A Tale Of Two Emcees
The Empowered Women and Messaging Behind The (Magic) Mic(ke)
By Stacey Gualandi
For almost 1000 shows, Lyndsay Hailey mastered the microphone—and a bevy of buff (and sometimes bare!) boy-toys—as the empowered emcee of Magic Mike Live, the first-of-its-kind male revue at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.
“People [were] like, ‘How have we done the same show a thousand times?’ And I was like, ‘It’s never been the same show, not one of those times’” says Hailey. “I feel like I got my Ph.D. in Energetics by being in a room with screaming bachelorettes….”
On stage, the comedian was equal parts ringleader and cheerleader: Night after night, Hailey balanced the stereotypical striptease with messages of mutual respect for both sexes, never failing to arouse the audience (and riding a unicorn named Dick at the end of every show, she says, never got old). But after two shows a day, five days a week for almost 2 years, a teary-eyed Hailey rode Dick for the last time this spring on April Fool’s Day, and that final goodbye was no joke.
“I wasn’t quite ready to leave,” she says when her contract wasn’t renewed. “I feel the universe just sort of spanked me in the butt, and it was like, ‘It’s time.’”
The Second City Touring alum was “plucked from obscurity” in 2016 by “Magic Mike” himself, actor Channing Tatum, to help him create a character who could peel away the layers of a traditional male strip show script.
Hailey says getting to write from a female perspective was her ultimate “dream job.” “It combined, for me, spirituality, improv, writing, and performing, and I have never had a platform where I could exercise all of those things at the same time,” says Hailey; but the Richmond, Va., native admits her run at the Hard Rock was filled with hard knocks.
“I moved with my boyfriend [to Las Vegas], who cheated on me, like five days after we got here. My grandma died the day after my boyfriend [cheated]…I couldn’t go back for the funeral because I was writing with Channing,” she says. Adding to that, her parents also “gave away their life savings by accident because my dad has dementia.”
Yet Hailey credits her Kundalini yoga practice with helping her through all the bumps and grinds of her time in Las Vegas. Now, she’s ready to move on to a new stage in her life…in Los Angeles.
“I’m starting production on a film that I’ve written called Sorostitute, which is like the female version of Animal House,” under her Shoes Before Pants production banner. “It’s about this masculine/feminine balance in the sexual and #MeToo conversation, and how we really just need to treat everyone as individuals, not genders.” She is also touring with the improv band Higher Wave Official and teaching workshops at the “consciousness” school Let Love Run.
With the Magic Mike Live revue in her rear-view, it’s not lost on Hailey that her life is now imitating art.
“In every show, I literally said [as emcee], ‘I learned a lot here from these men. Thank you for that!’ Those men ARE magic…I can’t even express how much I will miss [them].”
While it’s been a long ride, Hailey says she’s grateful for the exposure and will always be proud of the mark she made in a male-dominated metier.
“I learned a lot about self worth. [But] it’s all for our evolution. Everything is just pushing me to become who I’m intended to be.”
Cue mic drop.
“This show is about empowering and making women feel loved and respected and seen— genuinely seen, maybe for the first time—and I think that’s what I find so special…that I could be a small part in a bigger picture of what this show is about,” she says.
Make no mistake, it’s more than just a small part. Phillips-Reid holds her own—costumed in Marina Roybina—while surrounded by the 13 limber lady-killers who bring the movie Magic Mike to life on stage 5 nights a week. She has certainly come a long way from singing for small-town crowds while growing up in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. “My first job, I performed with Dolly Parton when I was 11,” she says. “I worked at Dollywood, and that is how I got started in entertainment.”
Since then, singing had been her career of choice. (Although I think she has a future in voice acting, too, as I’ve taken classes with her!) So what’s an east Tennessee singer like her hosting a Las Vegas male revue like this?
“We’re not playing a character, we’re just ourselves. That’s kind of an astounding thing in entertainment, you know? Especially for a woman,” she admits. “I absolutely think the show changed my life.”
The cast celebrated Magic Mike Live’s 1000th show in April at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, and with that, Phillips-Reid says, came a natural evolution: To keep the momentum going, she is now sharing microphone (and unicorn-riding) time equally with fellow emcee Jordan Burnett, a new addition to the sexy Strip squad.
“I know it is really important to our creative team to keep the show fresh,” says Reid.
“It’s kind of like a new chapter that I think everyone is excited about…that the show is still here, and that the show is still having a profound effect on people.”
Phillips-Reid says she jokes all the time that Magic Mike Live is “doing the Lord’s work,” and she believes that in its own way, the show is helping to change the world.
“My favorite Magic Mike Live story is we got a letter from a lady who wrote, ‘Coming to see the show, it was the first time a man held me and slow danced since my husband of 30 years passed away last year.’”
While women-led shows from a female perspective are a rarity in Las Vegas, Phillips-Reid hopes it becomes the new normal.
“I hope what I am doing is I’m making women feel safe, feel welcome, feel that it’s a sisterhood, and that we’re all doing this together,” she says. “I really feel like my job is to be the audience’s best friend.”
For now, she enjoys her freedom to improvise and satisfy everyone’s fantasies come to life. And if that means making more best friends, she says so be it.
Photos by Jerry Metellus