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Minneapolis Stripper Awards Celebrate Pole Princesses, HBICs, and Sex Workers’ Rights 

'Strippers are the best. We’re fabulous and everyone else needs to catch up.'

Patrick Strait|

Minneapolis Stripper Awards

Last Wednesday, approximately 100 strippers, along with friends, co-workers, and superfans, came together MCN6's studios in northeast Minneapolis for the first-annual Minneapolis Stripper Awards. 

The event included all of the pomp and circumstance of any good awards show: performances, a red carpet, tons of glam. There was, however, zero booze, as the city wouldn’t grant the event a liquor license for the evening. 

But the night was about more than just having a good time. It served as a fundraiser for the Minneapolis chapter of the Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP) and a recently formed strippers' guild. Both orgs provide education, resources, and support for strippers and sex workers of all kinds. Andi Snow, executive director for SWOP Minneapolis, is working to support strippers after nearly two decades of working in clubs herself.

“The sex industry is a multi-billion-dollar industry,” she says. “People are here to see us. We have that power, and the way people try and take it away is by separating us, so we wanted to bring everyone together to have a big party and raise money to help us get health insurance and benefits for the girls.” 

The awards had nine categories, including the prestigious Miss New Boobies Award (for dancers who have been performing for less than a year), the Meg Thee Stallion Award (for performers working toward a degree), and the most sought-after award of the night, the HBIC Award (uh, that one feels fairly self-explanatory). 

Awards included Prince-ass Peach, MV Pussy, and Best in Breast.Patrick Strait

Beebee Gunn, a Minneapolis stripper and local TikTok celeb, hosted the gala. She also took home an award for Best Mouthpiece.

“It’s incredibly overdue,” she says of the event. “Our industry should be way more accepted than it is. It’s heavily misunderstood and misjudged and looked down on for no reason.” 

During her career as a stripper (which she coyly explained has been “for a minute now”), Beebee says she has seen a shift in how performers support each other. 

“When I started, it was still kind of a dog-eat-dog mentality,” she explains. “The girls who had been doing it a lot longer could be very competitive and very mean. When I came in, I had no social cues and wanted to be friends with everybody, and that kind of got me outcasted a little bit. But after the pandemic, when everyone had really been struggling, we all kind of came together and held each other up. There’s been a huge shift in the culture. There was a new sense [post-pandemic] of ‘let’s make this better.’ So we are.” 

The sense of pride and comradery among the crowd was noticeable.

“The girls are excited to get to have something for us,” Beebee says. “This is celebrating us as a community with the respect that we deserve.” 

While it was all sequins and hugs between the performers, Snow says the state of the strip club industry in Minneapolis is anything but shining.

“I’ve stripped all over the world, and I can honestly say that the working conditions in Minneapolis are abysmal,” she says. “It is by far the worst city I’ve worked in.”

Her reasoning comes down to government restrictions and corporate greed. Strip clubs must heed to wildly tiny zoning; Snow says there is only one square mile of downtown Minneapolis where businesses are able to hold adult entertainment licenses. That in conjunction with steep downtown real estate prices have left Minneapolis with sparse choices for strippers looking for work. 

“Only corporations can afford to run that kind of business [in Minneapolis],” Snow says. “Corporations are already ripe for worker abuse, and then you add corporate misogyny to the mix and it’s really bad. They'll tell us we’re disposable and that they’ll find a teenager to replace us tomorrow. That’s why I’m so focused on letting girls know that they have rights, and they have dignity, and they deserve to be protected.” 

Those rights include things like health insurance, which Snow says is the top priority for the freshly formed guild this year.

“I never thought we could have insurance or sick days or time off,” she says. “I just didn’t want us to be treated like garbage anymore.” 

But the Minneapolis Stripper Awards weren't just about fighting the power. There was plenty of time to cut loose, which included performances by all the Pole Princess Award nominees. 

Minneapolis Stripper AwardsPatrick Strait

Kira Lee, another member of SWOP and the stripper who would ultimately take home the Pole Princess prize, was excited about the opportunity to be recognized for her talents. 

“To me, being the Pole Princess is about being the girl who gets onstage and blows everybody’s mind,” she says. “It means being that bitch on the pole. The head honcho.” 

Lee echoes Snow and Beebee’s sentiments about the changes to the stripper culture over the past several years.

“When I first started, I was super secretive about being a stripper. I was embarrassed for people to know,” she admits. “But the perception has changed. I think people are a lot more respectful of sex workers now than when I first started. You’ll still see guys on the internet who are like, ‘Oh I hate sex workers. Ew. Gross. Whores.’ But anytime I meet someone in person and they ask me what I do, I don’t hesitate to tell them I’m a stripper. They usually come back with, ‘That’s so cool. Tell me more.’” 

The buzz from the event carried on to the afterparty, with strippers from clubs all over the city celebrating their community. 

“Strippers are the best,” Snow said from the stage during the show. “We’re fabulous and everyone else needs to catch up.” 

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