Nude Modeling Helped Me Take My Body Back

Nude Modeling Helped Me Take My Body Back

I saw myself through someone else's eyes.
563
views

For two years, I worked for my university’s art department as a nude model for drawing and painting classes. It truly wasn't glamorous — my hair would be in a messy bun, or greasy from sleeping, I never wore make up and maybe I shaved my legs. It was part-time work, usually early in the morning. For college students, 7:30 a.m. is really early.

I had recently transferred and a friend I knew from high school told me the art department was hiring models. Broke and with time, I had nothing to lose if I applied. I remember the mint green form that I filled out to apply for the position, with two check boxes at the top that read, “Interested in:__ nude modeling __clothed modeling.” I could see the receptionist smirking because she knew exactly what I was looking at. Almost as if to gauge whether or not each applicant knew what they were getting themselves into. Did my friend mention nude modeling? How many vodka sodas did I have that night?

One part of me was absolutely terrified. Another part of me wanted to take a chance. Being in a new place, at a new school, I was feeling freer than usual. I walked around campus with my head held higher. No one knew me. Up until that point, I was losing sight of what I thought I knew about me. This was my moment to reintroduce me to myself.

Nude modeling, sign me up.

I gripped that mint green form tighter in my hand as I walked it over to the receptionist. Maybe if I squeezed the paper hard enough, the “X” would jump from one box to the other. One foot in front of the other, I got really nervous approaching the desk and blurted, “I’ll be a naked one!” Oh jeez. I handed her the form with my eyes on the floor; she fought back laughter with her toothy grin. I would have laughed at me, too. She thanked me for filling it out and she told me that I would be contacted to set up my work schedule.

I walked out of the art department immediately asking myself, “What did you just do?”

Two months before was the first time that I vocalized that I needed help with my eating disorder. I was at the forefront of a battle over my body and my mind. Half of me desperate to get out of the trap that was my skin, flesh and bones – needing something, anything, to make me love myself again. The other half of me telling me that my sacrifice, my strict diet and dedicated workout routines would eventually make me love me again.

The first time I stepped up onto that podium, completely vulnerable, I actually felt comfort from the eyes watching me. I stood under three large lights, brushing warmth onto my shoulders. 12 students set up in a circle around me, with easels seasoned with paint spots and canvas stretched around wood frames. 24 eyes traced the lines my skin created. No instructions outlined quite yet, and the room patiently waited for the professor.

I was introduced and each person in the room shared a nod or small gesture of politeness with me. The professor thanked me for my time and then explained to the students what he expected of them.

What he expected from them.

Not me. For once.

Painting by unknown student from Western Washington University

Halfway through the three-hour session, we took a 15-minute break. The artist had the opportunity to clean out their brushes and I had a moment to shake out my limbs. In a robe I brought with me, I walked the perimeter of the studio circle. I spent a few minutes at each canvas, examining the shape of each body on the canvas. At first I was afraid of what I would see. I was afraid I was going to see my worst self, my ugliest – but I wasn’t looking in a mirror.

Instead, I saw collections of colors that danced together to paint the picture of a woman reborn. This was the first time I saw myself through someone else's eyes. I saw myself portrayed with grace and not hate. I moved from canvas to canvas like the hour hand from a clock moves from number to number: slower than the other hands. I stood behind each canvas, taking in the new me. I peered over each canvas to place myself back up on the podium and I saw a woman sitting taller and stronger. This was more powerful than any mirror.

After I left my first shift, I cried in the bathroom on the basement level of the library. I was overwhelmed by the kindness I felt from absolute strangers. I was seeing my body in its reality for the first time in years, and it was nothing to be ashamed of. I was completely floored from finally being free from my fantasy of everyone else's expectations of my body. I felt love and acceptance from people whose names I didn’t know.

I want to reach out to my readers and ask for your help. It's been a couple of years since I've posed on that podium; the artists that I worked with have most likely graduated and moved forward with their lives. I am desperate to give credit to the artist that helped me through a dark period in my life. I would like to thank them for the freedom that I gained through their work. I never spent much time talking to the artist due to social anxieties associated with my struggles. I only ever asked for their permission to take these photos and never made honest connections or friendships. If you or anyone you know was ever a part of the Western Washington University Art Department, please help me find the artist in any way you can so I can credit them for their empowering work.

Cover Image Credit: Ashley-Nichole Holland

Popular Right Now

​An Open Letter To The People Who Don’t Tip Their Servers

This one's for you.
1486907
views

Dear Person Who Has No Idea How Much The 0 In The “Tip:" Line Matters,

I want to by asking you a simple question: Why?

Is it because you can't afford it? Is it because you are blind to the fact that the tip you leave is how the waiter/waitress serving you is making their living? Is it because you're just lazy and you “don't feel like it"?

Is it because you think that, while taking care of not only your table but at least three to five others, they took too long bringing you that side of ranch dressing? Or is it just because you're unaware that as a server these people make $2.85 an hour plus TIPS?

The average waiter/waitress is only supposed to be paid $2.13 an hour plus tips according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

That then leaves the waiter/waitress with a paycheck with the numbers **$0.00** and the words “Not a real paycheck." stamped on it. Therefore these men and women completely rely on the tips they make during the week to pay their bills.

So, with that being said, I have a few words for those of you who are ignorant enough to leave without leaving a few dollars in the “tip:" line.

Imagine if you go to work, the night starts off slow, then almost like a bomb went off the entire workplace is chaotic and you can't seem to find a minute to stop and breathe, let alone think about what to do next.

Imagine that you are helping a total of six different groups of people at one time, with each group containing two to 10 people.

Imagine that you are working your ass off to make sure that these customers have the best experience possible. Then you cash them out, you hand them a pen and a receipt, say “Thank you so much! It was a pleasure serving you, have a great day!"

Imagine you walk away to attempt to start one of the 17 other things you need to complete, watch as the group you just thanked leaves, and maybe even wave goodbye.

Imagine you are cleaning up the mess that they have so kindly left behind, you look down at the receipt and realize there's a sad face on the tip line of a $24.83 bill.

Imagine how devastated you feel knowing that you helped these people as much as you could just to have them throw water on the fire you need to complete the night.

Now, realize that whenever you decide not to tip your waitress, this is nine out of 10 times what they go through. I cannot stress enough how important it is for people to realize that this is someone's profession — whether they are a college student, a single mother working their second job of the day, a new dad who needs to pay off the loan he needed to take out to get a safer car for his child, your friend, your mom, your dad, your sister, your brother, you.

If you cannot afford to tip, do not come out to eat. If you cannot afford the three alcoholic drinks you gulped down, plus your food and a tip do not come out to eat.

If you cannot afford the $10 wings that become half-off on Tuesdays plus that water you asked for, do not come out to eat.

If you cannot see that the person in front of you is working their best to accommodate you, while trying to do the same for the other five tables around you, do not come out to eat. If you cannot realize that the man or woman in front of you is a real person, with their own personal lives and problems and that maybe these problems have led them to be the reason they are standing in front of you, then do not come out to eat.

As a server myself, it kills me to see the people around me being deprived of the money that they were supposed to earn. It kills me to see the three dollars you left on a $40 bill. It kills me that you cannot stand to put yourself in our shoes — as if you're better than us. I wonder if you realize that you single-handedly ruined part of our nights.

I wonder if maybe one day you will be in our shoes, and I hope to God no one treats you how you have treated us. But if they do, then maybe you'll realize how we felt when you left no tip after we gave you our time.

Cover Image Credit: Hailea Shallock

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

10 Struggles Only Anemics Will Understand

Popping (iron) pills is all we know.

93
views

Anemia is a medical condition in which the blood lacks hemoglobin, the protein that is responsible for transporting oxygen. As a result, individuals diagnosed with it constantly feel weak and tired. I was born with thalassemia, a condition that destroys red blood cells and makes you more susceptible to getting anemia. There are many factors that cause the condition, but symptoms are consistent for sufferers.

Fun fact: 30% of the world's population is anemic.

1. Always forgetting to take your ferrous sulfate pills

My friends and family constantly hound me to eat them, in addition to the daily reminder I have set up on all of my devices, and I still manage to forget to take them most of the time. It's a bad habit considering we kind of need these to survive, you know.

2. "I'm tired" is a phrase too common to your vocabulary

I honestly say this so often that sometimes I'll straight up use it as an excuse to get out of social responsibilities. I'm not lying, though, it takes me an extraordinary amount of effort to do even the simplest of tasks because of how drained I always feel. I also apologize for constantly yawning, you're not boring, I'm just a lethargic piece of crap.

3. You dread the idea of working out

Sure, I'll be your workout buddy, you just have to put up with my constant breathlessness and need for rest breaks. I'd rather do something that involves little to no physical activity, though, so you wouldn't have to witness me panting and dying.

4. Constantly having those spontaneous shivers

You know exactly what I'm talking about — you'll be sitting in class, minding your business, and a random shiver will shoot down your body and make you tremble in the weirdest manner possible. I actually had someone sitting next to me ask me once if I was seizing.

5. Your extremities are always unusually cold

This is something I find myself having to explain a lot to people, especially when they grab my hands and ask me why they're "so cold." Because of the lack of oxygen circulating in our blood, not enough heat reaches our extremities, which in addition to hands also makes your nose, ears, and feet cold.

6. Cravings for weird ass objects

When I first started to develop anemia in middle school, I was drawn to the smells of gasoline, Wite-Out, fresh paint, Pine-Sol, the list went on. My friends looked at me like I was a druggie, but once I told my doctor she told me that this is a very common symptom of anemia, and actually is a condition termed "pica," which characterizes the craving for non-nutritive items. Some individuals actually start eating dirt to satisfy their cravings.

7. Having nosebleeds at the most random moments

I'm not sure if everyone can relate to this, but growing up I had a lot of nosebleeds, as did my twin brother who also is an anemic. I'll still have them occasionally, always at the worst times, too.

8. Sleeping for more than 12 hours and still feeling tired

There's really no difference between sleeping two hours and 15 hours for me because I'll still feel tired regardless. To top it off, caffeine exhibits no effects on me, so I just constantly look like a sleep-deprived bitch. These eye bags are Chanel, though.

9. All. Those. Damn. Blood. Tests.

I'm almost 20 years old, but I still ask for the butterfly needle (what they give to little children) at every appointment because of how much I dread needles. Like hi, your blood supply is already declining, but we'll just take out six more vials of your blood. The worst part? When they can't find your vein and start shimmying the needle around. Definitely not looking forward to my next doctor's appointment.

10.  Always feeling like a brand new person when you finally do remember to take your pills

Not sure if it's my body reacting to the increased amount of oxygen in my blood, or if it's just the placebo effect, but as soon as I take my iron pill, I feel like a boss-ass bitch. I just have to remember to do that more often.

Related Content

Facebook Comments