This 56-Year-Old Grandmother Is Proof That Pole Dancing Knows No Age

Human Interest

2008 and 2009 were two years that hit Makeda Smith like a speeding train.

Again and again. The real estate market crashed, causing her to lose dozens of properties in the process. Due to financial setbacks, she had to file for bankruptcy. The IRS came knockin' and she was audited. Shortly after, her home was foreclosed and her car was repossessed. Her man wasn't man enough for her, and left her for good. She had to give up her dog, too. As her life turned completely upside down, Makeda found herself suffering through more losses than she thought she had the strength to bear.

Again and again. Loss after loss.

While others might have crumbled, never having fully realized the power of their strength, under this tremendous pressure, this woman was determined to rise up not only the ladder of success, but also the pole of success. In fact, it was the pole that ultimately led her up the proverbial ladder.

While enjoying some much needed reflection time, Makeda found herself strolling on the streets of Hollywood and Vine one day. She wasn't certain of what she was looking for, but she definitely found it. A lively 74-year-old woman provided the match to ignite the spark within her. The elderly woman went by the name Magda, but what intrigued Makeda about this lady was that there was nothing elderly about her at all. The woman was lively, known for taking pictures and performing limber splits. It was like nothing Makeda had ever seen. Magda was youthful despite what her age would suggest. Makeda looked at her in awe and wondered what was the secret to her eternal youth.

In her forties, Makeda began to attempt to tap into the “fountain" and acquire some of that youthfulness displayed by Magda by taking some yoga classes. “I was inspired to take a yoga class and did, but it didn't excite me. Soon after, I saw a deal on LivingSocial for pole dancing," Makeda shares. “I figured, 'What the heck!' So, I signed up. [I took] one class and I was hooked!"

As a successful publicist for more than 25 years, and working with well-known entertainers that include Mo'Nique, Jamie Foxx, and former Tonight Show band leader Kevin Eubanks, it wasn't too far fetched that the 55-year-old Makeda strutted her stuff into the world of entertainment – but she was not sure how others would react. Especially since pole dancing can be a bit taboo for some people, despite its mental and physical health benefits.

When Makeda first started, she was very conflicted about her choice to participate in pole dancing and sharing that hobby with her friends. “One part of my mind kept telling me I was too old and just crazy to be starting this regimen at my age," she reminisces. “But there are so many women pole dancing now over 40, over 50, and even over 60-- you would be amazed."

For some, pole dancing is how they make their money (stripping, go-go dancing), for others it has become a way to get in shape and live a healthy and happy life. Makeda definitely falls more into the category of the latter. Although Makeda Smith has made it rain in the club a time or two, it is purely something she does as a hobby, she doesn't undress, and she has not quit her day job!

“My first performance was in a bikini bar, Cheetahs, in Hollywood," she shares. “It was an Amateur Pole Night, specifically for pole dance students and amateur performers."

As she laced up her 8-inch heels, Makeda couldn't help but get the jitters. Though she was so confident about her body and her moves, fear has a way of creeping in wherever there's uncertainty. “I was a little nervous, but once I hit the stage, I was ready to entertain," Makeda remembers. “The fun part about the Amateur Pole Night is you get to invite your friends to come out and 'make it rain.' The place was packed and I felt amazing."

For Makeda, hanging upside down on a pole enhances her superwoman abilities. “It is more than exercising for me," she declares. “It is total rejuvenation of the mind, body, and soul. It pushes me to limits I never dreamed of and the effects of physically doing what may seem impossible."

Although pole dancing assisted in anchoring her life and getting back her mojo, in July 2016, Makeda went viral for her skills – but not in a good way. She became a victim of cyberbullying, ageism, and body-shaming by commenters on websites like Worldstar and Baller Alert. Even comedian Earthquake got in on the humor when he asked, “Whose Granny is this???"

“I was totally exhausted after three consecutive dance classes," she explains about the video that made millions of people click and tap into the hype, “I also felt very sad with all the news of the week. People were being murdered by police and police were being murdered, and I felt compelled to dance it out because that is what dancers do."

While many might have hung up their heels and headed back to their usually scheduled agenda in light of controversy, Makeda simply shrugged her shoulders and stated, “I wasn't fazed."

She is now affectionately known by some as a #polepriestess and she has laughingly accepted the hashtag #grannyonapole.

But don't get it twisted, not all of the comments were cruel. She has also gained a lot of new watchers that radiate and outpour positivity and support of her acts of self-love and empowerment. “I don't have all haters, now!" Makeda laughs. “The admiration from men is really a wonderful ego boost as well."

Yes, this #grannyonapole is flexing her skills!

And her love life?

“For the last several years I have not had a sex life, at all. Period," she claims. “Pole dancing kept me in touch and in tune with my sexuality. Dressing up and going to class, wearing high heels, and dancing to great music is a terrific adrenaline boost. I would say that pole dancing promotes self-love!"

Because love makes the world go round, Makeda says that she has recently gotten back into the “swing of things" now that she is dating a new guy. “All my exercising and poling is finally paying off," she says blushing from ear-to-ear. “Pole dancing definitely increases your libido, stamina, and flexibility."

So, if you're thinking of clicking your heels in the air, here are a few tips from the sexy granny that will get you ready to reach the height of that pole:

  • Do some research. YouTube has tons of beginner pole lessons and demos where you can actually see classes in session. That way, you will know what to expect and what you are getting yourself into.
  • Google and Yelp local pole dance studios to read reviews. Reading about the various studios and the personal experiences of students will help you locate the ideal studio for you.
  • Start with a beginner level classes and work your way up to the different levels. Really take your time and learn the basics first. That is how you build your strength and stamina for more advanced tricks later. Don't rush to advanced level classes until you are ready.

Do you think that there is an age cap for pole dancing? Have you been inspired to pole dance too? Drop your comments below.

To learn more about Makeda Smith, visit her website, www.flyingover50.com and visit her Instagram at: @flyingover50makeda

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

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