Real Life

Real life: From sex worker to pilot

I was hiding a shameful secret.

Gwyneth Montenegro

Gwyneth Montenegro, 39, shares her true life story:

The music blared through the speakers as I hit the dance floor with my friend.

Growing up as the quiet, shy type, I'd always suspected nightclubs wouldn't really be my scene, but now that I was 18, my mate Jess had convinced me to give it a try.

At first, the dark, crowded club was intimidating, but I started to relax once I had a couple of drinks in me.

Swaying to the beat, I turned to see a handsome man with dark eyes and hair.

He grinned and I found the confidence to smile back.

"Can I buy you a drink?" he asked.

We headed to the bar, where he ordered me a rum and Coke.

Sipping my drink, I felt everything go tingly. It was like I'd stepped out of my body.

Looking around, I couldn't see Jess anywhere and when I opened my mouth to speak, no words came.

Next thing I knew, I was in a taxi, and then a room full of strange men who were naked and forcing themselves onto me, panting and moaning like wild animals.

Terrified, I tried to scream but couldn't.

I felt paralysed.

Then everything went black.

I was drugged.
I was drugged.

The next morning I was in a strange bedroom and the man from the club was standing above me.

I could barely remember the night before, but knew something bad had happened.

"Where do you live?" he grunted, offering to drop me back to my parents' farm 45 minutes away.

I had no other way of getting there, so I gave him my address.

At home, I scrubbed my skin in a hot shower, desperately hoping it would wash away this filthy feeling.

Those men used you like a whore, voices repeated in my head. No one's ever going to love you now…

Ashamed, I kept the rape a secret, even from Jess.

But inside, I was falling apart.

Desperate to escape, I moved to Melbourne for a fresh start, hoping it might restore my low self-esteem.

I got a few modelling jobs and earned some money as a TV extra.

"You're beautiful," agents told me.

But inside, I felt ugly and broken.

I hated myself deeply.

My shattered self-confidence made it difficult to find a job.

In interviews, I'd freeze with fear and the bills were mounting.

Scraping together what little cash I had, I barely had enough for the essentials like bread and milk.

What was I going to do?

I desperately needed to make some money.
I desperately needed to make some money.

One night, a friend pointed out a strip club as we walked home.

"That'd be an easy way to make money," my friend said.

Curious, we went in and watched the young women dance.

I could do that, I thought.

It wasn't that different to modelling and the male customers seemed respectful.

So after making a few enquiries, I got a job dancing at the club.

I was relieved my money woes would be over.

Dressed in a skimpy two-piece bikini, I swayed my hips seductively, grinding up against the pole.

Men were salivating at the sight of a blonde 19-year-old behaving so seductively.

But I wasn't being myself.

I was just acting, doing what I had to do.

At the end of the week, I counted my wad of $50 notes.

I'd earned thousands!

The cash helped with the rent and bills but it didn't buy me happiness.

I still felt ugly and worthless and needed antidepressants to get though each day.

But the medication made my body balloon and I stacked on 20kg.

Gone was the slender figure that made men drool. I couldn't possibly go back to the strip club.

I turned to medication to numb my depression.
I turned to medication to numb my depression.

After three years as a dancer, I had no other qualifications to fall back on.

I hadn't been wise with my money, either, and I desperately needed another income.

Suddenly, a thought came to me: I could be a sex worker.

I knew not all men liked slim women and the money could be good.

I'd already felt ruined since the rape. What difference would this make?

So I turned up at a local brothel and enquired about working as a prostitute.

Each room was fitted with a buzzer to alert the manager if I was in danger.

And I could refuse to service any man who gave me the creeps.

"I'm not doing groups," I told the manager, thinking back to my brutal attack.

Reassured that I could make $300 an hour, I gulped down some Scotch and changed into stilettos and a black cocktail dress.

Just like when I was dancing, I zoned out during the sex.

I slept with men of all ages, shapes and sizes.

Some were friendly and just wanted company.

Others were aroused by surprising things.

A prominent businessman in his 50s became one of my regulars and had a very distinct fetish.

"I want you to treat me like a dog," he begged.

I'd seen him in the newspaper and knew he had a reputation for being tough.

So I was stunned to see him wear a studded collar and get down on all fours, panting as I held a dog biscuit in front of his nose.

"One client had a distinct fetish"
"One client had a distinct fetish"

"Here you go, boy," I said, patting his head.

He chomped the biscuit hungrily, devouring each crumb.

It was bizarre, but I wasn't there to judge.

I even learnt to enjoy being intimate with an 85-year-old.

He was a gentleman, unlike many of the younger clients.

I was making thousands a week, but the brothel took almost half of what I earnt.

had to service at least six clients a night to make a decent living. Eventually I'd had enough of losing half my earnings, deciding instead to work out of my flat or hotel rooms so I could be in control of my finances.

This time, I set about marketing myself at the top end, asking as much as $1000 per hour for my time.

It was going great until, one day, I crashed my car and ended up in hospital.

Mum and Dad rushed over and, before I knew it, I broke down and told them all my secrets.

"I was raped," I began, choking back tears. "Now, I'm an escort."

They were dumbfounded at first but grew to accept what I was doing.

"I'm going to get out of it," I told them. "I promise."

When I was discharged, that's exactly what I did.

Becoming a pilot has always been a dream of mine.
Becoming a pilot has always been a dream of mine.

Using my savings, I fulfilled a lifelong dream of getting my pilot's licence.

I'm sharing my story as a way of helping women to escape from what's holding them back and to achieve something remarkable.

I'm currently single, but finding love isn't my priority right now. I'm just happy to finally be doing what I want to do.

With so many tales about my 15 years as a sex worker, where I slept with 10,000 men, I'm currently writing a memoir to set the record straight.

Most of all, I want to break down the negative stereotypes.

I'm not a whore, I'm a survivor.

Don't judge prostitutes until you know the full story.

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