Before punk pioneer Kathleen Hanna was storming stages as the frontwoman of formidable bands like Bikini Kill and Le Tigre, inciting fervor around the "third-wave feminist" movement, and inspiring a new generation of young feminist thinkers à la Tavi Gevinson, grrrl was just trying to pay the bills.

Detailing her days before music fame, Hanna revealed in a recent interview with The AV Club that she worked tiring, demoralizing shifts at several odd jobs. But it was her days as a stripper that really foretold of her punk dynasty. As she explains, she always had a flare for the on-stage dramatics.

I had a lot of themes, like dancing to The B-52s wearing ’60s go-go boots. I had a leopard print wraparound thong outfit that I wore for “Black Cat” by Janet Jackson and I would crawl on the stage, but my really big move was “Papa Don’t Preach” by Madonna, where I would stick my stomach out like I was pregnant. And then I would do “Mama Said Knock You Out” by LL Cool J and I would fake-box. I was a total cheeseball. But I made money.


Hanna's manic stripper personas encouraged others to call her the "cheeseball stripper," and the punk princess reportedly had freedom to choose all of her costumes. But of course, as punk history would have it, the popularity of Bikini Kill rose and Hanna was able to quit her day job to focus on the music. It's great to know, though, that Hanna has always been performing to no one's expectations but her own — and apparently always to an enraptured audience.

Marjon Carlos is a style and culture writer for Fusion who boasts a strong turtleneck game and opinions on the subjects of fashion, gender, race, pop culture, and men's footwear.