The latest installment of The New York Times Op-Ed page’s Op-Doc series follows a year in the life of Rosalyn “Roz” Mays, a plus-size pole dancer in New York City, as she explores her relationship with body image and confidence while trying to navigate the working world and following her passion. There’s a very amusing exchange about midway through the film when Roz visits her mother’s home for a family dinner. Over turkey and mashed potatoes, and with her grandmother and other relatives at the table, Mays’ mother makes a frank confession.
“At first it took me a while to say the words ‘pole dancing,'” she tells Mays.
“That’s OK, mom,” Mays reassures her.
“That’s Chris Rock’s fault,” her mother quips in reply. “He said it’s his one job in life to keep his daughter off the pole.”
The moment really cuts to the heart of the mixed feelings Mays grapples with about her life’s calling. Just moments earlier, while riding on a train to her mother’s town, she opened up about struggling with the fact that she’d been sent to private boarding school and her parents had made substantial sacrifices — all so she could grow up to pursue a passion that led employers who discovered online photos and videos of her performing to fire her from jobs. “I felt so guilty about what I was doing,” Mays said. “My parents … they didn’t spend all this money and all this tuition and all those sacrifices so I could be a pole dancer.”
The film was directed by Merete Mueller, a high-school friend of Mays’ who had recently reconnected with her. It may be a seven-minute short released on the internet, but Mueller adeptly manages a cinematography that belongs on the big screen and an emotional arc that allows viewers to see themselves — and the contradictions of their anxieties and insecurities in their own personas. Mueller also wrote a poignant Op-Ed about how she admired seeing Mays taking charge on the soccer field back in high school — and how it led her to harbor a misconception about Mays’ true nature. Watch the film below.
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Read the full Op-Ed at The New York Times.