The Full Girlfriend Experience

Suzy Favor Hamilton
Suzy Favor Hamilton (Photo credit: HeyGabe)

She’s a runner. Now she’s a masters runner, but in her prime she was an Olympian. She was at the top of the top. Over the years, she retired from world-class running, settled down and started a family. Now she’s the smiling face of the Disney and Rock-n-Roll races, she prides herself on helping women who struggle with depression discover the healing powers of running,  she’s a successful real estate agent and living a comfortable family life in the upper-Midwest. That’s on the outside. When no one’s looking, she’s sneaking off to Vegas to meet strangers. She answers the swanky hotel door in expensive lingerie, provides the “Full Girlfriend Experience” and heads for the envelope with giant wads of cash after her clients leave.

I’m sure I’m not alone in having Suzy Favor Hamilton’s story stuck swirling around in my head. 

SFH is being very forthcoming about what she did and why she did it. She said after the birth of her daughter, she suffered from post-partum depression. Apparently, as an attempt to self-medicate, she sought the help of this Vegas call-girl ring to help her fulfill a fantasy and before she knew it, she was hooked on hooking.

As I was feeding the baby last night and brooding over this, I started to wonder why this story is so fascinating. Why can’t I stop thinking about it?

A big part of the reason is that SFH is the ultimate rule bender. As Jinger discussed recently, we all have an idea of what a runner, especially an elite runner’s life is like. We picture grueling training schedules, clean eating and early bedtimes. We all like to assume elite runners are the monks of the athletic world. While there may be some truth behind this assumption, it’s a gross distortion of the human-ness of elite runners, just like the truth is grossly distorted behind any stereotype.

While SFH is clearly not a monk, in researching her story, I discovered something about her that is very much within the stereotype of competitive women athletes: she’s a perfectionist. In this interview, she discusses how perfectionism led her to anorexia and throwing herself to the track when she realized she wasn’t going to medal in the 2000 Olympics. Many of us can relate to this feeling of never being good enough. Most of us learn to be ok with good enough, while some of us, like SFH struggle for years and the perfectionism either leads to or feeds a depression that’s already there.

But becoming a prostitute is clearly more than cracking under the pressure of perfectionism. Is a woman athlete feminine or sexy? Athletics, especially competitive athletics is a historically male activity. Are women who engage in this stuff as feminine as, say, dancers or nurses or other women who engage in more historically feminine pursuits? Might someone like SFH have felt the need to actively assert her femininity in such an extreme way, by becoming the ultimate sex object. Do you feel that being a competitive runner makes you more or less feminine?

SFH at her athletic prime. Image via Yahoo! News.

At the same time, our culture celebrates thin toned women, exactly the type of body many female competitive runners have. We live in a superficial society where women are often valued most for how they look. An athlete like SFH who has worked her whole life to create a beautiful physique, who has fully capitalized on her body’s athletic power might want to capitalize on the aesthetics of that same body. I know when I’m in peak shape that I feel I’m at my sexiest. I love that feeling and could understand wanting to make the most out of it, especially as age creeps up and the perception that my days for that stuff are numbered intensifies. Although for me, I can get that feeling by wearing cute clothes and don’t think I’ll find myself working in Vegas any time soon.

I’m not trying to excuse SFH or even say what she did is wrong. I’m just trying to understand it.

Why do you think Suzy Favor Hamilton became a high priced call girl? Can you relate, even a little, to her experience?


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Salty Running boss and mother of 3 little ones with PRs of 3:10:15 (26.2), 1:25:59 (13.1) and 18:15 (5k). I love to write about running culture, mental training, and fitting in a serious running habit with the rest of a busy life.

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  1. I think there must be a part of her that believes she isn’t “good enough” anymore, and maybe becoming a call girl made her feel good enough in other areas. Instead of judging her, I actually feel sorry for her. Something might be missing in her life, perhaps in her marriage, to make her feel the need to be paid in order to feel desirable.

  2. I’m with you Salty on the wondering. There are so many underground cultures of sexual expression that go unnoticed. For SFH and her husband, this could have been agreed upon and maybe even “normal” to them. But because she has such a high profile and “clean” image in the sport, I’m wondering if she had to turn it around and make it look like she “messed up” due to extreme depression. It’s hard for me to completely knock the decision without a full understanding of what happened– something we will probably never know.

  3. The answers to why she became an escort are in the Smoking Gun article. Her response to the reporter and her HH profile gave the same answer, because she wants to live life to the full, she started it for excitement and to fulfill a fantasy, she got hooked on it because she loved doing it and she didn’t think she would get caught. Her twitter responses were somewhat different, in that she said it was related to problems in her life and her marriage. Outwardly her life seemed to be going well, she had handed over the realty business to her husband and she had picked up several new potentially lucractive speaking contracts. She contacted the escort agency at the same time she was in Las Vegas trying out for Disney,who subsequently hired her.
    Whatever her reasons for doing it, she was phenomenally successful as an escort. How was it that a 44 year old woman who is attractive but not drop-dead gorgeous, and who is buff but by no means voluptuous, was able to become such a highly rated escort in Las Vegas? By April she was the second highest rated in Vegas and the 7th highest in the entire TER system! Obviously she loved what she was doing. Her escort ads and reviews describe her as having explosive sexuality, uninhibited, amazing, the best ever, one in a million, loves to please. That is an image of a woman willing to anything to please her clients (men and women, she bragged about her abilities with women) with a very high level of skill and enthusiasm. Swap pleasing the client for pleasing the parent/ coach, and swap TER ratings for the stop watch, and her commitment to her work is the same commitment that made her a running champion.
    In her public speaking she talks often about the importance of having the proper balance in life. She also mentioned in several interviews how much she loved being a mom. However in 2012, her life balance was completely thrown off. She spent many weeks away from home as an escort. Husband and daughter did not appear to figure in her life’s priorities at all. If she hadn’t been caught, her schedule called for her to spend the entire month of January in Vegas. How many clients is that, 50 to 100? I think she is very lucky that the Smoking Gun exposed her. The information could have fallen in much more unsavory hands and with several hundred thousand dollars a year of public engagements on the line, she would have been a prime target for blackmail. She might have found herself providing a whole lot more sex with much more unpleasant customers who paid nothing.
    A psychologist said that destructive behavior often results from situations where an individual is in conflict with two incompatible identities. The escort agency described her in one ad as “the all-American girl, grown up”. Her public image was very much the all-American girl, very happy, friendly, high energy, caring, respectable and successful. It is an image totally at odds with the explosive sexuality of the amazing hooker willing to do anything to please her clients.
    My personal opinion is that she was bored, bored with her husband of 20+ years, bored with the life of the suburban mother and housewife, bored with provincial Madison. She was looking for something much more exciting. She is obviously a person with a very high sex drive and for whatever reason she let her sex-drive and thrill-seeking dominate the other part of her personality. Perhaps depression played a part in that, who knows? I just read a comment about her on a You-tube video posted long before this happened. The video was the Nike ad and a girl said “Suzy Favor Hamilton showed us this at camp. She is always so hyper, acts like she is on crack all the time”.

  4. I had to process this before I could comment today. I don’t think it’s fair for me to judge her and her actions – and as a “recovering” perfectionist, I certainly understand attempts to control the world through food and other outlets. I even understand failing (by falling in the Olympics) on purpose when she realized that she couldn’t win.

    I’d like to think that I’m one of Hamilton’s early fans – I own her book and respected her running, accomplishments, and how she overcame an eating disorder. I don’t know that learning this negatively affects how I view her or my respect for her, but I think it does help me to realize that dealing with certain things, be it depression or an eating disorder, is life-long. I don’t want to judge her for her struggles, but I wish she should would have been more open about them to help others who struggle with similar things and felt like there was an “end” that someone else like Hamilton had accomplished – and felt like a failure because they couldn’t.

    Great post on a very controversial and timely topic!

  5. Yes, this topic has definitely been swirling in my head too since the news broke. I actually thought it was an Onion story or something when I first read it. Growing up in southern Wisconsin, SFH was a huge celebrity when I was young (she is only a few years older than me). The last several years since we have moved back to Madison, I have run into her a few times a year at various races and charity events. She is highly involved in a few local races and charities and is a frequent motivational speaker for various events around here. In fact, the first time I saw her after I moved back was when she spoke at a Girls on the Run event.

    I would agree with hornetcoach that she definitely has a larger than life (and yes, hyper) personality, which is what made her so great for the events and charities she promoted. But of course, I too was shocked at the news. Wanting to be the center of attention and wanting to be the best at what you do does not lead most people into prostitution.

    The part that has been most disturbing to me is that she doesn’t seem to understand the impact of it all and seems so nonchalant about it. She thought it would be fun and no one would get hurt (she said that in a local interview). No one get hurt? What about her husband? Her child? The children’s charities she is a face for? The numerous kids that look up to her after meeting her and hearing her speak? She has already lost her husband (or so it seems), has gotten dropped by Disney and will likely be the target of a federal probe – wherein she’ll potentially face jail time unless she gives over the identity of the bigger players involved. That is serious stuff and potentially very dangerous. Let’s not kid ourselves. She was working with a very high powered international prostitution ring. She can’t exactly start flipping on people without placing herself in real danger.

    It is very sad and I hope she finds some healing. While I am a fan of hers, I sincerely hope she does work through it and does understand how wrong this was. Amazing athlete and person or not, I am not afraid to say it, I think it is very wrong, particularly when you are the face for so many kids’ events and put yourself out there as a role model.

  6. Just to comment on Mint’s worry about jail time. That is most unlikely. Prostitution is illegal but escorting isn’t. Girls are paid for the date. There is never any mention of money between the escort and the client, who just leaves behind an envelope stuffed with cash. Make no mistake, in everything except the law escorting is exactly the same as prostitution, but what she did was not illegal, or at least cannot be proven to be illegal. Also she would only have had contact with the front person at the agency and would not know anything about the people behind it. There are thousands of these agencies, they are not hidden, they are right out there in public advertizing quite clearly what they do.
    The closest equivalent I can think of to explain her behavior is the 42nd POTUS, William Jefferson Clinton. When he fondled and kissed Kathleen Willey in a corridor at the White House, she said she was just amazed at the recklessness of it. Just like Suzy, Bill didn’t seem to know what all the fuss was about over the Lewinski affair. These people aren’t like most of us, their highs are higher, their lows are lower, their successes are greater and when they fail they fail spectacularly. We can’t understand why they do what they do.

    1. I’m not actually overly concerned about actual jail time for SFH either since she isn’t a major player. But I DO think there is a potential she could get the full court press by the feds for more information on the higher organization (with the threat of jail time), particularly since she has been so forthcoming with everything – including admitting prostitution for $600/hour or $6k for “the full girlfriend experience.”

      Often, these outfits do go unwatched, but if the feds decide they want to go after this, this is their perfect in. Just because they call themselves an escort service doesn’t mean it can’t be proven otherwise. Just ask Heidi Fleiss.

      Good analogy to WJC. I agree that us mere mortals just don’t understand the same highs and lows.

  7. Last post for me on this subject I think, but she didn’t admit to prostitution. She admitted to being the escort Kelly Lundy working for the Haley Heston escort agency. Yes her fees were $600/hr and $6000 per day but that is just payment for her time as a date, not for any specific sexual service and is not illegal. Now a client would know what kind of services he was going to get by looking at The Erotic Review, which is unrelated to HH. He would know by her rating what she would do (to get a 10 she would be doing everything and doing it well, which Suzy was) and he would be able to read reviews of other past dates with her that spelled out in specific detail what had transpired on those dates, but unless she said “you must pay me x for me to do y”, which she would have been carefully instructed by her agency not to do, then it is not prostitution.

    People like her and Clinton are great fun to be around, full of joie de vivre, exciting, glamorous. They must be hell to be married to. I expect that Suzy has led her husband a merry dance for many years. I doubt that her sexual prowess was all gained in the marital bed, probably she had lots of amateur experience before she turned pro last December. What she did was self-centered, stupid and sinful. She doesn’t deserve anything but censure for it. I doubt it will change though. She said she wants to get back to being a good wife, mother, daughter and friend but if she was unhappy with her life before, living in that house must feel like a prison sentence now.

  8. A slightly different take on it is this: she’s a driven adrenaline junkie, and also has a need for affirmation that was/is probably almost boundless. If you take those together, being a high priced escort is almost a perfect solution for a woman who is in her mid-forties and in a situation that she perceives as delivering neither the adrenaline high or the affirmation.

    In a lot of ways, the analogy to Clinton is quite apt. The question is – given this mindset, how does one find ways of living that are not so self-destructive? Revealing her identity to clients was probably a kind of subconscious cry for help. I’m sure the illicit nature of the activity only reinforced the adrenaline-high.

    The dropping of sponsorships, that kind of stuff is purely economic. Her personal life, well, her husband will find his way. Suzy’s biggest issue right now is inside herself – figuring out how to reconcile those parts of her emotional makeup that led to this. That’s not an easy thing.

  9. I have read a lot on SFH .Someone made the interesting point that it could have been pillow talk between she and her husband and then they decided to act on and then she got hooked .It would be interesting to know how much information her had and when it became an issue for him .

  10. I believe that SFH is an “adrenaline junkie” and that once she couldn’t get a high from sports, real estate sales and speaking engagements, she had to find another source. In my heart of hearts, I want to believe she is s good person and I don’t want to judge her. But given the family history of bipolar disease, her incredible talent and success, and her driven nature she was/is a ticking time bomb. I’m glad to see her get help. Her story will definitely be helpful to others dealing with perfection and acceptance. I look forward to the movie of her book.