This past winter, I had the pleasure of speaking with author and activist Anny Donewald about her incredible faith journey and how she uses her past in the sex industry in order to teach other women about their worth and fill them with hope through the love of God.
For those unfamiliar with her story, Anny entered the sex industry at the age of 19 and spent the next six years working as an exotic dancer in Chicago, Detroit, and other various cities before heading to Las Vegas and Los Angeles, where her work ultimately escalated into prostitution.
In her book, Dancing for the Devil: One Woman’s Dramatic and Divine Rescue from the Sex Industry, Anny chronicles her miraculous journey out of this industry and into her new life as the founder of Eve’s Angels, a non-profit organization that assists women in the sex industry through personal outreach, support groups, housing and rehabilitation, and educational efforts.
In the interview below, Anny shares more about Eve’s Angels, breaking through barriers, and a woman’s worth.
You founded the organization Eve’s Angels in 2009. What was the inspiration behind it and what is its mission?
Anny Donewald: Eve’s Angels was founded because I was in the sex industry for almost seven years, and during that time, there wasn’t any message of hope or love or support coming to me from the community. I experienced what it’s like to not have that support and love – to not have anyone walking alongside you, or even just asking, “Hey, how’s your day?” and I wanted to change that.
What are some of the most common misconceptions people have about women in the sex industry? What do you wish our culture understood?
There are a lot of misconceptions, and that’s part of the reason I wrote the book. First, a lot of people think that the women in the sex industry are these stereotypical girls who come from broken homes and are drug addicts and stupid, when in reality, most of the girls I worked with are some of the strongest women I’ve met in my life. We judge them because we’re thinking, “Ugh, you’re a stripper,” but the fact that she woke up this morning is a miracle, because the opposition she’s had in life, and in general, to get her to this point – whether she was forced into it or chose to get into it – what did she have to go through?
I came from a middle upper class background. I had every privilege you could think of. I graduated from one of the top five most prestigious high schools in the country. I came from this life and I still ended up in the sex industry, so I think there are a lot of misconceptions and stereotypes about the women in the sex industry when they’re some of the most amazing, loving people.
Based on your experience, in what ways does a woman’s perceived self-worth impact her relationships?
If I believe that I am who I really am – this divine creature – I’m going to then have relationships that are congruent with that. If I believe I’m just a sex object and I’m only worth 50 bucks, my relationships are going to be a reflection of that. So, I believe that the relationships in your life and the things that you do are just a reflection of who you really believe that you are.
You’re very open about your past. How do you think vulnerability and openness play into our relationships?
When we can become real with all of our circumstances and the things that have happened to us and we can forgive ourselves and we can forgive other people, we’re taking another step in the journey of developing and becoming who we were created to be.
What have you learned about loving others well through your work? Can you offer any advice?
What I’ve learned about loving others is that sometimes love just looks like sitting down and listening. And sometimes love looks like getting up and doing something. And sometimes love looks like saying no. Sometimes love looks like fighting for others harder than they can fight for themselves, and sometimes love looks like letting them fight for themselves, and just stepping back and being there. You know, sometimes love is really messy, and it can be the most heartbreaking, most rigid experience of a human life.
I don’t think it’s our job to have it figured out. I think it’s just our job to be compassionate and rid ourselves of all selfish ambition and just be there for another person. To me, compassion and love is the meaning of life, so I’m really rich. I get to love these people who may have never experienced it before.
What advice do you have for women who are struggling to break through barriers in their own lives?
Believe that you’re worth it. No matter what it takes to break through, you can do it. Things can change. So many times we don’t try to break through; we just kind of get complacent because we think things will never change and that this is how things are always gonna be. And it doesn’t have to be that way. We are women and women are so, so powerful.