California has a long history of finding political talent in unexpected places. Harvey Milk was the gay owner of a camera shop before becoming a supervisor; Theresa Sparks, a transgendered woman, was the CEO of Good Vibrations before becoming police commissioner; and we won't even get started on the Governator.
Continuing to push the envelope: 27-year-old Stephany Ashley, an activist, community organizer and former exotic dancer who is now an aide to San Francisco Supervisor David Campos. (And as far as the author of this article is concerned, she's also a frontrunner for most badass woman in town.)
According to Mission Local, Ashley took on the role to fill in for longtime aide Hillary Ronen, who is on maternity leave. Her focus will reportedly include healthcare, homelessness, labor and public safety.
Though Ashley's background may be colorful, the selection is really no surprise to those privy to the politics of the Mission District.
According to her Facebook page, Ashley was the president of the Harvey milk LGBT Democratic Club and a programs director at St. James Infirmary, a healthcare and social services center for current and former sex workers.
She was also invited to speak at the World Health Organization, and was named one of the San Francisco Bay Guardian's Faces of Feminism.
Mission Local profiled Ashley in 2010 when she was a campaign manager for District 8 supervisor candidate Rafael Mandelman, detailing her work as a community organizer.
And then there's her former job as a dancer at Lusty Lady, the nation's only worker-owned cooperative peep show--an experience that Ashley credited with educating her on the struggle for sex worker rights.
"For me, sex worker rights are a feminist issue because they are about body autonomy," she told SFBG. "When people are criminalized for their HIV status, denied access to hormones and safe gender transitions, or are afraid to carry condoms because it might lead to police harassment or arrest--these are all feminist issues."
Ashley championed for sex worker rights at St. James Infirmary and will continue to do so with Campos.
"There are many ways to deal with trash and noise that do not necessitate criminalization," she told Mission Local. "There are also larger issues, like housing and employment opportunities and connecting people to services, which I believe can be effectively addressed from a community-based model."
Check out this 2011 video of Stephany Ashley rallying support at a protest against the San Francisco sit/lie law.
Main photo courtesy Flickr: sashax.