Being a stripper is still taboo in SA – especially a black male stripper – but Mduduzi wants to break all the stereotypes that plague the career.
By: Thanduxolo “Thandz” Buti
Photos by: Lin Aztekville
Location: Spaza Art Gallery (Troyville)
Strippers face immense judgement from the public and as a result many of them remain anonymous. Some live double lives, working ordinary jobs during the day and stripping at night.
Considering that South Africa is still a relatively conservative country– who can blame them? Adult entertainment is something that can only be enjoyed in secret, never to be talked about due to the shame attached to it.
While it’s a norm to envision a girl having her way with a pole when you think of strippers, there is now a steady surge of black male strippers. Since the formation of the Soweto Male Strippers, people are being introduced to a new wave of young black men who strip for a living.
Mduduzi (24) – affectionately known as Cardbury Hunk – is one of these young men. The Atteridgeville raised dancer reveals that he chooses to be public about his job because he is not ashamed of it.
“It’s time that people know that there are black male strippers in South Africa and they should stop judging us. We are not harming anyone, we are simply entertainers and some of us take this job very seriously,” he shares.
Mduduzi adds that he was never worried about people knowing about his job.
“At first I was worried about my family finding out – I didn’t care much about other people.
“In the beginning people would call me all kinds of names. They would say I am an attention seeker and I am doing all of this just to sleep around. But it didn’t bother me much because I knew they lacked education about what it truly means being a stripper.”
Having figured out a way to rise above public scrutiny from his community, Mduduzi had to face his family, including his religious mother. His career choice was met with disappointment and resulted in slur words thrown at him.
“My mother viewed it as porn and found it demeaning to the family. She didn’t like it at all and even thought I was possessed. I guess she was very disappointed because she raised me the religious way.
My family members would ask me “why are you doing this? You are like a male prostitute”. But I was lucky because somehow my sister understood and supported me. Even my half-sister who stays here in Johannesburg also supported me and that motivated me,” he recalls.
Mduduzi reveals that the reason there is so much shame attached to stripping is because people confuse it with prostitution – a title he strongly dissociates with.
“As strippers we are selling a sexual fantasy, not sex – people must not confuse the two. Sex ends but a fantasy is more long-term. It’s like a dream,” he explains.
“It’s not about penetration; it’s about a touch, a look, a move which makes you feel wanted. The way I undress is like I am unwrapping a present, which makes the moment even more special. It’s about showing deep appreciation for women.”
The entertainer also labels himself a social worker because sometimes they serve as confidantes to their clients. He prides himself in always creating a safe environment where his clients feel like they matter.
“For those minutes they are in my company, they need to know that they are seen and heard,” he adds.
“We have what we call a “Chit Chat”, where we take time to sit and chat with the client. We listen to their problems or whatever they feel like talking about without any judgement because sometimes their partners don’t listen to them.
You know women suffer a lot in South Africa because most relationships are not 50/50; men usually have all the power. They are expected to only be submissive and that can be frustrating, which is why they sometimes come to see our shows,” he adds.
Mduduzi also loathes the public perception that strippers are dumb and uneducated. He states that the career requires one to be smart because it involves a lot of skills and can be harder than it appears to be.
“People don’t know that being a stripper requires one to have exceptional people skills. Your communication skills must be excellent because you have to be able to converse with different clients – from a powerful businesswoman to a woman with just an ordinary job. You must make people feel comfortable and you must be able to easily adapt to any environment.”
Mduduzi displays an infectious passion and determination, despite the odds. It’s puzzling to see someone so true to what they do even when world refuses to accept it as a career. But he states that stripping incorporates all the things he loves and that is why it is the perfect career path for him.
“Growing up I was into art, sports, debating and public speaking. Debating and public speaking gave me the wisdom to be able deal with judgement. Sports gave me a thick skin because when you didn’t perform you would face a lot of criticism and public backlash.
Apart from that, I also did a bit of modelling, pageants, dancing (hip hop and ballroom) and bodybuilding. I always wanted to make a living doing what I love and stripping incorporates all of that.” He explains.
Mduduzi describes being on stage as his true calling. He says it injects him with positive energy that makes him feel good about himself even when he is feeling down.“It’s my sanctuary and when I am up there I feel like I am home.”
He shares that stripping requires a lot of discipline and boundaries. For instance he doesn’t drink or smoke and is always working hard to maintain his body.
“Most other male strippers have something strong before they go on stage, like vodka or whiskey. But I do it with a sober mind because it’s purely out of passion and I treat it like any other job,” he explains.
But he admits that the love department can suffer because it’s hard finding a partner who understands the job. When one does they usually lack trust and tend to believe that they offer extra services.
“I personally think it’s an individual choice and not all strippers offer extra services. For me stripping is stripping, it’s not being a gigolo, the job description clearly stipulates that it’s just dancing. When I am on the stage I am performing, it’s art, and just because I am showing off my body, it does not mean I am opening a door for anything more,” he explains.
The entertainer says he draws a line when it comes to full monty (total nudity) because he believes his show is so great that he doesn’t have to show everything to satisfy his audience. But he admits in the past he struggled with the sexual advances from clients and crossed the line a few times.
“I am not a saint, I am human and sometimes temptation can get the best of you. But I am grown now and I try not to cross that line because I am the one who is in charge when I am working and I also have to live with the consequences.”
Now with almost five years as a stripper, Mduduzi adopted the career by pure chance. He reveals that he started at the age of nineteen while in matric and working part time as a bouncer at a club in Atteridgeville.
One particular weekend the club was hosting a seminar for businesswomen, he was offered an opportunity to strip for R300 a song.
“As a bouncer, I used to get R250 for six hours and R300 for one song was lot. They ladies persuaded me and I performed, they loved it and I loved it. I decided to pursue it and see where it would take me. I networked and got more gigs – I never looked back after,” he recalls.
The entertainer says he is able to make a living with his job because of the lack of young black local male strippers. “In a ratio of ten we make up only one percent and because there is less supply there is more demand. That translates into more gigs.
I can take my baby to school, feed her and clothe her and I can give my parents money. I can also take care of myself.”
“I have learned that doing what you love keeps you in the right path and I want to motivate young people to do what they love”.
Because he is a father he says people always ask what he will tell his daughter when other kids make fun of her. But he says he is not fazed by the challenge.
“My daughter is three years old now, and she knows daddy is a model and a dancer. That’s all she needs to know now.
But when she is old enough to understand I will explain to her in a way that she will hopefully understand. Most importantly I hope that she sees that I love what I do and is inspired to also pursue what she loves in life, no matter what people say, just as long as she doesn’t harm anyone or herself.”
As for the big dream, Mduduzi foresees male stripping becoming a lucrative career path in SA, like it is internationally.
In the near future he hopes to see male dancers touring the world and also selling out the dome. But most of all he wants to inspire the youth to live their dreams no matter the cost.
“I have learned that doing what you love keeps you in the right path and I want to motivate young people to do what they love so they don’t end up doing drugs.
They need to know that if there are no opportunities you sometimes have to create them for yourself. Follow your heart, do what you love and don’t worry about what people have to say.”