When I first meet Tina, during this year’s Rendezvous, she introduces herself as Misha. After waiting for one Jarvis Street Saloon manager to talk to another Jarvis Street Saloon manager,
who relays messages from the front of the bar where I am, to the back of the bar, where Tina is, I’m finally lead around a corner to where Tina stands flocked by two Jarvis Street Saloon security guards. A thin silk nightgown is wrapped loosely around her otherwise naked body, and she’s wearing glasses.
She’s stunningly beautiful and immediately captivating — her warmth greeting me at pace with her beauty. She shakes my hand, tells me her name is Misha Elle — or Tina Marie — depending on whether I’m talking to her as a stripper or a person. We arrange to meet during one of her noon-to-9 p.m. dancing shifts over the next few days she’s in Whitehorse.
For half-an-hour on a Saturday afternoon, Tina and I gather around a little table in the coffee shop next to the saloon. She’s in between dances, and only has a little time before she has to go back to her room to curl her hair. But we quickly discover we have a lot in common, not only in our lifestyle choices but also in our concept of what constitutes a good life.
It’s one of the loveliest half hours I’ve spent. Largely because Tina is one of those souls whose loveliness echoes the beauty of life. But even more so because of the situation — I’m not sure how many of us who are not adult entertainers expect to sit down with someone who is and experience a kinship. Tina’s graceful way of being ever-so-gentle confronted the edges of a prejudice I wasn’t even aware I had. “The rat race got to me and I had to move to the country,” she says, of her progression from a penthouse in downtown Vancouver to the 320-acres she now owns in the middle of Okanagan Crown land.
She and her very supportive partner of 22 years have a small one-room cabin they built themselves, completely off-grid, solar powered, outhouse. They lived in a tent for eight months while building. “This feels like home,” she says of the Yukon, unsurprisingly. “I fit right in.”
Tina also runs a dog sanctuary, though it isn’t exactly right to say she “runs” something that is so fluidly the major purpose of her life. “I dance to support my babies,” she says more than once, referring to the growing number of dogs she’s rescued. Her pack travels with her most places, and always between the five acres she owns near Vancouver and the Okanagan cabin. She’s even trained them as a sled team, using a sled she had shipped from the Yukon five years ago.
But her sanctuary isn’t just for animals. She’s more-or-less adopted a 24-year old “lost soul” and given him a place to live and eat in exchange for help with the dogs. She also hosts a small but welcoming music festival on her Okanagan property each year. And she loves her job. Now a very youthful 45, Tina began stripping at 18, travelling to places like Iceland and Japan, always bringing her dog.
“I got on stage and I loved it and never got off,” she says, laughing at the first time she tried stripping after a bottle of champagne in a club in Quebec. “There’s nothing more fulfilling than going to your job and loving it.”
Tina plans to retire from dancing in two years, to continue pursuing her dreams of living humbly in the mountains. “I’ve lived it all, I’ve been everywhere, and I’m happy where I am,” she says. “My dogs have taught me to live in the moment.”