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Last week, a video of a plus-size pole dancer was launched on YouTube. It received so much attention that it went viral and at the time of writing this article has reached over 200k views. That video was of Emma Haslam, owner of Emma’s Pole Dancing in the UK, preparing for the Lincolnshire Pole Championships which took place this past weekend. While she did not place in the competition, she certainly garnered attention from mainstream media as well as the international pole community. United Pole Artists spoke with Emma to learn more about her experience as a pole dancer, how she has been handling reactions to her video and what message she has for all pole dancers. 

Shares of your video have reached the States with a lot of support and praise from all over the community. How does this response make you feel?
OVERWHELMED. I believe my video is getting 1000 hits an hour CRAZY!!

When did you first start pole dancing? How did you discover it?

I started in 2006 and I self-taught. I have always loved gymnastics and acro and pole fitness is a form of the two. 

You own a pole dance studio in the UK. Can you explain to us what prompted this venture?
In 2006 when I first started it was just a short 5-6 months then I rented a function room and got a pole up to start teaching. In 2008 I moved to a bigger function room with 6 poles. Then in 2011 I built my own studio with 8 poles, silks hoop and trapeze. In 2012 I built another studio with 5 poles, silks hoop and trapeze in. I am looking to open another up very soon. 

You got into the Lincolnshire Pole Competition. Congratulations! How did you train for it?
I trained 3 times a week for 2 hours a time only 4 weeks ago I created my routine and broke it down into sections for me to practice and get my stamina up. 

Have you ever competed before?
No i haven’t.

How was your experience competing?
VERY nerve racking but then loved being on stage.

You are a plus-size pole dancer. What is that like?
Of course I struggle with some moves probably more than size 10 girls. BUT everyone struggles with different moves and as long as I am still enjoying what I do it wont stop me. My advice to any size person DON’T get disheartened by others maybe someone will pick something up a lot quicker but so what carry on what you love doing.
Were you ever hesitant to try pole dancing based on judgments made over your size?
When I first started I was a size 12 and I never thought of my size being an issue. When I had my daughter I put 5 stone on and this did knock my confidence BUT the encouragement of my employees and students got me back to a state of mind that I believe all people should have and that’s don’t let other people put you down and be confident to do what you want to do.

You have great control and lines in the video I saw. Do you have a background in dance?
I did dance in school and I attended a dance school for a year and half when I was 15-16. I did gymnastics for a year when I was 7. So I have a little experience. My hobbies when yonger was horse riding.

There has been criticism over your video and the positive reaction it received. Some in the community have questioned your health. What is your reaction to these critics?
Yes one woman in the industry which I did respect up until reading her comments which was bullying and very mean with her words but I haven’t let this get me down for too long as I have had so much back up and support from the industry. I find it strange how people that don’t know me personally can question my health yes I am not the “normal” size 10-12 but that doesn’t mean I am not fit or unhealthy I gained the weight through pregnacy not through sitting doing nothing yes I have found it hard to lose the weight straight away BUT in the last 2 months I have lost 1stone 6lbs and hopeing to carry on losing it. BUT again if I don’t I am still doing what I love. 

As an instructor myself I hear a lot of people making excuses for not trying pole dancing (ie not thin, young or coordinated enough). What is your message to these people? 
ANYONE CAN DO POLE! FACT! I hope I have shown that bigger woman can do it but also age and gender doesn’t matter either. You don’t have to be strong or flexible to try it out this comes with practice.

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