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…

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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

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