Pictured: Jessie Hill with her daughters Cassidy and Matilda and teachers (back row) Nicole Morris, Hannah Ashford, Louise Ruprecht, Kelly Tarlinton, Francesca Ware, Samantha Burgio, Ciemara Williams, Stephanie Anglesea, Alyssa Cook and Krystal Cassoli. Credit: GREG ELLIS
Jessie Hill was a new mum with no business experience when she decided to enter an unusual fitness field – pole dancing.
In the eight years since she opened Wollongong’s Princess MeMe’s Pole School, more than 8000 people have taken lessons and discovered a whole new side of themselves.
‘‘It has changed people’s lives,’’ Jessie says.
‘‘It is funny, the reason they come is not the reason why they stay most of the time. People are looking for something in their life. Most of the time they feel like something is missing.’’
Jessie’s students come from all walks of life and all age groups. Her oldest student was 69 and she has five men attending lessons.
‘‘Men have a strength advantage in their upper body but generally have less confidence to move and less flexibility,’’ she says.
‘‘My oldest student who went up to an intermediate level was 63 and going upside down and into handstands. She thought it was the best thing ever. The physical benefits are just all over body conditioning. And it really engages your mind...
‘‘When you walk out you realise you haven’t noticed you have been exercising because you are busy and you have been completely in the moment for an hour.’’
Jessie acknowledges that there is still a stigma attached to pole dancing and some people make incorrect assumptions about it.
‘‘I’m serious about this and I am serious about the integrity of what the sport is,’’ she says.
Jessie has pole danced for 14 years and competed at the Australian championships three times.
After starting on her own she now has a dozen teachers, all of whom have previously been students and still participate in other classes.
Former student-turned-instructor Hannah Ashford had her first go at pole dancing at a hens’ night.
‘‘I absolutely loved it and then decided to give it a go,’’ she says.
‘‘I just did one class to start off with and now I do three every week. I did it nine months before becoming a teacher in the evenings.’’
Jessie says many new students are initially reluctant and more than a little insecure.
‘‘They don’t think they can do it most of the time... but what happens is once they accomplish something they get a sense of achievement.
‘‘I have people travel up from Nowra and down from Sydney to do it and I even had a bunch of ladies get on a plane in Lismore and fly down every couple of months for lessons.’’
Jessie says the greatest benefit is how pole dancing makes people feel good about themselves.
‘‘Women’s self-esteem worldwide is at crisis point.
‘‘We expect so much of ourselves,’’ she says.
‘‘But this is a remedy. You have got to like yourself for who you are and what you can do.’’