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Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Outed Stripper-Columnist Cries Gender Discrimination

Dawn Megli |
May 15, 2012 | 5:03 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

Tressler held a press conference with attorney, Gloria Allred, to announce her claim of gender discrimination. (Di Angelo Publications)
Tressler held a press conference with attorney, Gloria Allred, to announce her claim of gender discrimination. (Di Angelo Publications)
Sarah Tressler was a society writer for the Houston Chronicle until March of this year, when a local alt-weekly exposed her double-life as a stripper. She was promptly dismissed from her position at the Chronicle.

Tressler filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission earlier this month, requesting an investigation into claims of gender discrimination. Her attorney, Gloria Allred, said Tressler worked at the club as an independent contractor and as such, was not required to disclose her dancing on her application for the Chronicle.

Tressler, 30, holds a master's degree in journalism from NYU (she said was also admitted to the journalism program at USC Annenberg). She kept a blog of her experiences, Diary of an Angry Stripper, and has a forthcoming book by the same name.

She is still working, teaching journalism to undergraduates at the University of Houston and writing for a print publication which she declined to name. She answered some of Neon Tommy's questions the week after filing her complaint.

Neon Tommy: This situation seems straight out of a Nathaniel Hawthorne novel. Were you surprised by the public reaction?

Sarah Tressler: I was surprised there was this huge of a reaction, or that someone would care to write about it. A lot of people who read the story were wondering why this was even news. But I guess when all else fails, go with the stripper. Sex sells. It's always been that way. When a publication like the Houston Chronicle aired my story, people were drawn to it right off the bat. It went viral and was being reported in Europe and Asia. Coming from Houston—I mean, this isn't L.A., New York or Chicago. It really says something about the reach of this story. (Being outed) really impacted my personal life. I was fired in a very public way.

NT: You're very educated. Did you expect to be able to support yourself as a working journalist?

ST: It took me three years to find a full-time position and I was dancing on the side to pay the bills. I graduated NYU in 2009 and wasn't hired full-time until 2012. When you're competing against more experienced journalists, you can get work way easier as a freelancer. Every little bit counts.

NT: You said on Twitter that you miss working for the Houston Chronicle. What do you miss most?

ST: I miss working with a team. The features department was great—they were always coming up with great ideas. As a journalist, it's your job to learn so you can inform the public. 

NT: What was your favorite story you covered for the Chronicle?

ST: Megan Lindsey. She was a 24-year-old single mother who was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Her final wish was to have an '80s prom party. Her final wish was granted just a week before she died. 

NT: Would you recommend dancing to other students as a way to finance their education?

 ST: Whatever works. It worked for me but it's a matter of personal preference. It's not like any other workout and there are a lot of things you can't really do at a gym.

NT: Did you ever run into people you knew from the Chronicle at the dance club?

ST: No, but I do believe it helped my interview style. It helped me relate to people in a really personal way. It's just like being in any service industry, like a waiter—you build a rapport. I learned to read their body language, their facial expressions, their cues, what they're drinking. That played into how I talked to people otherwise.

NT: You said you didn't have to disclose your dancing because you were an independent contractor. Do you think a man would have been fired for the same act?

ST: No, I think this has every thing to do with my gender and that's why I filed the complaint.

NT: Do you have any advice for up-and-coming journalists?

ST: I think it's important to be outspoken. A lot of journalism is subjective when it comes to appealing to an audience. If I hear something that’s not gonna work, or something that sounds wrong, I’m probably going to just try something else. Try whatever you can because the more experience you have, the better.

NT: How big of a role has social media played in your career, both as a journalist and in your Angry Stripper blog?

ST: Social media has played a huge part in connecting me with the public. It will continue to play a huge part in my career. And I think journalism is changing a lot. This is the new face of the industry.


Since getting fired by the Houston Chronicle, Tressler has continued to promote her Angry Stripper brand on Twitter and Facebook, gaining notoriety for complaining about Jeremy Piven's oral sex skills. She is also developing an Angry Stripper app—which according to her blog, will include "goodies like pics, video and my stripper workout, Bootycamp!"—and looks forward to the publication of her book.

At a May 10 press conference from Allred's office, Tressler said she could not remember whether she had signed an employment contract, or whether that contract contained a credibility or morality clause.

"Sarah's work as a dancer is lawful and is not a crime," Allred said. "It does not, has not and will not affect her ability to perform her job as a journalist."

The Houston Chronicle has declined to comment on Tressler's dismissal.

[View the story "Follow reaction to the Angry Stripper:" on Storify]


Reach Staff Reporter Dawn Megli here.



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