I’m sitting on my rent-a-couch relaxing after running club. Somewhere between Friends episodes and mouthfuls of pumpkin soup, I remembered something. I almost became a nude model! I know that seems like a weird thing to forget, but it completely slipped my mind.
Another life ago, I was a music performance major on full scholarship at a small conservatory in West Virginia. During my first semester, I wandered off from the practice rooms into the arts wing. A hot pink and yellow paper posted on a bulletin board caught my eye.
“Female photographer seeks curvy brunette or redhead for photo shoot. Will submit for feature in art magazine.”
A cell phone number was attached, so I pulled one down, put it in my pocket, and forgot all about it. A couple days later, when I was emptying my pockets before doing laundry, I found the paper. I was moved by an internal whisper.
Just call. You can always say no.
When a warm female voice answered, I immediately felt at ease. We exchanged pleasantries, then got right down to business. I explained that I was calling about the ad, and that I wanted to know more.
“First of all, I need to know what size you are. Stick figures have been responding to this ad calling themselves ‘curvy’ and just aren’t what I’m looking for.”
“I’m a ten…sometimes a twelve…it depends.”
“Please tell me you aren’t six feet tall.”
“No, I”m 5’4.”
She squeaked with happiness.
“I want to photograph Kate Winslet, not Kate Moss!”
“Kate Winslet? Like from Titanic?”
“It’s not important. I need you to send me head shots, a full body photo if you can. If you have the look I’m going for, I will send you the release forms.”
“Yes, I am going to submit these photos for publication in magazines and art journals and I need you to sign a model release form.”
My cheeks burned at the word model. I was short and bordering on chubby. I had bunny teeth, and a weird nose, and a gigantic forehead. Model — was she nuts?
“Great. I’ll send you the photos.”
“Thanks. I can’t wait!”
I stayed up all night trying to decide whether or not to send those photos. I’d always been the smart one, the nerd, the funny friend, the girl with the guy friends — never the pretty one. Within my group of friends, I was the only girl who didn’t get glamour shots, go to summer modeling camp, or participate in beauty pageants. First world problems for $100 Alex!
Somewhere within a chaotic shit storm of worry, my logical brain rose above my insecurities to form a thought that momentarily blew my misgivings out of the water. I was being given a chance to become art. I selected two photos from my Facebook profile, a candid my friend had shot at a party, and a posed group shot of me my best friend, and sent them along.
When I woke up the next morning, I found the paperwork in my inbox. My stomach squirmed with the realization that all my flaws would be captured professionally. I could practically feel my mother cringe at the idea of me being a ‘model’.
“The camera adds ten pounds” she would say.
After spending a day unable to shake the photo shoot from my mind, I finally gathered up the courage to call the photographer. My excitement and curiosity crushed my inherited fear. So this was my mother’s worst nightmare, did it have to be mine?
The photographer answered out-of-breath.
“I thought you’d changed your mind.”
“No, I’m in. I’ll sign the papers and send them to you.”
“You don’t have to do that. Just print them out and bring them to the shoot. What day works for you this week?
“I don’t have class on Thursday afternoons.”
“Perfect. We will meet in the auditorium. You’ll be on top of the piano. And don’t do your hair or makeup…I’m going to do it.”
“What should I wear?”
“It doesn’t matter. I’ll bring a robe.”
“You don’t have to wear it if you don’t want to. It’s just most ladies feel more comfortable to hang out in the robe in between shots. That reminds me…only shave if you normally do.”
That’s when I realized I’d signed up for a naked photo shoot. I mumbled a reply I can no longer remember and hung up the phone. I looked down at my slight pooch and thunder thighs. I would be disrobed and on top of a piano in three days. I decided the only way to prepare would be to eat only air until the camera snapped for the last time. That idea lasted a whole six hours, until I devoured an entire bag of Smartfood (White Cheddar flavored). I sat covered in crumbs and regret, cursing myself for being such an idiot. Why had I ever made that call?
I went to class for the next few days on autopilot. I agonized. I ruminated. I obsessed. The only thing I didn’t do was make a finite decision. I felt pulled in one hundred different directions. On one hand, I thought it was an exciting and unique experience. It’s art, not Playboy! On the other, the thought of my naked body becoming public made me a bit queasy. You aren’t exactly the model type.
Instead of making a conscious choice, I withdrew. I didn’t answer my phone, nor my emails. After watching the last missed call from the photographer, I felt a pang of regret. She seemed nice, and I felt childish for being unable to answer. I deleted her three voicemails without listening to them. In the end, the world was left with one (or twenty) less naked photo(s) to regret.
It is extremely difficult for me to say a direct ‘no’. Particularly, when I get caught up in someone else’s passion and excitement. I struggle with self-esteem issues, people pleasing nonsense, and anxiety. And sometimes when I’m unable to make a decision, I let the universe make it for me. My flaws have led me to this couch, very much not a nude model, and sometimes still frozen with indecision. But, I made the decision to tell you all this story, which has to count for something, right?