What started out as a bit of a laugh has turned into national title contention for a Wanganui student.
Emma Fawcett, who goes by the stage name Lexi, has been a pole dancer for two years and on Saturday took out the expert category in the NZ Amateur Pole Performer competition.
The 19-year-old, who is a third-year design student at Victoria University, said she saw fitness pole advertised as one of the recreational services available there.
"I thought it could be fun. I thought it was a bit of a joke but now it's turned into an obsession."
Because she was only 17 at the time, she had to get parental permission to take part in the classes, conducted at The Studio in Wellington, which has since closed.
"It's not risque at all, but I still needed permission. I called them up, a couple of months into uni and said, 'Hey guys, how's it going - can I get your permission to do pole dancing?'.
"It was a bit hard for them at first, but now they're absolutely fine with it, and this weekend was the first time they got to see me perform."
She also invited her friends to Saturday's competition but they didn't show. Her girlfriend Phillipa, on the other hand, was a fan of her work and was there to share the experience.
"She absolutely loves it - why wouldn't she?"
She said preparation for her roughly three-minute routine began about a month ago, squeezed in between bouts of study.
"Everyone else already had theirs down by then, but I didn't want to work too long at it because you get sick of it."
Normally she hits the pole twice a week, but in the lead-up to the competition it was a daily programme. And, thanks to the national final, she doesn't get the break she was hoping for.
Having won first place as an expert on Saturday, she's gearing up for the national finals in Wellington on August 17 - which is also her 20th birthday.
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