Best Selling Australian Author
Mattress Actress is the story of Annika Cleeve’s eighteen years as a sex worker. Her troubled childhood in Queensland led to working in a brothel on the Sunshine Coast at the age of fifteen, and from there Annika worked her way up to the high-end parlours, agencies and private work in various parts of Australia and internationally. In this book Annika reveals the truth of a sex worker’s life; the clients, the girls, the parlour bosses, the rip-off merchants, the drug deaths, the white slavery, the discrimination, the corrupt police and politicians, the exotic travel and the money. Mattress Actress is a revealing and gutsy look at someone practising the world’s oldest profession in the late twentieth century. From wide-eyed innocent to experienced and successful professional, Annika’s story is both shocking and highly entertaining.
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Review by Verne Maree
Memoirs of an International Sex Worker
Monsoon | 335 pages
The sex worker autobiography is a popular genre, and all the more interesting when it involves familiar places. So I was attracted by the cover blurb: “Annika shows how sex work in Australia and Singapore led to jet-setting around Southeast Asia for $3,000 a day.”
That was Monsoon marketing the book in Singaporean. (In Australia, it’s titled Mattress Actress.) I had to get to page 255 – Part Three: Riding the Asian Tigers – to read about her experience in Singapore; working for the polite Mr Singh’s Orchard Road “escort” agency, she was for a while one of a coterie of working girls from all over the world whom he’d send off on lucrative jobs in the region and beyond.
The story starts with Annika’s miserably abusive childhood, which led to her voluntarily entering a brothel at the age of 14. More interesting are her memories of relationships between the working girls, their employers and their johns; descriptions of working for a club in Sydney’s underbelly Kings Cross area, complete with violent Greek pimps and corrupt city police; the story of her fleeing with her daughter to Perth, setting up “shop” there, and much more.
All ends well, happily. Annika achieves self-empowerment, not only paying for her daughter’s private school education, but her own, “obtaining a postgraduate degree and a string of letters after her name”. What’s more, she finds love, marriage and happiness.
This is a tale full of no-holds-barred details, yet it’s seldom gratuitously salacious. How is a brothel organised? What do the girls earn? How do highly paid call girls manage to spend all the money they earn? How do you fake performing lesbian cunnilingus? You’ll have to read the book.
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