I met Stormy Daniels at the strip club formerly known as PT’s back in September of 2018. Somehow, it was a simpler time.
I had to go digging through the annals of my Instagram to recall the chronological context, but our brief encounter took place about a month before the tumultuous trip to Washington D.C. (and failed attempt to meet with Senator Susan Collins) that led me to run for U.S. Senate. The dimly lit strip club selfie of Stormy and me, smirking as we flipped my phone camera the bird, is captioned: “@thestormydaniels and I have a Very Special Message for anyone who still thinks a sex worker can’t change the course of American history. #teamstormy”
Onstage, Stormy surprised me by being borderline campy. I mean, she was obviously a professional. Her moves were great. Her body is art. She was living the featured performer fantasy to the max, but there was something more. It wasn’t just the way she smashed my face between her tits. Something about her smirking presence in a jarringly burlesque-looking rhinestone cowgirl outfit — fully capitalizing on the political catastrophe that had only just begun to unfold in style — was endearing. I wanted to be her friend.
So, with a bunch of fellow perverts, I paid the extra fee and got in line for a selfie.
I’d been thinking about what I wanted to say to her all day. Back in 2018, I’d only been out of sex work — and into the practice of criminal defense law — for about two years. I lived in a constant flurry of anxiety about it, certain the other lawyers could tell what kind of a mess I was and would never take me seriously. I listened to other attorneys talk about sex workers with an othering distance born of a mixture of pity and disgust and I stayed awake nights wondering how they would look at me if they knew how I got through law school. By the time I got to the front of the line, I realized I wanted to use my five seconds to tell Stormy that what she was doing mattered to me.
She was soft-spoken and sweet. She smiled at me and told me I was cute. I asked her if she’d help me flip the bird at anyone who says a sex worker can’t change the world. She laughed, but it didn’t reach her eyes. In the picture, my eyes are excited — twinkling with fights I didn’t yet know I was about to start picking. I won’t pretend to know the precise meaning behind her more subdued expression, but I imagine a similar picture taken today would have me matching her energy more closely.
Then again, she’s fought much longer and harder than I have — and received even harsher treatment from the legal system. Being ordered to pay over half a million dollars in legal fees to a man because you sued him for publicly calling you a liar — even as he is being indicted because you weren’t lying — has got to put a few lines on your face.
Preparing to write this week, I tried so hard to find an angle of the Trump indictment that I cared about enough to unpack. The idea that a state court in New York would treat a violation of federal election law as a crime to support the finding of a felony predicated on it is such a stretch that I’m exhausted summarizing it for even a sentence. I guess I glazed over on the coverage and got lost in my feelings. Watching takes from various networks, I found myself bristling at how every mention of Stormy Daniels’ name was preceded by “porn star” — as though it were part of her name. The use of her trade name alongside her career felt like a cheap dig at her credibility.
Then I thought about how I would want things to go if it were me, and I realized it might have been nice to have an alias to hide behind when I was making political enemies. Like a superhero, Daniels has a secret identity. Her real name is easy enough to find online, but not widely known. She had a few rough days in court, but Stormy Daniels went toe to toe with the most powerful man in the world and still might just find a way to laugh all the way to the bank in a glittery costume. In the end, ideally she takes off the costume and walks away.
You have to respect a good hustle.
Bre Kidman is an artist, an activist, an attorney, a sex worker, and the first openly non-binary person in history to run for the U.S. Senate. They would be delighted to hear your thoughts on the political industrial complex at [email protected].