The WANT Women: Sascha Alexander On Pole Dancing, Boundary Pushing, and Coming Clean
I’ve always been intrigued by pole dancing. Maybe it’s the yogi in me, but I’m in awe of the athleticism and strength it takes to spin, twist, and balance your body around a simple piece of metal. It’s like an extreme sport. But I’m aware that not everyone thinks the way I do. Despite having a moment in the fitness sphere as well as popping up in pop culture here and there (mostly reality TV), there’s a misconception about pole dancing and what it should or should not be; the “kinds of women” who pole dance and who they should or should not be.
No matter where you fall on the spectrum, this documentary is about to blow your mind. Why I Dance is a film that, in short, reclaims female power and sexiness as something that belongs to women themselves, and themselves alone. It’s seven minutes of all shapes, sizes, and backgrounds completely owning every single inch of themselves and loving it all in the process.
It’s been featured on Refinery29, GQ, Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, and a slew of other news outlets – which is pretty damn cool. It means the world is listening. The world – maybe, just maybe – is ready.
Why I Dance breaks apart stereotypes by showcasing women of all ages, professions, and lifestyles celebrating just how wonderful it can feel to love who you are – all of you. And today’s Woman Against Negative Talk is one of the brilliant women behind this documentary that’s now gone viral: actress, dancer, and producer Sascha Alexander.
Ok. So before we get going, I’m gonna suggest you stop whatever you’re doing and watch Why I Dance. Maybe get a few tissues. I needed them.
You can’t help but smile when you come face to face with Sascha. An activist for all things having to do with women’s empowerment and equality, Sascha is truly the change we wish to see in the world. From her 2011 two-woman show, Naked and Crazy – an all-encompassing love letter to her own personal ups and downs, which went to the New York International Fringe Festival the following year – to her writings on Jezebel and Funny Or Die, to her personal blog entitled Searching Starving Stripping, Sascha is a a fierce believer in courageous vulnerability and the power that women hold as leaders of their own lives. And she does this all with the loveliest attitude, the most all-inclusive heart.
Sascha Alexander is a woman making waves. Her interview below had me sweeping my jaw off the floor more times than I could count. From her advice for men looking to help the women in their lives to her three-line mantra, Sascha’s WANT wisdom is off the charts. I can’t wait for you to meet her.
Name: Sascha Alexander
How you’d know me: Actress, Producer of “Why I Dance,” a Dance Film for Sexual Empowerment, and creator of “Naked and Crazy” a two woman show about body acceptance.
What I love about myself: Oh my goodness what a wonderful question! The first thing that comes to mind is my big, bright, shiny heart that just wants to love and hold the entire world and really believes it has space and room for everyone. My tenacity and determination. My self-awareness; my drive to understand myself and through that, to understand the world. My bendy, STRONG, incredible body that expresses with every fibre of her muscle and heart the second I let her. My big big lungs that take big big breaths. And my yearning to lift myself and others higher, spiritually, artistically, and emotionally.
What is your definition of “positivity?” Mmmm. I’m gonna say seeing the value in every experience. Understanding that there is always hope, even in the darkest places. Choosing to believe that “good” and “bad” don’t really apply when it comes to our lives, in which we are never in control of outcomes. Choosing to see that all of it can be right if we let it – that’s positivity. Cherishing what is here, not coveting what isn’t.
When did you start to love yourself – did you have a self-love “turning point?” Mmmm! Love this! I started to love myself in dance class, the second I saw what was really inside me. Or to be specific, the second the other women in my class started to tell me what they saw inside me, that I was too trapped and afraid to see myself. I believe above ALL, in the power of loving communities, and people who have the courage to be clear mirrors for one another, which is such a big and scary thing to do in a world that is caught up in scarcity. It takes massive self-esteem to show up in honest praise of another person, especially a person who is shining brightly. I think there are so few of these communities available to us, right now. S-Factor was a paradigm shift for me. The more I let myself be seen there, the more I was praised and told I was “beautiful”…. which I literally couldn’t believe at first because I felt so mediocre at the time – so middle of the road, so… nothing special. Oof! It hurts me to even write those things. I was so confused!
There were so many incredible moments that first year at S-Factor, but the one that stands out right now is lying on my mat in a sideways leg lift and realizing how unbelievably strong and powerful my legs were and my stomach was, and how on fire I was in that moment, just spiritually, and emotionally and physically. I had so goddamn much to say – it was living inside me. Mine. Already within my grip. Fierce and alive and perfect. Later in class, we began moving to a really emotional beautiful ballad and my teacher screamed “No more armor!” at us and I just let myself tumble and express and yearn and I was suddenly like, divinely, aware of how deeply beautiful I was because of what I held inside me ….which was TRUTH.
Women are truth-tellers. We are so often just not given permission to be that big and that important. I could never have imagined how much I had to contribute just with my honesty. I realized my importance, my depth, and my fierce beauty in that moment. That was the spark that I have been fanning into a self-esteem flame throughout my 20s.
How/where negative talk shows up in my life: Oh goodness. Usually it’s around “faster, faster, faster, why don’t you have this yet?” or “how have you STILL not gotten this? What’s wrong with you?” I can get into big-time sexual shame too, like most women I know can: “no one wants to see you post another picture of yourself” “you shouldn’t have slept with that guy, now he doesn’t respect you” “You won’t be safe if you write about that” “your vagina is really gross and he’s probably totally grossed out now” “How dare you cancel your gym membership, who do you think you are?”
When I talk negatively about myself, it’s usually… Fear. I’m pushing a boundary and the boundary is pushing back.
When others talk negatively about themselves… Sometimes there is a part of me that is comforted. I think humility is a powerful tool in connection, so when someone speaks authentically about their insecurities or fears, I just LOVE THEM. I instantly feel more at ease and more connected, conflict melts away… I actually think we could all use a lot more of this when it’s done in an honest, accepting way.
BUT when people really speak negatively about themselves from a destructive and punitive place, in an all or nothing “I’m bad” way…I just want to hold them. I recognize it so much within myself – we are all afraid, we all think if we were somehow “doing this better” we would suffer less, have fewer conflicts, and more success. This is a lie. There is no future/other point where we handle things flawlessly, for ANY of us. All any of us have is who we are today, so ….we are all always doing it right, even if “right” doesn’t look like we imagined it would.
For me negative talk is a tool I use to mitigate disappointment, so I feel as though I can be in control and save myself from pain next time – human, but also not true. So I try to recognize it for what it is, soothe myself and do something loving and simple. When I hear someone speaking negatively about themselves, I try to do the same for them – often I am honored they asked me to be a witness. I try to unwind those false beliefs for them and set them on a more loving path.
It baffles me that women still… Hesitate to call themselves feminists.
I wish that more women… Openly praised one another, and owned up when they felt threatened by each other, so they could reconnect and breathe a sigh of relief that they are simply recognizing each other’s power. Admiration doesn’t have to be competition.
The coolest thing about women is… Our cockiness when someone gives us permission to own it.
My favorite way to shift a negative into a positive: Put a question mark at the end of a negative thought I’m having. “is it possible I didn’t fuck up that audition?” “Is it possible that person doesn’t dislike me?” “Is it possible my boss actually really does respect me?” “Is it possible my friend admires me for this honesty?” Our negative thoughts scream so loudly when they are triggered, that we think they MUST be speaking the truth, but really they are just telling us stories in an effort to protect us from the unknown. We know so very little about what’s going on inside the head of another and I have been shown time and time again that I have more credit out in the world than I give myself. My brain tends to see rejection every time my praises aren’t being shouted from the rooftops, so is it possible there’s another story going on there? Absolutely. Just opening up my perspective that little tiny crack can work wonders.
My top female role models: Brene Brown, Malala Yousafzai, Cheryl Strayed, Amy Schumer, Tina Fey, Amber Krysz, my teachers at S, and ALL THE WOMEN in this video.
Men can help women crush their negative talk patterns by… LOVE THIS QUESTION. Listening, and mirroring back to them what YOU see instead of what’s running around in their heads. In fact – men are kind of brilliant at this already, in my experience. I don’t know how I would’ve survived my early 20s if it wasn’t for the ready praise of the men who wanted to touch me, date me, and sleep with me. Thank you men – you’re awesome at this.
This one is big, though: If I could tell men to do one thing, it would be to create environment in which the women in their lives feel safe to speak their needs. Then, to respect those needs without jokes, without malice, and without a pause. In this world, it is so, so difficult, for women to feel as though their needs and true opinions are valid and worth respecting. It is a massive journey for most of us, and one that some of us never even begin to walk down because the entire world is telling us to shut up and do what we’re told.
If your girlfriend, sister, wife, Mom finds the courage, the courage, seriously, to say “no” or “I want to do this instead” or “I need some time to myself” or “I’d really like to make it to yoga today” or “I’d like to see this movie, wanna come?” or “I don’t want to drink tonight” just…support her. Say “great” say “of course” and give her what she’s asking for. Women have feelings, that doesn’t make them crazy. Women have opinions, that doesn’t make them a pain in the ass. Women need to take care of themselves, that doesn’t make them absent. I passionately look forward to a day when we do not see women’s needs as a burden or an offense, but simply as a reality. You can and MUST help us here, men. We need your love, to give us the courage to begin to speak. I believe that will move us all towards equality – and equality feels good. It really does.
Favorite negativity-busting activity: Writing without censorship. Calling a friend, and coming clean. Dancing.
Fave self-love ritual: S-Factor.
Favorite feel-good food(s): Great coffee. Arugala salads with goodies in them. Lara bars. Anything from Cafe Gratitude. (this response makes me look like a vegetarian. haha! I’m nothing close. So. Also… big steaks)
Favorite movie(s) to watch when I’m feeling down: I often watch my own work from the past that I’m really proud of. I’ll watch my reels, or watch myself dance, or look at a brilliant photo, and remind myself of who I really am in the world.
Favorite empowering book(s): Mindset. The Gifts of Imperfection. When Women Stop Hating Their Bodies. 12-Step Literature.
My feel-good playlist:
Steal My Girl – One Direction
Right Thru Me – Nicki Minaj
Brokenhearted – Karmin
Jump – Rihanna
Burial – Pusha T and Yogi
Elastic Heart – Sia
Handle Me – Robyn
Mirror – Kat Dahlia
My Party – Icona Pop ft. Ty Dolla $ign
Use Somebody – Tyrone Wells
What Now – Rihanna
Wide Awake – Katy Perry
Roar – Katy Perry
Turn Down for What – DJ Snake
Latch – Disclosure
Latch (Acoustic) – Sam Smith
Cowboy – Kid Rock
Who You Are – Jessie J
Wait for Me – Kings of Leon
That list made me SO HAPPY JUST NOW.
Advice I would give my…
Ohhhh this is the sweetest question! I love Little Sascha!!
…4 year old self: You’re safe.
…14 year-old self: You are so, so beautiful.
…24 year old self: I will never, ever leave you.
5 Things, personal or professional, on my bucket list:
Go to the Oscars.
Sell and star in my pole movie.
Book a TV series
Publish a book of my blog posts.
Consistently eat Paleo (my body loves it, but it’s so hard to stay disciplined!)
Meet the love of my life and treat him like the Prince he is.
Throw the best fucking wedding ever.
My best tip on self love: Take it one day at a time. You won’t have all the answers right away. Even asking the question, you’ve already won.
When I truly love all of myself… Nothing is wrong, no one is threatening, and everything is possible.
Right now, I am most excited about… My career. My health. My growing self-esteem.
My body is: beautiful, profound, powerful, restless, and alive.
Three words to describe me: Vivacious, playful, deep
Nothing is wrong.
What piece of advice or part of Sascha’s journey resonates with you most?
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