I Am Her: Kayleen Ortiz On Changing People's Perceptions | Clozette

Our “I Am Her” series features the female movers and shakers of the industry to learn how femininity and power coincide beautifully and seamlessly together.

Pole dancing is one of the biggest artistic fitness activities in today's wellness scene. The undeniable grace and strength that comes with a single number is truly awe-inspiring. However, its sensual nature is still not completely accepted by some, relegating its messages of power, strength, and freedom. 

This is why we turned to Kayleen Ortiz, one of the founding members of Polecats Manila and the highest certified aerialist in the Philippines, to talk about her journey on finding strength and identity in pole dancing. We asked her about her thoughts on empowerment and essentials, as well as breaking free from the objectification that is often associated with the sport she loves.

Name three words or phrases to describe yourself. 

"I’m a Movement Artist, Fitness Creative and International Pole Champion."

How did you make your way into the world of pole-dancing?

"I was in my senior year in University when I first tried pole. I was completing a requirement for my Art Appreciation class, and I saw an ad for a pole doubles performance happening in Makati. I’ve never seen a pole performance before and was genuinely curious. So I went for it and wrote about it for my paper.

I loved the performance number, and I had never seen strength shown in that manner before. It was graceful yet undeniably powerful. At the end of their performance, I came up to the performers and asked them to teach me. That was when I met my first teacher, CD. I went to the studio, and little did I know that one day, my pole classmates in that room will become the Polecats Manila we all know now."

Can you tell us more about the challenges you faced and how you eventually overcame them?

"Not a lot of people took us seriously at first. The idea of a pole dancing school was almost unheard of 10 years ago, let alone a group of people who would decide to invest in making it a thing. We got objectified in a lot of gigs, but that’s just how changing perceptions work. You keep creating, you push on. You continue to fight for what you feel is unique and powerful.

Today, Polecats Manila is the biggest aerial arts school in the country. We run 50 classes a week, with a team of 28 active instructors and growing. I could not ask for a better team."

Are there any misconceptions about pole dancing that you'd like to debunk?

"People can think whatever they want. There was a point in my pole journey that I was hell-bent trying to make people see that pole is not just about the 'sexy stripper kind of dancing'. But really, so what if it is? It’s not my personal style; I gear towards the more athletic side of pole, admittedly. But each person will have a different take on the sport and no matter how we choose to practice pole is the artist’s decision. All I can say is that it changes you — from the inside out. You learn things about yourself that you never thought you had in you. Pole makes you realise how strong you are and upon realising that strength, you are able to help others gain theirs as well."

What would you say to ladies who want to try their hand at pole dancing but find it a bit overwhelming? 

"Just try it. Come to the studio and leave your inhibitions at the door. All you need is a pair of short shorts and an open heart. You’ll be surprised how much your body is capable of. I’ve had students in their 60s trying a class for the first time and they are great at it. I’ve had women who have never taken a single dance class in their life that surprise themselves with their own strength. Just come to class. The rest will follow."

What’s next for Kayleen and Polecats Manila? What can we expect in the future?

"Personally, I’m moving towards refining my movement practice. I'm exploring new styles, collaborating with more people, as well as creating more classes and performances for my audience. Even going back to competing, maybe. I’ve been in it a while but I always feel that it’s like a brave new world. 

As for Polecats Manila, we’re turning 10 years old this year. Yay! We are now the longest running aerial studio in the Philippines. We’ve just expanded our space into three studios. We’ve also launched a whole lot of new classes. Plus, we have an upcoming recital this 28 July at the AFP Theater. Come watch."

Lastly, what are your Clozette (closet) essentials?

"A good sports bra is a must and good aerial leggings. I have my Adidas family to thank for making sure I’m always covered."

This interview was edited for brevity and clarity.

(Cover photo from: @kayleenortiz)

Inspired? Check out stories of other exceptional women here.



Our dads have always been there, silently supporting us. After years of driving us around to weekend trips and buying us fancy dinners on Friday nights, it’s now our fathers' turn to enjoy a holiday just for him. With Father’s Day fast approaching, make sure you’re well-equipped to show your love to your dads. Make the number one man in your life smile and get him these Father’s Day gifts. Whatever your father might enjoy, there’s surely something in here that he’d appreciate.


For extra-hardworking ones

A brown bottle of cleansing foam is one of the many father's day gifts your dad will appreciate.

Sulwhasoo Men’s Refreshing Cleansing Foam 150ml, SGD50

Remind your fathers that, while taking care of the family, it’s great if they could remember to care for themselves too. Help them pamper themselves by getting them something from Sulwhasoo’s latest men’s range. From a Refreshing Cleansing Foam to a Relaxing UV Protector, this line of skincare products for men will surely bring your dad the luxurious pampering he deserves.

For the style savvy

Polo shirts in the shade of red all neatly folded

Brooks Brothers Soho Fit polo shirts, price unavailable

Why don’t you give your dad a wardrobe update? Shop for elegant new menswear pieces from Brooks Brothers’ new BrooksGate Collection.  Their new menswear items include slim-fitting Soho Fit and Tailored Fit polo shirts, among other sophisticated separates crafted from Italian fabrics. If you’re looking for an extra special gift, opt to have menswear pieces tailor-made for your dads. The Brooks Brothers Paragon boutique just also launched a Made-to-Measure program, which would give them a complete luxurious customisation experience.


For timepiece collectors

A gold-plated watch with hologram dials

Fossil’s The Hologram Watch, price unavailable

Everyone has their indulgences — even your dad! If he’s the type who likes collecting timepieces, then quit browsing through all potential Father's Day gifts. This upcoming Fossil’s The Hologram Watch is surely the one for him. As the name suggests, the watch features a unique holographic lens dial against images that change at the flip of the wrist. If you’re eyeing this as your gift, then be quick! The limited-edition gold-plated timepiece is only available in six sets in Singapore. Get them exclusively at ION Orchard starting 3 June.

For the jet-setters

A huge black suitcase

RIMOWA Essential Sleeve Cabin in Black, price unavailable

One of the most enjoyable things in life is getting to travel around the globe. If your father is one who enjoys such pursuits, then he might be in need of a brand new luggage to bring along. Help dad pack for his escapade by getting him RIMOWA’s Essential Sleeve Cabin luggage. With this, he’ll have more than enough room to store his essentials and more on his next vacation. What’s more is that he can rest assured that his belongings are safe and sound inside this durable quality suitcase.


For the adventurous

A small black camera

GoPro HERO7 Black, price unavailable


If your dad’s the type who enjoys doing all sorts of fun and sporty activities during weekends, then an action cam is for him. Get him one like the latest GoPro HERO7 so he can take buttery-smooth videos and high-quality snaps of his memories. Adventure-loving dads will surely appreciate this sturdy and convenient gadget.

For the bookworms

Storytel, an audiobook app as shown in different devices

Storytel app, subscription starts from SGD9.9 per month (Storytel.com/sg)

Does your father love reading more than everything else? Instead of scouring through bookstores looking for a book he’d love, why not buy him an audiobook subscription instead? With Storytel, he has the freedom to listen to books about everything — from business to fiction. Now, he won’t get bored waiting while you and mum are shopping.


For the at-home chefs

A number of Cantonese dishes neatly laid on a table

Mitzo’s Enhanced Weekend Brunch, ~SGD78

Out of all possible Father’s Day gifts, there’s nothing cooking dads would enjoy more than a scrumptious feast. This June, you can choose from the numerous restaurants serving their very own special offerings. For the patriarch who enjoys Chinese food, a dimsum brunch at Mandarin Oriental’s Cherry Garden on 15 and 16 June would be a treat. You can also opt to bring him to an enhanced brunch buffet of Cantonese dishes at Grand Park Orchard’s Mitzo, also available on 15 and 16 June. If that’s not an option, Mitzo’s also offering an indulgent 5-course set menu throughout the month. For dads who enjoy steaks more than anything else, then perhaps Brooks Brothers x Ruth’s Chris Steak House’s special set menu that’s also available until the end of June would do the trick. 



Summer looks are pouring in from the Community and there's one trend that seems to pop-up a lot: polka dots. It looks like this classic print that never fails to bring in some fun is this year's mid-summer favourite — not that we're complaining.

From bell-sleeves to midis to wrap dresses and more, take notes from our Clozetters on their fresh takes on these polka dot outfits. 

Sweet babe

FAVE 5: Mid-Summer Polka - Black dress

(Photo from: itsmariahazel)

Maiden in mustard midi

FAVE 5: Mid-Summer Polka - Mustard Midi Dress

(Photo from: Leannelow)