Career

Pole-dancing champ Amy tells all on her new body positive play: ‘trauma builds comedy’

The America’s Got Talent star is going ‘balls to the wall’ for her new play
Pictures: Don Curry

Amy Rosvally sits amid the ongoing renovation work in the Auckland home she’s just bought with her partner Larry. She’s pointing out the callouses on her hands, the bags under her eyes, and the strip of skin on her hip that’s usually raw and bleeding.

Yet none of these scars and traumas has anything to do with renovating – but everything to do with pole dancing.

Amy, originally from New York City, keeps a relatively low profile in New Zealand, happy in her “muggle” job and domestic bliss.

But globally, she’s famous as the pole dancing T-Rex in a tutu, from a video that went viral with more than 40 million views, followed by appearances on America’s Got Talent and as a Playboy model. She’s also an international award-winning pole dancer, judge and trainer, who has a Master of Science degree in entertainment business.

The Pole Comedian, as she goes by in her performance life, is as you’d expect – supple, stunning, sassy and smart.

But what’s not so obvious is the internal ordeal Amy has dealt with over a lifetime of bullying and body-shaming – by kids at school and now by adults.

“I was very overweight as a kid, and I had undiagnosed ADHD and a lot of anxiety,” she says. “I plucked out all my eyebrows as a coping mechanism.” She has some “quite conservative” family members who no longer talk to her.

Finally happy in her skin, Amy’s show Dear Body promotes the message to be kind to yourself.

Cackling wickedly, she continues, “The fact I’m a pole dancer, that I like having my butt out and that I’ve been in Playboy can be quite confronting for some people. What they don’t know is, I’m really just a hobgoblin! But trauma builds comedy, right? And I’m very funny.”

Throughout her career as the Pole Comedian, Amy has strived to highlight body positivity, often through humour.

“I’ve always been an advocate for appreciating your body for what it does on the daily,” she says. “The value you hold as a person has nothing to do with the size of your waist – skinny, big, blemished or perfect, it doesn’t matter.

“I go around the competition circuit, performing and meeting some beautiful people, and no one ever believes that in themselves. You could be a Playboy model – I am and I still see flaws. It’s such an important conversation to have.”

With the help of international circus performer Lyah Gusmao, Amy has created a cabaret-style show called Dear Body, featuring a diverse cast of local artists, touching on self-hate, dysmorphia, bullying, self-love and overcoming illness.

“They’re willing to talk about their journeys with their bodies – the good, the bad and the ugly,” Amy says.

“Some of our cast are going through chemo. Some are queer, some are cisgender, some have been slut-shamed… At a group rehearsal, everybody was crying – we’ve created a safe space free of judgement.”

As well as producing, Amy is performing in Dear Body and says it’s been a very therapeutic experience.

“I’ve had to revisit my inner child a lot – I’m very grateful to my therapist,” she says.

“As a kid, I was a little quirky and made fun of a lot. I was called fat. The cool girls would run around chasing the boys and when they caught them, they made me sit on their lap to squish them.

“I’ve always struggled with that phobia of not feeling OK in my skin. I always wanted to be that person that I needed when I was growing up.”

Amy became that person after discovering pole dancing in 2013, when she went to a class for her sister’s birthday.

“I thought it was a little unique, good exercise and so much fun, so I dove right in there. My friends were doing circus and silks, but I’m 10% hipster and I wanted to be different.”

With a degree in theatre and a love of comedy, pole dancing allowed Amy to combine all her passions.

She started performing in character – first her clown, Trixie Belle Cakes, then Charlie Chaplin and the famous T-Rex – the viral video came from the dinosaur’s debut at the 2016 International Pole Convention. That led to her becoming a contestant on season 12 of America’s Got Talent.

Amy met her Kiwi partner Larry at the Pole Expo in Las Vegas, where she was performing and he was volunteering. A friendship bloomed into a relationship and she moved to New Zealand just before the first lockdown.

The bags under her eyes are from preparing Dear Body while competing in a pole dancing competition in Palmerston North.

“I don’t know what compelled me to do all this,” laughs Amy, who also works as a business development manager. “But we’re just going balls to the wall, as they say. I work hard to look like a normal human – I have so many bruises and callouses.

“I want people to see the real me. And if I can inspire just one person to be kind to themselves today – even if they’re having a s**t day – then it’s a good day in my book.”

Dear Body is on at Auckland’s Basement Theatre from Tuesday.

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