10 Things You Might Not Know About Nude Models

Copyright: Faye Yerbury

1. Yes, it is possible to make a living doing this. But it takes a lot of hard work and a good reputation. For every hour spent in front of the lens or canvas, roughly nine million are spent networking, updating portfolios, organising work, advertising, applying to castings, travelling to and from locations, packing/unpacking for jobs/trips (because even nude models are expected, often, to bring props/accessories/items of clothing) and attacking what I like to affectionately refer to as ‘the email mountain’. We are grateful for the email mountain; it keeps us in business; we just wish we could hire some hobbit minions to live underneath it and help us out every now and then (perhaps with purpose-built sticks and digging equipment) so that we don’t accidentally offend the creative types who grow more and more anxious by our lack of reply (because we are busy modelling by day, or sleeping by night, or, you know, doing other important stuff).

2. We don’t assume you’re a pervert, when you hire us for your artwork, personal projects or even just to test your ability to turn a lump of wax into a decent, human-shaped figure. (But we do seek standard references before meeting new clients, if we take our personal safety seriously). This should go without saying, of course; nudity is perfectly normal, but I have modelled for the occasional ‘newbie’ whose hands have visibly shaken at the experience; who’ve wanted very much to mention their wives and happy marriages within the first two or three sentences (perhaps in the opening email) to assure me of their lack of intention, and who announce that they will be leaving the room every time I change pose. It’s sweet, but largely unnecessary. Rest assured that if you’re not a lech, you probably won’t come across as one.

Copyright: Rebecca Parker

3. That said, we don’t really want you to touch us, especially when we’re nude. We are not made of fire (you don’t need to bounce away from us as though we might burn you), but if you think it’s appropriate to move our limbs for us instead of at least attempting to first describe a pose you are trying to capture, or push/poke us into position, without asking permission first (not while you brush our hair away from our faces) we may find you rude at best and threatening at worst. Any contact should be careful and brief; this isn’t because we’re precious (seriously, nude models are not divas!) but because we value respect. Most humans are intuitively aware of personal space and how the etiquette is naturally rather amplified by nudity, but if you know you happen to struggle with social convention, it’s best to steer clear of any physical contact unless specifically agreed upon by the model. Do offer to help us down from that tree if we’re looking a bit stuck, but don’t linger about it.

4. We really do care about your results. Chances are, if we weren’t in some way artistically-inclined or interested in modelling as a creative ‘vocation’, we wouldn’t be in this job at all; we’d be doing something else completely. (Probably something more boring). When hiring us, you are under no obligation to show us the final images, and we know that, but we really hope that you might anyway – it makes the whole thing more satisfying for us. This isn’t vanity; it’s fun to see the fruits of our labours, and we like to celebrate successes with you.

Photographer: Keith Cooper

5. We are full of doubts, about whether we’re slightly mad for being involved in this quest for producing interesting, beautiful and engaging imagery via the media of our faces and bodies. We know this isn’t a normal job. We secretly quite enjoy the surprise on people’s faces when we tell them what we do for a living, but we also know it doesn’t quite sound like a ‘real’, grown-up job. We can’t pretend we have an office or a company car. We’re proud anyway.

Copyright: Britalicus

6. In fact, we consider ourselves quite lucky that we get to experience things that other people might never even think of doing, in places we might otherwise never think of visiting. There is something very special about posing in a field of tall sunflowers in Germany, tip-toe-ing around beautiful old, derelict baths in Manchester, and lying on your back on amazing, cracked earth as a Californian storm builds over the desert. When we’re old and wrinkly, we’ll look back at these many, varied and surreal experiences with such excitement that we did them, that we didn’t say no; that we didn’t take the conventional path through life.

Photographer: Bjorn Hansen

7. We really don’t mind at all if you forget to take your lens cap off your camera ten times in a row. We know there’s a lot to think about at once when photographing a subject, especially if you’re not that experienced (and sometimes even if you are). We don’t think you’re an idiot, even when you put your camera down then can’t remember where you left it afterwards (my most amusing memory of this particular mishap to date involves a camera being discovered in a draining board next to a kitchen sink; the photographer in question works mostly from a home studio – a backdrop against the lounge wall – and produces well-respected world-class photos of the quality that people all over the globe aspire to).

Copyright: Klaus Rieger

8. We like it when you talk to us. Sometimes we’re booked specifically for our own style of posing, and essentially ‘lead’ a shoot. (It’s surprisingly common that a photographer will set up the lights, then basically say ‘go!’ offering absolutely no input from then on.) That’s OK; we can work with that. But it’s nice when you balance that out by telling us what you want, what you don’t want, what you like and don’t like. Don’t be silent; it can make even the best models nervous (‘does s/he hate what I’m doing? Is s/he still there?’). Instead, offer some encouragement; or at least evidence that you are alive and haven’t accidentally morphed into a human/camera hybrid via some fluke melding tragedy, never again to converse with humankind but simply to roam the streets clicking at birds and wildlife like an interesting but somewhat deformed artistic robot.

Copyright: Rebecca Parker

9. But don’t over-direct us. Unless we are new, we probably know how to pose to create flattering angles and interesting imagery. It’s nice when we are allowed to get into the ‘flow’ of things, especially if we have a dance background (note; dancers make excellent models!). It can sometimes work against your own interests to interfere too much, unless we are doing something badly wrong (in which case, please do intervene!). I was once directed into each and every pose after each individual camera click, body part by limb by gaze direction, by a beginner photographer who, after tiring himself out towards the end, suggested I do my own thing for the last 15 minutes and marvelled at how much more productive we were. Unless you really do want exact, meticulously pre-planned poses (which is fine!), don’t be too much of a control freak.

Copyright: Karen Jones

9. We don’t like being compared to other models. It’s not big, healthy, helpful or clever. Being told that a previous model you’ve worked with did/was x, y and z, and it was simply wonderful, is all well and good, but can be deflating if you are saying it to imply that you don’t think we’ll be as good/the same. It’s good if you can appreciate what’s in front of you; after all, you didn’t rehire your previous model, you hired us. We can offer something different!

Copyright: John Evans

10. This is the eleventh point. I know that. Don’t assume your model is stupid.Personally, I have a degree in philosophy; utterly impractical, of course (and if my date with an Oxford philosophy lecturer last night is anything to go by, these deep-thinkers can be a really unusual bunch, let’s just say), but at the very least I came away from university with the ability to win every single argument I am ever involved with for the rest of my life (and beyond…), using the much underrated tool of logic. Ahem, anyway… Most models I know are quite impressive, prolific and multi-talented, even just in terms of juggling all the organisation. You’ve got to be on the ball to make a career like this work. We’re probably not complete air-heads. But you knew that.

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For Women

EDIT: here’s a link to Womankind Worldwide, a charity that you might like to donate to this Christmas. A huge amount of help is needed and doing a little bit is better than nothing.

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This blog post has been on my mind for somewhere between a few days and a few years. It’s going to be a little piece written for women, by a woman who loves women (I love men too, for the record, but this is not about them).

I’m going to write it as a ‘flow of consciousness’; much like all my blog posts really, as I very rarely plan them, or go back and edit – the result will hopefully be that it’s entirely honest, and possibly even a bit intimate as I share details about my own life and my own thinking. It might also get a bit hippie-dippie in places, and for that I make no apologies, because this stuff is important and probably has its roots in emotions and values.

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I’m aware that this blog has a big-ish following from all over the world, possibly because it features a lot of nakedness, but also because there are a surprisingly large number of people out there who appreciate art, beauty and the striving for its recognition (after all, the internet is not short of other supplies of nakedness for nakedness’ sake; I like to flatter myself and my followers that you are after something more interesting).

Those of you who are linked to me on facebook may have an inkling of what I’m waffling towards… Although it’s been on my mind on and off, the final trigger for this post was a message I received recently from a very young, beginning model, who thought she was troubling me by getting in touch (I am never troubled by hearing from other models! I love it!) and wanted to tell me that, although she’d been considering starving herself towards a tiny bodily ideal for fashion work, she had since seen my artistic portfolio and thought better of it. Seeing my work (image after image of a UK size 10, rather than the 6-8 fashion standard), made her re-think things and feel better about herself, such that she is content with the way she is. Honestly, it made my day to hear that.

So here’s the thing….

I have noticed, more and more, over the last few years, that I have better body confidence than the majority of women. I am happy with my physical body in a deep way, and in a way that I find is increasingly unusual. I wish other women had my confidence. I’m going to write some thoughts down in the hope that you find something in it, even just a small thing, a single phrase or thought process, that might make you feel better about yourself in a long and sustaining way.

Some disclaimers…
– Immediately, I want to point out that I do NOT think I’m perfect. I could easily point out multiple ‘flaws’ – ones that you may or may not have noticed about me yourself – if I felt there was any benefit in doing that. I’ve written about this before in previous articles. Every person has areas of their body that they would change or ‘improve’ if there was a magic wand with no catch. I want that to go without saying, because it’s so incredibly obvious.
– I’m aware that this is a very self-indulgent piece of writing, but my aim is going to be to talk through why, exactly, I think I have this confidence, in the hope that perhaps a few other women might see things in a new way that will enable their own confidence to expand. I love women. We’re very important. (That’s probably the crux of my argument, right there, but I’ll carry on regardless).

Some scattered thoughts I hope your own brain will make into a coherent structure for me (Thanks for that!)

Perhaps my contentment with my physical body has a lot to do with the fact that it comes NOT from my physical body. It comes more from my knowledge of the deep truth that I am a member of womankind, and in turn a member of the wonderful group called humankind. How can you not respect and honour yourself once you know how amazing that is?

As women, we have a lot of intrinsic power. We have a lot of worth – equal to that of men – and are incredibly valuable. We are not objects to re-mould, criticise or apologise for. No mistakes were made when each of us were created; we were supposed to be how we are. There is a huge amount of freedom in that knowledge.

Although this shouldn’t be the case, the amount of respect we receive from men can often be limited by the amount of respect we show for ourselves. If I go around telling people I’m not worth something, then why would another person believe that I am (unless they are more spiritually evolved/generous than I am)? This is an important point in so many areas of life, as well as in modelling (that’s modelling both an artistic endeavour and as a business one). You must respect and honour yourself before you expect another person to, and you must show that respect in tangible, positive actions such as boundary-setting and saying ‘no’ to things you’re not comfortable with, without it becoming a huge drama. If you are not getting the respect you deserve, you must remove yourself from the situation.

Thinking back to some memorable points of life at which my body became a ‘thing’ to be considered, I’d say my first memory is (and it’s a cliché!) at a ballet class. I began ballet at the age of 3, but I think I was about 6 when (and I have a clear memory of this) we were told, ‘pull your tummies in’. Dancers will know that many movements and balances can’t properly be performed without engaging your core muscles at the same time, but of course the implication was also to appear slim by minimising the natural curves of the stomach. Girls do become aware of their bodies and its relationship to conceived notions of beauty, with all the ‘shoulds’ that come along with that, from a very young age. This isn’t a terrible thing, necessarily, but I feel lucky that I grew up with a mother with strong values (despite her own  battle with her weight) and who celebrated my curves (which appeared early), and so any fascination thereafter with being skinny was never very deep.

Now, I never ever ‘suck in’ my stomach for photographs, though I hear most models do. I do engage my core muscles frequently though – it helps to balance – and that may be a small part of the reason my abdominal muscles often appear very defined. I don’t ‘try to look thin’; I aim to look like the best version of myself (and to balance when on my toes!).

In secondary school, aged 13 or so, a boy in my class took it upon himself to rate the bottoms of all the girls in the row of desks in front of him, throw scrunched-up balls of paper to get their attention, then, when they turned round, held up a number. The fact that tight trousers were in fashion made his job easy. I got 10 out of 10 (and some commentary feedback), and that marked the beginning of my awareness that men found my curves sexy. Seeing as life is much easier if you go with reality rather than object to it, I decided to take my curves as a strength rather than a fault to be worked on. I’d like to think that if the opposite had been true, i.e. that I had been praised for being ‘skinny’ or ‘slim-hipped’, I would have felt the same way rather than fighting it. The truth is, obviously, that multiple and conflicting notions of beauty can and should simultaneously hold.

I strongly believe that if anyone – whether it’s a friend, lover or photographer – hints or jokes that you are overweight (or underweight), you should feel sorry for them, firstly for their rudeness, a terrible affliction, and secondly because they may be rather narrow-minded. (Of course if there are proper concerns about your health at stake then that may be a different matter.)

Never compare yourself or allow yourself to be compared to other women. Photographers who mention exactly what another model would have done (in their imagination) in the same location as soon as you arrive there are the bane of models’ lives. This happened to me once and was deflating – hardly inspiring! – but it’s not uncommon from the stories I’ve heard. I suspect a photographer/artist would be quite put out if a model casually said at the beginning of a set, ‘Oh, if xxxx was shooting this with me, I bet s/he’d already have set up that light over there and angled it slightly differently…’ Comparisons can be toxic. Celebrate individuality, the person right there in front of you, and your own self for what it is and the beautiful things it can do and is doing. Your authenticity is creative. Forget about everyone and everything else.

Meanwhile, although I don’t find the following rude or offensive (models have to be thick-skinned and objective, after all), if a photographer points out that, in a pose where I’m twisted or bent over, there is (God forbid!!) a small fold of skin, say at the waist, I would smile and adjust my position, but inwardly wonder what is so terrible about the proof that a body is stretching or bending and not made of plastic or rubber. This happens to the skinniest models out there, because if it didn’t, it would be because you could not bend. Similarly (and girls I’ve mentioned this to outside of the industry are amazed by this), I have seen models of all shape and sizes (from ‘average’ to ‘fashion-model-thin’) up close in the nude, and I have to this day never seen a woman without any cellulite at all. We all have it, even if it’s very very slight and invisible under most lighting conditions.

The desire to be strong and healthy is much more admirable, positive and attractive than the desire to diminish yourself or binge. I enjoy the feeling of being toned and fit, so that is what I strive for and that can really be the only proper motivation for changing your weight if you feel it needs to be changed. External motivations will mess with your head and self-esteem, and your self-esteem (and head) is worth protecting. I feel grateful that dance and exercise are enjoyable to me, and that I tend towards healthy (and always vegetarian) food anyway, because dieting sounds to me like the most boring thing in the world (I love cooking and hate denying myself).

People reading this might think, ‘it’s OK for her – she looks pretty good so of course it’s easy for her to feel good about herself’. I hope I can get across that this ISN’T where my self esteem comes from, and that if it did, it would be a very hollow version, brittle and breakable at the slightest critique (don’t forget, there is a lot of critique in this industry both online and in person; did I mention models have to be very thick-skinned?!). I sometimes wonder, though, if this is linked to the self-respect idea; that you get what you put out. I respect myself so others naturally show me respect. I ‘market’ myself with the assumption that I might be aesthetically appealing, so people respond as though this may be the case. The most plain Jane can improve her attraction instantly, merely by believing that she is attractive. How can she do this? By understanding that she is a woman, and that women are amazing, and worth appreciation.

I can’t not mention the impact a tiny little book I was given when I was growing called ‘The Goddess Within’ has had on me. I wish I could remember who gave it to me. Compiled by River Huston, it’s a cute 4-inch-square book with beautiful pictures and quotes from prominent women on each page, in categories of ‘the attitude’, ‘the look’, ‘knowing’, ‘loving’ and ‘living’. These are some quotes that stood out to me at the time (I actually pasted some to my wall) and which I still love:

‘I think the reward for conformity is that everyone likes you but yourself.’ – Rita Mae Brown

‘I am tough, ambitious, and I know what I want. If that makes me a bitch, OK. I can throw a fit. I am a master at it.’ – Madonna (admittedly I mostly just find Madonna annoying, but I love this quote.)

‘I never practise, I only play.’ – Wanda Landowska (I think I once declared this to my piano teacher. He was probably un-amused.)

‘No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.’ – Eleanor Roosevelt

‘Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. Our goals should be health and stamina.’ – Emme Aronson

‘Women should try to increase their size rather than decrease it, because the bigger we are the more space we take up and the more we have to be reckoned with.’ – Roseanne Barr

‘Elegance does not consist of putting on a new dress.’ – Coco Chanel

‘Don’t deprive me of my age. I have earned it.’ – May Sarton

‘Don’t compromise yourself; you are all you got.’ – Janis Joplin

‘People call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat or a prostitute.’ – Rebecca West

‘We make ourselves up as we go’ – Kate Green (I adore this quote and it’s on my website in the ‘adorned’ gallery, as well as being at the beginning of a novel I’ve written.)

‘The brother that gets me is going to get one hell of a woman.’ – Aretha Franklin

‘When one is pretending, the entire body revolts.’ – Anais Nin

‘Loving, like prayer, is a power as well as a process. It is curative. It is creative.’ – Zona Gale

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……….OK, I have no idea what I’m doing with this blog post anymore, or if I’ve achieved any of my aims (if you liked it, I’d love to hear from you at ellarosemuse@live.co.uk, and you are welcome to share it) or if I’ve just bored you all in the process of trying, but I will leave it here, after listing a few resources/links that I swear by and recommend. No one grows in a vacuum; take a look if you want to take hold of your power and see things on a different level of honouring and valuing yourself for who and what you are. Life is too short not to and your happiness is too important.

General:

‘Women who Run with the Wolves’ – not really a light read, but very ethereal and whimsical as well as earthy and gritty. I made an important life decision after something in one of these chapters clicked for me, and have felt better ever since.
‘A Woman’s Worth’ – I haven’t actually read this yet but am looking forward to it arriving in the post soon.

Dating:

(because I love this topic; it’s heterosexual-based because I am; I’m sorry if that doesn’t relate to you; hopefully the principles are universal)
– ‘The Tao of Dating‘ – I only found this quite recently, but wow, this man is wise. Chase the fulfilment, not the person. 🙂
‘Why Men love Bitches’ – Another one about dating and about being the best version of yourself for your own benefit. It’s hilarious, full of practical advice and not as annoying as it sounds.
Baggage Reclaim – this blogger has annoying habit of writing ‘you’ when she means ‘yourself’, but other than that, it’s amazing.

Thinkin’ About Your Body

Although modelling is my ‘full time income’, as I usually put it, writing is my long-term dream, and my time is split into two professions, realistically (though the two work very well together). I always write on the days I’m not modelling. This morning, instead of banging out 1000 words of my current work in progress (which is actually going quite well at the moment!), I spent an hour accidentally banging out a poem instead. I have told myself that this can justify the static word count of my novel, since I haven’t let myself do this in a very long time.

Probably needs some changes and polishing (some stanzas in particular definitely need some whipping), but I’m quite pleased with it as a first draft:

Mapping Renewal
2-3 weeks for the lungs.
About a year for the alveoli to regenerate.
Nothing on the surface; forever, deeper.
24 hours for the cornea. Which explains
why I can see you so clearly now.
20 years for the heart. Perhaps four times
in a lifetime. Three if repairs are slow. Scars
can’t muscle. Intestines; 2 or 3 days. Fighting to rid;
stomach acid sears through. Gargle, spit:
taste buds; every ten days. I am not
so enthused by your wanderlust now.
6-8 weeks for an eyelash. Mine
are doe like, defined by black; don’t bat for you.
3-6 years for hair and your indecision.
I bleached mine; I am getting it cut.
The skeleton takes ten years. Osteoclasts.
Osteoblasts. Break down. Build up. I am cast
as beauty. My closet is empty.
Fingernails twice as fast as toenails.
Keratin, circulation, tissue supply.
New skin every two weeks.
Less elastic. Still waterproof.
We won’t touch again. The liver, flushing
away cruel toxins; just five months a round.

The brain ages alone, coughing notes in the dark
through dreams and organs; imagines its own future:
conjures decision; the belief that it can thrive.
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And because I thought Mosa (of OnePixArt) might appreciate this kind of thing, here are some images he took of me in LA. I have admired his artwork for a long time, and it was certainly interesting to be let in on his philosophies about women. I think the third is my favourite.

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And finally, a song about bodies I’ve been enjoying by Bobby McFerrin… Love this guy. I’ve finally joined the modern age and have all my music on my phone. Well, not all; do you have any idea how much music I own? It’s quite shocking. But anyway, along with some questionable beauties (the most questionable being Take That’s debut album, teach-yourself-spanish, and the Sister Act soundtrack – all choices I personally stand by, however) I treated my studio day attendees on Saturday to such gems as:


Off now for a round two of responding to emails before meeting up with new friends tonight. Excited to see lots of my ‘old’ friends in the next week or so too. You gotta love that about Christmas; everyone gathers. 🙂