Arielle Jackson: Phoenix Rising

2018-08-09 10.04.50 2.jpg

When Arielle Jackson (@missjacksonpole) met pole dance, her only goal was to lose weight. In the midst of a tumultuous relationship and a deep depression sparked by medical complications after an abortion, she’d gained 60 pounds and took up pole as a way to shed the weight. Little did she know, her relationship with pole would be the one that would save her life. Now a 2nd place APC exotic pole champion and pole instructor, Arielle shares her moving story of rebirth with Poletry in Motion.

I’ve always been hesitant on telling my story but I just started feeling like people just see me posting on instagram and they have no idea who I am. It was a necessity that I opened up about what happened.

How was your life before you began poling?

It felt regular to be completely honest. I felt like I was just living regular life with my then boyfriend. He is actually why I started to pole. Right before I started to pole, I gained weight (more than 60 pounds). I was in an abusive relationship. He began talking about my weight and so did his family. It was something I did just for a workout and it also took me out of that environment all together.

How did you get out of that relationship?

Pole definitely became my boyfriend. It was the only thing that made sense to me at that time. It was something I trusted myself with because I felt like I couldn’t trust him anymore. Once I got my first pole membership and had done my first solo, I knew I was ready to actually leave that relationship.

Pole became my boyfriend.

What was it that clicked for you and let you know you were ready?

It was feeling like I didn't need him anymore. I didn’t need his approval. Pole is a great atmosphere because there are so many empowering women who are there to help you be your best self. And then, you go into the pole room and there are mirrors everywhere. You’re forced to look at yourself and own everything that you have. Pole was definitely a confidence booster for me because it forced me to love myself. He wasn’t loving me the way I needed to be and I knew I deserved better.

2018-08-12 02.13.03 1.jpg

Can you tell us more about the role pole played in your healing after having the abortion and dealing with all of the different medical issues?

Music and pole helped me deal with everything. I’ve always been a choreographer in my head, so pole was definitely an outlet to dance to whatever kind of music that fit my mood at the time. That helped me get through all of that.

What is life like for you outside of pole?

I’m a full-time student. When I went to Norfolk State I was a social work major. I actually didn’t finish school there because after the abortion I got sick and wound up going home for about a month or two. After everything, I felt like I wasn’t in the right space to deal with people in the capacity I wanted to. It took me awhile to figure out what I wanted to do. For awhile I wasn’t in school, I was just working.

Now I’m studying nutrition. Pole definitely played a role in that switch. I’m a person who has battled with my weight since 5th grade. It’s always been an insecurity of mine. Pole helped me find my purpose as far as knowing what my body can and cannot handle.I just really want to pass that knowledge onto other women and young adults. I can help others with proper eating habits because it’s something I am passionate about and I just don’t want someone else to feel like how I did.  

In what way has pole played a role in how you define yourself?

Before pole, I didn’t have a backbone. I didn’t speak up for myself. I was always the people pleaser. I was always trying to make someone else happy. Which, I don’t think it’s a bad quality to be selfless, but you also have to know your own worth. I feel that pole has helped me find mine.

You go into the pole room and there are mirrors everywhere. You’re forced to look at yourself and own everything that you have.

Pole not only plays a role in how we define ourselves, we play a role in defining pole. How do you feel you’ve shaped the definition of what it means to pole?

I help people look at pole differently because of my weight loss journey with it. They can see pole does produce results. They can now accept it a little bit more as a fitness workout.

How is your pole style a reflection of you and your personality?

I’m definitely a lover. I love R&B and I’m a sensual person. Slower music helps me be more in tune with myself. Again, learning in the studio with the mirrors and floor movement helps you see everything. Instead of going through (the routine) quickly.

2018-08-09 10.04.50 1.jpg

You competed and placed 2nd in exotic level three recently in a PSO competition, congratulations! Tell us more about that experience. When did you decide you wanted to compete?

I wanted to be taken seriously as a pole dancer. Also, because I want to open my own studio one day. I felt like competing would be something great to have under my belt if I wanted to open my own pole studio. And I want everyone to see my journey from literally starting from square one. I wasn’t your typical pole dancer because I was heavier. I guess to some people that’s not what they want to see on the pole. I wanted to show people that anyone can do this and pole meets you where you are. You don’t need to be athletic form the start nor do you need to have a dance background to learn it.

How did you prepare physically and mentally for competition?

I listened to my song everyday because I needed to hear the musical cues. Even when I wasn’t dancing and I was just in the car I was trying to hear specific beats and I was just brainstorming ideas and certain moves for when I got home.  I began to eat differently. I was drinking more water. I was going to the gym more frequently to help with my endurance with pole. I wanted to look cut to be completely honest. I wanted the pictures to look really nice and I wanted to show my athleticism.

I didn’t have a coach or anything. In retrospect, I wish I would have spoken to someone who had already competed.  I put so much stress on myself because I wanted to be taken seriously as a poler. People, when they first compete, forget to still have fun. Pole is fun at the end of the day. We are doing things that a lot of people can’t do and wish they could.

I wanted to show people that anyone can do this and pole meets you where you are

At the competitions, you can tell that people are obviously in their zone but everyone is still very supportive. Heather Williams aka “Butter” (@evahhhnay) spoke with me before I went on stage, telling me good luck. She inspires me when it comes to pole. Her moves are so fluid, which is why they call her “Butter.” She’s honestly amazing. And even after my performance, she came up to me and said she liked my movements. It was such a compliment and a great feeling for me. It made me appreciate the pole community that much more.

What do you wish the world knew about pole dancing and pole dancers?

That pole dancing is just like any other kind of sport. People oversexualize it. We can make it whatever we want to make it. Pole dancers are powerful and resilient because we hurt ourselves everyday trying to do these ridiculous tricks. But we still come back because of the love we have for it and the atmosphere of everyone around encouraging us to be better. Pole is a journey and you have no idea where it will take you. It’s changed my perspective on how I tackle things in everyday life. Because of pole I feel like I can do anything.

2018-08-09 09.39.54 1.jpg

What would you say to someone who says, “Well, pole is not a sport for you because you do exotic and dance in 8-inch heels, half-naked?”

….And? (laughs) Being half-naked has nothing to do with it. If you understood, we have to wear less to do what we do. We can’t stick to the pole if we have pants on and a sweater. Yes, it can look sexy, but it’s not for you. It’s for me. That’s the feeling I love after each performance. The feeling of ‘I did it!’, not, ‘Oh my gosh, what did they think?’

Complete the statement, I pole because ___________.

It’s empowering. You have to own what you have. It’s a take it or leave it attitude. And it makes me feel like a badass!


Arielle Jackson teaches at Divas & Dolls Fitness in Temple Hills, Maryland and My Body Shop in East Riverdale, Maryland.

Photographs by Clarise McCants: 

Amala (@amala.soul.pole)