Hijabiluscious – Chatting to the Pole Dancer Making a Statement on Social Media

Today I am having a chat with Neda, aka Hijabiluscious on instagram. I first started seeing their posts in the Facebook pole groups, and their energy really drew me in. They seemed like a really positive person, with a great sense of humour. Now, I’ve started following them on Instagram and their videos and pictures are always popping up to inspire, motivate and advocate as a pole dancer doing it in line with their culture, religion and humour.

I wanted to ask them about their pole journey, their social media presence, and their personal relationship with the different aspects of pole.

We caught up over email:

Peach: Tell me a bit about your pole journey so far – how long have you been pole dancing? Which studio do you go to? Why did you start? 

Neda: I started in August of 2019. I’ve been a competitive swimmer most of my life, and wanted to try something new on the side. I was on ClassPass so I can try things without commitment, and the pole studio Luscious Maven came up just a mile from me. I thought, wouldn’t it be funny if a Muslim woman like me went? I went as a joke. But then I was so sore after class, that I wasn’t laughing anymore.

You’ve not been pole dancing that long! You’ve made amazing progress and I see you’ve been smashing out some impressive moves. I noticed you practice in full coverage clothing, what are some of the challenges of that? 
In the studio, I wear grip leggings. I was very happy to see that clothes exists for people who decide to cover, and they work great. Sometimes I get warm but it’s nothing I’m not already used to. I even have a sticky top! At home I have a silicone Xpole which is like Chinese pole, so I stick with regular clothes. So with the home pole especially, it’s designed to pole with clothes and it works for me.
As someone who wears a hijab, what advice would you give to others who might be interested in trying pole but are worried they can’t because of religion / dress etc?
There are many types of pole, just like with dance. Exotic is difficult and amazing, but it’s the only category most people think of, and people don’t feel comfortable with being sensual in public. I’d advise them that there are so many other categories of pole to try for their comfort, and even doing it as a workout is enough. And if you want it to be private, that’s fine too, because pole is for you and your body, and it’s perfectly ok not to be public about it.
Your posts on social media have a lot of humour and sass, I love it! Have you been on the receiving end of criticism for taking up pole dancing? Is humour one of the ways you challenge those attitudes? 
My humor came way before being harassed on social media. I actually did standup comedy as a hobby when I wasn’t working, but now Pole has happily taken that time. I still love to make people laugh, and my journey with pole has a place for it. Wearing hijab already comes with criticism even without pole, so having my appearance criticized is nothing new to me. Unless the person is looking to learn, I don’t waste my time trying to justify myself. So I troll them instead.

Were you always so confident, or has pole dancing given you an extra confidence boost? 
I always had a performer nature, even as a kid I loved public speaking and loved to be in the spotlight. But pole has given me a confidence in myself, and helped me truly understand bodily autonomy on my terms. Feeling what I’m capable of, and learning how much I can progress in a new sport at this age (I’m 32), has definitely helped me be a lot more confident.
What is your top tip for boosting self-confidence?

Join an activity that you are doing for yourself first. Not for the extra views or followers, but one that you will enjoy when no one is looking. Be patient with yourself, and really go at your own pace, then you will see how much you will progress and how confident you will feel respecting your own pace.

I really like how balanced your pole practice is – you do tricks, flow, heels. Why do you think it is important to train different disciplines within pole?

There are so many disciplines within pole, and they are all so fun. It’s important to find what you’re good at because it’s so gratifying. I don’t think it’s a must to try it all but it certainly does help with finding your talent. I love doing tricks in heels and exotic in private (Online class) because it’s a different muscle set and an intense cardio workout. I also learn how to feel sexy when no one is watching, because to me it’s empowering to be in touch with my femininity on my terms.

What is your relationship with exotic pole? What interested you about it?
I mostly do sport and aerial if I plan to either perform or post videos. But with exotic pole I either do in private or when only women are in class, because that’s my comfort level. I think it’s empowering to learn how to feel sexy without the male gaze, since that is how many of us have been socialized to feel about ourselves.
As a Muslim who wears your head scarf in your videos, are people surprised when they see you dancing in pole shoes?

Yes because they see them as “stripper shoes” only. Of course heels have stripper origins, there’s nothing wrong with that. But it’s strange that people think I’m being a stripper just because I wear heels, even though no clothes are coming off. I know it’s just projection, it’s nothing new. But pole heels are so light and easy to dance in, and I’m also short so I get to feel tall and powerful in them too.

I also saw that you work in healthcare. During this stressful time, is pole giving you a way to relieve stress and maintain your wellbeing? 
Oh big time. During the day, I’m a nurse practitioner so that means COVID testing is a large part of my job right now. I am very lucky to have gotten a home pole before this happened. It gives me such a structured outlet when I come home from work.
As a healthcare professional do you have any advice for people who might be feeling demotivated or stressed in lockdown? 

Figure out how to have structure during the day. But don’t deny that this is a stressful time, because it is. But luckily with technology, it’s easy to have a home workout. Even 10 minutes of crunches is better than nothing. So I recommend starting small and then building every day. As far as mental health, I’d say to not expect yourself to be super productive, because that’s how people end up feeling like a failure during this time. Acknowledge that this is all new, it’s a tragedy, and it’s going to take a while to adapt.

Any final words of wisdom for my readers that you would like to share? A bit of Neda knowledge? 

I used to be worried about the online backlash I got when I first started pole. But now when I look in the mirror and see how ripped I am, I know I have the power to punch people in the face if they ever tried to say any of those things to me in person. But they can’t. So if you’re scared of the response you’ll get from starting pole, just know it will give you the strength to punch your haters in the face as well.

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Go and follow Neda on instagram for some regular laugh out loud, positive and enjoyable pole related posts!

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