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What’s the controversy with TikTok’s most famous stripper?
TikTok – ItsImperial

What’s the controversy with TikTok’s most famous stripper?

ItsImperial has garnered millions of followers for her shocking stories – but people are accusing her of making it all up

The most popular stripper on TikTok, ItsImperial, who has garnered 1.9 million followers on the platform, has been accused of fabricating stories about her sex work. The 18-year-old rose to prominence on the social media platform in a relatively normal way, using trending songs to complain about her love life and to show off her apartment, but it’s her most recent strain of viral content that’s causing controversy in the stripper community.

The TikToker has been acting out scenarios of her time working as a dancer, often to the tune of a Belgian pop song from the 1960s called “Dominique” by Jeannine Deckers, and sharing wild experiences she claims to have had working in the industry. However, other professional strippers remain unconvinced about the details of her accounts, and are calling her out for what they see as blatant lies. Here’s a brief explainer about what’s going on.

WHAT DO HER STORIES INVOLVE?

Imperial’s videos run through many bizarre situations she claims to have found herself in on the job, including bumping into her dad at a party, having jealous wives throw $450 perfume at her, and being pelted with a client’s feces. In other videos, she claims to have left a private room after a guy removed his mask to lick her, “during a pandemic no less”, and that “a wife” told people not to get her medical help after punching her in the face and breaking her nose. She also says in a recent video that another wife tried to “stab” her because she thought she slept with her husband.

CRITICISM FROM THE STRIPPER COMMUNITY

Prominent members of StripTok, the nickname for the stripper community on TikTok who often avoid using certain terms to evade the platform’s censorship policy, tried to approach Imperial about the implications of her videos without success. They then started making their own videos, calling out inconsistencies in Imperial’s accounts – including her use of stripper terminology – as well as voicing concern for the wellbeing of the young TikToker. 

Babyskripper, who has 22,000 followers on TikTok, said in a video that “The fact that people want to defend her stories because they find them entertaining is really upsetting.” She added: “Consuming violent abuse against sex workers as entertainment is why our job is dangerous. Though she’s making up these stories, she’s contributing to the problem. If not, she’s in danger and she needs help.”

StrippaYoga, who has worked in the industry for more than 11 years, has been publicly criticising Imperial’s content, and picking holes in her narratives. “Have jealous girlfriends shown up at the club looking to fight a stripper? Absolutely. Has a stripper dad ever shown up at the club their child is working? Very likely. Has a stripper ever had human feces thrown at her while performing? Maybe,” she said in a video, adding: “Has any one performer had all of these horrible things and then some happen to them within their first year of stripping? I hope the fuck not.”

@strippayoga

If you’re somebody who has never been a s3xw0rker, your opinion is moot. @itsimperial #striptok #stopthestigma

♬ original sound - strippayoga

The veteren dancer, whose real name is Jessica Kind, accuses Imperial of posing as a stripper and using damaging stereotypes about the industry for social media clout. Taking to Rolling Stone she said: “When we normalise these stories, people think that’s the type of treatment dancers should expect, and why would we do it in the first place. It’s important that people recognise that this is not something that is normal in the club.”

HER RESPONSE

Imperial has reacted to the criticism levelled against her through several TikTok videos, denying accusations of spreading misinformation. “No, I have not made up any stories,” she says in one, adding that she “played out a scenario that makes the situation more dramatic than it actually is, but if you really think about it, the stories aren’t actually that dramatic.” In reference to those accusing her of lying, she said: “Why would their opinion bother me when I know the truth?” 

In the last video posted to her account, Imperial elaborates on her narrative and says that when she was 17, she was manipulated into dancing. “I was taken advantage of as a minor and I was manipulated into becoming a stripper,” she says, adding: “Yes I stuck with being a stripper, yes I still love my job, but I stuck with being a stripper because it’s what I know.” She is now being accused on Twitter of lying about sex trafficking.

@tsimperial

Legal action has already been taken care of. Please don’t be rude in the comments I’m trying to open up ok

♬ original sound - Iris

The video has almost 2,000 comments, many from fans defending her and shaming people for asking for details about her private life, and many from people who came across the video from accounts trying to “expose” her. “You see how ya just force things out of people? Leave her alone already,” one user wrote, while another said: “absolutely nothing about this situation makes sense tbh.”

It’s not exactly surprising that someone would fabricate reality to gain a following on social media and the evidence appears to be stacked against Imperial’s florid tales. But BeeBee Gunn, a member of StripTok, has said that Imperial’s young followers are the ones who deserve protection against her content, warning against her latest claims regarding trafficking. She said: “They become the people in society who are going to judge and stigmatise us and her creating these stories is going to directly affect the rest of the community, whether or not she thinks so or anybody else does.”

Imperial, who would typically post almost every day, has at the time of writing not uploaded to her TikTok account in over a week.