Ask Kong Yen Lin (far right) and Julie Lo what they do for a living and they will say they are party planners. "It's far too intimidating to tell others we're the bosses of male strippers," says Yen Lin with a laugh, even though that's exactly what they are.
The 27-year-olds, who look like they could be your best friends from university or your colleagues from the marketing department, started Wicked Favors in 2013, after Julie realised she could make a living out of her organising skills, which she had put to good use when she planned a few bachelorette parties for friends.
While Wicked Favors is primarily a party-planning business, it concentrates on providing the one thing that most of its customers come a-knocking for: a male stripper.
Yen Lin recalls the first time they auditioned a stripper, likening it to a case of the blind leading the blind. "We didn't know what to expect and the stripper didn't really know what to do.
He was trying to come off as sexy, but it felt too intimate, which left me half giggly and half horrified," says Yen Lin. "Julie was just horrified!"
Yen Lin shares that they've even had to "rescue" their strippers on a few occasions. "The clients didn't want to let the guys go, and being newbies, they were eager to please, so they didn't leave," she says. "We had to be the bad guys and call the clients to tell them to release the men."
Today, the ex-schoolmates from Singapore Management University manage five freelance strippers, all of whom are in their 20s and hold full-time jobs.
The 30-minute routine that each performs includes dancing, stripping down to their underwear to music that they select themselves - be it Bollywood, pop and R & B tunes or electronic dance music - and carrying the bride-to-be or birthday girl in their arms.
On average, they get 20 to 30 requests for strippers per month. There have even been weekends when they get up to 10 requests, which means that the guys have to do back-to-back gigs from 8pm to midnight - the hours between which they usually perform.
"Thanks to movies such as Magic Mike (2012) and Magic Mike XXL (2015), women are increasingly open to the idea of hiring a stripper, and more men are willing to take on stripping as a part-time job," says Yen Lin, who makes it clear to clients that they are not allowed to photograph or take videos of the men.
Touching their torsos is fine, but not anywhere else.
The two women are constantly on the lookout for spunky men to add to their stable of male performers. For instance, they trawl online forums to look for men who advertise their stripping services.
Potential candidates will then have a face-to-face interview with the duo. "We want to make sure they aren't applying for perverse reasons, like getting easy access to hordes of women," says Yen Lin. "Most of the time, thankfully, they just do it for the money."
When asked how lucrative the job is, Yen Lin is only willing to disclose that each male stripper earns "a few hundred dollars" per gig, excluding attractive tips (one of her guys received close to $800 in tips in a single show).
More importantly, the stripper wannabes need to move like Magic Mike. To prove that they have what it takes, each applicant who has made it through the first two rounds of interviews (they look presentable and are in it for valid reasons) has to then perform a striptease for Julie and Yen Lin in a hotel room, which the women book for a day.
"It's really a test to see if they have the guts to be a stripper," says Yen Lin, who usually takes on the role of the bride-to-be at these auditions. "We also give them pointers, such as 'Don't just stand there swinging your hips, it's boring' and 'You're too close for comfort, give us more space'."
Ask if they have ever been hit on by the men, and the answer is a resounding no. "They see us as their bosses - nothing more," says Yen Lin. "Plus, it's usually the guys who're taken aback by how straightforward we are."
Yen Lin shares that part of their job is being a gatekeeper; they have to weed out inappropriate requests that involve overtly sexual activity.
Some clients even want the strippers to provide "extra services" that involve sexual activity. When that happens, "we just have to state clearly that the strippers are performers and nothing more. They are there purely for (the clients') entertainment and are not obliged to accede to every demand," says Yen Lin.
"Thankfully, our guys are professional enough to finish their routine," says Julie. "Even when things get 'dangerous'."
Crazy tales by the males
"I heard something crack"
"I'm 1.8m tall and quite fit, so lifting women (which is part of the routine) is usually a piece of cake for me. For one particular party of six, however, everyone was plus-size.
"I went ahead and did an overenthusiastic lift with the bride-to-be. As I did so, I felt - and heard - a crack. It was my back! Not wanting to embarrass her, I quickly moved on to the next person in the group. The ladies texted Julie and Yen Lin after the party, saying they had a fantastic time. But I had a terrible backache for days after!" - Xander*
"She tried to give me oral sex"
"Some time back, I was hired by a woman for her birthday party. When I turned up, it was just her and a few friends. As I was preparing to start my routine, her friends went to the bathroom and stayed in there while the woman pulled out a toy whip. She flashed a mischievous grin, said, 'Let's get started' and proceeded to whip me. It hurt and I kept telling her to stop, but she didn't. To distract her, I started my routine. Wrong move - she took it as a sign to get physical and started sliding her hands from my chest to my nether regions. Then, she knelt down and wanted to give me oral sex. I kept nudging her away and finished the dance before making my exit." - Steve*
"I stripped for a 60-year-old"
"A woman's friend requested for a stripper, saying it was a long-time dream of hers to have one at her birthday party. During my routine, when she saw me struggling to unbuckle my belt, she volunteered to give me a helping hand - or rather, mouth. It surprised me that she did this in front of her family members (who egged her on), but nothing shocked me more than when the overenthusiastic birthday girl suddenly grabbed my hand and shoved it down her panties. I stayed anyway, as I always make it a point to finish my routine. After the 30 minutes were up, I left, drenched in cold sweat!" - Eric*
*Names have been changed.
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