Magic Mike inspires S’porean to moonlight as male stripper - and his family approves
Inspired by Hollywood movie Magic Mike, S'porean man moonlights as male stripper, does up to eight gigs a month
When he first watched US actor Channing Tatum perform strip shows to crowds of ecstatic women in the hit 2012 movie Magic Mike, he told his girlfriend: "I want to do that."
The very next day, he researched online, auditioned for local party planning company Wicked Favors and got the job.
The 26-year-old Singaporean declined to reveal his real name and asked to be addressed by his stripper moniker Bradley.
He has a business management degree from RMIT University and works as a headhunter in a European oil and gas company, where he earns about $3,000 a month.
He gets at least one gig a month and up to eight during busier months.
He admitted that Magic Mike, which revolves around the lives of a group of US male strippers, was the key reason he is living his fantasy.
He told The New Paper in a face-to-face interview: "I've watched other stripper acts, but Magic Mike has that special aura. I was mesmerised by their dancing and their ability to drive women wild.
"It's also a huge ego booster... My self-confidence has really improved since I took up this job and I also find it easier to interact with people."
Bradley said many of his street dance moves are inspired by Magic Mike. And now that the sequel Magic Mike XXL is showing here, Bradley is looking forward to watching it for inspiration.
"The first movie really opened Singaporeans up to the idea of male strippers. Half of my clients ask if my show is going to be anything like Magic Mike."
Bradley is 1.75m tall, weighs 67kg and he has an asset every male stripper needs: washboard abs.
"Girls like to touch my abs. When I book a gig, I diet and work out to get more definition in my abs."
His fit physique is a far cry from when he used to weigh 104kg in his teens. He used to feel awkward about his size and battled insecurity issues.
"I only started slimming down after joining the army at 18. I also picked up (street and hip-hop) dancing (in clubs), so I lost weight and gained more muscle."
Bradley's solo gigs are mostly at bachelorette parties, with a few birthday celebrations and private events. They typically take place in hotel rooms and on yachts.
His 30-minute routine includes dancing, carrying the bride-to-be or birthday girl and grinding against her while she sits in a chair.
He usually wears a suit and strips down to a thong. Unlike other strippers, he does not take it all off.
"Sometimes, girls go wild and try to pull my thong off. I don't let them touch my private parts; that's where I draw the line.
"In those situations, I move away from them and focus my attention on someone else."
But Singaporean girls are generally quite shy, Bradley said, and take a while to warm up to him.
He collects "a few hundred dollars" per gig, and earns between $50 and $800 in tips.
"I remember panicking before my first show. I had it all planned out, but froze after the first few minutes... Luckily, the bride-to-be helped me take my clothes off, so I started to loosen up."
He gradually gained confidence, and said the crowd participation and encouragement helps.
"I see myself as providing a service and helping girls enjoy their last night before marriage."
Only Bradley's girlfriend, close family and friends know he moonlights as a stripper.
His housewife mum does not know the full extent of his job - he guesses she thinks he models swimwear - but his business owner dad is "super supportive".
"He even asks me after a show whether the girls were pretty," he said with a laugh.
Because of the stigma surrounding strippers in conservative Singapore, he keeps his identity secret.
Bradley was the only one who agreed to speak to TNP. Others we approached turned down our interview requests.
"When I perform, I use a fake name and even my voice is different," he said.
He once spotted his cousin during a gig, but she did not recognise him because he had slimmed down so much.
"I just danced away from her and focused my attention on someone else!"
Bradley sometimes joins his female clients at clubs after his gigs and they buy him drinks. Girls have requested sex from him, but he has always declined.
"When they are high on too much alcohol, they get too pumped up and will say things like, 'Why don't you stay for the night, we will pay you'."
The easiest way to turn them down gently is to tell them he is gay, he said, adding that these propositions are rare.
As for his girlfriend of three and a half years, who wanted to be known only as Sandy, he said: "She often drives me to my stripping gigs and will wait for me to finish work before picking me up again.
"Actually, it's almost impossible for me to get aroused during a gig. There are too many distractions: dancing, trying to read the mood of the room and the air-con blowing on me while I'm half-naked."
Sandy told TNP in a separate interview that she did not want to stand in the way of Bradley's dream - as long as he stays away from drugs and sex with other women.
The 25-year-old, who is between jobs, added: "Initially I was quite sceptical, but he is giving me enough assurance that he will not do anything to cheat on me.
"I'd rather he explore this during our relationship rather than when we are married."
S'poreans more open, but demand still small
Wicked Favors and Pricks & Licks, two local event companies that provide male stripper services, were set up in 2012, the year the movie Magic Mike was released.
"The idea came about after watching Magic Mike," said one of its partners, Mr Mo.
"There were then only amateur strippers for hire. We thought we could do better than that."
Wicked Favors is run by Ms Yen Lin, 27, and Ms Julie, 26. They have a pool of five freelance male strippers: three Caucasians, one Indian and Bradley, who is Chinese.
Both Ms Yen Lin and Mr Mo said the Singapore market does not have enough demand to support a regular performing group of male strippers, like in Magic Mike or famous foreign acts like Chippendales. Instead, it is usually solo shows or double acts.
The local scene is also tamer than it is overseas and the agencies have turned down requests for sexual favours.
While both businesses declined to provide exact earnings or the number of gigs they have booked, they told TNP that Singaporeans are becoming more open to the concept of male strippers.
The companies are also very protective of their employees.
Wicked Favors clients are not allowed to film or photograph the show. This is because the strippers do not want to be identified by their day job employers and photos can sometimes end up on social escort sites.
Wicked Favors hopes they will see more business with the release of Magic Mike XXL, but is more interested in expanding their stable.
"We always want a bigger pool of male strippers," said Ms Yen Lin.
And what does it take?
"Confidence, especially if you're not that handsome. And you need a sense of humour and good dance skills," she added.
MALE STRIPPERS: BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW THAT...
1 They can't strip in public
According to the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) Act, it is an offence for a person to appear nude in a public place, or be clothed in a manner that offends public decency.
2 It's often guys who make the first move
"Girls are squeamish about requesting for a male stripper for hen nights, so they often get their boyfriends to call us," said Ms Yen Lin from Wicked Favors.
3 Local women find big men too imposing
Rather than hulks like Magic Mike's Joe Manganiello, local women prefer bodies like Matt Bomer's - toned, but less physically intimidating.
4 Some girls cry during shows
"I once had a bride-to-be burst into tears when she saw me," said Bradley. "Fortunately, she cheered up when I offered to perform for one of her friends instead."
5 Older women enjoy male strippers, too
Bradley's oldest client was 65. The woman's son-in-law had hired him for her birthday bash. He said: "Her friends were also very into it. They called me 'Ah Boy' and cheered me on."
6 You won't know what your stripper looks like until he arrives at the door
The agency portfolios describe the men and may show photos of their bodies, but won't reveal their faces to prevent identification.
7 Sexual orientation doesn't matter
"We've never asked our strippers if they are gay or straight - it doesn't affect our business," said Ms Yen Lin.
8 Gay men can be shy with strippers
Strippers may also be engaged for gay parties. "Surprisingly, I've found gay men to be more shy than women," said Bradley.
9 Caucasian strippers cost more
They charge more - about $100 per gig - than Asians as they are considered more exotic here.
10 Jealous men are barred from shows
"We've had husbands walk out of the room, so we are careful to ask about male representation at the show before a gig," said Mr Mo of Pricks & Licks.