Magpie developed an eating disorder when she was about 21 years old. She went through a few rounds of treatment starting at age 25, but they weren’t terribly successful. “I would do what everyone wanted me to do,” says Magpie, “but I wasn’t being very honest about what I thought and what I wanted.” When she started pole dancing at age 28, she was in another round of treatment and this one stuck. She is now three-years recovering and she gives much of the credit to pole and the supportive community at Dollhouse Pole Dance.
At the suggestion of her pole-dancing hairdresser, Magpie looked into the sport. Having taught yoga in college, Magpie says, “I remember looking at videos and thinking, ‘Oh I could do that,’ and then I got to my first class and I tried some things and I was like, ‘Wow, I can’t do that.’” Before her first class, she was waiting in the lobby in a sports bra and shorts, hugging herself and trying to cover up. “I was so ashamed of my body. At the time, I was really wrapped up in my eating disorder, so I just felt bad about myself, but I really wanted to do this fun thing,” Magpie says.
When she achieved her first challenging trick, the whole room started clapping. “I had never seen other women support each other this way,” says Magpie. She was back in treatment and the supportive pole community made her feel accepted, like it was okay to be herself. “Whatever I looked like, it didn’t matter. I can still do really cool shit.”
As a goal-oriented person, the achievement aspect also boosted her self-esteem. Recently she has attained her Ayesha, a long-time goal of hers. The journey to Ayesha was not smooth, and that’s perhaps what brought her to her knees in tears after nailing it in May. Her first big goal in pole was Butterfly. “I got it and I fell out of a completely different trick and developed this huge fear of everything,” says Magpie. For quite some time, she did low-flow and mostly stayed away from aerial. Last December, she began retraining her Butterfly after finding she could no longer do it. By May she had progressed to Ayesha on her good side. Just a month ago, she began training Butterfly on her bad side and a half hour before this interview, she did Ayesha on her bad side.
Magpie’s background is in karate and at first, she felt pole and karate were complementary. Both require a lot of muscle awareness and muscle development. However, in karate, toes are never pointed and legs are never straightened completely. “I’ve had a long struggle with developing decent lines and pointing my toes,” says Magpie. She takes barre classes and does HIIT classes in addition to pole and the barre classes have helped her with developing her lines. Her interest in competing has also pushed her to focus on clean lines and pointed toes.
She’s always had a competitive side and frequently competed in karate. When she first started pole, she told a close friend, “Don’t ever let me compete. I love it so much and if I get competitive that’ll just ruin it.” In less than a year, she was competing in the 2017 Gateway Pole Championships with the help of coach and teacher Emily Elise. Rather than ruining it, Magpie found a lot of benefits in competing. Not only was she motivated to work on pointed toes and clean lines, she found deeper creativity and it taught her to go easier on herself. “I’ve competed a fair amount, but I don’t normally win,” she says. “I usually come in close to last. That was hard for me at first. But I think that actually taught me a lot about not being such a perfectionist and just taking it for what I learned and valuing that. It helped me let go of needing to win, which was a big lesson for me.”
At her first performance, she thought, “I can’t do this in front of my parents. I can’t do this in front of people. How can I do this?” Then she was on stage. “In karate, people don’t cheer,” she says. “It’s usually pretty quiet. The first time I did a trick and everyone started cheering, it was just this huge rush. I got kind of hooked on that.”
Her last two performances have been more personal: one about her eating disorder and one about femininity and strength where she combined karate and pole. When she explored her eating disorder in dance, she wasn’t sure her message would come across. In the end, it was an incredibly rewarding piece for her. “I came in second to last, as per usual,” she says, “but so many people came up to me afterward and told me I made them cry or they were really touched. That was an amazing feeling to know I reached people with what I was trying to say.”
Magpie believes that the sensual side of pole is a big part of building confidence in one’s self. She gives credit to Tasha Powell at Dollhouse for teaching her to be comfortable with sensuality. “When you start trying hard,” she says, “you feel vulnerable. There’s the possibility you’ll look stupid. The reality is, anyone trying to be authentic isn’t going to look stupid.” She says moving past that fear is about learning to trust that your community is not going to laugh at you.
It’s that authenticity that brought Magpie success in her eating disorder treatment. “A lot of an eating disorder is putting on a front of what you think people want,” she says. For a long time Magpie had dreams of placing high in competitions or teaching one day, but since COVID, she’s found herself enjoying her practice for what it is. “I’ve been practicing for myself and really loving that. I’m feeling like I don’t need to prove anything to anyone. I can just do it for me.” Her pole community taught her to be her and not care if people didn’t like it. “It’s okay for me to be me and be authentic and people probably aren’t going to laugh at that and if they do, well you know, f--- them.”
You can follow the incredible Magpie on Instagram @ladymagpie103.
Interview and article by Sara Wielenberg
Main image: Pole Sport Organization
Image 1: Pole Sport Organization
Image 2: Pole Sport Organization
Image 3: Pole Sport Organization
Image 4: Somer Ahonen Photography