Photo: Kelsey Nehring
While I did a fair bit of research before heading to Williston, North Dakota in early March for BI, one subject I’d wanted to cover but couldn’t was the Williston Boomtown Girls.The Boomtown Girls are five sisters who grew up in Williston, and found themselves at the confluence of an historic oil boom, major media coverage, and an Atlanta video producer with an idea for a reality show (trailer here).
The project aims to highlight the sisters as they live their lives in the volatile, high-tension environment of a town with zero unemployment, a migrant population that outnumbers the townsfolk, and a male to female ratio reported by most to be over 70 to 1.
Some of the sisters are married, some are not, some have kids, some don’t, and the jobs they hold are as different as the girls are from each other.
There’s an equine dentist, a Mack truck driver, a welder, an oil field worker, and the youngest, Kelsey, works at a fracking shop by day and tends bar at one of the only two strip clubs in town on the weekends.
The sisters’ publicist wrote me after I’d returned from Williston, and offered to put me in touch with the girls, though the production company had declined the request before I left.
I said it would be interesting to see what a day in a couple of the girls’ lives was like.
Heather, the truck driver, and Kelsey the bartender agreed to take shots and send them to me.
I spoke with Kelsey on the phone and she knows how much national attention the two strip clubs have gotten, so we talked mostly about the club and what it’s like being female in the gritty environment that has become her hometown.
A dancer from Whispers, the other strip club in town, told CNN Money late last year that she made up to $3,000 a night, which brought all kinds of unwanted attention. As long as we didn’t talk money, Kelsey freely offered details on what working in the club is like.
All the dancers she knows fly in from out of town, like we reported in March, and leave after their stint is up.
“I don’t think you can be from North Dakota and be a stripper,” she told me with a laugh over the phone. “I was one of only four girls from my high school to get a boob job, and oh man, what a huge deal that was.”
She says Heartbreakers, where she works, generally has the best-looking girls, but that can be little compensation in a conservative town like Williston.
“If the people at the hotels find out a girl’s a stripper, they’ll kick her to the curb,” she says. “One girl went back to her room and found all of her stuff piled in the lobby.”
Professions aside, she says, it’s getting harder to be left alone at all in town. “If I had a dollar for every time a guy grabbed me, well,” she says, “I’d have $200 dollars. These guys don’t care how they get laid, just as long as they get laid.”
Working in the club she has been offered $1,000 for a single lap dance, and though she turned it down she says “I’d be lying if I didn’t think about these new rims I want for my truck. I’m kidding,” she says. “Make sure you put down that I’m kidding.”
After telling me about a guy who tried to haul her truck door open as she left work, I asked if she ever felt unsafe, as a woman, in an environment like that.
She paused, lit a cigarette, inhaled and blew into the phone. “No, I don’t feel unsafe,” she said. “We all have our concealed weapons permits.”
Kelsey was going to send further pics to wind out her day, but after telling me she was excited to be doing the story, she says she dropped her computer and I only heard from her again to tell me I needed to use what I had.
I mention this only because in our conversation, and the flurry of texts and emails that followed, one thing was clear: Drawing attention to yourself in a small conservative community isn’t easy, and shooting for a national TV deal perhaps seems ludicrous to the girls’ closest friends.
Kelsey says even some of her family is against the show, and that while it’s not easy to pursue the idea, she has it easier than the others.
“It’s almost something they’d expect from me. I’m kinda the troublemaker, ya know?”
The following slides’ titles were all written by Kelsey, and no word yet on the show, though producers say there is possible interest from several parties.
I live with my older sister Kendel. She is an equine dentist (horse dentist). She also raises and trains barrel horses. They are usually next to my truck every morning.
I have a 20 minute drive to work in the morning. I spend it chain smoking and listening to my music.
I work from 9 am to 7 pm as a shop hand at CalFrac. I spend most of my day sweeping floors and taking out trash, but my mechanics let me help
After a day at CalFrac I head to the club and stock the bar. This is the alcohol storage. Yes, It's a conex. The club is too small to keep up with the demand. So, we have to store it back here.
This is the dressing room at the club. It gets pretty crowded when there are 13 girls in here getting ready.
This is the lap dance room. On average there is 2 dances per room. Sorry for the blurry pic. As you can see I am getting tickled by one of the bouncers.
This is the bar when I open at 3:00. It usually takes me about 30 minutes to get it all set up. I'm usually there til close at 2:00 am.
The best thing about North Dakota is you can still smoke in the bars! At least in my opinion, as I am a smoker.
Aurora, another one of the pretty dancers we have at the club. Thanks to you both for letting me take the pictures!
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