Cami Árboles evolved into a ‘master of movement’ during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Her fluid motions paired with emphasis on the mind, body, and spirit is what enabled Árboles to dominate the world of pole. Pole dancing became popularized across social media platforms, such as Instagram and Tik Tok, and is an art form Árboles is gaining vast recognition for. Not only has Árboles accumulated an Instagram following of over 160k, she has also manifested her way to teaching her creative role model, SZA.
I interviewed Árboles about her passion for pole and she shared with me her unconventional journey that embodies pure artistry, tenacity, and authenticity—all of which contribute greatly to her success.
Árboles began pole dancing as a personal form of self-care to combat pandemic frustrations and balance her mental health. Slowly, yet surely, pole dancing became part of her daily routine and enabled Árboles to become the self-taught pole hobbyist she is today.
On Pole Discovery:
“About a year ago is when I started pole dancing at home during the pandemic. I honestly was going through a very hard time with my mental health. There were a lot of things that had been canceled that I was really working hard for like my senior thesis project at Yale.
Basically before the pandemic started, I had signed with an agent in New York City and was ready to go to New York to do Broadway and live theater. I’d also studied opera at Yale so I was ready to do all this stuff that kind of just slipped away—but everything happens for a reason.
I would wake up every day like “damn, what do I do?” because I had nothing to really look forward to. So, that’s when I got a pole at home. I would just spend hours on Instagram watching really inspiring dancers and I literally went all in.
I was so entranced with this art form and it just became my therapy. It really helped me get through that very difficult, weird time. I don’t know what I would have done during that time if I didn’t find pole dancing. It gave me a reason to get up every morning and be excited to learn something new”.
On teaching pole:
“I had done a lot of privates on zoom and of course instructing my friends on the pole and like I love teaching. Even in high school, when I was just tutoring biology, Spanish, or math—I just love the feeling of someone getting somewhere they thought they couldn’t.
I went in [to Yale] as a pre-med major. I was a molecular, cellular, developmental biology major. That’s when I tell you all I’m a nerd, so that was what I did for two years and then halfway through I was like “I don’t want to solve problems for a living, I want to make people forget their problems for a living—I’m an artist”.
So then I switched to theater and performance studies. The whole time I was singing I was doing theater, acapella, opera, and performing in shows all the time”.
Árboles has raised the eyebrows of many, and her beautiful content has even gained the recognition of some of her creative heroes. R&B vocalist, SZA, was also inspired by Árboles’ work and the two artists have begun collaborating on projects together.
On SZA and the Good Days music video:
I just think that’s such an affirmation if an artist that you love and respect and admire also really vibes with your work as well—that’s literally the best feeling in the world. Every time that happens I’m like “wow, I must be in the right place”.
So, SZA has been my favorite artist. You know how Spotify gives you the Spotify Wrapped? Ctrl is always my number one. She’s always my number one artist. I know the whole album verbatim.
I’ve also just felt a very intuitive alignment with her—she’s just incredible to me. She has done so much healing for me. I remember one day she just followed me on Instagram and I was like “what an affirmation, what a cool thing that this artist I respect and admire so much and has done so much for me personally also followed me”.
She’s such a kind and generous in spirit person. She would always interact with my posts—like and comment. One day she just sent me a voice memo. Like a week or two later she just texted me like “hey, I’m shooting the Good Days music video this week, are you down to train me?”
I was like “yeah, no questions asked, of course”. It was cool, she is so strong.
She put her mind to something and she did it. All that stuff she learned in three days. She hit me up on a Monday and then I taught her on the Tuesday and then like Wednesday, Thursday, Friday we were shooting the whole thing. It was a fast turnaround and it was stunning.
On embracing sensuality and the body:
I grew up very Catholic and wore the all-girls Catholic high school uniforms. Growing up I was never really taught to be proud of or own my sensuality or anything like that.
I also think it’s funny because people will still look at my page, see what I do and assume. Social media is a world of assumptions but I don’t lead with that in my everyday life. I’m a bubbly, positive, very wholesome person.
I think it’s just so important to acknowledge that duality within us. You can be wholesome, happy, positive, whatever you want to be. You can go to college or not and you can also embrace your body and own your body.
I’ve said this before, but something I’ve come to believe is to exist in your body and exist in your vessel and know you’re being perceived everyday. You can’t control what people think about you and to just live in that and embrace that—that’s very radical and that’s very hard work.
Árboles, who trained herself in the artistry of pole dancing, acknowledges pole dancing’s overlooked history and its significant connection to sex workers.
On strippers and sex workers:
I know that I come to pole dancing from a place of extraordinary privilege. It’s so important to acknowledge that the pole dancing I share on my page and platform does not exist without the work of strippers who paved the way, and it’s so important to honor that.
Sometimes people say “Oh, I’m a pole dancer, I’m not a stripper… I would never strip… I would never associate myself with that”, and that train of thought is illogical. This is an art form that doesn’t exist without the work of strippers and for people to ignore that or just discard that is not right. Pole dancing is not separate from stripping.
It is especially important now more than ever to honor the work of strippers because Instagram and social media platforms are causing erasure and censorship of the art within the stripping and sex work community.
On transforming a passion project to a career path:
You know, it’s so funny answering questions about turning this into a career path because there was never any decision. There was never any day where I woke up and was like “this is what I’m doing”.
The other day I was at a little gathering and my friend introduced me to a stranger as a movement expert and I was like “wait what?” You know I would never even call myself that. It’s just so crazy how so much can change in such a short amount of time.
It just kind of happened little by little. Something I’ve kind of been living by this year and focusing on is “flow don’t force”.
I just went with the flow every step of the way and kind of woke up every day like “I’m gonna do my best today and learn something on the pole”. If I feel so inspired I’ll share it— it just kind of snowballed from there. Things beyond my wildest dreams have come true.
How many hours do you train a day? How to start pole?
All of our bodies are so different and what works for me might not work for another person. I do this in the program I run, it’s this notion of always working with your body never against your body.
I have kind of an intense personality, like when I fall in love with someone like I go all in, and I remember when I started doing pole I was sore every day. Now it varies in my life.
I’m reading this book right now called How We Learn. The part that I’m reading right now talks about how it’s best to revisit something for a short amount of time everyday over a long period of time than to invest yourself or throw yourself into something for five hours. That’s honestly true with the pole. If there’s a skill that I’m learning and I try it once for a couple days in a row, usually by the third or fourth day I’ll get it, but it’s usually rare that I get it on that first session. So, it just has to do with the neuroscience of how we learn.
On combating artist’s block and finding motivation:
There’s a quote that’s like “art is the study of the world” and in order to be a good artist, to create meaningful work, it’s important to know as much of the world as possible.
I think that whenever I reach a block it’s because i think that i’ve seen it all or I’ve learned it all, that’s when I turn to literally any other art form—i will look at art, I will read books, I will read poetry, I will listen to music—anything— and just involve myself in different worlds that maybe have nothing to do with maybe the art form that I am interested in.
It’s so important to constantly keep informing yourself about anything. Everything is so interrelated and that’s why I don’t regret all the training I’ve had as a scientist or a STEM major because I love that world. When I was thinking about the things I was learning in psychology classes, or the human brian classes, I was learning about human behavior. Human behavior is seen in storytelling, which is also art. I just think it’s all interconnected.
On her future:
I’m so going with the flow.
Even though it’s so important to have goals—so much of my life was goal based, and I’m trying to live more like a values based life…. it’s funny because as I discover what my values are and align myself with my values, goals that I never even would think I could have achieved have just naturally happened.
I have no idea where I’m going. As a human, we’re constantly evolving and shapeshifting who we are and what we represent… what we love is something that changes and I know deep in my heart that singing and music is my passion… I know it will come when the time is right. For now, I’m just enjoying this moment.
I was talking about this with my friend earlier, but it’s the notion that you can think of yourself as the artist and the masterpiece of your life. You are literally the designer, the creator of your life—everything you say to others, everything you say to yourself, the way you present yourself, everything you wear, things you do, is all in the design and creation of your life.
You have the power to create your own reality so that’s why affirmations and doing that work and choosing positivity or joy is very important to me.
Advice on finding identity and sense of self:
The whole thing of being “cool”, it’s not about what you wear, what you own, what you have, or your followers, or your clout. Literally the coolest people I know just show up everyday their authentic selves and don’t give a shit about what anybody else thinks.
Now, getting there is hard. It’s radical, difficult work, especially as a woman, especially if you’re a woman of color. It’s being perceived and knowing that you can’t control how people perceive you and what judgements they cast upon you based on what you do and being okay with that.
It really goes back again to the “flow don’t force”. The energy and things that you put out into the universe come back to you. If you’re saying beautiful things to others, if you’re speaking beautiful affirmations into your reality and making it a more positive space, that’s going to come back to you. I know I keep saying that but the things you do and say really do create your reality.
Since our interview, Árboles has partnered with Nike, danced at Complexcon, and performed with SZA live. She continues to share her work on social media and has extended her love of teaching by founding the Mind, Body, Spirit Collective, where you can sign up to be trained by Cami herself.