A stripper on TikTok is accusing pop artist Halsey of mistreatment and exploiting exotic dancers stemming from her time working with her at a 2019 event, despite Halsey’s public proclamations of supporting sex workers.
In the TikTok video, which was posted on Sunday, Honey Lestrange, a stripper based in Los Angeles, explains that in the spring of 2019, the “Bad at Love” singer hired her and other dancers at Cheetah’s, a strip club in Hollywood, to perform at an event. Media reports about the event notes it was intended to promote Halsey’s then-recently released single “Nightmare.”
In her video, which has more than 250,000 views, Lestrange says it wasn’t uncommon for celebrities to rent out the space and “use [dancers] as props,” and that many dancers try to avoid celebrity events because they often make even less money than weeknights at the club. But Halsey’s team specifically requested every dancer, and the event turned out to be the “most humiliating experience of my life,” she says.
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Lestrange recounts that contrary to the dancers’ expectations, the patrons were tipping well that night, so she was excited to go out on stage and perform. But because all of the dancers had been hired for the night for a venue with only one small stage, she had to wait until 1:40 a.m. to appear onstage. “I was walking up on stage thinking wow, I’m gonna be able to pay my rent on time,” she says, adding that dancers often do not get paid to appear at clubs, instead having to pay management for the privilege to perform.
By the time she’d started dancing, however, her manager cut her off because Halsey wanted to perform her own set. “Never ever pull anyone off of stage! You can fucking wait. Disrespectful,” Lestrange says in the caption of her video. After Halsey performed, Lestrange was allowed to perform, but Halsey had finished and patrons were filtering out.
In an interview with Rolling Stone, Lestrange says she posted her TikTok video out of frustration after seeing Halsey pop up so many times on her own For You page. She had previously written an article about her experience with Halsey at the Cheetah, but it had been sitting in her Google drafts, and “I was like, ‘I’m tired of seeing this lady’s face,’” she says.
She says that at no point did management tell her or any of the other dancers that Halsey was planning to perform that night, nor did she seem to acknowledge the dancers throughout the evening. Halsey did give them the tips from her own performance, which Lestrange says amounted to about $120, she says; though that ended up being about $25 factoring in the fees dancers are required to pay the establishment, including the DJ and security, in order to dance in the first place.
“If she had said, ‘Hey, I’m performing, sorry we didn’t make it through all the dancers,’ I would not be upset. I’d say bad timing happens or whatever,” says Lestrange. But the fact that Halsey reportedly saw her standing onstage getting ready for her set, picking up the money from the previous dancer and cleaning up poles, before interrupting her “made me think, ‘am I not a human being worthy of being on the stage right now?’”
Lestrange says that immediately after she was kicked offstage, she went to her dressing room and cried; when she came out after her own set, Halsey and the other guests were gone. She later complained to management, which apologized to her; but she and many of the other dancers were fired about a month later via text message after the Cheetah had a change in management. “It was a rough period,” she says.
The Cheetah did not immediately respond to a request for comment, nor did Halsey’s PR team. But footage of Halsey dancing at the Cheetah during her set went viral on Twitter in 2019 after being posted by the fan account @HalseyInsiders. Halsey herself also posted video footage of the event on her Instagram Stories at the time with the caption #supportsexworkers, which caused a stir among many of her followers, who felt she should not be promoting the sex industry. This prompted her to post the following statement in a series of (now-deleted) tweets: “Getting a lot of shit because I posted #supportsexworkers on my story last night. Just to be clear. I DO support sex workers. I support consenting humans in the field. My statement obviously excludes people forced into sex work. It all comes back to autonomy and choice.”
That statement struck many dancers as highly ironic — especially now, in light of Lestrange’s video. Many dancers in the comments section accused celebrities like Halsey of capitalizing on the glamorous stripper aesthetic without actually respecting sex workers’ labor. “She definitely spoke the truth on this,” dancer Gizelle Marie tells Rolling Stone of Lestrange’s TikTok, saying celebrities coopting the stripper aesthetic “has been an a very irritating and ongoing situation that has been happening for quite some time now.” Last spring, for instance, the R&B singer Usher, who has used sex work to boost his public image by appearing in a cameo role in Hustlers and releasing the pro-stripper anthem “I Don’t Mind,” was accused of using fake “Usher bucks” to tip strippers rather than real money, prompting backlash within the community on social media. (A representative for the club denied the report.)
From Rolling Stone US