"I just feel like sex workers should be allowed to romanticize things in their lives.”

The online representation of sex work tends to fall into one of two categories.

The first category can be found scrolling through #striptok or #skriptop on Tiktok. The videos show stripping as a constant shower of dollar bills; the stage is covered in money and dancers bring out brooms to mop up the cash.

The second category, found on Instagram and Facebook feeds full of ill-researched posts, shows the “dark side” of sex work and stripping; it’s dark alleyways, clients with a fluid or no understanding of boundaries, and sex workers as trafficking victims with zero autonomy.

“I just want to know about the day-to-day, you know,” Palmar Kelly, writer, actor, and sex worker said. “I wish there was just a stripper blogger that I could watch, like an older sister type.” When she started in sex work there wasn't. So Kelly, with a combined Instagram and TikTok following of over 108, took on the role herself.

My first experience of Kelly was through TikTok. The video shows her crying in her car and lipsyncing to 'Pink Pony Club' by Chappell Roan. The caption reads "Nobody talks about coming out as a $tripper and how it might affect your family and your relationships. I hope to talk about this more #breakingstigma".

@palmweezyy Nobody talks about coming out as a $tripper and how it might affect your family and your relationships. I hope to talk about this more #breakingstigma ♬ Pink Pony Club - Chappell Roan

This was in January. Now, smiling and laughing during our interview, she’s back in a car. She’s in the passenger seat with her older sister, also a stripper, at the wheel. TikTok continues to play a big role in her life.

Modern-day sex work is heavily dependent on social media but the platforms actively work against sex workers. “I definitely get banned and blocked and my stuff gets taken down,” Kelly said, who has already lost an account in the past and gets regular community guideline violation notifications from TikTok. “I do think that any second I could definitely lose my platform which is why I’ve been so adamant about doing other things.”

These other things include her podcast ‘Selling Sex’, a potential branching out to YouTube (“Things get flagged on Youtube also”), and a TV show she’s writing about her experiences as a sex worker.

On TikTok, her largest platform with 107 thousand followers, posts range from ‘How To Talk To Customers At The Club’ to ‘Rough Mental Health Day Vlog’ and 'When Does My TV Series Come Out?'. Kelly often gets comments about her not focussing on the negative side enough. “If I talk about one good thing they’re like ‘you also need to talk about bad things,” Kelly said, “That only happens in sex work. Why does that only happen in sex work? “

Kelly wants to talk about it all. If we want sex work to be seen as work, we need to start showing all the sides of sex work - not just the devastating lows and intoxicating, addictive highs. Like any work, there are mostly average days and Kelly is here to show all the in-betweens and share intimate, specific moments from her life as a stripper.

She emphasizes that it’s her experience - Kelly doesn’t pretend to speak for every stripper and sex worker and actively pushes against that responsibility. “I'm not living these events and these traumas that maybe women of color are living or men are living or gay men are living," Kelly said. "I don't think the sex work community needs a white girl to be telling their story.”

Instead, she hopes that seeing her day-to-day, the days of hustling to make rent and the days of successful sugar-daddy searches, contributes to making sex work more transparent and understandable. “I definitely think transparency is key when it comes to helping women decide [if they go into sex work],” Kelly said.

Bubbly and talkative, Kelly’s energy is unmistakably that of an actor. After graduating high school, she moved to New York to pursue acting. Not wanting to be a waitress, she found an audition for a club on Craigslist. The club seemed like a regular bar until the velvet curtain at the back of the space was pushed open. “It was this huge room with couches and every girl was topless giving lapdances,” Kelly said on the first episode of ‘Selling Sex’. “Okay, this is definitely a strip club.” She stayed.

Seven years later, Kelly has amassed a significant following on social media and recently launched a podcast. In ‘Selling Sex’ she shares the ins and outs of sex work. In the first episode she was joined by Alexis Ingram who, for personal reasons, stepped away from the show. Kelly hopes to bring on other sex workers and influencers to talk about what it means to be a modern-day sex worker.

“I get bitched at a lot for not talking about the more harmful sides of [sex work] but I do,” Kelly explained. In her videos, she talks about gross clients, crying alone in her car post-shift, and difficult mental health days. “But I just feel like sex workers should be allowed to romanticize things in their lives.”

She stresses that there’s a difference between romanticizing and glamorizing - something she noticed other strippers creators of TikTok tend to do and she tries to avoid.

“I feel like a lot of the time glamorizing comes with not talking,” Kelly said. “A lot of strippers on TikTok or in the media just post pictures of their money or just post where they are, the outfits that they got and there’s no other content behind it.”

Kelly hasn’t given up on her acting aspirations and is using her experience in sex work for a TV series she's developing.

Through the TV series, she's rediscovering her life in sex work and finding more moments to romanticize. “What if there’s a part where I feel like shit because I’m a stripper and all of my friends are actors and they’re talking about all these actor things,” Kelly mused, drawing from her own experiences. “I sit down with a customer at the strip club and I just start crying.” The scene ends with her at home, crying while counting the money she made at the club. “That’s so great," Kelly said, laughing, "I love that."