Before becoming a power poler—a distinct style of pole dance that that involves fast-paced, acrobatic movements as well as the occasional back flip—Jones trained as a competitive gymnast. His first encounter with pole was during gymnastics practice. “The gym owners would often let us play around on the silks and Spanish webs. They would also show us videos of traditional Chinese pole practices. But we didn’t have an actual pole to practice on.”
In college he started hip-hop dancing. “I’ve always caught the side-eye from other men for my passions and interests,” he says, “but I love dance. It’s one of the oldest forms of art.” His passion for movement ultimately led him to pole. “In college, I had such a big appreciation for strippers. I was always so amazed at how strong they are,” he says. A couple years later, he went to his first class. Jones now teaches twice a week at Liege Barre & Pole Fitness Boutique, in his hometown of Erie. “When I started competing as a pole dancer, that’s when I realized how truly supportive the pole community is,” he notes. “That’s what’s really kept me going in times of doubt.”
For the “Montero” video, Jones transformed into Lil Nas X’s character with a tattooed torso, a red braided wig (courtesy of Evanie Frausto), and black and red nails painted by Sasha Glasser. He descends through the clouds of heaven to the lava-spewing depths of hell, hanging upside down by his ankles and performing movies like the ballerina and a hand-free double-knee brace—all while wearing thigh-high heeled boots. “Prior to the shoot, the stylist asked me if I was comfortable wearing heels,” he says. “But I’ve never worn heels before in my life. It’s not my usual style. But I was like, ‘I’ll definitely give it a go.’” He quickly gained an appreciation for the strength and coordination required to dance in platforms. “My respect for people who not only wear heels, but perform in them, has been amplified by 10,000,” he says.
Jones is unfazed by the controversy that has come with the music video. “Any time I get on stage, my goal is to get a reaction out of people, whether good or bad,” he says. Most importantly, the unfamiliar setting pushed him to hone his skills in a new way. “Me being in this video is definitely a confirmation of the fact that magic happens outside your comfort zone.”