"I am the ring master to this circus," Kristin Segal joked to me as we sat face to face over cocktails and loud music. It was her way of apologizing for the constant interruptions in our interview, done in a way that only a woman with her sense of humor can pull off.
To drive by the small (somewhat) rundown brick building directly off of one of Orlando, FL’s major thoroughfares that Segal works, you may not even notice it. Despite the neon sign, and often large collection of balloons above the entryway, you would most likely barely give it a second glance. But let’s just say that you did notice, and you took the time to park in back to explore what was inside the establishment. You would be surprised with your experience.
When you walked inside, you would find an adult entertainment bar. Sure, it has the poles, half naked women, even a blinking light show and thumping music just like most businesses of it’s kind. But because of it’s size, it has managed to also have a sort of "homey" feel. Customers and staff alike have been known to refer to it as "Cheers with nudity"; it’s a local place where everybody knows your name, and they are always glad that you came. The go-go dancers are just an added bonus. This home-style feeling is what has made it the most popular of it’s kind in Central Florida for almost a decade. Dancer’s Royale is far from your run of the mill "gentleman’s club"; it is instead a comfortable place to have a beer after work, or meet up with a group of friends for a celebration.
But that is not the most interesting aspect of that sexy, fun bar. If you were to take the time to walk in, your biggest surprise would most likely be the voice that you heard over the microphone. The voice of Kristin Segal, who is in the 1%. She is one of a small stack of women who have made a career as a disc jockey/master of ceremonies in the adult entertainment industry. Since the days of burlesque, the underground world of men’s clubs has been male dominated, except of course for the woman actually doing the dancing. They are referred to as "gentleman’s clubs"; but more than that it is completely a man’s world. It has only been recent that woman have even been considered for roles in these places for anything besides showing their wears. Woman like Segal have slowly begun to infiltrate the jobs that were only available to men for a century.
Kristin started working at the bar almost a decade ago. A friend got her a job as a waitress to start, but within months she was promoted to bartender. Working day shift so that she could be home with her son at night, she was forced to find things to entertain herself during the slow hours of the early afternoon. So she would ask the DJ to let her play some music and experiment with the microphone. Soon this morphed into her covering the MC duties when someone was running late. Then one fateful night, one of the regular disc jockeys called in sick too late for the other men to step in, so Segal was called in desperation. "They knew that I could run the show, so I agreed to help out. But I was kind of thrown to the wolves, I’d never done it for more than an hour or so," she explained. "I didn’t want to repeat the trite male DJ banter that I had heard over and over; I just wouldn’t have sounded authentic. I had no other females [in the field] to emulate, so I just had to find my own way. Nerves and inexperience aside, Segal hit a cord with the performers and customers alike. Everyone sang her praises, and her gender never even came into the equation. Segal played music everyone loved and gave the entertainers the credit they were due, but with a respect they weren’t accustomed to. From that night on she was the "on call" DJ and each time a man called in she stepped up to the microphone and did the job as well, if not better than the person whose shift she was covering. About a year after her first bought on the mic, a full-time slot opened up and without question, Kristin Segal was the woman for the job.
Segal laughed when I called her a pioneer. "I had no idea that I was just one of a few until you told me," she admitted. She doesn’t take herself or her career too seriously which is probably part of her popularity. "I’m aware that this career path has a shelf life, but I really am enjoying it for now. I’m just glad that [after 5 years] people are still entertained with my silliness and energy." She is humble and full of quotes like "I just make the music happen," but the customers and fellow employees know differently. "The male deejays seem to be doing it so that they can be in the spotlight; Kristen wants to promote the show for everyone," a male customer gushed to me during one of the breaks of the interview."
"I am aware of the stigma of what I do and where I work. Personally, I have never danced [as an "entertainer"], but I appreciate why the girls do it and I have complete respect for how difficult a job it is. I see them every day, and what they have to deal with," she gave a very deserved shout out to the other woman in the bar. She went on to say that she has the best of both worlds; she gets to be the center of attention by dressing her best every day and carrying herself with her own style, but allows the professional dancers to entertain the customers. Segal continued with announcing unapologetic that even her parents were proud of who she had become, and where she works. It seems that she has not only beaten the stigma, but flourished despite of it.
I am proud of Kristin Segal. I am proud of her as a fellow woman, because she has forged her small frame into a man’s world. I am proud that I was the friend who got her the job at that bar in the first place. I am proud to have called her my friend for over a decade, and to watch her come into her own as a strong woman and as a professional disc jockey/master of ceremonies. Just like that building she works in, Kristin Segal may be small in size but she is huge in entertainment and spirit. She is proof that woman can do any job a man can do, if they have the proper attitude towards it. And that is something to inspire people from any gender. No job is out of your reach.