At the age of 17, Emma Lee Corbett was like many other teenage girls.
‘Pimply, redheaded’ and on a day between two of her final Year 12 exams, she dreamed of something different.
Seventeen years later, at the age of 34, Emma’s life couldn’t be more changed.
The Sydney-based woman, who is often known by her stage name, Suzie Q, has built a successful career in stripping and pole dancing. Here, she shares her story.
Emma Lee Corbett, 34, from Sydney, is a stripper and exotic dancer – she is also a competing pole dancer – she shared her story with FEMAIL
Emma (pictured pole dancing), who is often known by her stage name, Suzie Q, first got into it at the age of 17 on a day in between exams
Emma (pictured) confessed she was nervous when she started out and got sick – because she was ‘pale and freckly’ and intimidated around countless other women there
According to Emma, while she had always been interested in the world of adult entertainment, it wasn’t until that day between exams that she plucked up the courage to buy a new bra and knickers and headed over to the red light district in Sydney:
‘I had always wanted to try stripping… And I also wanted to buy my own apartment,’ Emma told FEMAIL.
‘The first time I went in, though, I was so nervous I was sick. I got there so early the club wasn’t even open yet. It was really intimidating being around all these girls who were so beautiful, blonde and tanned. I was so pale and freckly.
‘But everyone was really lovely and I soon grew in confidence.’
After that point, the then-17-year-old picked up more shifts in the strip club.
She spent her time performing and juggling a university degree in PR, until she managed to buy a property at age 21:
‘It was difficult at the beginning because some of my friends and family were quite surprised and quite disapproving,’ she admitted.
‘It takes a lot of courage to say you want to do something when people tell you you shouldn’t.
‘But that’s one of the reasons I wrote my new book, The Stripper Next Door. To showcase that I’m just like you, I just do a different job.’
However, she soon picked up more shifts at a strip club – and juggled performing with her university degree in PR until she was able to buy her first property at age 21
Emma (pictured) confessed that while it was difficult at first, because friends and family were disapproving, she soon swayed them and carved a career out of performing
To this day, she is the longest-serving pole dancer in Australia – and has competed since the age of 25 – she performs with her partner, Toby (also pictured)
Over the years, through pole dancing, stripping and performances, Emma has realised what she will and won’t do – something which she says is most important of all in the adult entertainment industry:
‘You have to identify your boundaries quite quickly,’ she said.
‘I remember one experience in Queensland when someone slid their hands down my legs and I didn’t like it. You have to check in with yourself and tap into those boundaries.
‘You should never be afraid to say no.’
Over her time in the industry, Emma has moved through many different forms of exotic dancing, from working at strip clubs to stripograms and feature shows at people’s houses.
She has also competed in pole dancing competitions both internationally and in Australia since 2005 – and has become the longest-serving pole dancer in Australia:
‘Suzie Q is very different to Emma,’ she said. ‘She’s extroverted, where Emma is quite private and peaceful. I think we all have an Emma and a Suzie within us to some extent.
‘We are all a bit different at home and at work.’
Emma (pictured with her class at age 11 in 1994) said the most important thing she’s realised with performing is that she has to tap into her boundaries
Speaking about her day-to-day life, Emma said she is still very much working, even though she does it somewhat differently now:
‘I’m more selective with what I choose to do these days,’ she explained. ‘I’m possibly more subversive as well.
‘One of my recent shows featured a voiceover which was quite like an interior monologue of what was going on in my head. I’m doing some women’s festivals and different things – but I still love work.
‘I wake up and love what I do everyday. I couldn’t do it if I didn’t get excited by what I do.’
Emma said that she is ‘just like you, I just do a different job’ – she is keen to provide an alternative narrative to that of stripping
Emma is also lucky insofar as she has found both a performance partner and a real-life partner in Toby, as she said she hasn’t always been so lucky with boyfriends:
‘We’ve been together since 2009 and it’s amazing having someone to compete and perform with,’ she explained. ‘It’s added so much trust to our relationship.
‘Being with Toby is great because I’ve had issues in the past with men who don’t understand the job.
‘But because Toby does a similar thing, we’re both definitely on the same page and I know he’s coming home with me at the end of the night.’
For the past few years, Emma (pictured with Bono) has been nomadic – they’ve been on the road travelling for a couple of years and performing
These days, ironically Emma admitted that she and Toby are nomadic. They’ve been on the road for a couple of years travelling and performing:
Emma’s new book, The Stripper Next Door (pictured), is available now
‘It’s funny considering I first got into it to buy my own property,’ she laughed.
‘But I quite like travelling and performing. Performing and teaching give me such a buzz.’
Lastly, Emma shared her advice for anyone wanting to break into the adult entertainment industry.
‘It’s emotionally intense, and more so that people think – but it’s worth it. I reckon 3-4 shifts a week at the beginning is good – just because otherwise you’ll be drained.
‘You’re on all the time, you can’t have a bad day when you’re performing. But it’s hugely rewarding.
‘We really define ourselves by what we do and who we think we are. But empowerment means choice and supporting other women in their choices.
‘I’m just trying to reduce the idea of the other, and provide an alternative narrative. I hope sharing my story helps with that.’
The Stripper Next Door is published by New Holland Publishers for AUD $29.99. It is available from all good booksellers or here.