Angelina Jolie in “Mr. and Mrs. Smith.” Jennifer Garner in “Alias.” Pretty much every Bond girl, ever. There are few things I love watching more than a woman who can look crazy hot while simultaneously firing an automatic weapon and outsmarting the bad guy. So, when I heard about Stiletto Spy School, which teaches women in New York and Las Vegas how to be über-femme fatales, I couldn’t resist registering for a class, or as they call them, “missions.” I signed up and, on Saturday morning, headed to school for an eight-hour class. I knew that, over the course of the day, we’d be performing four “operations.” Only, I had no idea what I was actually in store for.A little back story. The Stiletto Spy School is run by Alana Winters, who grew up watching action flicks and wondering where the heroines learned to round-house kick and walk in sky-high heels. “I kept looking through the phone book for the sexy badass school,” she joked. Not finding exactly what she was looking for, she enrolled in hand-to-hand combat lessons, which she says totally changed her life. She decided to start this mystical school on her own, and spent two years assembling a team of instructors who could teach women to be total badasses and boost their self-esteem in the process. Although the classes are not cheap (about $400 for a day in New York and about $3,500 for a weekend in Las Vegas), the instructors leading the sessions are the finest in their fields. Overall, the school stresses one thing: Every woman can be the sexy spy she never thought she had inside of her—no matter her age, height, weight, occupation, or fitness level.
My training began at 10:30 a.m., when I arrived at a fencing gym in Chelsea. I was given a spy-school uniform (basically, a t-shirt) and asked to sign a bunch of waivers for the mysterious activities ahead. I knew I was in for some physical activity based on my surroundings, but otherwise I wasn’t sure what to expect. The first order of business: picking a spy name. I chose Mae West, my favorite female seductress.
While I came to Stiletto Spy School on assignment, my co-spies had assorted reasons for attending. Spy Sugar McGee and Spy Carmen LaLista were childhood best friends who decided to kick off their New York vacation with spy training. Spy Fantastik was gifted the day of training as a birthday present from her boyfriend. Spy Louise Vuitton brought her employees, Spy Tiffany Tans-A-Lot and Spy Mary Goodnight, to spy school as a way to say “thank you” for all their hard work. And the final spy, who never decided on a name, enrolled because she wanted to learn self-defense.
We were all buzzing to find out what our first operation would be. Winters introduced us to Mikhail, a three-time Olympic fencing champion, who’d be teaching us the basics of the sword swinging sport. After showing us the different types of fighting tools, he coached us on our footwork technique and demonstrated how to hold our arms in the proper positions. Within an hour, we were having jousts and were on our way to becoming sword-fighting heroes! Except that we all got exhausted pretty quickly. See, usually a fencing lesson lasts about 20 minutes, so, after an hour and a half, us newbie spies were pretty much pooped. We sat down to lunch, and Winters led a discussion on what we had learned.
I couldn’t believe how often we were saying “sorry” to one another. Although it didn’t hurt to be hit by a competitor’s sword, and that was the point of the whole competition, we kept profusely apologizing—something Angelina would never do in character. Quickly, our eyes were opened to the fact that sometimes it’s OK to be tough and not apologize for it. That lesson had hardly soaked in when Brian, our next instructor, walked into the room.
Brian, your average 30-something male, turned out to be a secret agent for the Department of Homeland Security. His specialty is lying, so he led us through a lecture on how to recognize if you’re being lied to. Using ex-boyfriends and sketchy men as examples, Brian’s talk was funny and often enlightening regarding the mannerisms of liars and their reasons for fibbing. When the talk was over, it was a matter of minutes before we were able to put our newly acquired knowledge to the test. Another instructor, Johnny, joined to teach us the ins and outs of poker. He’s a poker expert who has worked with the likes of Matt Damon and George Clooney and appeared as a poker dealer on “The Sopranos.” None of us had any poker experience, so we started from absolute scratch. We were taught the different types of winning poker hands, the smart ways to bet, and, of course, when to bluff. After several rounds of playing with open hands, each of us had built up a good enough base knowledge to play on our own. I knew zilch about poker when I arrived at spy school, and by the end of eight rounds, I had won twice––once purely on a bluff! It felt fantastic to put my newly attained lie-detecting skills to use, right then and there at the poker table.
However, as a group I could tell we were starting to feel pretty restless from sitting down for so long. It was perfect timing when a tall, slender, dark haired, red-lipsticked woman walked in. Immediately, we knew we were in for some sort of dancing, and everyone was giddy with excitement. Our final instructor turned out to be a burlesque dancer who has traveled the world performing under the name Veronica.
Although Veronica was stick-thin, she stressed to us that burlesque dancing is for everyone. She shared an anecdote about the first time she saw the 1940s-style dancing on stage; she described the scene as “all different girls, all shapes and sizes, having the time of their lives.” To have the time of our lives was Veronica’s goal for our class as we finished out our final spy school mission.
We moved back into the gym, decked ourselves out in long gloves and colorful boas, and were taught the most seductive ways to hold our purses and take off our scarves. Let me tell you: It. was. HOT. What Veronica said about size was absolutely true. Every girl in my class was at the top of her sexy game as we bit the tips of our gloves and posed in front of the mirrors. It was such a treat to be able to fool around and act like a seductress for no one other than ourselves. I looked a little silly in yoga pants, sneakers, a pink boa, and long black shiny gloves, but I was all smiles and confidence.
Looking back at the day, it was more than just fun and games. It was about challenges and confidence-building, as well. Despite the differences amongst the women in my class, the activities managed to push each girl out of her comfort zone, whether it was emotionally, physically or mentally. No matter what made each girl feel uncomfortable, there was a sense of support from the group. Nobody was judging you or waiting for you to fail. We had pushed our limits, had fun, made new friends, learned self-defense, and expanded our confidence, all while undertaking new adventures we would not forget. To celebrate, our mission was capped off with chocolates and champagne. I felt well on my way to becoming the next Mae West!
To learn more about Stiletto Spy School, visit StilettoSpySchool.com. When my day was said and done, I graduated a few steps closer to being the next Hollywood action star.