The Christian Broadcasting Network

The 700 Club with Pat Robertson


A Shattered Showgirl Surrenders to a Higher Calling

By Brandice Hudson
The 700 Club“I remember walking up the stairs and seeing lights everywhere. It was very, very dark; but money was flying everywhere. I mean, money was everywhere.”

It was survival that compelled Dana Candillo to step onto a stripper stage for the first time. “And the thing that hit me was my bills; the things that I needed money for - those things were no longer my problem.”

Dana grew up in Independence, Missouri, where she lived in poverty. Her mom was a teenage drug addict and alcoholic, and her father was a convict. She felt no one cared. Then at age 8, she was sexually abused by an acquaintance of her mom’s. 

“(I was) just shattered; total brokenness. I felt like something was wrong with me.”

But that only deepened her need to be loved and accepted. By age 12 she found it through partying, drinking and using drugs.  

“I’m searching anywhere for love, for attention, for someone just to notice that I existed or to care.”

In high school, she started getting work as a model and entering beauty contests. She liked the money, and finally she was getting noticed. When Dana was 17 the owner of a tanning salon she frequented approached her about entering bikini contests. She agreed, only to discover later he had other plans for her.

“The next thing that I knew he began calling my house. There was harassment, coercion, manipulation. He started talking to me about dancing. The amounts of money that were talked about were difficult to say no to.” 

He booked Dana at a strip club in Nebraska. Her first night on stage led to 7-and-a-half years in the industry. 

“You feel like it’s glamorous and this attention is on you. And the money, when someone is laying down $100 bills at your feet, how do you say no to that? It’s like a drug. It turns into an addiction.”  

She later married and had a baby. But the marriage ended in divorce and Dana, now a single mom, had to keep dancing to make ends meet.

A few years later she became pregnant again, and had an abortion. “I didn’t know what to do because I was absolutely overwhelmed with feelings of fatherlessness. All I could think about was, ‘How could I bring another child into this world and allow them to feel like I felt?’ Unwanted. Not have a dad.”

“I was probably in the deepest, lowest part of my life at that point. I started thinking, ‘I have a 4 year old daughter. What if I’m her role model? What if she decided to follow in my footsteps?’ And that set off this reign of terror in me”

One day she got a call from her mother. She had become a Christian and invited Dana to church. “She completely gave up cigarettes, alcohol. It’s like miraculous.  Watching that transformation process happen caused me to go and see what’s happening.”

“When my feet hit the carpet in that place, I felt this incredible rushing power; it was like an electric ocean wave just over and over. I wanted to go forward. I had that drive and that desire to go forward, but I started to hear this whisper, ‘you don’t have a plan for that. You’d better not go down there and commit to that.’ I was reminded about what I needed to do to make money, so it caused me that day to walk back out the door.”

The next Sunday Dana went back to the church. “I went straight to the altar and fully surrendered my life, and my life has never been the same again.”

“I cried out to God and said, ‘Please help me. If You are real, please come in and invade me. Invade my life. Invade my heart. Show me what to do and I will do it.’”

“I felt this real, authentic encounter with Him. It created this drive and this passion to change. He says. ‘I am your Father. You’re not fatherless.’” 

For the first time, Dana felt loved. She never returned to the stage, and went on to earn her Bachelor’s degree in science and became a registered nurse. Today she works in fulltime ministry and is married to Rocky, a youth pastor.

Dana tells her story in her book titled, Surrendered Showgirl. She reaches out to women in the sex industry through her ministry, “Lion’s Beauty Queens”.
“God is so great. If He could take a messed up girl like me that was in that deep of a pit and He can somehow, miraculously reach down, and say, ‘Girl I’ve got you. I’m going to pull you out of this thing.’  And if He can do that for me, He can do that for anyone.”

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