I am a writer. But that doesn’t make me much money just yet, so I’m also a nude model. I’ll give you the picture so you can see where I’m coming from. I’m 5’2”. I’m a size 10-12. I’m curvy. (And I’ve always liked having curves.) I have tiny, tiny hands and feet, disproportionally so. I like them too. I’ve had two kids, so nudity in front of strangers isn’t all that daunting. I also have a saggy tummy because – no one will tell you this – your body will never be the same, it will never be as sexy as it was, at least not to you.
But I overcame my doubts – it’s good money for being still. You don’t have to shave your legs, or any other part of you. (I learnt that the hard way. My first time was a fill in job; I wasn’t expecting it and I’d just tidied up the lady garden. Never do that if you’re going to be naked in front of strangers. That is a whole extra level of naked. There was an audible gasp from the assembled students. I’m pretty sure I went red.)
I had all the power – you might not expect that, but it’s true. Nudity is powerful. And in a room of fully dressed people, the naked woman is queen. I have one other advantage too. The temperature of the room has to be set with me in mind. It’s an occupational health and safety thing. In winter this is especially funny. I’m naked and usually sweaty because of the spotlight they put on. But everyone else in the room starts off in layer upon layer of clothing. And as they start to boil, they gradually strip off. I’m the audience for my own personal multi-performer strip show.
I started posing. The more people drawing the harder this is and the room was full. You see, you have to find one spot to look at and that spot can not be too close to a person or they will get very weirded out. Something you learn as you do it more. Oops. I’m standing there; bum stuck out, one leg out front and my arms over my head when the teacher comments, ‘She’s very round. Look at the wonderful round shapes.’ He was gesticulating, just in my line of sight, showing the class that I was in fact a beach ball. It was hard not to laugh.
As I’ve done it more, I’ve become better at tuning it all out. It’s sort of enforced meditation. I’ve started to do yoga so I’m more flexible and can make better poses. I’ve got props now too. It’s good fun.
But the thing that I enjoy most is looking at the pictures. This is not something you should do if you are not totally confident about how you look. Because none of the pictures will reflect that. They will each reveal something about how the artist sees you. Generally in relation to how they see themselves.
In one set of images I was a sagging cave woman. Every fold of skin articulated. In another set I was a sleek sexy, 1920’s style lampshade maiden. One man had drawn every muscle, making me look really built. Another had only done my face, and I could have been any Greek statue. My favourite set of pictures were by a middle aged woman. She had done quick pencil sketches and then filled them in with watercolour. I radiated peace from the page. She had captured me almost exactly as I see myself.
There are a lot of middle aged women who come to art classes. And they either make me svelte and beautiful or they draw every roll, every dimple of cellulite, every wrinkle. Many of them comment that they wish they’d been brave like me when they were young and beautiful (as I am now -at least to them). In my head I’m not young or beautiful. I’m just me. And it’s never really bothered me. I can’t be anyone else. As for bravery… that’s different.
I do psych my self up before I model. You have to. I get into a powerful space of extreme acceptance. There is no room for self doubt when you’re naked in front of a room full of strangers. There is no time to adjust poses to be more flattering and since it’s in the round someone will always have a bad angle. If I never looked at the pictures maybe that would short circuit the process but I like to look. I like to see how other people see me. And the thing is, even when they pick up every flaw, I’m always beautiful in the pictures. I’m an immortal. A moment in time. And that’s amazing.
The first time I modelled, the whole room applauded me at the end. It was breath taking. Everyone in that room was in awe of me. And they were letting me know. My bravery was appreciated. I was special.