*It does not take much imagination to figure out what the “P” in the new cable network series “P-Valley” stands for, especially knowing that beautiful, sexy, and scantily clad women are showcasing their bodies, athletic acumen and dance moves in a strip club environment. The “P” word has now come to full fruition on Starz, after the cable network premiered “P-Valley” in July 2020.
Watching the show’s episodes give viewers a front row seat to not only see women strippers do their thing but also hear their stories describing elements and circumstances in their respective lives – the good and bad. If one is still wondering what the “P” stands for in “P-Valley,” the show’s creator, Katori Hall’s 2015 stage play “Pussy Valley” should clear up confused minds. Make no mistake, Hall pitched Starz to use the full name like she did for her stage play, which is the foundation for the new cable series. The network, according to Hall, was squeamish about being so bold and declined to use the complete name.
“We were gonna go for it,” explained Hall in a recent LA Times article. “but when conversations started happening between the network and the cable carriers, they were basically saying they were not going to list the show if it (the full title) was used. So it was actually censorship on the part of the carrier, not the network.”
Starz, said Hall, made a business decision that they didn’t want to make a great show and not have people view it because they were afraid of hearing what the “P” word stood for. Nevertheless, “P-Valley” follows several strip club workers: Mercedes, Keyshawn, and Autumn. While on the surface, the words “strip club” often gives visions of seedy places with classless women searching for only fast money, P-Valley’s characters clear up such misconceptions in provocative ways. In other words, “P-Valley” “flips the script” on how Black strip clubs, especially in the South, are viewed.
The program cleverly highlights The Pynk, a unique strip club where Mississippi crowds show their appreciation to the women performing acrobatic maneuvers on the poles on stage, along with other executions of signature and daring dance schemes that defy belief and gravity. Yet, through it all, a strip club means women eventually take off their stage attires at some point – and that’s still something many viewers want to see, even if it’s artistically done.
Hall said the success of “P-Valley” is the result of research done for her successful stage play in 2015. To prepare for the play, Hall crisscrossed the country, visiting strip clubs.
“I went to clubs in Washington D.C., Atlanta, Memphis, and L.A. – all over the nation – and I interviewed about 40 women over six years,” Hall said. “Because of the volume of research I had, I really struggled with landing on just one story.”
Hall said she pivoted from her stage play to successfully pitch her series idea to Starz. However, before Starz, Hall revealed some executives at other cable outlets wouldn’t allow her in the room to pitch her ideas, when they learned what the ideas were beforehand.
“In 2015, the subject matter was largely taboo,” said Hall. “But these women are human beings. Sex work is work – you may not agree with the work, but it’s putting food in their families’ mouth, putting these people through school. It is saving lives. I think the world is now ready to hear and see their stories in a more respectful way.”