Bold & Beautiful: Baby J
Performance & Theatre
When Baby J was 19 years old, he convinced his older sister to go pole dancing for her birthday. He never expected it would lead him to a fulfilling career as a pole dancer, sensual movement artist and boylesquer — a male twist on the classic art of burlesque.
“Really, it was for her to try to get out of her shell,” he says. “But then I was the one who really fell in love with it — this 19-year-old, little gay kid who didn’t have any direction in life.”
The pair decided to go to The Salt Mine SLC, a family friend’s studio where Baby J now finds himself teaching classes of his own. The owner, Melinda Heins, played a pivotal role in Baby J’s life and career.
“She is this badass woman,” he says adoringly of his ‘pole mother,’ looking back on her advice on which heels to buy and how to take care of his body as she helped him join the community. “She really has become a bit of a surrogate mother for me [in pole dancing] and in other areas of life too.”
Pole dancing gave Baby J the space to explore vulnerable sides of himself within a loving community in a way he’d never experienced before. “I just kept going and getting better and better, and started to think that this could be a viable career option for the rest of my life,” he says.
Although he grew up in Taylorsville and Draper, areas that aren’t typically in-line with the liberating realities of pole dancing and burlesque, parts of Baby J’s early life set the stage for his talents to shine through in his work. He spent eight years competing in ballroom dance and put on family theater productions throughout much of his youth.
“I was a really big Shakespeare fan, so the nerdy and dramatic, and especially the comedic stuff, really stood out to me,” he says.
As he drifted away from theater and ballroom out of high school, he sought new inspiration. Madazon Can-Can, a queer activist in the drag and burlesque communities, reignited Baby J’s love of the theatrical when he attended their class for his first burlesque instruction.
Now a resident burlesque performer at Prohibition, Baby J’s process for creating brilliant performances starts with the shower. “That’s gonna sound weird,” he says. “But you can do a little pre-show strip tease with your towel. You can play your favorite songs. You can stare at yourself in the mirror and do facial warmups. It’s very important.”
After the shower rehearsal, he can be found lugging around about six bags filled with jockstraps, pasties, tearaway pants and bedazzled plungers to get ready to dance his “little heart out,” he says.
The actual performance comes with its own challenges. “A lesser-known [problem] is how much freaking underwear I have to wear,” he says with a grin. His field of work requires continuous removal of layers. He recounts one particular Christmas special with no small amount of amusement. “I had to wait for 30 minutes in this hot bar with a million layers on, and a winter coat and jacket over it. Granted, I did this to myself.”
“But,” says Baby J, “I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
He brings this same passion to his classroom. His favorite thing is watching a student start a class off nervously, only to come out of it an entirely different person. He loves “getting to see those ‘aha’ moments during class where they try something and it’s kind of clunky. And then they try it again … and they’re like ‘Oh my god, I’m a hot piece of ass.’”
His students keep him motivated whenever he feels burnt out. “They always know how to bring me out of it. So really, I just do it for them, as cheesy as that sounds.”
Cheesy or not, Baby J’s love for his work and his students flows through every word and smile. If you’re ever looking to get out of your mind and into your body, trust Baby J to guide you there. Check out his Instagram to keep an eye on his available workshops, including an upcoming heavy metal-themed one on February 17 at The Salt Mine.