For today's assessment, I have my first high class prostitute up for Treatment Tuesday. Author K. Dawn Byrd (Queen of Hearts, available now) wrote in about a mid-to-late-20s who, in the vein of the prophet Hosea's wife, married a Christian and is exposed to religion, but continues in her wicked lifestyle, which wracks her with guilt. She uses traveling with her job as a cover to sneak off to Nevada to work in a brothel owned by her step-father and managed by her prostitute mother.
K. Dawn wants to know: What would her childhood have been like? Would she have been molested at a young age? Could it be possible that she wasn't and made the decision to become a prostitute because her mother was one?
Life at a brothel was a revolving door, literally. Since the estate where she grew up was adjacent to the brothel, she might have been preserved from the true seedy nature of what went on there...but only for a while. Unless she had a ruthless nanny, children grow more curious the more mobile they get. And they actually see and pick up on so much more than what we think they see and pick up on.
I imagine the women who worked there had a soft spot for her as a little girl, though. It's not as if children were a common experience for women who worked in brothels. I'm sure managers would do everything possible to end inconvenient pregnancies. Think about it. A rounded belly and leaking breasts wouldn't exactly bring in as much money as a trim figure would. Not to mention the expense and emotional attachment a child would bring, perhaps making it more difficult to perform their professional duties.
So likely, your heroine grew up with doting women who allowed her to probably get away with much more than she should have. She might have grown spoiled from this treatment, or soaked it up, depending on how much involvement her mother had in her life. With her mother managing a brothel, she probably had little time to spend with her daughter...perhaps a special, meaningful snippet here and there for her to remember.
You asked what, exactly, would motivate your heroine to become a prostitute. Did she see the money, the lifestyle, the glamor of the business and decide it outweighed the negative of forever being loved but never knowing love? Maybe she saw it as a way to be on some similar emotional plane as her mother, to feel what connection she could. I can't answer that for you, but hopefully this will get you thinking.
It would be likely that molestation could have happened early in her life, far more likely than if her parents were in, say, ranching. But you could have a realistic novel with her not being molested if you play up the mother hen angle of all the other prostitutes feeling protective of her, etc. If she's beautiful, then up the ante even further. And if she had an evil father...then he very well could have exploited her.
At any rate, she likely would have a low self-worth, maybe even self-hate of herself, especially after she became a prostitute. She would have learned this from her father, who owns a brothel, which I imagine is symbolic of his own thoughts of the worth of women. All she saw, all she knew, was women who submitted, who settled for less than they deserved. She wouldn't have valued herself above this life...perhaps that's why she chose it.
This is just a skim off the iceberg, but really fun for me because you didn't have particulars nailed down. But please brainstorm as much as you'd like in the comment section, and I'll respond as I can. Good luck!