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Instructor Spotlight: Lauren Darke

In this Instructor Spotlight we bring you the story of a young woman who faces adversity and is thrust into the great unknown, forced to face her fears and make sacrifices… She follows her passion which leads her to a life of purpose and happiness and proves to herself that it’s never too late to start following your heart!

Yup, you guessed it, it’s the story of our in-house twerk mama Lauren! Lauren is a qualifed XPERT Pole Fitness Instructor as well as twerk extraordinaire. In addition, she is a huge part of the heart and soul of IPDA in her daily role as administrator.

Today Lauren will share her story of her upbringing and the challenges she’s faced along the way in striving towards her dream lifestyle!

Why are you so passionate about fitness and pole dance?

As a young girl growing up in Africa I was always involved in dance and fitness, whether it be in ballet class, gymnastics or just down by the huts dancing with my Zulu comrades to tribal music.

As I grew up, my family moved from the farmlands to the city where I became depressed and overweight. My parents spIit up and that started me on a path to emotional eating. I didn’t dance or play sports in school for years because I was embarrassed about my weight and began to develop social anxiety problems. I couldn’t mix with groups of people or go into public without having a panic attack. This held me back for years and hindered my progress when it came to getting in shape.

I reached my heaviest weight in my last year of high school. I came to a place where I knew I had to dig deeper to get to the root of the problem. Usually it’s an emotional issue when it comes to being overweight, and in my case it definitely was. Once I came to terms with the emotional side, it was like something just clicked in my brain, and I was ready to face myself in the mirror again.

I started by swimming first, as I love nothing more than being in water. And I felt it a good way to exercise without having people stare at me. I would swim 60 lengths of an olympic size pool about 3 times a week, this is what helped to kick start my weight-loss and develop an interest in health and fitness.

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I started my travels after high school, which I continued for many years. During this time my weight fluctuated as I was in and out of gym onboard cruise liners and had no set routine to help me stay on track with my workouts. I did 14 hour shifts at work most days, so getting to the gym wasn’t always on my list of things to do! But never the less it was onboard ships where I discovered my love for weight lifting and that really helped to change my body. I also learned that no matter how many hours you work in a day you can always make time for fitness, even if it means waking up at 4:00am.

There is one particular memory I have though from those travels which really stands out for me. It was when I went to a crew party and was dancing with one of the onboard show dancers Gerald. He was spinning me around and around doing all these tango-like moves, occasionally of course I would also break into a few sexy twerk moves haha just can’t help myself (it must be my African upbringing ). I felt so complete inside and so happy, I didn’t care who was watching me and judging my body, I was just having fun. When I am dancing the world disappears. That night, in between songs while still on the dancefloor Gerald says to me “You know Lauren you really are in the wrong industry, you should have been a dancer! ” It was a huge compliment coming from a dancer like Gerald, but I just laughed it off and said “oh well, it’s too late now, I could never go back to land and start dancing again at this age! Haha can you imagine? It would be impossible, and a complete waste of my time!”

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How did you get into pole dancing?

Fast forward many years and I find myself having to move to Ireland. I had no friends to communicate with and no job so meeting people was nearly impossible. I got back into unhealthy eating habits to numb the pain of feeling stuck and homesick so I started putting all my weight back on. I became desperate to go home and questioned my whole life’s purpose. I prayed for direction and change in my life everyday, that I might find a way out of the pit I found myself in.

Then I was sitting on the Luas one day just listening to my ipod and out of nowhere even through my current state of despair, I could feel with every fibre in my body this overwhelming urge to dance! Almost like my inner voice saying “Dance!!!”, it was so strong and clear. But I had very little money and had no idea where to even begin looking for classes. “What a stupid thing to feel” I thought. Dance? But how? Where? I have no job and no money I don’t know anyone!

A few weeks later I had stumbled across a Youtube video of Anastasia Sokolova just by chance, as I was always sifting through fitness videos. Once I saw that first pole performance I knew with everything in me that if I did dance again this is exactly the direction I would like to head in.

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I jumped on google and typed in “best pole dancing classes in Ireland” and Irish Pole Dance Academy popped up! Ok, I thought, so this is the place I need to be. I called Arlene and arranged to start my beginner course, and I was hooked from day 1. One month came where I was due to pay for my next enrolment and I was completely out of pocket as I was still waiting for a job opportunity, but I just knew I had to continue so I made sacrifices by selling all my valuables to ensure I could keep going to classes. And it’s the best decision I ever made. Valuables can always be replaced and don’t make you happy anyway. Feeling good about yourself and following your passion is priceless. By listening to my instincts and going to classes in a country where I knew nobody and had no job and no prospects I found Irish Pole Dance Academy, through which I have been able to meet amazing people, learn an amazing new art form and reconnect with my creative side which I so desperately needed.

The universe must have known IPDA needed me too because a few months later I joined the team and started my first job in Ireland!

I have also been able to share my love of twerk fitness too through all the lovely people I have met. I have been so blessed to even do workshops which have brought so much joy into my life. It brings me great satisfaction to share new skills with people and help them to feel empowered and most of all help them have fun because life is too short to spend it feeling depressed over our physical appearance. And I can honestly say it was when I stopped obsessing over my weight and just focused on doing things that made me happy, like dancing, that that is when I lost the weight.

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Currently I am grateful to have a stable fitness routine in place which involves all the things I love: Pole, weight-training and twerk.  And with this I am able to achieve my goals and have fun while doing it. So I guess I was very wrong that night I told Gerald that it was too late to start dancing again at my age! It is never too late to do the things you love!

Tell us about your life outside of pole dancing?

Outside of pole dancing I do my best to focus on my little family which consists of my amazing husband Don, and my two little doggies, Pixie and Molly. I pour all my energy and love into my household and always find time to squeeze in some baking, which is one thing I absolutely love to do….my husband goes crazy for my healthy Banana Muffins.

Having to split up my time between work and keeping my home spotless for my family usually means that I have to wake up super early for my gym sessions, so 5:00am is when my day starts. I always wanted to become a kick boxer (and would have but my father was against it! ) so I always like to get in some time with the punching bag at the gym after my weight training. When there is time of course I twerk for cardio, which in my opinion is the best form of cardio! I think it’s so important to develop healthy routines and stick to them! EVERYONE has time for fitness or things they love, even if you have a family to look after; it’s about making time! Sure, there might be 1 or 2 days when you just need to relax, life is about balance, allow time to unwind when your body needs it, but never remain idle!

When there are a few moments to spare in a week I like to take time to mediate and focus on all the things I am grateful for in my life. Finding time to be still and disconnect from this busy and sometimes crazy world is so important; it helps you to re-evaluate your priorities!

What best sums you up? 

There have been moments in my life where I have felt completely defeated and without hope, but continuing to lift myself up and persevere has taught me that we usually are a lot stronger than we think we are.  Every trial comes with the intention of shaping us and pushing us to be the best versions of ourselves that we can be, it’s up to us to keep fighting!!

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