Everything about Claudia is bubbly and cheerful. She effortlessly oozes the L.A. “cool girl” vibe as we chat over cold brew coffees and matcha lattes at a minimalistic sunny cafe on Sunset Boulevard.
Claudia will be celebrating her 10-year pole anniversary in November and excitedly summarized her experiences in the pole industry, from her very first dance to her internationally-recognized career today.
“It all started when I was 21, I got a party bus for my birthday and it had a pole inside of it so my girlfriends got me a gift card to take a class that day so I would know how to use the pole in the party bus,” she giggled.
“I literally touched the pole and I just felt like this is exactly what I’m supposed to be doing with my life, this is it!”
After watching Claudia dance, it’s impossible to deny that she has found a lifelong career in the pole dancing industry. She exhibits incredible fluidity and strength in her choreography, teaching first-time students as well as highly-experienced pole dancers with patience, encouragement, and skill like I’ve never seen before.
While her name is not yet well known to those unfamiliar with the world of pole dancing, her name is known to many A-list celebrities based in Hollywood. Before working with Constance Wu for “Hustlers”, she had also helped Victoria’s Secret model Bianca Balti.
In fact, it was Constance who first approached Claudia at BeSpun’s Hollywood location. “She came to my ‘sexy basics’ class and I didn’t recognize her and she came up to me after class and asked if I did private lessons and we exchanged numbers,” Claudia said.
“After she left all the students were like, ‘Oh my god do you know who she is?’”
It was only after this first encounter that Claudia watched “Crazy Rich Asians” and “Fresh Off the Boat”, realizing exactly who she had just taught. This is how Claudia and Constance formed their relationship; from November of 2018 to March of this year, the two worked together to prepare the actress for “Hustlers”.
“When she first came to my class, she did a spin on the pole, her first class ever, and I said, ‘Good job!’ and she just looked at me and goes, ‘It wasn’t,’” Claudia laughed as she recalled the moment.
“She’s hardcore and she’s badass,” she continued. “I think that Constance has a very strong personality because she knows exactly what she wants and I think that’s why she’s so successful.”
The pole instructor describes Constance as nothing but kind and determined. “She was never ever a diva to me, she was fantastic to work with. She was funny, I loved her sense of humor. Our dynamic and our relationship just worked really well but she definitely needed like a drill sergeant instructor which typically isn’t my go-to style.”
“I don’t think the movie required her to learn pole because she didn’t have a big pole scene, so she kind of did this on her own,” Claudia tells me, describing Constance to be a very committed student.
“She got really advanced really fast and she was doing three private lessons a week. She was working so hard and even set up a pole at her place and I would send her little routines and she would practice on her own too.”
While Constance’s pole dancing scenes were relatively minimal in the film, limited to just a few clips, the original plan for the movie was quite different. “From my understanding, she was supposed to have a last dance at the end of the movie but they cut it,” Claudia says.
“I choreographed a whole routine for her but it didn’t even end up being in the movie, but sometimes, things just get cut.”
“I tried to think of all the classic stripper moves and what’s going to help her in the movie,” Claudia told me.
“And it was more about looking good, not necessarily doing the most impressive tricks because that wasn’t what her role was about. She wasn’t supposed to be the strongest pole dancer, that was J-Lo, so for her it was about looking good on screen and having clean lines.”
Through these consistent private lessons, Claudia was able to form a bond with the “Hustlers” actress and was even invited out to New York for the filming of Constance’s original big dance scene.
“They basically shut down the entire club so we could train together, so it was just me and her for two days working on the routine that was supposed to be her last dance,” she says.
In between lessons, the pair began spending time together away from the studio, getting to know each other on a more personal level.
“When I was in New York, I had the hotel to myself and I was going to go out to this really fancy club, it’s like my favorite place in New York called the Box, and I invited her to come with me and her response was so funny,” Claudia told me.
While she briefly paused for effect, I had already joined in on her infectious laughter. “She was like, ‘That place is a little too fancy for me, I’m more of a dive bar and beer kind of girl!’” Claudia finally said.
“So when people call her a diva, I see the other side which is like so chilled and relaxed and she’s just like, ‘I just want to sit around and have a beer.’”
The promotion of the film “Hustlers” has been drawing mixed reactions from the pole dancing community. While Instagram has allowed “Hustlers” content to be promoted on their platform, regular pole dancers had been excluded and “shadow-banned,” with their posts being deliberately hidden from the public.
Many of these members in the pole community, including strippers, have chosen not to advocate for the film believing this practice to be unfair.
“I think it’s actually a positive because I’m already seeing some of these shadow bans being lifted because of the film,” Claudia commented on the matter. “I think the more exposure the film gets, the more normal they’re going to make pole dancing.”
The release of the film has certainly brought increased interest into the pole community, with the sport even being featured in a recent Calvin Klein advertisement featuring Bella Hadid. With increased media exposure, Claudia is hoping that one day pole, as well as its dancers, strippers, and students, can all be respected on an equal level.
Just like Claudia had discovered 10 years ago, it appears “Hustlers” is helping women to discover just how empowering, sensual and physical pole dancing can be.
Feature Image (left
) via Instagram/@itsclaudiarenee, (right) via Getty