Pole Journeys

Interview with Chiemi Chunga: "I had no idea what pole had to offer me."

Nov 22, 2023

by Sara Schreiber

Chiemi Chunga took home first place in the professional level at MNPC this past September, but eleven years ago, she wasn’t even interested in poling. When her coworkers suggested taking an intro to pole class, it took a Jenyne Butterfly video to convince Chiemi Chunga to try the sport. “My mind was blown,” says Chiemi. “I didn’t realize spin pole was a thing and I couldn’t figure out how she was doing that [Iron X on spin].” With that inspiration, Chiemi took the intro class and her pole career took off from there.

Photo by Don Curry

Chiemi is no stranger to training hard. As a cheerleader at a D1 college, she practiced multiple times a day, cheered at games, and competed. “I always loved the feeling of competition,” Chiemi says. When she graduated college, there was a void. “I needed to find something to get my active energy out, and I really missed the community I had around cheer.” Pole gave her back that sense of community. “I have never met a group so willing to accept people as they are. You could be any shape, size, or age,” Chiemi says. She has made some of her best friends in pole and that community would not have been possible without a little inner courage. “Pole put me in a vulnerable place in front off others,” Chiemi says. “‘What if I fail?’ often comes across my mind even today. Now, I have a group that surrounds me that not only supports my crazy ideas, but laughs with me when I fail. That group keeps me addicted to pole.”

One of those pole friends introduced her to the Land of Lakes Pole Festival and the Minnesota Pole Competitions, which Chiemi competed at for the first time in 2023. Kaylinn Bezenar (2022 MNPC Pro Champion) and Chiemi’s friend Kat convinced Chiemi to keep up her training following USPSF and PSO Nationals to take her routine to the Land of Lakes Pole Festival. “I really wanted to qualify for PCS 2024, and I heard it was a great production overall,” Chiemi says. She was thrilled with the festival and the competitions. “I was super impressed with the fitting rooms and the visual sound guy and the photo/video package. I had an amazing time,” she says. Chiemi is hoping to return next year to showcase. She says, “I’d love to pass the torch to someone new.”

Chiemi Chunga at the Land of Lakes Pole Festival 2023.

Chiemi has been competing in pole since 2017 and she loves it. She self-trains at DivaFit in Herndon, VA, where she is also an instructor. “Each competition is a mile marker to push myself,” Chiemi says. “Regardless of the outcome, I always walk away from a competition more confident that I am headed in the right direction: Up.” She has been pushing herself to try out new organizations and go beyond her comfort zone. She describes her pole style as “trick-heavy and dynamic.” “I feel much more comfortable in a combo,” Chiemi says. “I am not a dancer and so moments in between combos are not natural for me. Next year, I’m going to try to be more thoughtful in developing off-the-pole choreography.”

Chiemi Chunga at USPSF

Chiemi encourages those considering pole to have an open mind. “I had no idea what pole had to offer me,” she says. “Pole has given me the opportunity to learn and come across situations I would not have normally experienced in my day-to-day life. It has made me more accepting, empathetic, and mentally strong.” She passes that growth on to her students and new polers. She encourages them to “cheer for others. At a class or for your direct competition. Positivity is contagious and it makes for a better experience for everyone.”

You can catch Chiemi Chunga at the Pole Championship Series 2024 and, in the meantime, find her on Instagram: @Chiemi_Chunga

Featured image is from PSO.