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We’re on to episode #10 of the Off The Pole Podcast and I’m so excited about my guest today who is none other than Roz The Diva. She calls Pole Dancing her Gateway drug to the fitness industry and teaches in her words – ‘obnoxiously loud classes’ at Body & Pole and IncrediPOLE, and trains clients at Brooklyn Fit Lab & Complete Body, all in New York City.
She is a talented performer, instructor and creator of Dangerous Curves – a celebration of Plus Size Dancers. We talk about adapting classes to truly suit all body types, body confidence and her epic journey so far.
Really hope you guys enjoy the 10th episode in the podcast series – you can subscribe to our pole podcast on iTunes to keep updated with all the latest episodes and it would mean the world to me if you could leave a review!
You can hit play above to listen in, or watch it below in non-HD, full, living, colour! BOOM
Sarah: Welcome, Roz. Thank you for doing my Off The Pole podcast, giving up some of your … What time is it there? It’s afternoon here.
Roz: It’s about 11:30 here.
Sarah: 11:30 in the AM, okay. So you haven’t quite started your day yet. Are you a late starter or a morning person?
Roz: I’m a late starter, actual. When I teach classes, they’re in the evenings. We actually have a snowstorm here today, so I was going to have one or two afternoon clients, but it’s going to be a little drama getting there.
Sarah: We’ve had that, too, in the UK, which never happens. We’ve had, like, the beast from the East or something. Snowstorms. We’ve been digging our cars out. We can’t cope at all when it snows. Everybody laughs at us, but it’s nice to have a day off, so might as well take advantage if you’re snowed in.
Roz: Exactly. I’m going to attempt to get some work done, finish my taxes, which is …
Roz: … fun.
Sarah: Everyone loves to do their taxes. I’m always really pumped to do mine…
Roz: Pretty much.
Sarah: I wanted to get you on to talk to you about a couple of things, one of them being Dangerous Curves, your pole dance competition that you do. Just tell us a little bit about it. My Off The Pole Community group, I posted in there that I was interviewing you, and they’re very excited, as well, so I’ve got a couple of questions from them. Just thought I could start off with that, and let us know a little bit about what Dangerous Curves is all about.
Roz: That sounds awesome. Dangerous Curves is a plus-sized pole dancing competition. To my knowledge, it was the first one that existed. Definitely the first one in the States. I started in August of 2012, and I started because although I had the most amazingly supportive pole fam possible, I was just tired of being the only one who looked like me on stage. I thought, well, let’s see if anybody else wants to come who might hang out with me, and yeah, they did. Fast-forward. So far, Dangerous Curves has done 10 events in total and, like, seven big competitions. Maybe even a few … Yeah, somewhere around there.
Sarah: Enough that it’s so many that you’re losing count, so quite a few.
Roz: Yeah. So what I actually did was I ended up giving it to someone else, to Tausha Ostrander, because she’s a previous champion. She actually really takes the realms of everything. I’m kind of like a fun aunt who can come in, smile, do all the fun shit, and then leave. It’s not that I didn’t like it. I just was exhausted. As I’m sure you know, event planning is. I didn’t have the time to devote to the brand to really build it up as big as it could have been because I was also trying to build up my own shit.
Sarah: You teach at, like, three, three or four different venues regularly, plus you teach workshops, plus you do performances, plus you’ve done stunts for programmes that I’ve seen. I was looking through your bio, and you’re like a stunt woman for all these things. So yeah, you’ve got a pretty hectic schedule!
Roz: Yeah. I mean, I’m definitely … Dangerous Curves is always going to have a place in my heart, but now that I’m a little bit farther along in my career than I was a few years ago and I understand smart business moves versus emotional business moves, Dangerous Curves just isn’t as smart business-wise as it used to be for me. Smart business-wise in terms of looking at the time, the energy, and the money that it takes to put into this and comparing that with the output. The truth is I can do other events and other things where I make more money and it takes way less time. So that’s also why I was like, you know what? Let me not hold onto this and screw it up. Not even screw it up, but let me not just have this and hold onto it but not do anything.
Sarah: For the sake of it, yeah. If it’s got further to go and you’ve got further to go in other things, then let someone who can obviously put their full energy that one. You can put your full energy into other things. I mean, I think it’s nice, if you see a gap in the market, if you can create something. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you always have to hold onto that. You saw a gap, you made it, and then it can be like, now you people run with it. Then, I can just, as you say, be the fun aunt to come in and take advantage of it is probably the best way, I think.
Sarah: What made you start in this industry? I know you work in fitness and pole, so there’s a bit of a crossover, but what drew you to this industry in the first place?
Roz: Actually, pole dancing was my gateway drug into doing fitness full-time. I’ve been poling for 10 years now. Oh my gosh, almost 10 1/2 years.
Sarah: I’m with you. We started about the same time!
Roz: Once you hit double digits in pole, first of all, the fact that either one of us still have shoulders is amazing, right? Then, that we have hips and our sanity, wow.
Sarah: Double whammy.
Roz: Definitely double whammy. I started pole, like I said, about 10 1/2 years ago. I’m in New York City. Simply because it was a class on the schedule at my gym, and it just looked like it was fun because it had dance in the title, and I really like to dance. I have a Beyonce complex.
Sarah: That’s not a bad one to have.
Roz: So I took it, and it was the absolute hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I pretty much failed at everything I tried during that first class, but I had never had a better time failing in my life. I was one of those people, it only took one class and I’ve never looked back. Then, I started teaching about seven years ago, and teaching is one of the best things to happen to me, even outside the scope of just pole dancing. It started out just as a hobby and a side hustle. Then, long story short, the universe was like, “Listen. Go do fitness full-time. You really like it. Go do it.” I was like, “No, that doesn’t make any sense. It’s not logical.” My parents spent God knows how much money and time to send me to really good schools, and I worked really hard in school. Nobody works hard in school to be a pole dancing instructor. At least, that’s what I thought at the time. I had so much guilt over taking my education and doing this instead, but I’ve largely made peace with that now.
I’ve been doing fitness full-time, like this is my only means of income, for four years. It’s worked out that each year, I’ve made more than I made the previous year.
Roz: Yeah. I think a big reason with that is because I didn’t rely on just pole dancing or just performing to get me through. That I knew. There’s just no way, there’s no studio that could give me full-time teaching or what I need that I’d be able to do that. So I’m glad I had the foresight early to branch out into other areas, like group fitness. I work with TRX, and I love it. I do some flexibility work, largely inspired by pole. I’m turning into a giant meathead now, so I’m getting really-
Sarah: The weights and stuff like deadlifts?
Roz: Yeah. Oh my gosh, I love it so much. I just want to lift the heaviest things I can find.
Sarah: It’s addictive, as well.
Roz: So addictive. I really have to thank pole, because it was the catalyst for me, also, between just going to the gym but then really doing things that helped change my physically in positive ways. Also, pole got me to do … Pole makes you brave, and it got me to do things that I never in my lifetime thought I could do, like basically make up my own playschool career.
Sarah: With all the little challenges. Every time you’re going to a pole class, you’re overcoming a little challenge, and you’re focusing on your body doing something rather than looking a certain way. Then, you’re just constantly positively reinforcing yourself that you can overcome problems, and I think that leaks out into all the pole dancer’s lives. That’s why everyone ends up being really independent, really strong, really self-confident. It’s just such a positive impact, and it’s so funny that everyone thinks it’s going to be completely the opposite and demeaning to women. There’s going to be loads of girls in bikinis, and everyone’s going to be really self-consciously. It’s like, actually, completely the opposite, but it’s our dirty little secret that that’s what the industry does.
Roz: You brought up a very, very important point for me, is that people look at me and they hear the way I speak and they see my crazy, bubbly personality, and they assume that all of that means that I’m super, super confident in the way I look. Especially since I spend so much time talking about looking different and being significantly heavier than a lot of other teachers and a lot of other pole dancers that I’m fine with me, but the truth is that I’m not. One reason why pole became so personal to me is because it was one of the first things I did that helped me actually start to lose weight, number one, and to see that my body can do cool things. So going to the gym isn’t just about losing weight. That’s still one of my goals, but it doesn’t keep me awake at night the way that it used to.
Sarah: It’s like a secondary thing to using your body for something healthy and fun and challenging. Then, if you lose weight as you’re becoming more healthy, then that’s a big bonus. People putting too much emphasis on the weight loss, I think, then it just goes up and down, up and down, up and down, and it’s not long term.
Roz: Yeah. I mean, I’m still definitely up and down, and I have some demons I’m trying to fight with my weight, more mentally than anything else. Pole has actually helped me start to develop a healthier relationship and to heal some of those really terrible things that I used to say about myself. Even though I feel like I’m really just beginning to heal, the fact that I’m even considering healing and making changes is extraordinary. I will forever be thankful for pole because of that.
Sarah: Did you feel like you had a lot of obstacles? Everyone, when they first go to pole class, they look at those around them and they compare themselves to others. That’s a really big part of kind of the journey in pole, is kind of finding your own way. Were there any specific obstacles you found coming into class and starting your pole journey?
Roz: I think the biggest one was my weight. I know douche bag Americans, we have our own system for everything, so I don’t know how many stone or kilogrammes about 200, 250 pounds is.
Sarah: Google. We can Google everything. It’s all good.
Roz: Google it. I would say I was averaging between 80 to 100 pounds more than some of my more slender friends. In some cases, I was double the size as other people in class. When my friends are getting things, let’s say, after three or four months, it would take me two or three years. That timeline … I would get it, and when I got it, it was like I can’t even tell you—well, I can, because you pole—the level of satisfaction and excitement when you get something. It takes me a whole lot longer to get things, particularly pole. Pole is pretty much all strength training, with some dance and flex in there, of course. A lot of the more advanced tricks that we’re doing, it’s strength based. When you are carrying more weight, your muscles have to have a greater capacity for work, because they’ve got to be able to support you. Naturally, it’s going to take your muscles longer to become strong enough for me to do the same poses as somebody who’s smaller. That just sucks.
Sarah: Damn you, physics.
Roz: Yeah, exactly. It’s like straight physics. After a while, it’s really hard to keep showing up somewhere knowing that you’re going to fail for pretty much everything you try. The only way that I got through was because my pole fam was amazing. Even though I was the only one who looked like me for years, they didn’t let me use my weight as an excuse to not try. I would try. They would try with me. I would bitch and moan about doing my left side, like everybody bitches and moans about doing their left side. They’re like, “Are you done complaining? Good. It’s your turn. Get on the pole.”
Sarah: Exactly. That’s what you need.
Roz: Exactly. Then, afterwards, pole, also, it’s a very social sport. Unlike other group fitness classes, where you have your set of weights or your station and you can go the whole class without having to interact with other people, you can’t do that with pole.
Roz: We’re going to be talking. You’re going to be spotting. Just something with other people. I need that. I really, really like that aspect. After those classes where I get my ass whooped and I’m thinking, why am I doing this? I’m reconsidering my whole life journey. My friends are like, “Um, we’re going to go out drinking. Want to join?” I’m like, “That’s exactly what I need right now.” It was that really nice balance of going hard at the gym and then getting donuts.
Sarah: Yes, the healthy balance.
Roz: Yes, yes.
Sarah: You now teach a workshop for studios directed at plus-sized athletes so that they can … From your experiences, now you can kind of pass that information on. A lot of studios, you may not have had the access to this kind of information or how to adapt things. It’s a lot of mindset, but there’s also a lot of physics. What does that entail, when you go into a studio and you’re teaching for the plus-size athlete?
Roz: This is one of my favourite workshops to teach. I’m really excited that pretty much every studio I go to now, I almost always do this workshop. I’ve done it for groups as small as three teachers if it’s a small home studio, but I’ve also taught it to, like, 20 people at once. It’s largely based off of just my experiences. I spent a good amount of time … Basically, there’s stuff that you can do before you get to … before class starts and before clients even walk in the door to during and after class. I think a lot of studios mean well, and they say, “We’re welcoming. We want everyone to come,” and they truly do, but there is some small things that really turn off larger athletes.
For example, if you are at a space and you have showers and you offer towels to your clients, a standard gym towel does not fit around my body. In my mind, I’m thinking, okay, well, I can’t take a shower because the towels are too small and I’m embarrassed to walk around a locker room in this little ass towel, so I’m not going to come to the gym. If I have to go to work afterwards or something else, I can’t change. It’s one thing to go home sweaty, but it’s another thing to go out and about and live your best life. That’s something that I’ve honestly thought about. I’ve still gone to the gym, and I’ve just kind of dried off really fast and I’ve worked around it.
Sarah: Speed drying.
Roz: Yeah. I know there’s a lot of people who won’t do that. Also, representation matters. I can’t tell you how ridiculously important that is. The biggest reason why people come to my classes, and sometimes they come from two or three hours away just for a 90-minute class. I’m like, “Why on Earth would you do that?” They’re like, “YOu’re the only one who looks like me. You’re the only instructor who’s remotely my size, someone’s also black.” Someone who they can identify with my physically. When people come in, nobody wants to feel alone. When they come to my class, many people don’t feel alone. They don’t have to explain to another teacher why they’re too embarrassed to take off their shirt or why they can’t do this move because their boobs are in the way, why their boobs are so damn heavy. Things that you wouldn’t know unless you’ve experienced it. For me, it’s second nature. I’m constantly making modifications physically for students because that’s what I’ve had to do.
There’s some holds that I just won’t and can’t do, because I have too much boob in the way of my hands. Then, if my legs are over my head, boobs and thighs mean that I’m going to suffocate.
Sarah: Which is not a good time. No one wants that.
Roz: Everyone likes oxygen. It’s pretty fun. Basically, I talk about things like that and other things in my workshops, as well. I’m always really excited when people request that I do this workshop because it shows to me that they truly care about doing better. What makes me nervous are the people who don’t take the workshop, the instructors who don’t but don’t think that they need it, because you probably do.
Sarah: From an instructor’s point of view, there’s always something that you’re going to take from learning about a different body type or a different way of teaching. You can’t learn enough about the human body. It’s literally limitless, especially if you’re learning about other people’s experiences. That can only be beneficial, as well. I was going to ask you, is it a class that’s getting more popular? Do people request that one? I was looking through your workshop list, and that one definitely did stand out as this would be so helpful. When I’m teaching the instructor training that we do, a lot of people will say, “Is there a move or is there a time where you wouldn’t be able to spot someone?” I think no. I think you could always spot someone, but you do have to be … You can’t always spot everyone the same. It’s going to be flexible depending on the person. It’s their ability to adapt to any kind of student, which I think is a big teaching plus.
Roz: Absolutely. I love that you have the wherewithal to understand that it’s not that moves are impossible. They have to be changed. If you think about the traditional rules of movement and physics and everything, they were based on traditional-looking bodies and traditional dancers. So if you have people who are non-traditional athletes, it makes sense that the rules aren’t always going to work for them, because they weren’t the ones who these I guess investors, I don’t know what it’s called, but the keeper of the rules-
Sarah: The fitness keepers.
Roz: Yeah, the fitness people. They weren’t thinking about people who looked and were built like me to do certain things. So I agree with you.
Sarah: I think even when people were making up fitness, a plank is a choreographed position. Someone told us to do a plank in this specific way, but as pole dancers, we actually need to move our bodies in completely different positions than normal fitness classes, because we’re going upside down and we’re twisting and we’re turning. The normal rules don’t apply to us already, and then if you add in different body types and flexibility ranges and lifestyles on top of that, then it could be a huge amount of adaptations just on one position. Being a pole dance instructor is massively challenging. Yet, I don’t think you could ever stop learning or get enough information to make it stop, being like, oh, I’ve peaked. I’ve learned enough. I’m done. I don’t need to know anything else.
Roz: Absolutely. One of the things that helped me the most is when we started pole 10 years ago, you know, pole was not the sport that it is now.
Roz: It was like a highly organised hobby, but it is totally different. The classes that I took, they were at a big commercial gym. There were 35, 40 people in a class, and we had five poles. You can imagine. Literally, I recall we would average six or seven people per pole.
Roz: For us, that was totally normal, and we would just take turns. Because it was open level, we would have everybody from people who were already teaching to people who just stumbled in the room. It’s different than a studio where people go specifically for a pole class. When it’s at a big commercial gym, you have a much wider range of people what are going to come. Because my first introduction to pole was, well, everybody’s slightly different … Still fitting a similar profile, but adapting and helping each other out and kind of being a co-teacher unofficially. That’s just how I grew up on a pole. It was a treat when I started teaching levelled classes, because I was like-
Sarah: Oh, you all know the same thing. This is good.
Roz: Exactly. Even now, even in my levelled classes now, they’re still loosely structured on an open-level structure. If we’re doing, let’s say, leg hangs, there’s some students who just learned how to invert, so before we get to leg hangs, I’m helping them invert. I’m helping other people do leg switches in the same class.
Sarah: There’s a variety. You could be an intermediate level pole dancer and you could be hugely strong, but then the person next to you is hugely flexible. Between those two people, they could have completely different trick strengths and weaknesses. Every trick, you’re going to be adapting for them, as well.
Roz: Absolutely, yes.
Sarah: In your own personal pole journey, I suppose, do you have specific goals that you set yourself, or do you just do it to further your teaching and just for enjoyment, or do you have a lot of structure with your pole training?
Roz: I actually don’t. I definitely fell into that trap of teaching … As my teaching ramped up, my training all but stopped. If I’m going to be completely honest, of the 10 years I’ve been in this industry, I was a pole dancer for about six. The last four years, I might pop into a class here or there, but it hasn’t been the regular training like I used to do it twice a week. That’s because I’m okay with that, because even though me as a pole dancer, my growth has been stunted, as a teacher, it’s like teaching took the place of that. When I tell you I love teaching and I’m obsessed with teaching, I am absolutely, 100% obsessed, can’t teach enough. I feel like I have this finite amount of energy to devote to athletics. When I was just doing it after work, then I had all this time and this mental space to just focus on me, and that’s when I was making the most gains. That’s when I lost the most weight, and I was in good physical shape.
Then, when I started teaching, when I had just one class and I still had a full-time job, I was still keeping up with everything. It was cool. It was great. No problem. Also, performing. I loved being on stage. It’s ridiculous how much I love being on stage, and the only thing that trumps my love of performing is my love of teaching. I haven’t felt as compelled to keep up with the newest tricks in the last two years because I get just as excited, if not more excited, for my students to go ahead and to rock things and to do awesome. I’m also, honestly, I’m tired. Sarah, I’m tired.
Sarah: We’re old for pole dance. In pole dance years, we’re like 50.
Sarah: We’ve got to look after these old bodies.
Roz: That’s exactly. I call it in dog years. Dancers are dog years. There’s a while where I was chasing an Iron X, and I was like, aw, I want to do a Phoenix and learn all these things. Now, I’m happy to keep my ass on the floor. A butterfly into a leg hang, that will always be with me. I’m always going to have my moves that, no matter what, I don’t want to move and I’ll still be able to do.
Sarah: It’s a classic. It’s a crowd pleaser.
Sarah: I think the audience is getting numb to these big tricks. If you do a knee hang, the crowd goes just as crazy for that than is doing a Phoenix. They don’t even know the difference. Just stick with what you know. It’s fine.
Roz: Oh my gosh. This is what I tell students. I do another workshop about building your pole confidence, and this is so much of what I emphasise. Just because you started pole three weeks ago doesn’t mean that you’re not a pole dancer and that you don’t have value yet to the sport. I did my first show after six classes.
Roz: I didn’t say I did it particularly well, but I did it.
Sarah: But you did it, yeah.
Roz: In my mind, when people are like, “Oh, I’m not ready yet,” I’m like, “Bitch, why not?”
Sarah: You’ll never be ‘ready’, ready. You’ll always find an excuse to talk yourself out of it. I think when we compare ourselves to what we think we should be doing, you’ll always put yourself down, but you’re basically all ninjas hanging off the side of something horizontally. If you got someone out the street to walk into a pole class, they’d think we’re all mad. People are getting frustrated because they can’t hang by their foot yet. You’re like, “Do you hear what you’re saying you’re asking your body to do? You’re doing pretty good already.”
Roz: Exactly. People are like, “What can I do outside of pole to be better at pole?” I said, “Do something that’s the complete opposite in movements.”
Sarah: Balance yourself out.
Roz: You have to balance yourself out. I tell people all the time it’s not what you do. It’s how you execute it. I would much rather see two or three really strong elements in a performance than you try and pack in every trick you’ve ever learned in three minutes and it’s rushed and I don’t have time to enjoy it. I just want to enjoy what you did. That’s all.
Sarah: Exactly. I love that advice. I want to ask you just a couple more because I like to keep these short and sweet so people can listen in. I wanted to ask you, you have a really good social media following, and you’re really, really consistent on there. Is that something that you might try and cultivate, or is there a specific message you try and get across? Or is it more just a documentation of your own journey and then you just hashtag the shit out of it to encourage people to see what they need to see?
Roz: I think it’s a combination of everything you just said. I would say for every one hour of paid work, I’ve probably got about 8 to 10 hours of unpaid work that goes into getting it. If I’m not teaching, I’m glued to my laptop, because I’m … Coming up with fresh content is a huge job. Doing social media right takes a tonne of work, but it’s worth it. I post different things on Instagram than I do on Facebook. Understanding your audience in each of those places is critical. People are like, “Posting every day, that’s so much.” It is, but that’s also why my engagement is pretty strong. Two, three years ago, even more so than that, probably four or five at this point, when I had 200 followers and I was posting stuff each day and I’d have six or seven likes, most of which were my mom, that’s all exciting and stuff and that’s cool. I was like, I’m going to do this on the hopes that some day, this will turn to 600 or 700. That’s what happened. It wasn’t a quick payoff by any means, but it did pay off.
Sarah: Just being consistent.
Roz: Yeah. With Instagram, for example, if I see a post or someone posted something, I don’t automatically follow them just from that one post. I go back and look at their whole account and what they’re about. See things like is this just one random fitness picture, or are there a lot of it going on? What’s the focus of their account? I try and think about the things that I post, like someone from the outside looking in, what might they say or think about me? I’m trying pretty much every day, usually. It ends up being at least five days out of the week, posting just what I’m doing with my clients on Instagram or what I’m doing myself. I’ve found that that speaks way louder than if I were to say, “Come take my class. Come take my class.” Yes, you have to see that, but what are you going to do in class?
Sarah: Show the value of your class, and then people can see that, and then they know what they’re going to get, basically.
Roz: Nailed it. Exactly.
Sarah: Fantastic. Well, that’s awesome. I don’t want to take up any more of your time because I’m already taking up quite a lot already, but thank you so much for coming on and sharing some of your insight into it. I think it’s really, really interesting, and it’s fantastic what you’re doing. I love following you on Instagram. It’s a great message to be spreading, and I think it’s a really nice, positive side to the industry that should only get more and more popular.
Roz: Because of people like you and all the other people who like and comment and cheer me on, you are the reason why I have a career. I always tell my students this is a team effort. If I didn’t have anybody else caring about what I did, I’d just be that crazy lady screaming to herself in a basement with a pole, so thank you, Ms. Sarah Scott, for being the incredible leader that you are in the industry.
Sarah: Well, bless you. Flattery will get you everywhere! Thank you for coming on. I’m sure my listeners will absolutely love this one. I really can’t wait to share it with them. This will be out on Friday, so only a couple of days to wait.
Roz: Awesome. Can’t wait.
Sarah: I’ll link in the … Because I put a blog out of the transcript on the website, as well, so I’ll link all your social media, all the links to stuff. They can see your workshop descriptions and stuff there.
Sarah: So we’ll link you up so everyone can check you out if they haven’t already. Thank you very much and enjoy the rest of your afternoon, lovely.
Roz: You, too. See you later!
Where to find Roz: