Growing up in rural California, I had crooked teeth, permed hair, and a complex about being too short. Scandalous talk shows were my escape, and it was there that I first became acquainted with a certain type of woman. Everything about her was elegant: her clothes, her hair, her gestures. Men loved her. In fact, they paid her to travel around the world with them. She was the high-class call girl, and I was fascinated by her. And more importantly, I was inspired.
It wasn’t until I lost my virginity, though, that I learned I really loved sex. By that time I was a college student in Manhattan, and I’d long suffered from low self-esteem. But sex made me feel wanted, needed, and appreciated. It was intoxicating, even powerful. So when the funding for my college tuition was suddenly cut off, I had the justification I needed to tiptoe into the world of sexy work. I became a stripper.
At first, I thoroughly enjoyed the theater of topless dancing. I loved the flamboyant outfits, the glamorous hair and makeup, and the opportunity to get in touch with my body’s beauty. Being a woman became much more fun with a newfound sense of “glamour,” and sex became even more pleasurable the better I could move. But the late nights, smoky bars, and mind-numbing conversations with patrons wore me down, and I quickly traded late nights for a daytime job as an office temp. Somehow the corporate world was even worse than those bars. Even while working for top-level executives, it made me feel dull inside. I remembered those beautiful women I saw on TV growing up, and another way of life called to me incessantly.
Illustrated by Isabel Castillo-Guijarro.
It was an obsession that took me to the office of a sharp, open-minded French psychiatrist. We talked about the courtesans of old (and modern escorts) who juggled “boyfriends” and traveled the world while being treasured for their femininity, their individual beauty, and their innate ability to bring comfort to clients. The idea of men expressing their ardor with generous and tangible financial support instead of empty words and broken promises — like so much of what I experienced in the dating world — appealed to me, and the doctor concluded I suffered from nothing more than an occupational obsession. “Explore it” was his advice, if only to settle the matter once and for all.
This was how I found myself standing in a Manhattan bordello one night. I had made the decision to take a leap and style myself as a high-priced escort. Not dabble. Not dip in and out. But truly immerse myself in learning this profession to make it my lifestyle and a career. Wearing a long silky gown, a prissy set of pearls, and kitten heels, I stood out (or perhaps under) from the tall, more modelesque girls in vampy dresses. Self-conscious about my flat chest and short stature, I worried I’d never be able to do what they did. But when one asked why I got to wear my “nightgown,” our motherly madam snapped, “Because it’s just her.”
And with that, I learned whatever you’ve got going on, you can work it.
Overweight? No, you’re zaftig and curvalicious (you can be busy-busy as a BBW — big beautiful woman — escort if you market yourself correctly). Got that goth look, dark-violet hair, and a tattoo or two? There’s a man out there ready to worship you with his dollars. A “boring”-looking librarian (save for the saucy smirk) with an advanced degree, pencil skirt, and glasses? Oh my god, when you own that and work it — all of it — the phones will ring off the hook.
Me? I wasn’t “short” but petite. I wasn’t innocent; I was girlish. I learned to celebrate my differences. There is no “cookie cutter” ideal of beauty and character. Men who pay (and men who don’t) want to enjoy the company of an authentic, independent woman simply basking in who she is. Once I understood this my self-confidence exploded and so did my career. I soon left the bordello to work for myself as an independent companion, entertaining in my own apartment and specializing in “the girlfriend experience” as well as escorting my clients out or traveling the world with them.
Illustrated by Isabel Castillo-Guijarro.
To offer this level of companionship, I had to be at my very best. Spiritually, I had to cultivate the skills of empathy, tact, and diplomacy (and practice a lot of loving kindness). But I also had to take care of myself physically and mentally if I was going to do it for others. This expectation allowed me to hone my self-discipline and truly master my emotions. I came to love the daily rigors of maintaining myself. It meant daily exercise, watching my diet (if only to have enough energy to be a sexual athlete all night), and keeping positive and spiritually balanced. Negativity cannot proliferate for long when your patrons need you to “light up their lives.”
Once I learned to hide the sorrows I held inside, they began to disappear. This allowed me to focus on the men who were my clients instead of myself. And while it’s easy to feel “drained” by their needs and expectations, there’s so much room for fulfillment. Many of the men who came to me were stressed, insecure, and troubled, and it wasn’t really about sex for them. If you remember this, you elevate yourself and what you do to a level that goes beyond a “transaction.”
Ultimately, escorting taught me that in order to take care of men at every level — physically, mentally, spiritually — I had to first take care of myself. It’s what allowed me to have something valuable (and for some, priceless) to share. It also granted me the time, money, and life experiences needed to write, and now I have written a series of erotic novels (The Spicy Secrets of a Jet-Set Temptress) — something I don’t think I would’ve been able to do without the discipline I developed as an escort.
I’ve come to think of escorting as a helping, healing, and entertainment profession — not just for my clients but also for me. Yes, I worked for money, and I loved every single gift and tip I got on top of it, but I worked just as much for the life that came with it. It took me to a better place, where I could recognize, embrace, and cultivate my own uniqueness. I was an escort, but not just for the money.
Lantana Bleu is a former high-priced call girl and author of The Spicy Secrets of a Jet-Set Temptress, a series of erotic novels. For a deeper look into this provocative world, check out STARZ’s new series The Girlfriend Experience, which follows Christine Reade, a law student who finds herself drawn into the world of a high-end escort. Watch the premiere April 10 on STARZ.