My name is Jaz James and I am the founder of and executive director of lace ministries.
Manny - How did this get started?
:51-1:07 Jaz - Well this was actually a grad school project. I got my masters in urban ministries and this was just a class project but by the time I finished the project I knew that this was what I wanted to do with my life.
Manny - How did you encounter this?
1:12 - 1:47 Jaz - It's a long story. When I was in grad school I took a multicultural ministries class and I had to pick a ministry that I wanted to work with for the whole semester. I couldn't find one and I couldn't find one and then finally I saw a news program about strip church network and them doing strip club ministry. I immediately knew that it was what I wanted to do and I would do it for the rest of my life.
Manny - What are the ups and downs?
2:00 - 2:22 Jaz - There has been a lot of ups and downs. We all love working with the women, ministering to them, and being with them when they have needs. I think the hardest part is funding, having the finances to do what they need, and being able to provide to them in the way they need when things come up.
Manny - How is that affected the world of the stripper?
2:40 - 3:37 Jaz - COVID-19-19 has impacted the industry. When the governor mandated the closing of all bars and clubs they were immediately out of work and what most people don't understand is that women in the sex industry whether it's a strip club or any other venue they are an independent contractors. So not only were they out of work but we didn't think that they would qualify for unemployment. We did learn that yes they would qualify for unemployment and then getting into that we learned that it would only be if they kept good financial records. When you are not used to keeping those records because you've never heard one before then that becomes an issue. Those are hurdles we are having to jump through and try to get them as many resources as we can and do the best for them what we can do.
Manny - What percentage has kept records?
3:44 - 4:00 Jaz - It's slim to none. I mean how many restaurant workers keep track of there tips. They turn some tips into their employer and those get reported but most servers that I know don't report 90 percent of their tips. Unless they are credit cards.
Manny - What have the girls been dealing with?
4:13 - 4:55 - Jaz - Imagine yourself all of a sudden being out of work. At first, it's ok because you have a little bit more money to draw off of but then you're in a situation where you have kids to feed, you don't have groceries, you have utilities to pay, you've got rent to pay, some landlords have been gracious and a lot have not. Some women live in hotels so we have to figure that out for them and find somewhere a little more permanent. It runs the gambit of whatever issue that could be related to this and it's out there with the population we work with.
Manny - What would you say to people that have a negative mindset?
5:25 - 6:11 Jaz - You know I've heard a lot of comments such as because of COVID-19 a lot of women can leave the industry well would you say that about any other industry? If you are talking to a construction worker would say ok well now you can get out of the industry you can get out of your profession. This is a legitimate legal profession. It may not be something that you approve of but it is something that they have chosen. It works for them and we have to respect that. It's not for me to say ok well now we can get you out and transition you out. No, now we meet needs We jump in and we help them right now and then if they decide to leave later on ok great we'll help them. If they decide to stay then great well help them out.
Manny - How hard is it to transition out of the industry?
6:23 - 8:05 Jaz - Transitioning out of the sex industry is very difficult it's not linear its not a spontaneous "Ok well I'm going to get out today and I'm going to find another job" Its a process and it takes years to achieve. There are so many dynamics that come into play with working in the sex industry whether that is stripping, escorting, webcam modeling, or anything like that. It a process and a process that should be respected. I like to compare it to someone that is seeking substance abuse therapy. They may have to go into a program three or four times before they actually quit using drugs or alcohol and its the same with the sex industry. You have to deal with the dynamic that puts them in the industry in the first place. They needed money for a reason and this is an easy way for them to make money. Perhaps they didn't have an education or its a lifestyle that works with the profession. Child care is an issue for a lot of them and this is a way that they can make money at night while their kids are asleep. and then they can have mom or husband watch the kid and they can be home during the day. Most of the time the women that we work with are doing it for their children. Again it may not be what many people agree with but it's what works for them. We respect the decision they made because they are adults and they are doing what's best for them.
Manny - How much are girls looking to get back to work?
8:18 - 8:47 Jaz - I think everyone wants to get back to a normal life. I know a lot of women in the clubs are anxious to get back to the clubs because they will be making money and they'll be able to pay their bills. Second, the club lifestyle becomes a family. Those are people they work with every day and that they hang out with. I feel like they're missing that. So I know they're interested in getting back and we're interested in seeing them in the clubs.
Matt – What is one takeaway that you've learned throughout the year about strippers?
9:10 - END Jaz - I think one thing most people don't understand is because a woman is in the sex industry it doesn't make her less of a person. She is a normal person. These are normal girls. When we go back to the dressing rooms and talk to them we share recipes we talking about child-rearing techniques, talk about a class they are taking in school, just all those things. Boyfriend issues, husband issues, that outfit looks good on you, ohh girl I like your shoes, they are normal women and we talk about normal women things. I think that is what most people miss. They try to stigmatize them and make them less than who they are.
Manny - Say what you just said off-camera
Jaz - A lot of people think that because we are a faith-based agency that When we go into strip clubs or when we minister to girls in the sex industry we tell them that they need to quit what they are doing or they're going to hell. That is the furthest thing from the truth about what we do. What we do is we go into clubs and we say hey Jesus loves you and Jesus wants to have a relationship with you and we love you and want to have a relationship. We just try to instill dignity, give them hope, and to let them know they have a future. So we go and say hey Jesus loves you he wants to have a relationship with you what you do beyond that is between you and God.
:28 - :38 Kara - My name is Kara Walker and I am a stripper at deseraes preferred gentlemen's club and I've been a sex worker for about nine years now.
Manny - How would you describe the Coronavirus pandemic?
:48 - 1:19 Kara - I would say it's definitely worrisome. I mean a lot of people aren't taking it seriously or just kind of making fun of it and we wouldn't have all the bars shut down and all the schools shut down right now if it wasn't a serious issue. A lot of people are either working from home if they are lucky or just out of a job. It's not just sex workers, its bartender's bar managers, almost anyone in the service industry type gig.
Manny – How has it been hard for strippers?
1:31 - 2:13 Kara - I would say it's difficult just for the fact that a lot of girls arent educated on how to file for unemployment and everything like that. It's difficult because we don't have many options to work right now. There are definitely been things online, myfreecams, fans only, stuff like that but that takes so long to get a bunch of people to want to sign up, subscribe, and spend money on your content. So it's definitely worrisome because I for one know that a lot of us don't have lots and lots of money saved up so it's stressful.
Manny - How has it been for you personally?
2:17 - 3:07 Kara - It hasn't been awful for me. I'm a homebody at heart so ive been very lucky. The people that i rent from have given me an extension so i can wait a bit to pay my rent. I've just tried to be proactive with everything and keep on top of whats going on, I filed for unemployed and tried to stay busy and have somewhat of a schedule. I think it's really helpful. I get up, walk the dog, work out, I try to stay positive with so much negativity right now. It;s like its hard its so hard i would say just be positive. Find the light at the end of the there is something good that could come out of it or at least for you ya know mind and body.
Manny - Have you thought of transitioning?
3:24 - 4:09 - kara -I've definitely have applied at a few places just because I would like some sort of steady income. It's hard and i understand not wanting to hire somebody with not a lot of experience or I'm sure they are just getting a lot of applications because people are out of work everywhere. It's something that I'm interested in and if I could find something to do I have no problem I would clean toilets.
Matt - Lace Ministry question
4:41 - 5:49 Kara - Lace ministry is a wonderful organization. They are faith-based but their intention was never to force us out of the sex industry. Their goal is to tell us that Jesus loves us and everybody no matter what we do. The amazing thing that they are doing right now is they are trying to raise money to help the woman that maybe arent doing as well as I am. The girls that maybe have children that def cant finds work. I knew they have given some groceries and cleaning supplies to the girl. They've been there if you need anything or if you just need to talk. I've been lucky enough to utilize them when I've ben stressed out. I've been able to talk and express how I'm going through this and what my next step would be. Honestly, without them, I would probably be pulling my own hair out right now. They are a blessing they really are.
Manny - what about the others.
6:16 - 6:53 Kara - I can't speak for everyone besides myself but what I've been told by friends. they're stressed. they are worried about paying their bills worried about getting evicted. We work on a tip base income and when there is no money coming in it can be stressful because no matter how much money you have saved up it's going to go away at some point.
Manny - Negative connotation
7:16 - 8:00 Kara - I think that it doesn't affect me because I wouldn't have a job if people didn't come into the club. we are not the problem its other people wanting to cause problems through insecurities or whatever it is. For the most part, especially our club in San Angelo, they are very rule base and go off of Texas and county guidelines for dancing. The dancers aren't doing anything wrong its just their job. It's not their fault that people are uncomfortable with it.