Am I perfect? Do I look good? Am I comfortable with my own body? These are questions we all ask ourselves. Last month, I decided to accept the challenge and find out for myself how far I can push the limit of my comfort zone by agreeing to pose nude for a figure drawing session at a famous art center in Manhattan. Even though I thought I am very content with who I am and how I look like, this experience taught me an important lesson that I would like to share with you.
It’s an early weekend morning. It’s cold outside and, while I get up and ask myself why I agreed to do this, a voice in my head provokes me: Isn’t this what you wanted?! That’s what young artists do! They get naked. Madonna had been naked many many times, before she became famous. And while I love to play the Madonna in the movie that my life is, I really don’t know if I want to pose nude any more…
I had modeled many times before, and I had been naked in front of the camera, for example for my music video “Creature In Me“. However, a figure model is being observed and studied in virtually every detail and every part of the body by the audience. It’s exposed nudity. That’s different. In addition, a figure model has to stand still and keep the same pose – while being nude – for a long period of time: up to thirty minutes or even one hour. When I realized all this, it was already too late.
Everybody has arrived and it’s time for me to remove my clothes. People from all ages are sitting around me in a semi-circle, ready to draw with pens and paper on specially designed drawing desks. I am placed next to a bench and an ottoman on a little podium. It’s very cold outside, making the contrast between the dressed and the naked (in this case: me) even bigger. For a last time I ask, “Should I take off my underwear now?”, a question I could have answered myself. There is no turning back any more. I strip naked. I show them how I really look like. All kinds of questions pop up in my head: Does my stomach look fat for those who see me from the sides?; I should have cleaned these toenails; How does my penis look?; It’s kind of cold in here.
First Approach to Posing
The first pose I strike feels unnatural to me. It’s strange to be the only nude person in front of all these people. Yet, everybody starts drawing right away, concentrated, so I have to hold my pose. During the warm-up phase, I have to strike a new pose every two minutes. As time passes by, my posing becomes more confident and the intervals between each pose change grow. While holding a posture, I slowly start thinking of this and that, dreaming, fantasizing…and as the curator screams his next “change”, I suddenly realize that I have been holding the same pose for ten minutes without thinking about how the others perceive me.
During the next poses, I start to become one with the statue that I epitomize. I begin to even like the attention somehow. Where else in the world would I receive three hours of permanent, unconditional attention? No
Photoshop, no Instagram filter, I receive sheer attention of who I purely am, the way the universe made me. I am in equilibrium. I am content. I start to feel comfortable with the way I am.
Second Approach to Posing
After about two hours of posing, I decide that I want to make this morning a special experience for the others, too. I have been getting attention for two full hours now and as an artist I like to give back to my audience. I decide to strike a pose that’s more provocative, somehow erotic, something not every figure model would do. I have nothing to lose: they have seen me completely naked anyway and I can’t show them anything of me they haven’t seen yet, but I can show it in another way. At the next “change”, I sit down on the bench, chest and butt out, the bench between my legs. I am wearing my winter boots. I feel sexy. I sense an energy change in the audience. The degree of attention is rising. Some people are whispering. Everybody is excited to draw me.
I learned to enjoy it.
The drawing session is over and several artists from the class approach me, congratulating me on my work and asking me to pose for other classes in the city. I am happy that I have done a good job. I am relieved I made it. More importantly, however, I realize one important lesson for life. My fear, my hesitation, my doubts: they were all in my head, all the time. The only force that made me feel uncomfortable, awkward or ugly was my own brain, my own imagination. Funnily, it was also that very same force making me feel happy, cozy and self-conscious again.
I went from I am not comfortable with my body to I am in tune with my body to I want to expose my body in only three hours, with the power of my imagination and my brain alone.
In the end, it is the way we perceive ourselves that has the most significant impact on our self-esteem, on our personal growth and, eventually, on the way we perceive others. It is the way we perceive ourselves that can be a barrier when getting to know a new person, a new friend, a lover. In the context of nudity – the way we perceive ourselves can so frequently be an obstacle to good sex, becoming a killer of lust. At the same time, it is also the way we perceive ourselves that can be the key to a grounded and prosperous life, and to a fulfilled sex life.
Undoubtedly, one sole instance has final control of how we perceive ourselves: us. This evident truth makes so much sense; it almost feels self-explanatory. Yet, we frequently fail to put it into practice, allowing other factors like fear or doubt to overshadow the power of our own mind.
“Say That You Love Me” by Alek Sandar