Engineering student becomes stripper to pay for studies: ‘I make R2500 for 30 minutes’

2018-02-23 17:07

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With a lick of his lips, a thrust of his hips and a snap of his fireman’s suspenders he starts to peel off his clothes one tantalising piece at a time, leaving women – and a few men – in the audience screaming for more.

Yet few fans will know the true story behind the hunk on stage – because, like comic-book heroes Superman, Batman and the Black Panther, Phemelo Medupe (23) leads a double life.

By day he’s a regular student whose main concerns are his grades and upcoming assignments – but when the sun goes down he transforms into Jozi’s answer to Magic Mike, the musclebound beefcake who had females sticking fistfuls of cash into his G-string in three big-budget movies.

Phemelo sets his audience alight with his hot bod, his dance skills and his considerable charms at Gauteng clubs every Wednesday and Saturday night. The engineering student at Wits University loves every moment of his parttime job, even though taking off his clothes for money was something he never imagined he’d be doing. He took a chance after an encounter at a strip club, he recalls. “I was out with my friends and we were drunk, so we decided to go to a strip club.

When we got there, a woman was putting on a show. She pulled me onto the stage and took off my T-shirt and everybody went crazy. Right there and then, I took over the show and danced.”

He enjoyed his moment in the spotlight and when he got off stage the manager asked for his contact numbers. “The following week she called and asked whether I’d want to make money by becoming a stripper.”

At first he wasn’t sure that he could do it. He was brought up in a devout Christian household and his grandmother would kill him – “or pray it out of me” – if she found out. But the manager didn’t give up on Phemelo. She called him with an offer he couldn’t refuse: R2 500 for 30 minutes of work. And that was all it took. “I said ‘hell yeah’.

She told me she was hosting a bachelorette party and that was the rate of pay. I started that day.” The unusual job was a godsend for the Alberton heartthrob. He had completed his first year of studies in aeronautical engineering at Wits in 2014, but didn’t have money to pay for his second year. Thanks to his job on the side, he has managed to pay off his outstanding fees and this year’s tuition.

Working as a stripper hasn’t only changed his life, it’s also changed that of his family, says Phemelo, who became the man of the house when his father passed away a few years ago. After years of struggling he’s now able to provide for the grandmother who raised him and his five younger siblings, and that makes the job worthwhile. He pays for his siblings’ school fees and puts food on the table, he says proudly – and no one in the family knows where the money is coming from except his brother, Charles (22). He plans to keep it that way for now.

He tries to keep his secret by staying away from people he knows and areas he’s familiar with when working. But he does appear on a YouTube video and by featuring in magazines such as DRUM, Phemelo realises his cover might be blown at any stage.

Even though he loves the job and makes good money from it, Phemelo insists he’ll never be tempted to quit school and focus only on stripping. “I came back to varsity because I like finishing something I start. Also, my granny has done so much for me she struggled to provide while raising us, so by completing my education I’m repaying her in a way, because then I’ll be able to look after her properly.”

PHEMELO makes more money as a stripper than he would if he held down a more conventional parttime job, such as being a waiter. Depending on the gigs, he says he sometimes makes more than R15 000 in one weekend alone by performing in shows in Sandton, Fourways and Midrand. The most he’s ever made was R60 000 in one weekend, he recalls.

“I did shows for tourists at Sun City that weekend. Sometimes tourists ask for private shows that can pay as much as R10 000 each.” This is more than enough money to help pay the R4 050 rent on his Braamfontein flat, maintain his lifestyle and support his family. Part of his money goes to ensuring his meal ticket – his body – is always in top form.

But he insists he’s not a fitness fanatic and credits his ripped physique to jogging, eating healthily and going to gym four times a week. Lifting fans onto the stage for a dance is easy because he can bench press over 100 kg.

But it’s not all about the money and attention. Being a stripper has its pitfalls, Phemelo says. He’s had to learn to explain the difference between his job and that of a gigolo or prostitute, he says. Easy access to drugs and sex are temptations strippers constantly face, but Phemelo holds onto the morals his gogo drilled into him and avoids being ensnared in the trappings of the job.

So does he have a girlfriend – and, if so, what does she think of his job?

Phemelo just chuckles. He doesn’t want to speak about the personal side of his life, he says. Right now he’s focusing on his studies and is taking a break from his secret life while he writes exams. And he’ll continue to keep his eye on the prize – getting his degree in the next two years, working as an engineer and making his gogo proud. 

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