Did you ever want to try Pole Dancing or something else outside of the box - but didn't think you "fit the mold" ? Take a lesson from Roz Mays: A true diva that speaks her soul, defies social norms and proves there is no excuse not to try pole dancing or any other dream you might have.
LW: Hi Roz, thanks for chatting with us. So the first question I have for you is: how long have you been pole dancing?
Roz: I have been poling for about 8 ½ years.
Roz: I know that’s OG status.
LW: I think I started in 2005 so yeah, I’m right there with you.
Roz: Oh shit!
LW: So how did you did you get introduced to pole dancing? How did you start?
Roz: So I actually started where a ton of New York based polers started, at Crunch. I tried it because it looked like it had a cool title and I’d never done anything like that and it was absolutely the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I got my ass whooped up and down, sideways and forward and to the left and right – but from the first class I was done I was hooked! It was no contest, it was no question, I literally just needed one class and it’s a wrap.
LW: It’s funny that you say that because I think most people who try pole dancing and who have continued with it were just like that. It was one class and – I’m in!
LW: So how did you end up transitioning from student to instructor?
Roz: I was competing in Polesque in 2011 and the owner of the studio that held the competition happened to be there and she saw me. Afterwards she found me on Facebook and asked if I wanted to teach pole at her studio. Her studio was in Brooklyn. That was my foray into teaching. At that point I had been poling for a year and a half. I wanted to teach but I wasn’t pursuing it because I didn’t know how to do it or where to look, but once I started teaching…nothing makes me happier than teaching. Maybe, for me the feelings that come closest to teaching are when I’m on stage and it’s dark and I’m sweaty and everybody in the crowd is like losing their shit. But besides that, teaching is the greatest thing to ever happen to me.
LW: Nice! So you know you’re known in the pole world as probably one of the 3 most recognizable (and vocal for that matter) plus size polers. How do you feel about that label, and do you think it’s helped your career or hurt you career?
Roz: It absolutely helped my career. I didn’t seek to be the spokesperson for plus size pole and I didn’t really give a shit about it. But that’s just kind of what happened. That’s just the big difference between me and everybody else right now out there poling. And if you look at Hustlenomics , straight from a business black and white perspective, you have to be different from other people in some way to standout. Something about you or your product has got to be remarkable and unique and fortunately for me, I didn’t really have to seek out or make up something to be remarkable and unique because it was just built in. My 200 plus pounds is there, so I’m very lucky, I’ve already got my uniqueness built in, my competitive advantage. There certainly are other plus size polers and instructors, but there’s not a lot and I probably know most of them in the country. I literally mean I think I know all of them, because we all talk of course. So I’m fortunate in that I’ve got a very well rounded perspective of the entire industry. I just happen to be really different aesthetically.
LW: Do you find people are apprehensive or open to plus size instructors or do they just not know how to take them?
Roz: There isn’t a lot of times where I had to teach something where I physically couldn’t do it . Because I teach a lot beginners and intermediate classes as well. So that’s one thing. Number two, to my face I haven’t had any students really say anything, they might have been thinking it, but they were at least nice enough not to tell me. Who is this fat bitch that’s about to teach me something? But I have had a student or two afterwards come up to me and say “when I saw you I was surprised that you were the teacher and I didn’t know what to expect, but wow you’re really good at what you do” and that’s fine with me. When I have doubting people who are questioning “should I be doing what I’m doing?” It’s actually usually from other fitness professionals. I had like another trainer who has been doing you know group fitness for probably 15 years now and she thought she was doing me a favor. This happened last summer. She thought she was doing me a favor by saying “no one is gonna really hire you unless you slim down, because you’re not practicing what you preach and living a healthy lifestyle, cause if you were – obviously you’d be smaller”. It doesn’t really hurt when random people say things, but with professionals – you expect them to know better. Yet for every one person who has some shit to say about my size and that I have the nerve to be a fitness instructor, I have nine jillion billion people who are like “I specifically came to your class because you look like me and you’re a lot less intimidating. And I feel like if she can do it I guess I have to at least try, and you don’t make me feel bad about the way I look and you give me permission to just be myself”
LW: How many studios are you currently teaching at?
Roz: Body & Pole and IncrediPOLE are my two home bases and I teach pole dancing at each of those. Body & Pole is in Manhattan and IncrediPOLE is in Brooklyn and I’m also am a personal trainer.
LW: What do you love most about teaching and what makes you crazy about teaching? Cause I know there’s got to be both.
Roz: Sure what makes me crazy about teaching is when people go out their way to make an excuse as to why they can’t do something. I’m not talking about having legit physical limitations but like when they tell me “oh I can’t go to pole because I’m too big “Bitch who the fuck you think I am, I just told you no you’re not too big”. They’re like “yes I am”.
Roz: What I love though is over the course of 90 minutes seeing people start out being afraid of their own shadow and then by the end of class, they’re only a little nervous about their own shadow. Over the course of weeks and months and years they’ve transformed into a different person, physically and otherwise – I especially love a good underdog. Give me the student that is 400 pounds, just now getting off the couch and they want to start exercising but they don’t know how. They want to try pole, they can’t do a spin they can’t climb. Those are the students I absolutely live for because I get to be the most obnoxious crack head cheer leader you have ever heard. I love giving pep talks. I will be giving pep talks till the day I die. So I love seeing students the first time something makes sense to them. My favorite moment so far as a teacher goes back 5 years. Everybody was brand spanking new. I was just drilling their asses all day every day. Finally after a few weeks I saw my first couple girls climb to the top of our 13 ft. pole and they were literally screaming my name out from the top of the pole and I had to hold back tears cause “oh my gosh they did it “. In my opinion climbing is the first major hurdle that you’re going to face in pole dancing. So to see that they got so excited they wanted to take pictures. That little boost right there gave them so much confidence – that moment was just absolutely phenomenal.
LW: Do you remember the first time you climbed to the top ?
Roz: I do – it was my 6th class I was at Crunch and the pole was about 9 feet.
LW: Do you do you remember the moment where you said to yourself “yeah I can do this, like this is for me” where everything just sort of clicked and you realized that this was something you were gonna be able to accomplish, something that you knew your size wasn’t going to hold you back from?
Roz: I don’t think I’ve had that moment yet, because people they see me as like this beacon of confidence, but I’m still extraordinarily insecure about my size. I’m lot less insecure than what I was, but generally speaking I still have to fight feeling embarrassment over my weight all the time and especially in pole. I’ve walked out of classes holding back tears with every bone in my body because I’m looking around and everybody has 6 packs and their fucking flying off the ceiling and I’m literally still trying to do a chopper. Now funny… specifically about that chopper, I can do a lot more complicated things, things a lot more technically challenging and difficult, but a fucking chopper slays me. You know I’m the first one to fall susceptible to bullshit that I place on myself. There’s never been a time where I’m just like “I did it” I haven’t found that yet.
LW: You know there’s so many pole comps now I can’t even keep track of them so I’ve just stopped trying, but I think one that is really important is the one you created, Dangerous Curves.
Roz: Thank you!
LW: How did that come to be? Why did you create it and then let’s talk about how you passed it on to Tasha.
Roz I started Dangerous Curves the summer of 2012 because, one, I wanted throw a big ass party around my birthday and I didn’t want to pay for it, and two I wanted to see people like me. I was still relatively unknown at the time so I could kind of do whatever the hell I wanted in a way. Me with my little pole playground and I just thought I can’t be the only poler of my size out there. Now mind you this is way before Instagram, this is before pole took over Facebook. So we were all on YouTube, but it wasn’t like it is now where everybody and their mothers are on. So for you to find somebody who actually looks like you is a huge deal. For me it was a huge deal, so I literally just went on Facebook and said anybody want to do this competition? Fast forward to polers from 6 different states traveling just to be a part of this. They loved it too, turns out we were all kind of feeling the same way – wanting to know we were not the only ones out there. So we found each other and that was the way we started Dangerous Curves. Since then there have been 7 different events; 4 official competitions and 3 other showcases and they’ve been good. But I decided to pass it off to Tasha. It was time. It wasn’t a dramatic emotional “guys I have to do this”, it was I don’t want to do this anymore – someone else take it and do it right. This shit is expensive to do, I was running things on a part time income and I don’t know how I pulled it off. I truly don’t know how. It was a New York miracle. So being as cheap as I was doing it I was still shelling out $3500 and praying I would make that money back which I did.
LW: Nice, most comps do not necessarily make you your money back.
Roz: They don’t, yeah exactly.
LW: If you even break even I feel like it’s a win, but it’s a lot of work.
photo by Ray Tamarra
LW: If you could tell people one thing about pole dancing they might not already know, what would that be?
Roz: Pole dancing is the hardest workout you’ll ever put yourself though. With the exception of like, Navy S.E.A.L. training. That shit is gonna whoop your ass even more so than you know it’s gonna hurt it’s gonna hurt much more.
LW: What’s your favorite song to dance to? Spit it out favorite song.
Roz: Nasty Naught Boy by Christina Aguilera.
LW: What is your signature style of poling and how did you develop your style? Do you lean more towards athletic or do you lean more towards sexy or something in between?
Roz: My style is to do whatever is going to get the crowd the loudest. I am a fucking ham on stage so when I hear the “woop woop!” I become absolutely addicted to the roar of the crowd. If I’m doing something and I see them get a little bit louder than they were before, I keep doing it. Right now I would say I’m in kind of like a contempo phase. I go through phases all the time. There’s always a Beyoncé situation but you now sometime it’s the ballad Beyoncé, sometimes it’s the early Beyoncé where she’s just singing about paying the bills and now “trow shit in your face” Lemonade Beyoncé – basically my style changes with Beyoncé.
LW: What are you currently most excited about in the world of pole dancing and it doesn’t need to be a pole star, it can be one of your students, it can be an instructor. Who really gets you going in the pole world now?
Roz: I would say I think my students. They make the biggest, most consistent impact on me day to day. I gave up watching pole videos on YouTube and pole stars years ago because I would just start looking and comparing myself. I would watch a video and end up crying and getting depressed. Literally crying cause I couldn’t do that like them. I felt like such a failure and I wasn’t able to separate myself from where I’m at versus where I wanted to be and feel like that’s ok. I really like my beginners students. I understand them. I would also love to meet Emma O’Toole because she’s a plus size dancer, has her own studio in the U.K and she can do an Iron X . All I wanna do is a fucking Iron X .
LW: I’ve seen some videos of you and you’re almost there.
Roz: I’m so close I’m like a crooked Y.
LW: HA! This has been great. Thanks so much for speaking with us and being so candid! Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Roz: I actually have a documentary coming out, Dangerous Curves, which is pretty cool. I didn’t produce it but I’m in it. A couple of my friends from high school decided to follow me around for a year and half with a camera. I’m excited about it; it’s going to be screening at a film festival in Brooklyn in July.
You can find out more about Roz “the diva” at rozthediva.com