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Brandee Evans tackles the stigmas around stripping in new Starz show ‘P-Valley’

Brandee Evans on P-Valley (Photo courtesy of Starz Entertainment LLC)

Brandee Evans is a former English teacher turned dancer and actress. She has taught her Hip Hop In Heels classes around the world with the goal to improve women’s confidence, build strength, and help them find their sexy. The Memphis, Tennessee, native is now taking over the small screen with her role in the new show “P-Valley” on Starz. In the series, Evans plays Mercedes, a hardworking stripper in a small town. The show, which airs next month, delves into the reality of stripping from a Black female perspective. We spoke with Evans about her role and the stigmas around strippers. 

Tell us about this new show, “P-Valley.”

“P-Valley” is not what you think. Everybody’s thinking “OK, great another Player’s Club.” No, ma’am, no sir. It’s completely different. It pretty much shows what’s going on in these women’s and these men’s lives beyond the pole, beyond the club and what they’re struggling with day-to-day. [It] humanizes what’s happening with them and makes you see that these ladies and these gentlemen have souls beyond their bodies. That was the biggest thing that interested me in this role, because I knew nothing about the culture. I just knew the stereotypes.

Why was it important for you to play this role?

I don’t think people realize strippers, exotic dancers, whatever word you want to use for them, they have to pay taxes too. I think people think that they’re just getting a lot of money, which is not the case either. These ladies are having to pay taxes. They’re having to pay to even be in clubs to dance, pay the DJ and pay the bartender. [There is] a lot of money going out. Everyone’s story deserves to be told. A lot of people are like, “[It’s] just glorifying stripping,” but you didn’t even look at it to see what Miss Mississippi is going through, what Autumn Nights [is] going through, and Mercedes is trying to leave the club. Everyone has a story.

How has your perspective changed since working on this show?

My respect for these women changed. In the past, I just looked at it like they’re using their bodies to make money. That is not it. It’s so much deeper than that. As a woman, I feel more confident in my body because I’m finally seeing women, every single day that look like me. I’m curvy. I’ve got stretch marks. I’ve got cellulite and they are embracing every bit of their bodies. I was a professional dancer before and I’ve been told on stages by men, “lose a little weight, sweetie… You’ll look sexier if you get a little bit smaller.” To have a showrunner like a Katori Hall and eight female directors pulling me up and lifting me up, my confidence went through the roof.

Where can people check out the show?

On July 12, 2020. We’re going to be premiering it after our sister show “Hightown” at 9 p.m. After that, it will air on our time slot which is 8 p.m. every Sunday on Starz.