The Rise and Fall of Karmel Written By Ebony Little
Updated: Apr 16, 2020
I used to work in Northland Mall at Trade Secret. It was a beauty supply store with a salon in the back, similar to Sally’s. Northland Mall was a popular mall until Easton took over and they closed it down. I remember going to the mall with my cousin, Traci and best friend at the time. We didn’t have a lot of money, but that wasn’t our concern. Our trips to the mall were more about hanging out, getting our flirt on, and talking to boys.
At the time, we all lived together in a one-bedroom apartment. Our living situation wasn’t a problem then because we were young, had no kids, and all about that party life. Due to our fast-paced lifestyle, we spent little time at the apartment. In fact, most of the time, we were gone.
Back in the early 2000s, chat lines were popular. We got on them a lot. During this time, my cousin was chatting with a club promoter and was convinced she wanted to be a stripper. I vividly remember us practicing dance moves. However, she didn’t look like she wanted to dance, leading me to believe she wasn’t serious. If I am honest, who really wants to become a stripper? I didn’t know anyone. As a result, I paid her no mind and went about my business dealing with my own issues, my hair.
My hair was falling out, creating a traumatic experience for me. Imagine taking a shower and your hair falling out in clumps. My hair was falling out so much; I literally had bald spots. My hair was cut in a short hairstyle like Toni Braxton, and I loved rocking my hair in that style. With the increasing hair trauma, I had to cut my hair even more and style it to cover the bald spots. Looking back, I should have sued the girl who decided to relax my hair two weeks after she colored it red. But that is a different story for a different time.
Back to the story at hand, as we were closing the store one night, here comes my cousin prancing into the store with a purple Crown Royal bag. It was like the scene in “Set It Off,” when they poured all the money out the bag onto a car and got excited. Except, in this case, it wasn’t like she’d just robbed a bank. It was way less, but in my head, that’s exactly how it went down. I looked at the money and then at her, and my mouth dropped wide open. “You did this from dancing?” “Yup,” was her answer. “I’m totally down,” I said as we high fived each other. She had made a believer out of me.
The very next night, we walked into the Gold Club, forgetting all about our little jobs at Trade Secret. Now, everybody who knows me knows that I’m shy. This was completely new territory for me. All sorts of questions began to explode in my mind. What did I get myself into? Am I really about to go through with this? Is this even a real club? It’s so small; I thought they had their own parking lot. I watched The Players Club, and this didn’t look anything like that. Snapping out of my thoughts, I begin to take in and observe this new-found world.
I remember it like it was yesterday. There were stools pulled up to a long bar with an Asian married couple working. To the left was a small area behind the bouncer, set up for VIP guests. In front of the VIP section was the DJ booth. There wasn’t a DJ there yet because it was still early. There were small round tables with chairs and scattered customers drinking liquor or beer. The small rectangular shaped stage had two poles right next to them with mirrors in the back. A jukebox, where the dancers pick their songs to dance to, was positioned next to the stage. There were two pool tables with guys playing a game in the back near the bathrooms and back dressing room. This dressing room was not like the Player’s Club with booths and mirrors. It was a storage area.
The whole time my heart was pounding, I was beyond scared. The rules were explained to us; write your name on the board and pick your two songs to dance to. In the meantime, talk to the men and charge $10.00 and up for lap dances. Simple, right? Not hardly, I quickly realized this worked for someone comfortable with their body and their looks. And at that moment, I was neither.
We got dressed in our lingerie, slipped a garter around our thighs, and were ready for the night. By this time, my heart was really pounding fast, my body was shivering from nervousness, and my voice was shaky. My girls had to sneak me a shot of Hennessy because my high from the purple haze was long gone.
It was now time to choose a stage name. Our names were picked based on our skin complexions, Coco, Cream, and Caramel. I wanted to add a twist to my name, so I later changed it to Karmel. It was showtime. I began to dread what was to come and have second thoughts. Somehow, I managed to pull myself together. I straightened my back and walked around with my girls, who were being led by promoters.
We watched the other girls as they danced. Slow grind here, twist there, bend over, make your booty clap. Okay, maybe I won’t be able to do that last part, but I sure did practice. I was able to work with what I had eventually, but the first night, not so much. I noticed the girls sprayed the stage with sanitizer and wiped the poles down before dancing, so I made sure I followed suit.
I felt like I was going to die when I finally started dancing to R. Kelly. It wasn’t that many people there that night, but it did not make it any easier. I closed my eyes or looked at myself in the mirror, found my flow, and danced seductively. I hoped and prayed I didn’t fall. Money was thrown at me on stage, put in between my breasts, garter, and even my thong. I didn’t feel good about this. When my song was up, I walked off the stage and walked towards the back of the club.
Congratulations was given, slight touches from gentlemen wanting to talk or get a private dance, but I ignored them all. I needed to calm my racing heart and wipe the sweat off my body and, of course, light up a Newport. I left with fifty dollars that night, which I was told was good for my first time, and it being a Tuesday night.
For two years after that first night, I became Karmel and forgot about Ebony. As a stripper, I danced at parties and different clubs. During this time, I went through fun and traumatic times. It wasn’t always fun being a stripper. There were good nights and bad nights. I saw things I thought I would never see. I even learned life lessons and made friends, some of who I am still friends with today.
It took me a long time to be okay with my decisions. I was ashamed about my past stripper life. At one point, I used to tell people who knew of my lifestyle,
Karmel died. To be clear, she is still dead. I wanted to change that part of my life. I later learned to do so; I had to forgive myself. And that is exactly what I did, forgave myself. That was then, and this is now. No longer am I afraid to tell my story. Karmel is part of my past; my wild, alter ego and person inside who did not care about anything. She did and said what she wanted.
All in all, Karmel is a part of my journey and helped shape me into the woman I am today. I wouldn’t change anything about her! But, now, I am proud to introduce you to the real Ebony.