I strip – to pay for Christmas!
Cindy Cottrell was broke and desperate to build a better life for herself and her son. Then she found a new profession…
Waiting for the kettle to boil, tears snaked down my cheeks. It was Christmas Day 2004, and I was making a Pot Noodle for lunch. Hardly a turkey dinner, but it was all I could afford. I was 19 years old and my baby, Cory, sat in his bouncer watching.
The only present I’d bought him was a cheap rattle. He was too young to understand, but that didn’t stop guilt overwhelming me.
‘I shouldn’t have had a child if I couldn’t provide for him,’ I told myself despairingly.
It was that day I vowed to change our lives – somehow, anyhow.
I’d left home at 15 after a silly fight with my mum, Jan. A charity helped me to get a flat – it was dingy and in a rough area of Birmingham, but beggars can’t be choosers.
I was too proud to go home. I was supposed to be at college but, on weekly benefits of £42.50, I couldn’t afford the bus fare.
Then I got pregnant, and the dad disappeared. When I looked into my new baby’s eyes, my heart filled with love. I only wished I had more to offer him.
I’d had a lovely childhood. Mum ran her own marketing company and Christmas was a magical time.
A pine tree with presents piled high, lovely food and twinkling decorations – I’d imagined that’s what everyone’s Christmas was like.
Yet, as a single mum on benefits, I soon realised that magical Christmases cost money. I needed a job, and one that paid well…
However, when a friend suggested I try webcam work, I was horrified.
‘ You strip while people watch?’ I asked incredulously. ‘It pays really well,’ she said. I mulled it over. The idea was shocking, but you worked from home, had flexible hours… and I was desperate.
I looked into it and found out the details. You paid £5 a day to appear on a website, which fed customers to you. Even after their 25 per cent commission, the money was incredible.
That first time in 2005, I felt terrified – and, frankly, a bit silly, wearing saucy undies, dancing around, talking dirty in front of a laptop. It was sleazy thinking of anonymous men watching me online. But then I got my first pay cheque of £3,000. I’d never dreamed I could earn that much.
I’d tell myself I was an actress, putting on my very best seductive show – even if I was thinking about doing the laundry or reminding myself what groceries I needed.
And the next Christmas, Cory was spoiled rotten. A mountain of toddler toys, £50 Hugo Boss T-shirts and £150 Evisu jeans. I bought
more food than we needed, decorations for every pokey corner of our flat and, best of all, a real Christmas tree.
That pine smell transported me back to my happy childhood, and I felt proud of myself for giving Cory similar memories.
The next year, I was able to move out of my council flat and rent privately – in a much nicer part of town.
Webcams gave me money – and freedom. If Cory was off school, I simply didn’t work. I didn’t have to explain myself to a boss. I called the shots.
These days, I earn £400 for three hours’ work a day. I get dressed up, then wait for men to connect.
I take my time, because they’re paying £4 a minute for the privilege of watching me. I can have as many as 10 viewers at any one time.
Many are married. They tell me their sex life is dwindling but they don’t want to cheat. And, I guess, technically, watching a girl on a webcam isn’t cheating.
I’m gifted luxury presents through an Amazon wish list account – Agent Provocateur underwear, Jimmy Choos, perfume, wine and flowers. Obviously, I’ve got more sophisticated than when I first started. I take good care of my body, I’ve had a boob job and have regular Botox and lip fillers.
I made up with my mum and when she first found out, she was shocked. But, as I told her, no one knows where I live and I don’t meet anyone in real life.
And as she watched my earnings literally roll in on the screen, she laughed. ‘Fair play,’ she admitted.
My controversial career has given me so much, but the one sacrifice I’ve unintentionally made is love. I’ve had boyfriends, but they’re all the same – at first they think what I do is cool, then they want me to stop. But I don’t need a man telling me what I can do.
The only man who could ever stop me is Cory.
He’s 14 now. I’ve never been secretive about what I do and he doesn’t mind. He understands I do it for us to have a nice life.
If he asked me to give it up, I’d do it in a heartbeat, but Cory is headstrong, like me. When kids at school have asked him about it, he points out he’s the one in designer clothes!
At the start of this year, I wondered if it was time to get a proper job. So, I found work in a department store, which I enjoyed. But I couldn’t afford the things I took for granted.
Terrified of sinking into the poverty I’d known as a teenager, after three broke months, I quit and returned to the webcam.
I don’t want to do this forever and I’ve started saving, as I’d like to become an estate agent one day. But it’s hard to imagine ever getting used to a normal salary.
Now 33, I live in a lovely apartment. This Christmas, I’ll be spending at least £1,000 on Cory’s presents. I’ll be going out with my friends for a posh dinner on Boxing Day, and New Year’s Eve is always expensive.
There will be a new dress for every Christmas party and I’ll spend hundreds of pounds on food, plus new decorations for the tree – which will, of course, be a real pine.
‘It’s hard to imagine ever getting used to a normal salary’
Cindy does webcam work to help her family Christmas is a magical time at Cindy’s