Polar Opposites

Two women who together helped bring the pole-dancing fitness craze to Orange County could be headed to court

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Although Lim and Aboul-Hosn no longer speak, both are still intensely passionate about what they teach and why they're doing it. It is hard to know who really was first in Orange County. A former student of Aboul-Hosn's, Melissa Montero of Newport Beach, says she remembers exactly when she first started taking pole-dance classes. It was late summer 2002, and she had recently broken up with a fiancť. She signed up for a belly-dance class at Aboul-Hosn's studio. She remembers peering into a pole-dance class after the belly-dance class. "I was kind of intrigued," she says. "It wasn't like now, where it's kind of a cool thing." She signed up and said she studied with Aboul-Hosn for two years.

Another student, Caroline Posada, studied with both instructors in 2006. "[Leda] was really good at teaching body movements, how to be more comfortable with your own skin. She had a lot of sense of sensuality that she taught to you," says Posada. "But she wasn't really good at doing tricks or at the technical side of the pole." Posada says Lim would pop in a DVD when it came to more complicated pole tricks. She found Aboul-Hosn's studio and said it was more in line with the complicated pole work she was eager to learn. She stayed on and is now an instructor.

Above: Edith Aboul-Hosn. Photo by Janine P. Kahn, Below: Leda Lim. Photo by John Gilhooley
Above: Edith Aboul-Hosn. Photo by Janine P. Kahn, Below: Leda Lim. Photo by John Gilhooley

OC Pole Fitness owner and instructor Collette Nicole, who has created her own fitness and exotic-dance workout, knows and has good relationships with both Lim and Aboul-Hosn. She says she is grateful to Sheila Kelley and to Leda Lim for paving the way and pushing exotic dance into the mainstream. "Leda was really the first," she says. "She did it from having really been there, from seeing how men responded, seeing how it made men feel, seeing the curiosity of other women when she told them about it," she says. "Then she saw some good in it that everyday women could benefit from. [Lim] was the visionary that had started this here, but she didn't quite have the financial backing. Then she did this partnership that didn't go very well."

"Edith has also worked very hard to build her business," Nicole says.

Although Aboul-Hosn maintains that the two women were never particularly close, the split seems to have initially torn at both of them. In an e-mail dated Nov. 20, 2005, Aboul-Hosn wrote what seemed like a final plea before the e-mails became much more hostile and formal between them both. "You are like a mom to me," she wrote. "I am really sad. . . . I loved working with you, and I want you to write back, and I want us to be partners again. . . . You and me are better than any man we've had in our lives, and that is what I liked about you."

Aboul-Hosn acknowledged sending the e-mail, which Lim included as part of her lawsuit.

Aboul-Hosn says the situation with Lim is not the first of its kind since she started her company. She says she recently dealt with a similar issue with an instructor she was much closer to. It's an unfortunate side of the business, she says. But she has kept on with her studio's growth, which has expanded to five cities in Orange County, and she's sticking with her plans to begin classes in Mexico City next month. She says that more than anything, she wishes Lim would just disappear.

Lim rasied the $400 to re-file the lawsuit, but she needs more than that to pay for a lawyer. She taught classes at a new studio throughout 2006, but she didn't make much of a profit to offset her rent and costs. Although her studio is closed, she says she is still teaching private classes. To pay for the re-filing of the suit, she admits that she had to resort to dancing again in a Phoenix strip club a few weeks ago.

"I felt like crying," she says. "I'm looking at my knees, and they're wrinkled. One guy asked me last night, he said, 'How old are you? You must be 38, right?'" He then told her she didn't have to dance and could just sit and talk with him. A friend of Lim's in Phoenix has said he will help with her lawyers' fees, she says. Thus far, she has not had to dance in Orange County.

"I created this because I wanted to help women," she says. "But sometimes, I feel so defeated."

For photos from several county pole-dance classes, see our slideshow.

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