When Sheila Kelley slid down a stripper's pole in Dancing at the Blue Iguana, something occurred to her: This is hard work. Sensing there was more to the job than stilettos and dollar tips, the L.A. Law cutie tapped into her dance background and developed The S Factor, a how-to on shaping up burlesque-style. In Kelley's L.A.-based studio, the female-only clientele indulge in a combination of Pilates, yoga and erotic moves straight from the stage to redefine their natural curves. The S Factor is rapidly becoming a fitness craze — Teri Hatcher is a fan — and desperate housewives everywhere are getting sleek by vamping it up. Sometimes it's good to be a woman.
TV Guide Online: How can shimmying down a pole get me in the best shape of my life?
Sheila Kelley: I have to put you on a pole and watch you flounder first. It sounds simple until you actually get on that pole and try doing a trick. I used muscles that I never knew in my life that I had. In the inverted moves, your entire body weight is being held by your arms, so they tend to get incredibly strong. I've got some nice guns on me. Your abdominals, obliques and back get worked when you're doing the Snake. But it doesn't even feel like you're working out. You're so long, lean and luxurious — stretching as you're strengthening — and you're handing the job from one muscle fiber to the next all the way around the circumference of the body. It's delicious.
TVGO: So you dreamed up this idea after playing an exotic dancer?
Kelley: I was doing research for my film Dancing at the Blue Iguana, and I couldn't believe how hard these women work. I was in the clubs in Los Angeles and I realized no one teaches you this type of movement. Because I have a dance background, I knew a lot about anatomy and body work, so I could watch them, break things down and turn the movements into this beautiful workout that turns the body into liquid.
TVGO: How did you come up with the name, The S Factor?
Kelley: I didn't want to call it any "stripper-cize" crap. To me, the stripping is the icing on the cake. It's really about going into the body structure of a woman, which is an S shape — the curve of the bust into the waist and out of the hip. No matter what size you are, we all have that shape, that "S." A woman is not linear; she moves in a different way and she should be encouraged to do so.
TVGO: What happens in your class?
Kelley: It includes a stretching warm-up, a variety of floor work and leg and ab work, and then the moving mediation. You're on your hands and knees, and you begin to rock your body vertically and horizontally. The moving mediation flows into the standing hip series. That's 45 minutes of nonstop movement.
TVGO: And what do you slip into — or out of — to do this workout?
Kelley: Whatever you would wear to do yoga or Pilates that makes you feel sexy and good, and you're in bare feet. At the next part of class, the pole tricks and the walking, you can put those six-inch heels on or not, it's up to you.
TVGO: All these celebs are praising The S Factor, from Teri Hatcher to Lisa Rinna to Allison Janney. What's the big draw?
Kelley: Teri Hatcher started class about a year ago, before she was on Desperate Housewives. This movement gave her the most amazing confidence. Now look what she's doing on her show! The S Factor changes a woman's perception about herself and her confidence in the world.
TVGO: And with just a few hip rolls...
Kelley: The press has made The S Factor sound like it's so titillating, but that's not my point of view. It's about women discovering their bodies and how they are meant to move in the first place. We live in a society that judges our bodies harshly. When a women moves her body in a natural way, half the population gets aroused. All of a sudden it becomes our fault, and we stop moving it that way. There was nothing in my life that could prepare me for what I learned in the clubs and what the S Factor will teach you — the true range of motion that your body is capable of.
TVGO: I'm sold, but I'm on the East Coast. How can I get down with the S Factor on this side of the country?
Kelley: I have my book, The S Factor: Strip Workouts for Every Woman, which is in any bookstore in the country, and I have a video series available at my website.
TVGO: Guys must be jealous since The S Factor is only for women. Are you working on something for them?
Kelley: Men already have so many ways to express their innate sensuality, which is physical power. I find it extremely sexy watching men doing sports and sweating. That's their way of doing it. I know how to address a woman's body, so I'm going to stay with that.
TVGO: They should be down on their knees if their wives or girlfriends are taking your class.
Kelley: I've gotten flowers, letters and cards from men all over the country thanking me for this.