment for Nicole. 

“Dirdy Birdy was one of the first people that I used to watch on YouTube back in the day [when I was teaching myself how to pole dance through tutorials]. She was one of the first people that I contacted when I found out that I was going to be booking the Snoop Dogg tour. I was like, I have to book her. Like, she’s kinda the reason that I pulled it off, you know what I mean? I love that I had the opportunity to do that.” 

Nicole The Pole
Nicole The Pole shot by Sean McMahon – @seandotcomm – during Snoop Dogg’s Dublin show

Even before this tour, Nicole had already had a lot of experience booking dancers, something she has always loved doing: “I love booking dancers because I love providing opportunity and being able to coach the dancers on what to expect from performances, and to also create additional opportunities for themselves.” She adds:

“I’ve always booked other dancers for jobs that I’ve been booked for, or things that I’ve maybe turned down or that I’ve not been available for. So I feel like that’s why I was even blessed with the opportunity to do that on such a large scale, because they liked the dancers that I picked for the West Coast shows. So anytime Snoop had shows on the West Coast, management would always have me book those dancers.” 

Nicole The Pole

Still, despite rumours or gossip, Nicole didn’t book people based on who they were, or on their social media following. “I literally booked people based on: did I feel that they met the criteria to dance on stage with Snoop Dogg? It didn’t matter what style you were.” 

Some people may have posted that they felt uncomfortable with Nicole not booking strippers for the tour, but she says: 

“What gave you the idea that I didn’t book strippers? That means you probably don’t follow strippers, because I’ve booked a lot of strippers, but I didn’t book people based on them being strippers or pole dancers. I booked them for being a great performer for that stage.”

Nicole The Pole

After all, not all strippers are out as strippers, and as a result, not all strippers have huge social media followings, or are ‘big names’ in the pole industry. 

“People think they weren’t booked because they weren’t showing up for people on their feed. And I’m like, you just don’t follow them. But if I were to post everybody that I booked, then you would have known – I just wasn’t posting a lot just because I was so busy” I was only reposting what other people were posting. I still have so much footage that I haven’t even seen on my phone!”  

Nicole The Pole

Behind the scenes: Nicole’s booking process

Nicole The Pole took her booking job very seriously. She’d go through videos marking them as a ‘no’, a ‘maybe’ and a ‘hell yes!’ The ‘hell yes’ would be the people called for interviews. “Where I was like, they’re good, but felt like a maybe, I’d just feel them out energy-wise and talk to them about what it takes, and sometimes I’d even have people do another video.”

She wasn’t worried about picking out dancers: she knew that people who auditioned could do their tricks, but having entertainer energy was what cut it. “One of the most important things is that Snoop Dogg wants great athletes, but he also wants you to know how to interact and how to entertain too.”

Nicole kept looking until she found the right dancers, but ended up having over 600 submissions at the end of the tour. “A lot of people came very, very, very late. So like, the last 200 probably weren’t seen unless they were in a smaller city.” 

In cities like Berlin there were only about 30 to 40 submissions, allowing Nicole to go through them all, but in places like London or Australia there were too many submissions for one person to go through. “I probably had picked my choices before I could even go through them all, and I wasn’t about to look at everybody. It was first come, first served,” Nicole says.

The challenges of performing on stage with an artist 

Throughout the tour, Nicole The Pole loved creating opportunities for other pole dancers to shine and share their passion. Ever the life coach, she always gave a big speech before the performances to help people bring their all. Still, she knew it challenging for some people to bring it to the stage, as it was their first time dancing for such a big crowd, with such a big name. 

“It’s not as easy as one would think to perform on a big stage and to be able to connect and really show what they can do. Like, sometimes I think you need that second opportunity to settle in. I gave some people second opportunities because I knew they were good, but they just didn’t get it the first time. But I feel like that once you go through it, you’re kind of like, oh, now I get what to do! I can actually just be my fucking self. 

Yes, be yourself, perform to the music! Don’t try to do all these fancy tricks. I was like, nobody cares about that – it’s not a competition. If you do that, you’re going to be disconnected. You’re going to have your cute footage for Instagram, but it’s not going to have appeared cute to myself and to the people actually watching.”

Nicole The Pole
Nicole The Pole shot by Sean McMahon – @seandotcomm – during Snoop Dogg’s Dublin show

What makes a great stage performer according to Nicole The Pole

During the Snoop tour, Nicole The Pole’s audition page highlighted that she was looking for entertainers, not for a pole dance competition performance. For Nicole, a competition is very structured, whereas performances are more open and fluid. They’re a moment in time where it’s crucial to be able to interact with the crowd and the artist… which is harder to do at a competition because you’re focusing on getting your routine right. 

“The difference for me is that for a performance, you’re doing your own thing, bringing your own energy, while a competition kind of puts you in a box – you’re having to hit certain moves. You have to do everything perfectly. And you’re performing in a way that’s all on you as well, it’s just you on that stage. 

When you’re performing with an artist, it’s not just about you – you’re the addition to the show, and then you’re performing to this big arena, while a competition is a more intimate crowd.”

Nicole The Pole

When you perform with and for an artist, Nicole says you’ve got to be able to step out of your usual style to match the music. Musicality is something we returned to often in our interview because, according to Nicole, Snoop Dogg is a challenging artist to pole dance to. He used to have back-up dancers before instead of pole dancers, meaning they would have choreographed routines that would go with the music.

So the challenge for pole dancers this time was: could they match Snoop’s songs, even when they weren’t slow, sensual vibes? “That was why I had people make audition videos to an actual Snoop Dogg song, because if I went based on the videos that they submitted, there’s a lot of people that I wouldn’t have booked.” She adds: 

“A lot of people didn’t get that. I know a lot of people felt like, how come she’s booking, how come I’m not booking? And it’s just that your style has to match the artist and the music that you’re dancing to. You can’t just be like, ‘I’m great, I can do these amazing tricks’ – if your performance doesn’t go with the music, if you bust out these amazing tricks but there’s no musicality, it doesn’t look like you’re connected and it doesn’t work.”

Nicole The Pole

Preparing to pole dance for a world tour

But nevermind the booking, the travelling, the organising – no mean feat, of course – but how do you actually prepare to be on stage with Snoop Dogg, around the world, every damn night

“The only way to be in shape for that is you actually have to perform,” Nicole The Pole tells me, adding that at some point she had to train for stamina:

“Before the tour I’d done a few performances, and I trained with my clients regularly. But a couple weeks before I actually was like, OK, I need to start doing some pole jams. I needed to start getting my endurance up. Because the beautiful thing is, adrenaline kind of takes care of a lot of it, but over time, you have to have that stamina.”

Nicole The Pole

The rest is about pacing yourself. “With a show like that, you can’t bust out your best tricks in your first performance because you’re going to be dead,” she says. Snoop Dog had 21 shows in 32 days, and during the first half of the tour Nicole The Pole performed to all the songs. That meant dancing to eight or nine songs per show, which doesn’t sound like a lot… but if you think that one song is three to four minutes and that most pole dancers are dead after performing one song at a competition, you’ll reconsider. 

Towards the second half of the tour, Nicole started doing just a few songs instead of all of them, focusing on her favourites – The Next Episode and Sensual Seduction – which gave her the chance to book more pole dancers and to give more dancers opportunities, also allowing polers to dance to the songs that worked best with their style. 

Then there’s the lifestyle change to consider. One of Nicole’s biggest challenges was carrying all her luggage around. “I literally brought 90% of what I didn’t need. Like, I didn’t realise I really wouldn’t be wearing clothes most days! I was in my Snoop Dogg sweatshirt and sweats every day.”

She was, however, mostly able to adjust to the schedule due to experience and the right mindset. “In October I did a tour with Omarion, a bus tour where we went to visit different historic Black colleges,” she says. “That was the universe setting me up for practice to do this tour.”

So what does the tour life look like? Nicole says: 

“You’ve got to get up early, be at the lobby at a certain time in the morning, be on the bus, you’re driving all day, go to a hotel, get back up and do it again. So I got in the rhythm of doing that for a month and when I was told about the tour, the only thing was probably just getting up early, and the flights – that’s a lot of time that’s taken from you that you can’t do anything with. 

So instead of being able to tour the city, you just nap. I slept when I could sleep. I did Reiki on myself every day, which I feel really kept me balanced and sane and kept my sleep in check – anytime it was time to go to sleep, I was able to go to sleep. My eating was really good. They always had catering at the venues and we always had really good dinners. I think about a month is what a person could handle, but probably a second month, I probably would have been like, enough.”

Nicole The Pole

Setting boundaries while booking and touring 

During the Snoop tour, everybody was watching Nicole The Pole’s stories, following her around virtually, finding out what she was up to and hoping to find out more about how to get booked. I noticed her very firm but polite boundary-setting about when, how and if she was going to respond to DMs which, as someone who struggles to set boundaries with followers, made me immediately like her more. So how do you set boundaries when everyone wants a piece of you for different reasons?

Nicole says she felt like setting boundaries publicly through those posts was the right thing to do. “I knew that energy would pass itself around,” she says. “So maybe if another friend was gonna go be like, OK, ‘I’m gonna message Nicole The Pole,’ somebody else could be like, ‘No, don’t do that.’” 

She adds: “I’m very big on energy, so I know I can say something into the universe and it’ll get out there. I did that for the tour because I couldn’t individually respond to each person in my DM and do my life and be on tour – there was no way.”

The best, conscious decision made to keep her peace and sanity was learning she didn’t have to respond. Nicole says:

“That was me in that moment going, ‘Just because someone can message me it doesn’t mean they have access to me and my energy.’ I had to get very clear on that, and I did. And then that left me at peace. And it also made people stop coming to my DMs.”

Nicole The Pole

Attracting opportunities 

Nicole was equally graceful and positive in explaining that not everyone can book every gig – something that I really resonated when I personally didn’t get the Snoop gig. I loved hearing her say in a post that if you can’t get the gig, it means it’s not the right time. It says nothing about you as a dancer, and more about whether you were right for that specific gig. In my case, I knew it wasn’t the right time, but I did to avoid regretting not trying. 

“Everybody can’t book everything. Like let’s say 100 people submitted for the London show – 100 people can’t book it, I can only book four to six. One job doesn’t mean anything: you can book that job, but there’s going to be another job that you don’t book so… what? You were amazing because you booked Snoop Dogg, but you’re going to say you’re not amazing because you don’t book the next thing? Or just because you don’t book the Snoop job doesn’t mean you’re not the fucking best pole dancer ever. There were a lot of amazing people that didn’t book the job.” 

Nicole The Pole

Still, there is a mindset that Nicole has found to be particularly successful in her career. Her ultimate tip for performers looking to attract opportunities is to get in the zone, she argues. 

“The thing that needed to happen for everybody was to get excited to audition. Because if you want to book jobs in the future, you’ve got to be ready. So if anything, people have got to get in the practice of getting ready: what does it take if another opportunity like this comes around? What do you need to do? What do you need to have in your back pocket? What do you need to know? Which zone should you get in? And I think that is the good thing that everybody should take from this experience.”

Nicole The Pole

This readiness for opportunities is a mindset that Nicole The Pole gets from and brings to her coaching. She says: 

“I feel like I create a lot of these opportunities because of what I’m writing down for myself and then the universe makes that shit happen outside of me. I heard a lot of people on tour say, ‘These opportunities don’t come around here.’ And I’m like, well, maybe because you guys keep saying that, because artists travel around the world, so there’s always the opportunity available. 

But if you’re saying these opportunities don’t happen for us, you’re the person that’s going to then miss it. Because it doesn’t happen for you. That’s the affirmation that you’re saying. But if you have someone like me that says opportunities come my way everyday, I’m booking tours and music videos and opportunities with my favourite artists, that is a different energy that now allows things to come into your space. So that’s really what I want to be able to teach people.”

Nicole The Pole

What’s next for Nicole The Pole

When I asked Nicole The Pole about what’s next for her, I wasn’t prepared for the answer she was gonna give me. “So I’ve just choreographed something for Beyonce’s tour,” she says, as I let out an excited scream – I’ve got tickets to that tour! I will be able to see that! 

Nicole is super humble about it though. The news is out this week, but when we chatted she wasn’t sure her bit of the choreo was going to be used. “I can’t say what part [of the gig I choreographed.]” she says. “I don’t know if it’s going to be used – I did it a while ago. I need to wait for someone to see the tour and then I’ll be able to see if they used it and say, ‘That was me!’”

And it was her!

As she was asked to teach eight of Beyoncé’s dancers, Nicole asked another iconic pole dancer, Anna Kia (@itsbaelienbish) to work as her assistant to help but, she says, they only had 90 minutes. “I was like, oh my God, how much can I teach in 90 minutes – especially if I got to spot people and stuff. But they’re all trained dancers. They all picked it up really, really good. So that was really awesome.” 

Choreographing for Beyoncé is for sure another career highlight Nicole The Pole can add to her already incredible list of achievements, but after a whirlwind of a world tour, she’s now looking to tour for herself. She’d like to do more workshops for pole dance, coaching and spiritual practices like Reiki or sound bowl healing, so anyone interested in booking her should get in touch via her website or social media.  

Nicole’s life is a wholesome blend of pole and coaching, each feeding into one another. There was a time when she thought she had to give one of them up, but has since then blended the two.

“There was a moment when I thought I had to choose between going more into my coaching and leave pole. I was like, ‘Will people take me seriously as a coach if I’m doing pole?’ I went through a little depression while trying, I was very distraught. And I was talking to a friend yesterday who remembers having that conversation with me. She was like, you can do both. I had so many friends around me who knew me at my core. They were like, that’s what makes you you, do that shit. 

I can’t believe that I ever doubted that. I want to work with people who understand that this is just my activity. You ain’t got to choose it, but this is another thing that I do: a coach is who I am; pole what I do for fun and to keep myself in shape and to empower people. It’s almost like it gives me the ability to tap into people through something that maybe they wouldn’t have gotten through coaching alone. They wouldn’t have got that had they not come to someone who’s also a pole dancer.”

Nicole The Pole

So as part of her coaching, another next step for Nicole is moving into the retreat business – and her first retreat is October 14-20 in Bali. 

“I would love for people to join me on that trip. This is going to be about taking a vacation. I’m 42, but just now, over the last eight to 10 years, I’m starting to travel more often. Especially going on this tour, and seeing so many beautiful places that I would have never thought to go to, has made me wish for people to get out the country to see other beautiful places, and this is what this retreat is about. It’s about seeing something outside of where you normally go with other like-minded people.”

Nicole The Pole

Nicole is also doing coaching workshops at the Black Girls Pole retreat. For Sergia Louise Anderson she did a workshop called ‘How to go from student to performer and manifest dream opportunities,’ something she’s going to repeat virtually and offline in various locations to coach people to get ready. “That’s how you create opportunities,” she says. “It’s by doing the thing that you say you love versus waiting for something to come your way.

Entertainer, performer, teacher, coach, healer, opportunity-maker and all around good energy: that’s who Nicole The Pole is, and that’s how doing this interview felt. Hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as I’ve loved writing it.

Where to find Nicole The Pole

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