Rachael Gisella is Jamaican born, London bred full-time pole instructor and performer now based in Lisbon. Known for all things choreography and low flow, Rachael has become an almost instant pole star: a world class performer who has pole danced for Blackstage, Snoop Dogg and Burna Boy and a fellow Pole Junkie ambassador, she is everywhere and I, for one, can’t stop watching. I have had the chance to hang out with Rachael – although not as much as I would have liked because I stopped teaching and she moved to Portugal – for the first time when she joined the Akila Pole Studio instructor team when I was a full-time instructor. Since then, I’ve been in awe of her drive, her rise to pole stardom and her good vibes, so I’m super excited to finally have her on the blog!
Who is Rachael Gisella?
For someone who has only been pole dancing since 2020 (!!!! – more on that later), Rachael Gisella already has career highlights to die for. The winner of ExoGen UK New Face Flow as well as one of the performers chosen by Nicole The Pole to pole dance for Snoop Dogg, Rachael has since been booked to perform for Burna Boy and has been teaching both offline and for a series of high-profile online teaching platforms, such as Team Basework and Pole Dance Academy Online.
When I ask Rachael to describe her signature dance style, she says:
“I have quite a varied style due to enjoying dancing to different genres and tempos of music. When I first started pole dancing I had more of an affinity for dynamic up tempo music and that reflected in my movement also. As of late I’ve enjoyed slowing it down a bit, and see my style as a mix of the sensuality of old school and with a foundation of flow style movement and transitions. I love a good tilt and spreadie, all things splitty and body waves and head rolls are my bag!”@rachaelgisella
She adds: “I have a strong focus on musicality and like to incorporate sensuality and dynamic movement into my pieces. I’m also all about the face and love to engage and entertain an audience through my use of facial expressions!”
And ain’t that the truth: Rachael’s expressions were the first thing that caught my eye after her stunning movement. I thought, here’s a performer who loves what she is doing. So what’s her story? How did she get here?
Rachael Gisella before pole dancing
Although she says she hasn’t gone to any fancy dance school, Rachael has been dancing since the age of three. She took ballet, tap and freestyle on the weekends at her local community hall until she was 11 years old, and did dance exams and performances through these classes.
When Rachael started secondary school, she continued doing dance at school as a mandatory class. She took a performing arts Business and Technology Education Council qualification alongside her GCSEs which included drama, music and dance, meaning she continued dancing until her mid-teens.
“Unfortunately my dance journey ended there,” she says, “but you could still catch dancing and making videos in precarious places all throughout university – from on top of taxis in Lan Kwai Fong, Hong Kong, to the beach or even the library.”
On top of this, Rachael, took up cheerleading at university, which helped her work on her flexibility too.
Rachael Gisella’s pole dance journey
Rachael found out about pole dancing in her first year of university, when searching to see what societies to join. “I was immediately interested as it sounded like a bit of me, but unfortunately I had just joined the cheerleading team and it clashed with pole soc” she says.
She didn’t forget about it though. In November 2019 her partner bought her a home pole. She says:
“I’m very extra, and he said that’s the new thing I’m going to be into (apparently just attending a class wasn’t enough haha). However, I never ended up using it or attending classes, so it gathered dust in the middle of my tiny room. I’m a major procrastinator, and have ADHD so it’s often difficult for me to even do the things I want to do, but I did believe that one day I would give it a real go.”@rachaelgisella
It was March 2020 when Rachael finally booked herself into a four-week course at a nearby studio, but it wasn’t to be: after only one class, the course was cancelled due to lockdowns. Although all home poles were out of stock, Rachael still had her home pole. She had taken some time off from her job to pursue learning to code, but she quickly went “from coding to poling” after finding a set of videos to learn from.
“I was training for a few hours every single day throughout all of lockdown – it was so fun and I was obsessed!” she says. She also used Insta a lot to discover more dancers, and was inspired by Daphne Lux, with whom she began training and who she credits for her love of choreo and low flow. “I would wake up at 3am every week to take classes with her throughout the whole of lockdown, sometimes more than once a week!” Rachael says, arguing that having access to some of the best dancers worldwide was a big reason for her ability to progress quickly in pole.
Once the lockdowns ended, life got in the way of Rachael’s pole journey. She attended some in-person classes, but found it difficult to find something at the right level due having progressed so much at home. She had to take break from pole, too, in September 2020 to heal an ankle injury.
In January 2021, Rachael came back to pole thanks to a change in jobs that included an online training from home. She says: “I was once in my heels and bodysuit getting ready to film a video when I got a call on Teams and she made me put my camera on, I’ve never rushed to find suitable clothing to cover up more than that time!”
From pole hobbyist to pole professional
By late 2021, Rachael had realised she wanted to do pole professionally. She says:
“I never felt like my previous jobs aligned with me or what I wanted for my future, and I was always searching for more. My heart has always belonged to the more creative roles and disciplines, but I ended up only pursuing academic subjects.
“I’ve also always wanted to teach, so when I saw fellow dancers on IG making waves in the industry as teachers and performers it felt like the perfect combination of things I loved to do. I was inspired by both you and Yang Yang (@Poletician) when you both started teaching in lockdown and from seeing you both performing a lot – I thought, ‘I wanna be like them!'”@rachaelgisella
So she left her job in August of that same year. She credits her husband as one of her influences for going full-time as a pole dancer: “My husband is the one that told me to quit my job and pursue pole dancing so I put in my notice and made my dream a reality – it was the best decision ever. I’m super grateful to have a partner that has supported all of my pole endeavours from the beginning.”
Rachael bought some XPert courses and by the end of November she qualified as a heels and pole fitness instructor. The following month she was already teaching a regular class in a London studio. “I was so excited to have landed a role so quickly after qualifying and I actually taught my first-ever class the day I landed from my holiday after a 9hr flight!” she says.
Rachael thinks that after you’ve gotten qualified and can perform moves confidently and safely you just have to go ahead and teach. “You won’t always feel 100% ready to start teaching and most of the worries and concerns you have won’t go away until you actually teach a class” she says. “You improve so much as a dancer and teacher the more you do it, due to all of the repetition and experience of dealing with different characters and learning styles; so there’s only so much prep you can do aside from getting that real world experience.”
That first job was a catalyst for more. When my pole wife and fellow Akila Pole Studio instructor Rosanne (@unicornpower) reached out to congratulate her, Rachael was introduced to Akila and ended up covering for me when I had Covid. “I loved the vibe and energy of both the studio and Akila and we immediately hit it off. She offered me a job on the spot and it was an immediate yes from me!” she says about that time. “From there I started to get more offers to teach at different studios and to cover classes, at one point, I was teaching every single day.”
As a teacher, Rachael is as chill and fun as she is in real life. “I love pole dancing but it’s also just pole dancing, it’s not that deep – if you don’t get something that’s okay and if you don’t like something or it doesn’t feel good for you that’s okay too!” she says.
She adds: “You’ve come to class as a hobby, so the most important thing is to be safe and have fun so that’s the vibe I try to keep in all of my classes. I also love a good pep rally before the last run through of the choreo to give them all of the hype to just be their hottest baddest selves!”
Although Rachael credits her community for what she achieved – “I always thank Rosanne for her help and give a lot of credit to her for all I was able to do regarding teaching! I’m forever grateful to Akila for the amazing opportunity to teach at her studio and all of the freedom and options she gave me” – it’s undeniable that her own talent opened her doors as much as her heart did.
Since then, Rachael has also become a fellow Pole Junkie ambassador which, she says, helps her step her content game up, inspiring her to think up new video ideas: “I love that with the reach that PJ has my content is able to help and inspire other dancers.”
Competition and performances
Rachael knew she wanted to compete, and entered Eden Pole Competition in 2022. Sadly, she injured her ankle and couldn’t practice or finish her routine until two days before the comp. She recounts her experience as very dramatic, but ultimately rewarding:
“My costume gave me static shock when I touched the pole so I had even more things to change. That caused a lot of anxiety for me on the day, as well as the fact it would be my first competition and first time on the stage pole dancing. It was a traumatic experience and I cried after the performance because I thought I did so terribly and forgot my routine.
It’s quite comical to look back on, and my friends and I still laugh about the dramatics of the tears on that day ahah. Miraculously I came second place in the Basework category and I genuinely could not believe it, the high from the surprise of that was unreal – queue some more tears!”@rachaelgisella
Since then, Rachael went on to win ExoGen UK New Face, something she is really proud of: “I worked really hard on the routine and on the day the performance itself went better than I could have imagined; I was really happy with my scores and judges’ feedback.”
Rachael has also been performing at showcases such as Beanie The Jet’s PD Filthy Friday and Cutie Whippingham’s Blackstage. These opportunities have been important to her, as they align with her values and with the direction she hopes the pole industry will take. Rachael says:
“As an industry, we definitely need to work on making it more inclusive and ensuring the events we put on are diverse and reflect everyone who pole dances and not just a specific type of person.
That’s why I really love and support what dancers like Leila are doing with Blackstage or Beanie with Filthy Friday and I love having the opportunity to work with them as their values really align with my own. They are putting in the work to make pole dancing more reflective of and accessible to all.
I think more work can be done to help facilitate getting more people of colour, non-straight sized, differently abled and sex workers into more leadership roles in the community, on judging panels, in showcase lineups, getting booked and more.“@rachaelgisella
As she has already mentioned, FACE is Rachael’s performance secret so she has one tip for budding pole performers: “No one knows what your performance is meant to look like so whatever you do on the stage they will enjoy! People are there to watch and enjoy your piece. It’s your five minutes of fame so have fun and give them face face FACE!”
Performing for major artists
“Dancing for Snoop Dogg was so fun and exciting and not something I imagined I’d be doing so soon in my career,” Rachael says. Instead of feeling nervous or anxious before going onstage, she says she enjoyed every single moment, especially with the help of Nicole The Pole’s encouraging words.
Rachael had only applied for the London show, so being from London and getting to dance with Snoop at The O2 Arena was “absolutely iconic” for her.
“When I first did the Snoop show I thought, ‘Wow what a once in a lifetime chance, it’s unlikely I’ll get to do that again’ only to get booked to do a second show a couple weeks later!
I remember going to the mall to get some things for the show and I walked past my old workplace – it was a surreal moment comparing my life before when I would do that journey to go and work in the office to now doing that journey to prepare to work at one of London’s most iconic venues for one of the worlds biggest artists!”@rachaelgisella
“Freestyling for 10 minutes was very new for me, I thought I would be dead but the adrenaline kept me going! Getting to interact with Snoop as soon as I got on stage was crazy. I didn’t even have a chance to warm up and get my bearings before he was coming over to me at the beginning of the song but I loved it!Having backstage access and getting to see what goes on behind the scenes and some of the prep that goes into a show was also a really cool perspective to have. I’ll cherish the moment forever and of course cherish my signed shoes and snoop dollar!”
Two months later she was booked to dance with Burna Boy for an audience four times the size of the Snoop show at the London Stadium. “I just thought, ‘Wow is this really my life?!'” she says. “I am so so grateful for these experiences.”
Dancing for Burna Boy, Rachael was also an incredible experience.
The show was a huge production, but for Rachael some of the best experiences from these performances were just chilling backstage with her “pole gals”.
What’s next for Rachael Gisella
What’s next for Rachael? “I’ve recently moved to Portugal so unfortunately I’m unable to teach in person at the frequency I was before, but now my main focus is taking most of my work online,” she says, adding that she is “currently working on building my website and online platform so that people can continue to learn from me online more consistently.”
On top of this, Rachael hopes to go back to competing, which she loves especially thanks to the social aspect of hanging out with competitors, and to learning as a student to expand her aerial skills.
Just a few years into her pole career, Rachael is already one of the most accomplished dancers I know and has truly been living the dream. She says: “Pole dancing was the first thing in the longest time that I was truly passionate about and it gave my life a lot of purpose. Being able to share my love for it with my students and connect with other dancers who share the same feelings was literally a dream come true and it is my dream job!”
Rachael’s journey and rise to fame have been a joy to watch. I can’t wait to learn from her through her online resources, and to hang out with her more!