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What’s it like to be a stripper in Las Vegas?

It doesn’t take a spotlight for 23-year-old exotic dancer Daisy to light up. On the stages of Sapphire Gentleman’s Club and on wooden dance floors of bars across Las Vegas, a flower blooms in a dark room over and over again.

Ten-gallon hats, shiny belt buckles and Daisy Dukes couldn’t distract from the professional stripper’s green eyes and bouncing blonde ponytail as she added in extra turns to a line dance during a February “Ladies’ Night” at Revolver Saloon.

Sliding, stepping and spinning, Daisy led the pack of about 50 other dancers, narrowly missing a man wearing a “show me your kitties” shirt.

She didn’t show anything but her smile that night.

But on Friday and Saturday nights, that’s not the case inside Sapphire, located at 3025 South Industrial Road.

One year ago, she made the decision to start taking her clothes off for money.

“It’s opened a lot up for me,” she said of that choice. And to start at the largest gentleman’s club in the world — “go big or go home,” she said.

Her former roommate suggested the job choice to her in 2014, and she only had to think about it briefly after learning one girl made $10,000 in a single night.

“I couldn’t do it. Could I?” she recalled thinking about the choice, putting her index finger over her lips, holding her chin with her fist. The next thing she knew, she was buying “stripper shoes” and lacing up her lingerie for an audition.

It wasn’t much of an audition, Daisy recalled. She was asked to turn and face one way, then another in an evaluation. There was no dancing or formal interview.

She filled out new-hire paperwork that day and began working.

“It is easy,” she said. “They always need girls.”

She could do it, and she has no regrets. She says her two-day-a-week job has allowed her more freedom in the past 12 months than she’s ever had.

Pointing to tens of printed out pictures on the wall of her country-chic bedroom, she said hiking trips, a vacation to New Orleans and nights out with friends were representative of that freedom.

Judging by the career choice, photos of hands holding plastic cups or the beer pong table in the living room of the house she shares with three others, it’d be easy to assume Daisy’s life is one big party.

It would also be wrong.

At quarter to 11 a.m., the tattoo-covered athlete is upstairs at her local gym, warming up for one of six three-hour workouts she’ll complete by the week’s end.

Although she won’t step into the strip club, it’s hardly a day off.

“There’s no wrong way to look,” Daisy said of a strippers’ body. After overcoming an eating disorder and two failed relationships, though, a 21-year-old Daisy decided to get in shape, “instead of just being thin.”

Unlike most people who go to the gym, Daisy will use her daily-toned body to get paid.

The most she’s ever made in one night doing just that? About $3,600, she says.

“That’s considered low by a lot of girls,” she explained. So, she budgets.

A few grand in one night may seem like a lot to the average person, but Daisy lives modestly by renting a room from a friend for $400 a month and by paying for her late-90s sedan in-full with cash.

“I like it better that way,” she said. “I’m not going in chasing my money every single night.”

—-

Instead, she chases a good time.

After a long workout and returning home to change, Daisy is off to lunch with her best friend, Brittany Gray.

The two met line-dancing at the saloon inside Santa Fe Station a few years ago and have been footloose and fancy free ever since.

Joking and reminiscing about past nights out at Revolver and bull riding at Stoney’s Rockin’ Country, Gray, 26, and Daisy laugh hysterically between bites of sweet potato fries and turkey burgers.

It’s food they’ll need to fuel the long night of dancing ahead.

“I’m definitely not a lightweight,” Daisy confessed, giggling with her friend.

That’s not the case for Gray. When asked if she enjoys dancing with Daisy at the bars, Daisy interrupted,”when you’re awake for it.”

“I can’t even talk, though, because it’s true,” Gray replied, addressing the squad-known rumor that she always falls asleep after drinking with her friends.

It ‘s hard to believe that anyone could fall asleep in Daisy’s presence. Stepping into the bar later that day, she is greeted by nearly everyone she passes. Hugs, smiles and small-talk are exchanged.

Another long-time friend of Daisy’s, Jonathan Barrett, attests to the dancer’s well-liked personality.

“Everyone around her is always smiling,” he said. His statement rang true among the men and women in her presence that night.

Making friends hasn’t always come easily to Daisy, who once described herself as a “wallflower.” Now, her job won’t allow her to blend in. Not only does it bring her out of her clothes, it brings her out of her shell.

“I’m not shy about it,” she said. For fear of breaking trust, Daisy said, “I tell people the first time I meet them.”

She’s felt disrespected for her job choice only once.

A DJ at a club she frequents usually calls her name, telling the crowd an exotic dancer is in the bar, which she is okay with. But on one night, the man took it too far by coming onto the dance floor and tossing dollar bills at her.

His actions are not indicative of most, she said. Because she is an open book, people rarely judge her. But she has not told everyone.

Being the face of the Sapphire brand on billboards throughout the valley during National Finals Rodeo prompted the lie, she said. She was afraid of how her mom would react.

“My mom thinks I’m a cocktail server,” she said, mouth turned down, head hanging and hands folded.

Her dad is unaware, also.

One night, after a lot of drinking, Barrett talked with Daisy in his truck down a secluded dirt road, she said. He almost convinced her to tell her self-described “traditional” parents, but when morning came, she couldn’t bring herself to do it.

“I’m adopted,” she said later of her family. Her parents chose to begin raising her when they were middle-aged, she said, so her siblings are much older than she is.

Daisy’s inclined to believe at least one family member would withhold judgment. Her older sister made the same life choice without regrets when she was in her 20s.

—-

No one watching her inside the strip club would guess she was the least-bit ashamed of what she does.

Standing in the locker room at about 8 p.m. on the last Friday in February, she undressed among the other woman, then tied on her hot pink bikini.

Passing a table filled with cookies, instant noodles and pretzels, along with about 15 other exotic dancers in varying degrees of dress, she walks out to the lounge.

“This is mi casa,” she said, pointing to the dark walls.

First stop — the bar, where she tosses back a shot of vodka and water.

“It’s not even courage,” she said of drinking at work. “I’m not afraid of people.”

The party atmosphere makes alcohol a normalcy, she said.

“If you go into this as, ‘this is your job,’ there’s too much pressure.” Working at the club is about fun.

Since starting to pole dance, Daisy says she’s only learned a few tricks, but that’s not what counts.

“I’m smiling my ass off,” she said. Her bubbly, outgoing demeanor earn her more private dancing opportunities than scaling a metal pole could.

When asked what comes after the spotlight turns off, when the music stops and when the clothes go back on, Daisy said she may decide to write a book. She’s not sure when that will be.

While married to her right-after high school sweetheart at 19 years old, she went to Northern Arizona University to study journalism.

Daisy finished her degree. But neither the career nor the marriage worked out.

“Now I have a degree, and I’m dancing,” she said.

Still, she will be the first one to tell you she’s making more money, memories and good times than most.

Like the quote often attributed to Confucius says: “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

Contact Kimberly De La Cruz at kdelacruz@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5244. Find her on Twitter: @KimberlyinLV

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