Interview with Sheila Kelley
Dear Women For One Community,
I am so over the top, honored to present this interview with Sheila Kelley. It was particularly powerful for me, as I find one of my greatest challenges in life is both accepting and understanding my body and sexuality. When I spoke with Sheila, I used a different interview style in that I spoke about my personal struggles in hopes that many of you will relate. I look forward to hearing your feedback and insights from this much needed conversation that I believe all women should be having with one another throughout the world. Thank you Sheila!
Sheila Kelley is one of the most renowned and sought after global femme leaders today. She is a successful actress, author, speaker, philanthropist and most notably, the originator of the pole dance fitness and striptease phenomenon. Sheila is the premiere “4th Wave Feminist” of the modern era. Sheila Kelley’s S Factor was launched in Los Angeles, CA in 2001 after Sheila discovered the physical and emotional benefits of pole dancing while researching a film role. Her classes offered uninhibited feminine movement without the taboo of shame or judgment. It’s popularity reached new heights as Sheila and her celebrity clients boasted the benefits of the S Factor methods on national broadcasts. Sheila Kelley’s S Factor now spans the globe, reaching women through studios, elite retreats, books, DVDs and workshops. Sheila is widely regarded as an authority on female empowerment as she tirelessly campaigns on behalf of all women unearthing their eroticism, beauty, potential and power.
Sheila’s mission is to recapture the raw, untapped power of the feminine. Her emphasis is on creating an empowered female perspective able to hold balance in relationship to its powerful male counterpoint. Her ability to establish a supportive community of women celebrating their beauty has been revolutionary.
Wf1: I have a background in spirituality and I feel very comfortable in the energy of it, but one issue that I am actually terrified of is feminine sexuality and sensuality. You are the expert in this area. I believe what you are doing is ground breaking. I watched your Tedx talk, Let’s Get Naked and I have some questions for you that I believe many women would like to know more about. Additionally, I am fascinated with your global presentation of what has happened with women in this culture as it applies to violence and oppression.
Sheila: I know. Currently, I’m doing research in the Middle East and writing a piece about the New Delhi gang rapes. It’s amazing that the rape statistics are so low, but it’s because women are so terrified to report them. They’re afraid they will get flogged or killed.
Wf1: How do you define the feminine principle and how it relates to the authentic self?
Sheila: For this question, I will refer back to my TED talk when I talk about each human’s individual potential, male or female, every single person has a ying/yang balance; a light and a dark, a left and a right brain, a feminine and masculine energy – in their body. We live in a global culture that devalues and does not cultivate the feminine being. I teach women the five feminine geniuses through embodying your body. The feminine is the moment now, the present. The masculine is the future and past. The feminine is the right side of the brain, the masculine is the left side of the brain. The feminine is abundance, light and energy, and enormity. The masculine is singularity and movement towards nothingness. In that respect, when you cultivate an entire society that cultivates the masculinity, you lose that sexual polarity that creates an incredible dynamic within the two energies of male/female.
For me, I teach women, and I’ve often offered men, the opportunity to come learn these concepts. I teach them the five layers of sexy, the five feminine geniuses. It’s kind of a graph. The five layers of sexy is how you live and the five feminine geniuses are what you live. I teach each woman how to take what they are as a feminine creature, the yin inside of themselves and how to deepen it from layer to layer to layer. What I call the layers of life, which are the layers of sexy and that is from flat line to presentational to animated to emotional to soulful. The five feminine geniuses are: Curve of movement, sensuality, emotionality, communication, intuition. These geniuses are neurologically proven gifts of the feminine biology. You must read the The Female Brain. I commend you, and many others like you who are coming into the realization of understanding sexuality. It was the patriarchal view of sexuality that took sexuality into a small, dark box called a strip club, and it was the patriarch that controlled the feminine – taking our control away. Sadly, it was some of the feminists (who I do adore and worship) that fell into the trap of taking it too far and cutting off our sexuality despite the masculine response to it. Living full in our feminine body will breathe sexuality. Women, the blossoming adolescent girl, even children are sexual beings. I have two children and they were both sexual beings the moment they came out. We aggrandize one of those sexual beings. The minute my son came out we said, “Be as masculine as you can in that masculine body. Conquer, defeat, take the ball put it in the hoop, take the ball kick it over the line.” The minute my daughter, and you, and I came out of the womb the world said, “Don’t move like that, don’t be like that, don’t move your hips like that, don’t be joyful, don’t be happy in that sexual body, don’t touch your body, don’t open your legs.” We start to degrade everything the feminine body is. Bringing women back into their bodies is my passion. Using the 5 Feminine Geniuses is the way I bring a woman back into her body.
Wf1: I want that so badly! I think that I push myself on so many levels. This would be huge for me.
Sheila: Well get your ass down here for some classes. Actually, even better, come to my Retreat in Maui. It’ll blow your fucking mind. It is a culture of sexually awakened women.
Wf1: I will! I cannot wait. Recently, a friend of mine had a party for women to learn pole dancing at her house. The woman that taught us embodied this beautiful sexuality when she danced and used the pole. I was asked to try to use the pole and I completely cringed. My whole energetic field cringed. I saw other women willing to at least try it, and others terrified like me. I had a big “AHA” that this cringing of mine is a big problem. Here I am, a woman, a founder of a movement of authenticity, trying to step into my power and all I felt was shame and terror. I realized that in order to move into my own power, I needed to gain an awareness of my feelings around my body and my sexuality. I began to have a yearning to hold the place that the teacher demonstrated to us.
Shelia: That’s good awareness. I really think you need to own it. Lets explore the word cringe. Your body is a living, breathing, thinking, feeling, genius. Your body began as a pulsation of opening and closing. When you are inside of the womb you start pumping as a fetus and then when you come out of the vagina your lungs start pumping. You are a pumping, breathing, living, fluid creature. And when you cringed you ceased to pulsate. You pulled your muscles tight and you stopped the pulsation within those muscles. As we move through this world, we cringe all day, every day. We pull those muscles tight to shut down the innate feminine nature. And we stop the pulsation, the liquidity of the feminine nature.
Wf1: You said that so beautifully!
Sheila: That is the science of it.
Wf1: Another part of this is the absolute self-hatred women have of their bodies, engrained in themselves because of this culture.
Sheila: Don’t own that hatred. If you look at my Ted talk, I won’t let you own that. These specific offenses perforate the boundaries of our bodies because the culture has a dysfunctional and complex relationship with the feminine body and because those controls are experienced by us as offenses. Because we are feminine creatures and are pleasers, we like to nurture and please, we will take those offenses into our bodies and we will self offend, so we don’t need anyone else to control us. We are taking exterior offenses and pulling them into our bodies. There is frustration and hatred.
Let’s go back to the word cringe. What lives inside the word cringe? When I take you back and get you moving to the muscles that cringe, you’re going find the 3rd feminine genius. It is going to turn the FIRE on and it is going to freak you out. You have so much pain and sadness inside that cringe and those muscles, you’re going to weep a lot. You’re going to move that emotion out of your body through movement. As women we’ve learned all our lives to not do that – we are told, “Don’t cry like that.” There are 10 core feminine emotions – Five that are considered positive and five that are considered negative. Physiologists state that not one emotion is negative on this planet. Every single one of those emotions we have are positive. These emotions are what has kept us alive. Sadness, fear, rage, envy, disgust – all those emotions that people don’t want to feel – we lock them into our body and that causes major discomfort. People don’t want to feel those emotions. We emote for the planet. Every single time you feel something, if you don’t express it, you are robbing the planet of your heart. Move it through. Let the tears stream. “She” is the oracle. “She” is the feminine. “She” is a mirror reflection of the masculine who doesn’t have as much access to his emotion. “He” needs that emotion, whether he likes it or not. It brings back his humanity.
Wf1: I’m a speechless because I feel like you are creating new places in my brain that I have never considered before. It all feels very true and right. The way you articulate your beliefs demonstrates how you embody these principles. It’s inside of you. Has it been a long process? It sounds like it has been an incredible process. What started waking you up?
Sheila: If you watch the film Dancing at the Blue Iguana you will see the birth of my erotic creature. In 1999, she was reawakened that year. The process of reawakening my erotic creature and being who I am in the feminist movement has taken 40 years of accumulated experience and knowledge. It has been an incredible journey. The pathway that I cut to teach other women is a matter of commitment and desire and wanting to reach that place that I call Feminine Wholeness. It is a journey, just like your life journey. Erotic creature. Erotic is equal to body and creature is the feminine. The feminine body. The reawakening of the feminine body is a life process because as you begin to stir her awake she will awaken at whatever age she went to sleep. Usually she will go to sleep at the first offense. One of the first things I do with women is ask them to identify their first offense in writing. I ask them to identify in a kind of writing that I call right-brain writing. The body doesn’t recall literal events, the body recalls sensual and emotional events. It recalls events through her words and her words are movement, sensuality and emotion.
Wf1: I went through a remembrance of my sexual abuse in my 30’s. It happened when I was 4, but I remembered from a feeling I had. The feelings were the clues to my remembrance. Is that what you are talking about?
Shelia: That is exactly what I am talking about. Whatever the offense is, it is all relative on a spectrum. The body began shutting down. That body stopped experiencing all the other things over the past 40 years. When you awaken her, she has 40 years to catch up with you. Through my process we accelerate the awakening process. My process will take you from childhood, to adolescence, to early adulthood to adulthood in a series of months. It is so fun. Once you move through and release all the shit, it is pure joy.
Wf1: Wow. That is amazing. I can imagine that. I believe that it could be a fun ride especially with the expansion and growth around the journey. All I have right now, is this feeling that I finally feel safe with a man and I finally feel safe with my body. It has taken me almost 45 years to feel this way. I’m ready. I ask myself as many other women my age do, “What about me and sex?” And “What about me and my pleasure?” It is great to have a partner who I can finally open up with and who is willing. I do feel my erotic creature awakening.
Sheila: Here’s the thing about your husband. There’s a man, I love his teachings. His name is David Deida. I love his teaching of the masculine and sexuality. He really, really helps the masculine understand the presence that he holds. He speaks about the beauty of the masculine. He wrote the book, The Superior Man – It’s a phenomenal book and guide.
Wf1: Thank you for the recommendation. One person that began similar work to you is Eve Ensler because she allowed us to say the word vagina. But your work feels extremely different on many levels – physically, emotionally and spiritually. It feels deeper on an individual level. That’s why I wanted to ask you, globally, what is your goal and vision for your life and how you want to impact women?
Sheila: Well, there is a theory that I have that I call the Campfire Theory. If you think of the culture that we live in now, we are a global culture whether we like it or not. If you think of this culture as a campfire, burning brightly – envision a big bonfire. Around the inner circle, there is concentric circle after concentric circle. Around that inner circle are men. These are the ones that have fought the hardest to get closest to the flame. On their shoulders are the women they carried there. Next to them are mini-men. I call them mini-men, but they are women who have made their way through the world by masculinizing themselves. Hilary Clinton is one of them – I still love and worship her. They are women who have had no other option. They are fighting the hardest to get to the inner circle of this campfire. That’s where the sustenance of the culture abides. They are that inner circle and eating all of the cultural meat. They are reaping all the benefits of their culture.
On the outskirts of this circle are all the women who don’t have a man or have been left behind. They are with their children. They are waiting for those on the inner circle to throw them a scrap of meat behind them. The feminine that are barely subsisting behind them will fight over these bones and discarded scraps of meat from the inner culture – just to stay alive. So that turns out to be manifested in our society by perspectives women have of each other like – “You Bitch”, “You Whore”, “You Cunt”…all these ways that women tear each other down. They have been trained that the only way to survive is to get close to a masculine energy.
But what many people don’t know is that there is another campfire. It is crackling about half a mile away from that campfire, through the dark and scary woods. It is the campfire of the feminine. There are not a lot of people there. I’m there, you’re there, your mind is there, you’re willing to go there. A lot of women are so fucking terrified to leave the place that they have established for themselves at the masculine campfire that they don’t trust that there is another campfire. This is a campfire where they will get sustenance, motivation and beauty. If we can get all the women to come over to this feminine campfire and burn this campfire so bright that it will grow so big that it grows as big as the masculine campfire. The culture then becomes a culture that has two campfires with two viable points of view so that we can dance back and forth between the two and we can live between the two. The one campfire elevating all the feminine and the other campfire elevating all of the masculine. A lot of people ask me why there can’t be one campfire that elevates both? What happens with that is we lose our polarity. We lose that sexual drive. We lose that thing that titillates each other. You must have a place for the feminine to be feminine, to be cultivating the feminine. You have to have a place for the masculine to cultivate strong, what I call, Altar Men who worship women while maintaining their masculine energy.
Wf1: That is a beautiful vision. I can envision it as you describe it. You just created that possibility for all of us.
Sheila: That is my dream. That S Factor can get so wide spread along with movements like Women For One and they can unite together next to the campfire. But it is challenging. I’ll tell you that after 13 years of doing this, people are scared. Women are scared shitless. If they don’t have Oprah saying come on over to Sheila and they don’t have Tony Robbins saying come on over to Sheila, they don’t have a lot of courage to come find themselves. I should write a book about that. I address whatever is coming at me, so I have a new book coming out this year and it is a journal journey. It’s about journaling your way to your erotic creature.
Wf1: I’m really interested in coming to the Maui Retreat.
Sheila: You need the whole, deep experience. The movement is incredible and it would be awesome for you to learn, but you need to put words to it, as part of the journey and that is not something that is done outside of the retreats or not working with me. We had 3 retreats last year and will do either 1 or 2 this year. I planned the Maui one in May: The 2013 Body Love S Factor Hawaii Retreat.
Wf1: Lastly, what piece of advice would you like to share with our community? I would like to also say that I think it is so fabulous how you appeared on shows like Oprah and have made feminine sexuality acceptable to the mainstream. You speak to your audience so beautifully. You can speak about such deep spiritual concepts and then all of a sudden appeal to everyone by referencing Daniel Craig! My vision for Women For One is to engage all women in a conversation about their uniqueness and individuality. Every single woman. I believe weaving authenticity into our daily lives is so important. That is why I was so drawn to you. You are a grounded, powerful woman in her feminine. It’s just so mind blowing.
Sheila: We have been taught that you have to be masculine to be powerful. That’s why it is so imperative to get into the body. I love what you are doing, but you cannot think your way into the feminine. You have to move your way into the feminine. I have tried to think my way in for years. I was a second wave feminist and now I’m a passionate, irradiant 4th wave feminist, where I don’t have any anger about the feminist movement. I see the beauty and magnificence of the masculine. I see how the masculine is stumbling and having a difficult time right now. The masculine has some good leaders. I work with Tony Robbins, he flies me around the world to work with his clients. Tony is doing some amazing work with the masculine and that is a really positive spin on things. It is getting more and more mainstream. So that is a good thing.
Wf1: I’m ready to come into the body and talk from a more grounded feminine perspective.
Sheila: My spirituality comes from movement from my S. It is a religious practice for me. It is so all encompassing. Every single thing you do ask yourself, “Am I seeing this through the feminine eye or the masculine eye?” I’ll give you an example. Someone once said to me in Chicago, on a TV show in the morning. He said, “So you teach erotic dance?” This was way early in the morning for me. The cue card of what I was suppose to say, said, “Yes I teach erotic dance.” Well, when I watch it I don’t think it is erotic so I said, “No I don’t think it is erotic but you would,” and his cue card said he was supposed to say, “How cool,” after my answer. But what happened at that very moment was that I was so tired that I didn’t have time to put on my man glasses. Everything I do now is so innately connected to my feminine eye and that is what you see up in the TED Talk. I have no fear of being taken seriously. I have all the information, I have all the facts, I have everything, and it all comes from my feminine: My feminine eye, my feminine movement, my feminine mind. It’s about cultivating that place from deep inside.
Wf1: I want that! Your power has made me want that. It’s wonderful. This has just been such an amazing conversation. People come into your life for a reason, that’s for sure. Thank you for your inspiration, power and beauty Sheila.