HOUSTON (CBS Houston) – All Sarah Tressler ever wanted was to be a journalist, and now she’s the published author of Diary of an Angry Stripper.
Composed entirely of blog posts about her tales of moonlighting as an exotic dancer in Houston’s gentlemen’s clubs, Tressler’s tell-all book is receiving national attention after the Houston Chronicle fired her from her job as a high society reporter, and sparked a scandalous controversy for both her and the newspaper.
Tressler’s confessions in her book reveal her fight against the convention that dancing is among the lowliest of occupations, and her anger is fueled by what she’s claiming to be discrimination.
After graduating Magna Cum Laude from the University of Houston with a bachelor’s degree in communications and earning a master’s degree in journalism from NYU, Tressler was set on a career to become a written journalist. She worked as a red carpet reporter for US Weekly and had been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun and Envy Magazine before finally landing a full-time job in Houston.
But that all changed last March when a competing paper exposed Tressler for having her secret side job while also working for the Chronicle.
Tressler first started dancing to supplement her income and pay for her education. Her secret was discovered when her blog, which she made no attempt to conceal, became public knowledge.
“I didn’t bring it up because it didn’t pertain to the job,” Tressler said in an interview with CBS Houston. “That blog had already been published twice in Maxim magazine before I got that job at the Chronicle, so it wasn’t a big secret… I kept them separate and I didn’t think it would be a big deal because everything I did was legal.”
Tressler was promptly fired after the story broke, and the ensuing controversy became national news, even earning her an interview on Good Morning America.
At the time, the Chronicle explained that Tressler was fired not because she was a stripper, but only because she never listed her employment as a stripper on her job application.
“I’ve done work. I’ve been published,” Tressler said. “Then I get a job, and they find out I’ve been a dancer. So they fire me? That means I have to go back to dancing.
“If you fire strippers for being strippers from what would ostensibly be a regular job, you’re creating this ugly cycle where these girls aren’t allowed to get out of this line of work.”
Tressler has since sued the Chronicle for wrongful termination on the basis of gender discrimination with the EEOC.
With the help of controversial women’s rights lawyer Gloria Allred, Tressler argues that as a dancer she was an independent contractor, and therefore never an employee of any club. Tressler points out the legality of dancing, and believes that her firing is inherently discriminatory.
“They’re still very hush-hush about it, but I think [the Chronicle] did fire me because I was a stripper,” Tressler said. “I’m not saying we should champion [strippers]. But the economy sucks right now, and some girls are going to be dancers. They shouldn’t lose their jobs because of that.”
Tressler’s dancing may be the reason for her termination, but it hasn’t stopped her from continuing her career as a journalist. Now a writer for Houston Magazine, she also works as a social media coordinator for a men’s high fashion store. Tressler also teaches Writing for Print and Digital Media as an adjunct professor for the University of Houston’s communications department.
Given the chance, Tressler would like to return to her position at the Chronicle, but believes her experiences are a valuable lesson for aspiring journalists.
“There’s people I went to school with at NYU who have masters’ degrees and are still living with their parents,” Tressler said. “We’re all interchangeable now. Being flexible is what is going to make you sustainable.”
Diary of An Angry Stripper is in stores now, and Tressler will be available in person at a book signing on July 28, from 3-5 p.m., at River Oaks Bookstore.