A strip club in Las Vegas -- home office for all the sin under the sun. It's where 32-year-old Heather Veitch goes to do her job. For years, Veitch worked as a stripper at the Olympic Garden, giving lap dances for the gratification of paying customers. Now she's buying the dances, to send the strippers a message: God loves you.
"I go into a strip club," she says. "I buy a lap dance and instead of receiving the dance, I spend the time to talking to the girls about God."
Dubbed a "holy hottie" by Pat Robertson's 700 Club, Veitch has become one of America's most unlikely missionaries as she switches from soft-core to soft-sell in her efforts to help sex-industry workers find salvation. With two friends she met through the Sandals Church of Riverside, Calif., which funds her evangelism, she's in a group called "JC's Girls Girls Girls" … the "JC" standing for "Jesus Christ."
Clearly, Veitch is one believer unafraid to be a babe. "I know, realistically, people listen to me more because of the way I look," she says. "It almost lets them know oh, well, she really has been there."
Indeed she has. For Veitch, life after sin lets her reflect on her grim past -- a downward spiral that began one day when she was walking to junior high and a male stranger offered her a ride.
"At 14, I was raped … and after that, I think it just changed me," she says. "I became very promiscuous after I was raped. I started thinking this is what makes me good: sex. This is what I can do well. I could say by 16, I was probably a sex addict."
She began as a go-go dancer, and eventually became a top-of-the-line stripper who'd give lap dances. "I would be completely nude [and] sit on a man's lap for a $20 bill as he tried to pleasure himself. … It was not fun," she says. "I had to go man to man to man to man all night long, pretty much hustling. I used to think to myself … that I … was being paid to once again be victimized."
So this single mom hatched a plan to get out. She graduated from beauty school, married her boyfriend … and started going to church: "In two weeks, we completely had turned our back on that world."
But with the initial fervor of her conversion, Veitch says, came an intolerant attitude. "I became a judgmental jerk for Jesus," she says with a rueful smile. "I was like, 'That's a sin, and that's a sin, and that's a sin … and I was no fun."
No fun -- and, she says now, no good for those who needed her help. It took tragedy, she says, to change her judgmental attitude … the death of a stripper she knew as "Jeanine."
Her death from alcoholism left Heather blaming herself: "I just feel so guilty for the fact that I ran away from a burning building: I escaped it, and all my friends are inside, and I didn't care," she says. "When I found out that she had passed away, I recognized that I needed to go back. Because nobody cared."
Veitch says she vowed to bring hope of a life beyond the sex industry to the people she knew so well, people like Kendra Andrews. "For a long time I thought there's no room for somebody like me in heaven," Andrews says with a laugh. "I've had a pretty creepy life. But she's helping me understand that there is."
As a child, Andrews says, she was physically and sexually abused. By the age of 18, she was in California doing hard-core porn. "After a shooting, I would go home and I would cry," she says. "I was like, 'Oh, this was too much.'"