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intersections of beauty

Color Stories: Meet Michelle Glancey

Every shade has a story. And the inspiration for our Mixology Collection stemmed from something deeper than an iconic cocktail or drink-inspired hue. It was inspired by the people behind each of the shades and libations, the skilled bartenders who pour their passion, energy and creativity into every concoction we drink and every glass we raise. 

We sat down to talk to Denver bartender, Michelle Glancey (@michelle_lynne_glancey_)

What inspired you to explore bartending?

When I was young, I always wanted to be a bartender. I think it’s because I watched a lot of Cheers as a kid. I was like, ‘I want that!’ I want to be Coach someday. I just want to be that old guy at a small seater bar, wiping tables down, basically just hanging out. 

I used to ask for bar books for Christmas. I would have a whole bunch of these books and my brother would give me so much crap for it. He’d be like, ‘You can’t be a bartender if you don’t drink!’ And I was like, ‘Well, I can follow a recipe!’

What do you love about your profession?

I’ve just always really liked people and hospitality… being hospitable and welcoming people into a space. When you’re bartending, you’re basically having a dinner party at your house– you’re welcoming people into your living room. And I like making people feel welcome. 

Is your hair part of your professional image? 

I wouldn’t say it has anything to do with bartending, but since my profession bleeds into my passion bleeds into my lifestyle and who I am, then YES!

orange-gold hair color with quote "my profession bleeds into my passion, which bleeds into my lifestyle and who I am," from denver bartender.

Speaking of which, do you consider hair color a form of self expression?

Hair color is definitely a form of self-expression for me as a bartender and as a person. It’s always been like, ‘Ohhhh, redhead Michelle?’ or ‘The bartender, the ginger?’ and I’m like, ‘Yeah, that’s me! It all goes together, really. 

I have a brother who’s three years older than me and he did the whole rock and roll, mohawk, dye it black, dye it red, Manic Panic, Hot Topic, Kool-Aid thing. We’d sneak off and dye our hair crazy colors. I started with blue, but when I found red and orange, I was like, ‘This is my thing! This is ME.’

What are some of your personal passions and outlets for self expression?

I lived in the art room in high school and I always did dance as a kid. About 10 years ago, I rediscovered dance. With fibromyalgia, you really have to keep your body moving and I just wasn’t. One day a friend of mine asked if I wanted to go to a dance class. It was at a pole dance studio and I remember seeing the girls get together at the end of class and run upstairs to go to a pole class together. It seemed like this cute little family. And I wanted that. 

I couldn’t get anyone to go with me, so one day, I went upstairs and took a pole class, and that was it. I loved it. Now, I’ve been pole dancing for like 8-10 years or something like that. I’ve met a ton of amazing women–buttoned up lawyers, tattooed strippers, tattooed button up lawyers. Just all different kinds of women and men who also love expressing themselves through dance, which is really awesome. And honestly, pole and bartending go well together. I don’t know if it’s carrying all the kegs and shaking the cocktails or if it’s climbing my whole body weight up a pole, but the strength goes hand in hand and I need it.

Do people have a lot of preconceived notions about pole dancing? 

When you first hear that someone does pole dance, there’s I think … I don’t want to use the word stigma, because stigma means stain on reputation and a mark like a scarlet letter or something and there’s nothing wrong with strip dancing at all. 

If you talk to some of our mothers, then yes, they’re probably going to assume that you’re a stripper. As if that’s a bad thing. Without strippers, there would be no gymnastic pole dancers, which will be in the Olympics soon, by the way! My mom has pictures all over her house of my pole photo shoots. She’ll tell anybody and everybody, ‘My daughter is a pole dancer, but she’s not a stripper, but that’s fine if she was, because those women are so strong!’ and she just goes on and on, like a super proud mother. 

What do you want people to know about pole dancing?

Women come in and absolutely love the way that they move and feel. They love the confidence and strength it gives them. Pole helps you learn so much about yourself and your body, and the way it moves. It takes a lot of strength. It’s very empowering. 

What challenges do you face as a woman in the bartending world?

I started a long time ago in the late nineties and things were definitely different. Men tended bar, women were servers. Uniforms were different for men and women, everything like that. The sexualization of the women and the men behind the bar was very prevalent in the late nineties, early two thousands. I think we’re very fortunate now to be women in the industry, because there are so many more people really advocating for and lifting up women.

Unfortunately, there is still a ton of sexual harassment within the industry, even recently, in Denver. If you’ve been keeping up with the news, certain bars have had to close because owners and management have been outed. I think it’s becoming more clear that treating your wait staff or your barbacks poorly or differently just won’t fly anymore. And I think that is great. 

What does a drink say about the person who ordered it?

Sometimes you can tell somebody’s age by the drink they order, or what era they started drinking in. But a drink is a drink, you know? A lot of times people ascribe a certain masculinity to different glassware. I believe it was my old boss Sean Kenyon that said, “The glass doesn’t make the man. The man makes the glass.” Delicious stuff can be pink or blue or whatever. If you’re looking for manly and masculinity, it’s more confident and sexy to know what you want and drink it and get that pink drink, if that’s how you feel, you know?

How has the industry changed in the last year and a half? And what do you see for the future?

I think that the industry has been changing and evolving a lot, in general. Not just the drink menu, but behind the scenes. Things are changing a lot. People are fed up.  As we talked about earlier, younger bartenders and women in general just aren’t going to take any crap anymore. When you’re raising baby bartenders in the age of social media, you gather inspiration and knowledge from all over the place. You see how other bars are handling COVID, etc. It really has influenced culture and made it change a lot quicker.

It’s changed for people sitting on the other side of the bar too. It used to be like, ‘This is what we have and this is all we have’ and everyone was like, ‘Ok, let’s do it.’ But now, people come in and say, ‘Oh, I had this drink in Chicago. I have the recipe right here! What do you think? Can I have that?’ And they’re asking more questions. I think it’s  awesome, because everyone is learning more, every day.

What impact did COVID have on the industry?

The pandemic really brought everyone together. I was very fortunate to be part of a family at Pony Up. They would give us boxes of food. We would come over and cook for each other, use the kitchen while we were shut down, we really took care of each other. Honestly, the Denver hospitality industry did so much more for their people than other places. The financial sting was definitely tough, but I was fed emotionally and physically, which was really wonderful. But in general, the shutdowns were really hard because so many people lost their businesses. 

COVID also taught us a lot about setting healthy boundaries–what we will and won’t do to our bodies, what we can and can’t handle emotionally and physically. I’ve learned how to take better care of myself and feel healthier. Before, my work ethic has always been to pick up every shift. You do not call off. And that means you can’t go anywhere or do anything else. Somebody asked me if I wanted to go to Europe right before the pandemic. I said no immediately. Then I was like, ‘Wait a minute. Yes, yes, I do want to do that!’ I realized I needed to make time for myself, so I could be great at what I do. I can’t be that on-all-the-time, charismatic person behind the bar if I don’t take time for myself. Now, I have a very specific two days off and I do not pick up shifts on those days. That is my time to go to pole class and do the things I love. 

orange-gold hair color on platinum blonde hair with quote overlay from denver bartender

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Filed Under: intersections of beauty