'I lost everything': Winnipeg teacher in lap-dance video shares story years later
In 2010, Chrystie Fitchner made a mistake that ended her career and changed her life
Chrystie Fitchner knows she made a stupid mistake, a one-minute mistake. And she feels she's paid enough for it over the past eight years.
The former Winnipeg high school teacher made headlines around the world for participating in a mock lap dance with a fellow teacher during a school pep rally in 2010. Cellphone videos of the dance posted online scored millions of hits and became fodder for talk shows and tabloids, including Howard Stern and TMZ.
Fitchner, 41, lost her job, then her apartment and ended up living out of her car and sleeping on friends' couches. She was repeatedly slut-shamed by strangers and told she should kill herself.
"I definitely contemplated suicide a few times," Fitchner told The Canadian Press. "I just wanted to be able to escape everything that was going on.
"I feel like people thought, 'Oh, she'll just pick up and carry on and get a new job.' It does not happen. I lost everything. I really, really did."
In her first media interview, Fitchner said she has lived outside Canada for several years and built a wonderful new life as a firefighter's wife and mother of two young girls. She gets occasional work as a substitute teacher, although she uses her husband's last name on the job.
She fears the lap dance seen around the world will continue to hurt her life.
She is unlikely to ever get a full-time teaching job again, she says. And, although she wants to, she will probably never return home to Manitoba.
The daughter of a nurse and an NHL player turned teacher, Fitchner says she came from a good family with good values. She worked as a teacher in different Winnipeg schools over seven years — the last two at the city's Churchill High School, where she taught physical education and health and coached the girls volleyball team.
During the February 2010 rally, she was paired with teacher Adeil Ahmed, who had recently joined the school on a short-term contract. The pair, dressed in football uniforms, were to compete against other costumed teachers in a dance-off in the school gym.
They hadn't prepared a routine, Fitchner recalls, and she was anxious about dancing in front of staff and students. She said it was Ahmed who suggested she sit in a chair while he danced around her.
I definitely contemplated suicide a few times. I just wanted to be able to escape everything that was going on.- Chrystie Fitchner
What followed was a disaster. Ahmed straddled and grinded against Fitchner, then simulated performing oral sex on her. Students cheered and laughed. Fitchner said she got caught up in the moment and started to play a role, moving to the music in the chair and encouraging Ahmed with her hands.
When the dance ended, Fitchner shook her head and cowered.
"It's in that moment I realized this wasn't good. I was so embarrassed. And then my colleague stood up, with his hands raised up, as if this was the most glorious moment to be proud of."
There was outrage from parents and the public. The two teachers were suspended. Fitchner says she was forced to resign. Ahmed's contract wasn't renewed.
She received most of the publicity. Her name was published and her face was plastered everywhere. A holiday photo of her in a bikini swiped from Facebook made the front page of one newspaper. It was next to a photo of Canada's women's hockey team winning gold at the Vancouver Olympics.
Ahmed's name later made the news but Fitchner believes the criticism and harassment targeted her.
"The way I was treated as a female in this … there was so much inequality and so much shaming," she said. "I felt like I had done a dance by myself or like a pole dance or something."
The Canadian Press was unable to locate Ahmed. Fitchner says she last heard he was teaching in Ontario but she hasn't spoken with him since their last day at Churchill school.
For all the backlash, Fitchner says, she also got support from some teachers and students who felt her punishment was too severe. Their words helped as she navigated months and years of depression and anxiety.
She eventually landed some substitute teaching jobs in small communities outside Winnipeg, but was told she'd never work full-time as a teacher again. She says she couldn't find any full-time work in any profession in the province: "That incident blackballed me."
Her family has brought her happiness, Fitchner says, but she's missing a professional piece of her life. She still has anger and resentment, something she hopes will change one day.
"I'm just a good person who made a mistake."