PGN: Where are you from?
KM: I was born in Philadelphia, but my family moved to Ann Arbor, Mich., when I was about 4. Both of my parents work for the University of Michigan. My mom’s a professor of developmental psychology and my dad works in administration for the Institute of Social Research and he also teaches urban planning.
PGN: Any siblings?
KM: I have a little sister. We’re nine years apart and she’s graduating college this year! I’m so excited for her.
PGN: And what do you do?
KM: I work for a company that does language instruction and cultural consulting as well as global leadership training.
PGN: How did you get into pole dancing?
KM: My background is in dancing. I did 13 years of classical Russian ballet. I got into it through Alfie Sosa. I saw him perform and was impressed by how quickly he improved after starting with the sport. I was looking to find myself and do some kind of dance. Dancing can be very expensive, trying to get rehearsal and/or studio time. Training costs are very high, but the pole studio that we work out of is really accessible. It’s really a sports/dance hybrid and I fell in love with it.
PGN: How much does your previous dance experience help?
KM: Quite a bit. Ballet helps the way I move and my posture and it also gave me discipline that I can now apply to this work. I love the sense of achievement that you get with pole dancing because the stronger you get, the more you can do, so it’s very motivating. I learned in my first class it’s not just spinning around holding on to a pole, not at all. It’s tough work.
PGN: What were you like as a kid?
KM: Um, I was very outgoing ... probably until I became a teenager. I started dancing when I was about 4. I did years of classical and then started branching out into other disciplines — modern, jazz, tap, a little Irish dancing, some hip-hop, pom pom ...
PGN: Pom pom?
KM: Yeah, like the basketball half-time-show type thing.
PGN: What was a favorite performance?
KM: Doing “The Nutcracker” each year. Especially the first time I got cast to be a sugarplum fairy. It was my first role “en pointe,” which is a big deal for a classical dancer.
PGN: What was a favorite game as a kid?
KM: I wasn’t much of a game player. I was a little girly-girl and liked to play with my dolls and have little tea parties.
PGN: Any pets growing up?
KM: My father wasn’t really fond of animals. He is kind of a neat freak, so I had several hamsters and Guinea pigs — if it could be contained in a cage, it was OK. I have a dog now, but I’m horribly allergic to cats.
PGN: What’s a good family memory?
KM: We’ve done a lot of traveling and I have a lot of great memories from that. An experience that sticks out was swimming with the dolphins in the Bahamas. My sister was terrified because she saw a jellyfish in the water. I held her hand the whole time and it was a great experience. We always have a lot of fun together. I love it when she comes to visit me.
PGN: What was life like in Ann Arbor?
KM: Ann Arbor is quite different from the rest of Michigan. It’s like a little island. Because of the university, it’s a very diverse town. For schooling, I went to an international school, so growing up I had friends from all over the world. I think it’s one reason I took to my job so well. I deal with international clientele all the time, so it’s nice to be familiar with other cultures. It’s also a big arts town. They have a lot of good museums and I’ve seen some world-class performances there. My sister is a dancer also and she’s studying Javanese dancing, which gives you an idea of the international variety there.
PGN: What school did you go to?
KM: Michigan State. I was an art history major with a minor in business and Russian studies.
PGN: And what drew you to Russian studies?
KM: Ballet. In school, we had master classes with people coming over from Russia. As a child, I was always fascinated by the people and the culture. You’d have these interesting-looking and -sounding people and they’d be pointing at you and saying something you couldn’t understand. I always wanted to know, What are they saying? Who are they talking about?
PGN: Do you speak any languages?
KM: I learned Russian, which is my favorite. And I was an art history major so I had to study French and German as well. It’s kind of mandatory.
PGN: Really? For art?
KM: Yes; a lot of the research texts are in French. So I have more of a reading proficiency in the language.
PGN: How did you end up in Philadelphia?
KM: My job. I got transferred and luckily I ended up here. My grandparents and cousins, etc., are here. We came here every summer, but it’s nice to come back as an adult. I’ve been here since 2009.
PGN: Your grandparents were ...
KM: A lot of fun! I was the first grandchild so they spoiled me a lot. I think I learned to love cooking from my grandmothers. They’re both amazing cooks and they’d let me be in the kitchen with them, which looking back probably took a lot of patience!
PGN: Any hobbies?
KM: I love art so I enjoy walking the galleries a lot. And I still love to cook. It’s one of my favorite things to do. I have a Twitter blog kind of thing where I post the food that I do. It’s kpixicooks.
PGN: What’s your best dish?
KM: I love cooking gourmet and ethnic foods from around the world. I seem to get compliments on my Indian dishes the most.
PGN: Coming out was ...
KM: Quite a process. I think I probably knew that I was gay when I was about 12 but having been the “girly-girl,” it was very challenging for me. I tried to convince myself that I didn’t “like” certain girls, I just wanted to emulate them. But I knew in my heart it was more than that. I used to cry every night and prayed to God that he would take it away. I felt that he’d made a mistake because in my mind, lesbian meant combat boots and flannel shirts and that was soooo not me. Back then, it wasn’t as exposed as it is now to know that there were all sorts of ways to be gay. So I really struggled with it. I didn’t come all the way out where I told my family and friends until I was 25. I’ve been out for six years now. Telling my parents was probably the hardest but my mom has been just amazingly supportive! I was in tears but she found a way to make me feel comfortable. There’s a gay-owned restaurant in Ann Arbor and, when I told her I was gay, the first thing she said was, “Yeah! Now we can go to Outbar!” [Laughs.] Then she went and got ally training!
PGN: Are you seeing anyone?
KM: No, it’s just me and the boys. I have two dogs, including a Chihuahua named Ricky Bobby. He’s quite a character. He’s very attached to me and acts more like a jealous ex-boyfriend than a dog. [Laughs.]
PGN: What about the negative connotations of the term “pole dancer”?
KM: There’s that! It’s changing, but many people still aren’t aware of the athletic and artistic aspects of it. It still has the stigma of adult or erotic entertainment, and it can be beautiful that way, just as it can be beautiful as a sport. I think people have to see what we do to appreciate it. When I first told my mother what I was doing, she was like, “Wait, what’s going on down there?” But once I sent her pictures and videos she was able to understand what it was.
PGN: Random questions. My parents told me that I was a ____ baby.
KM: A good baby. They said I didn’t cry a lot even though I was sick all the time. I was a teeny, skinny kid and sickly.
PGN: You’re still a teeny, skinny kid! A celebrity you’d want to pole dance with?
KM: Elena Gibson. She’s a famous pole dancer out of London who also had a ballet background. Or Baryshnikov! Or anyone from Dance Theater of Harlem!
PGN: Ever play any sports?
KM: I did some cross-country track and a little gymnastics but that’s about it. I’m athletic but I don’t like competitive sports.
PGN: If you could journey into the land of any book, where would you go?
KM: “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” without a doubt. I love Savannah. I love noir-type books and books about different cultures. I’ve traveled quite a bit so I like books that are about places I’ve been.
PGN: The farthest and favorite place you’ve traveled?
KM: Well, I took a break in the middle of college and became an international flight attendant. My first flight was on the first anniversary of 9/11. One year to the day! Can you say nervous? I worked for a company that did a lot of private charters and government contracts. At that time, obviously, there was a lot of troop movement so I went to all of the places that I never would have expected to go at that time. I think the farthest was Kyrgyzstan. My favorite place without a doubt is Ireland. I admit, I had no interest in going. I didn’t think there would be anything that I’d be remotely interested in — I hadn’t learned Irish dance yet — but it was the most beautiful country I’ve seen. You get off the plane and it’s like you opened up a storybook. It’s more beautiful than you can describe. The green is like it’s in HD! And the people are so warm and friendly — people stop you on the street and start talking to you. In the pubs, old men would sing to me and do little jigs! It was extraordinary. I’d love to retire there.
PGN: What are you most afraid of?
KM: Oh god, this is embarrassing! OK, intellectually I know they can’t hurt me and they don’t have big scary teeth or anything, but I’m terrified of earthworms!
PGN: Were you ever bullied?
KM: Yes. When I was in middle school we moved from Michigan to North Carolina for my mother’s post-doctoral work. We weren’t there for long but I guess I was very different from the other kids, especially the African-American kids, and I didn’t understand why but they hated me. It was awful. I was told that I talked like a white girl and was constantly taunted, “You think you’re special! You wanna be white!” Hearing that from my own people was really, really hard. There was one girl who I think recognized that I had an attraction to other girls. I think she secretly had a crush on me and that fueled her anger, so she was the ringleader of the group. At that time, the schools were very unsympathetic toward bullying. Teachers would see me in the hallways getting kicked in the back and do nothing. My parents came to the school to complain and they did nothing. The only thing that happened was they made me and the girl sign a contract. On my side, it basically said, “Just please don’t hurt me anymore!” and her side said in essence, “You can’t look at me, you can’t talk to me, don’t make eye contact!” It was crazy. So for those years, not only was I being tormented internally with the gay feelings, I was being tormented externally by my peers. It really changed my personality. It made me very depressed and was a real challenging time for me.
PGN: If you were Miss America, what would be your cause?
KM: Cooking is something that truly comes from my heart. I think childhood hunger and nutrition is something I’d like to address. No child should have to be hungry and it’s outrageous things we’re feeding kids in the schools when we do give them something to eat. We need to start teaching healthy habits that will make the healthy adults. Michelle Obama has been doing a good job trying to combat the problem. I just read that these little girls in, I think it’s Chester, were inspired by her to start their own Victory Garden. They just got to go to D.C. to help in the White House garden spring planting. It’s wonderful.
PGN: First crush?
KM: Ooh, I had a crush on a lot of the older dancers in ballet class, but there was one in particular named Rochelle. She was an amazing dancer and absolutely beautiful with long red hair. Gorgeous — and talented ...
PGN: Which punctuation mark describes your personality?
KM: An exclamation mark! People describe me as always happy and outgoing and bubbly. If you ever get a text from me you’ll see it has smiley faces and hearts and lots of exclamation points. I was that girl in school who dotted all her i’s with little hearts!
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