Community Connections: Profile of former Times intern Yvette Reyes

Mike Christopherson
Yvette Reyes

What year did you work in the Crookston Times newsroom?

I believe I worked in the Crookston Times newsroom in the year 2012. It was the summer right before I enrolled in an international boarding school in New Mexico, called UWC-USA. 

What was your favorite part of your experience at the Times?

My favorite part of working at the Crookston Times was the novelty of experiences. I distinctly remember being terrified and excited everyday to walk to the newsroom and with the anticipation of new projects to work on. I loved writing about the going-ons in the community and also getting to go on mini adventures with Katie and Mike. 

What was the biggest thing you learned about yourself and/or the biggest life lesson that you took with you when you left the Times?

When I worked at the Times, I was a very shy person. I was small and quiet, and tended to have a hard time communicating verbally. The biggest take-away from my time in the newsroom was to be more confident and assertive. Mike would pester me to be louder, so voice projection! I also had to talk to people for interviews in-person and through the phone. These were pretty invaluable experiences for me at the time. I believe networking is a critical skill, and so I am appreciative that I was able to test out the waters in a safe space.

What have you been doing since? Give us an update on where you’re at, what you’re doing, who you’re with, etc.

Since my departure from the newsroom, and somewhat ultimately Crookston, my life has taken a few unexpected turns. My ultimate life goal was to attend an Ivy league college and to change the world in some way. When I was at boarding school, I had a good chance at the Ivy part, but I was much more preoccupied with learning about all of the students and their cultures than I was with say … chemistry, and wilderness training. I realize now that attending an Ivy league school is not the end all be all, but when I was not allowed to apply to these schools, it was a wake-up call at the time. Existential dread. What will my life be now? I was quite a dramatic teenager. I had been accepted by Early Decision to the first US women’s college in New Hampshire, but my parents simply couldn’t afford private-school tuition.  In a late-night frenzy of thinking about what is life, I decided to withdraw my acceptance to Mt. Holyoke and enroll in trade school at Northland Community and Technical College in Thief River Falls. I decided on welding after a google search: what trade program has the highest placement for graduates? Welding won out, and the TRF campus had openings. I had no idea what welding was, but I knew it would provide me a stable job with a better-than-average starting wage and that I refused to be entrenched in debt. I went to training for 9 months for my diploma, and then was hired to Trail King in 2015 one week after graduation, in West Fargo, ND. I only planned to stay for three months, as I had been accepted to St. Olaf and the U of M Twin Cities and wanted to continue my education. However, two things happened: First, I realized that I would receive little to no financial aid and would have to be entrenched in debt to attend either college, which is something I swore I would never do. Secondly, I fell in love with my life partner. Funny how things work out, what was only supposed to be a short welding stint, ended up being five years of my life. I decided to stay and save money. I found hobbies such as pole dancing, and eventually ended up becoming the owner of the studio I trained at. I still work at TK, part time, I am taking classes at the local community college, and I own and operate FM Aerial & Movement Arts in Fargo, ND. My days are busy, sometimes overwhelming, yet fulfilling.

What are you passionate about these days?

These days I am passionate about community-building. I spend my time trying to find and implement ways to bring people together and wondering how I can make a positive impact on the people I see every week and help them see what I see: strong, capable womxn. Since I am a pole dance studio owner, my clientele is mainly female because men chicken out when they rip their leg hairs off. Pole can be painful! However, it’s astounding to see the change in people as they become confident in themselves and their abilities. I see people who are told to make themselves small, or are too this or too that, and I love, love, love being able to see people break out of their shell and create meaningful connections with themselves and others. I see a variety of people from all stages of life, and there is no way to describe the euphoria I feel when I see people comfortable in their own skin and then take that into their home and professional lives. I realize now that it doesn’t take an ivy league education to make a positive impact on the community, all it takes is the willingness to listen to the need that is in the community and to care. Education is what we make of it, and we can make positive change just by actively caring about the people that are around us. I am passionate about lifting others and using the resources I have to do that. I appreciate being a welder because it was the financial foundation I needed to jumpstart my ideas. Although a traditional college education is a wonderful path, it is not the right path for everyone. Some people need to make money now because of life circumstances, and so trade school is a short-term option with positive long-term benefits. Apparently, I am also passionate about trade schools.

Yvette Reyes

You probably hit on it in your answer to the previous question, but can you somehow convey to readers your passion for pole-exercising and pole-dancing? Where did that passion come from? What kind of muscle and strength must a person possess to do the gravity-defying things you do?

Oh yes, the pole dance. I liken myself to the lady in Flash Dance quite often. This is also not where I thought I would be if I asked myself ten years ago. I had just moved to Fargo, I had no friends, all of my co-workers were men, and I worked a second shift. I don’t have anything against men, but I didn’t want to hang out with my co-workers before and especially not after work at 3am. I kind of stumbled across pole dance in my google search for ‘alternative fitness,’ after a failed stint at trying to wake up early to learn kickboxing. I decided to sign up for a 4 week course of pole in search of something to do to build strength, and also hopefully make friends or at least female acquaintances.  I don’t think I had any expectations of what it would be but it sounded intriguing. The owner really hyped up the fitness aspect of pole, and so I thought why not. After my first 4 week course I became obsessed! It is a really easy way to start exercising, but it is sneaky exercise because I was so focused on trying to obtain a new skill I didn’t realize how hard I’d worked my muscles until the day after. Although it is a very accessible form of movement, with many of the skills starting with feet on the ground, as people gain strength,  there are endless pole skills that will challenge every level of strength, and crazy people are inventing new, harder skills all the time! Personally, I am a bit of a weenie when it comes to trying flips on the pole, as I have two physically demanding jobs to think about, but these moves exist and there are people who execute them flawlessly. Pole is also a creative form of movement. It incorporates dance, strength, and there are endless ways to express and invoke emotion. I’ve been poling for over 4 years now and have not once been bored or feel like I have reached my full potential. Pole is inherently sensual as it originated in sex work, with strippers at the club. I think some people still see pole dance as taboo because of the way society sees sex work and who is deserving of respect. It is becoming a little more mainstream because of celebrities incorporating pole in their shows and music videos. Despite how the media portrays pole dance, it takes a lot of practice to come across as sexy and this takes a lot of self-awareness, body appreciation, and confidence. I think pole is body positive. It teaches us to celebrate the things our body can do instead of how we should look according to the popular trends, but once we get over the shyness of not wanting to look at ourselves, we realize that we look awesome and that is reason to celebrate too. These are a few, but not all, of the reasons why I like pole.

Tell us how the pandemic impacted you/continues to impact you…

The pandemic has impacted me because it made me realize that it is time for change. Although welding is an excellent career choice as it offers job stability and it is a skill in high demand, I realized that it is not what I like to do. Welding for me was a good starting point, it allowed me to pay my bills, develop hobbies, and also save money. But after a while I became bored and sad. Sometimes I would work 52+ hours a week and just think to myself “Is this it? I just help build trailers, get burned .... for what?” I suppose I am still dramatic, even as an adult. I also realize I am speaking from a place of privilege, as many people lost their homes, jobs, and many people in my position also lost their studios.  I, too, had to close my studio for six weeks, and during this time I had to make the decision to close for good or to regroup. I weighed in what I wanted the future of the business to look like, or just cut my losses and go back to school before losing my entire savings.  Thankfully, the shutdown did not last long in relation to other states, as we would not have survived especially without assistance. Additionally, I had the support of my landlord, and the support of my students when we did re-open. The pandemic made me realize that the studio is a place that I am extremely passionate about. I feel as though some people may be content with just focusing on making their business profitable, which is their choice and I respect that, but this is not enough for me. I need to feel like I am doing the most I can as a business owner to help my community, and since this is my primary goal I don’t want to back out now because even though I am small, and still have trouble speaking sometimes, I am ardent about lifting up others. To me this means participating in community events, creating a safe space in my studio, actively striving for diversity and inclusivity, and using my position to connect people to resources they will benefit from. 

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Spare time! What is this mystical concept .... to answer this question: I do not have spare time. I think I’ve heard “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” But my experience tells me that doing what I love means I find myself working all the time. FM Aerial & Movement Arts just turned two years old. Thankfully we are surviving the pandemic, but building a business takes endless amounts of time, effort, and motivation. Additionally, I am still working as a welder three days a week. During those days I do not have the emotional or physical capability to really do much else besides try to make sure I am eating and sleeping well. Pre-business I used to spend a lot more time with my pudgy hedgehog, Pumba, and then take two puffs of my inhaler because I remember I am asthmatic and allergic to hedgehogs. During my lunch breaks at work and before bed I read books about U.S. History, and on social commentary. Sometimes I get one day off from the studio or the shop, then I spend all day literally sleeping.

Look in your life’s crystal ball: Where do you think/hope you’ll be 10 years from now, and what do you think/hope you’ll be doing?

In ten years I hope to continue to grow. I hope that I finally figure out a healthy balance between personal and professional life, and take care of myself a little bit better. I hope that I am able to build a community of incredible people who are also driven to create positive change. I am intent on building an aerial arts community, and being more inclusive to a variety of different folx, with different backgrounds, and capabilities. I have many ideas I hope to see come to life, and I hope to find people who also feel equally as passionate about them. Additionally, I hope to have helped others grow their passions and to have a supportive team at the studio.