Role Modeling

Not many folks set off to work knowing they’ll soon be standing naked in front of a crowd of 22 fully clothed strangers. As a part-time figure model, people presume I’m comfortable in my body. To get on a raised model stand and pose nude, surrounded by artists studying me (in lighting I don’t control!)-it’s a safe assumption that I’m comfortable with my body. But that assumption is wrong.

Even after modeling for years, I still have days when I dread leaving the security of my robe and standing, completely in the buff, in front of dozens of people. Just because it’s become routine to disrobe in the midst of a room full of strangers, it doesn’t mean I don’t feel inadequate and embarrassed about my shape more often than I’d like to admit.

According to my family and friends, I have a nice figure. I’m tall, with long limbs and lots of curves. I’ve never been hounded to diet, and none of my partners have ever made a negative comment about my body. I’ve still felt fat. I’ve still felt ugly. Despite my feminist upbringing.

For years I’d resigned myself to live with my bad-body attitude. After all, surrounded by digitally manipulated “beauties,” women around the world feel badly about their bodies. We’re unhappy, dissatisfied, constantly working to change the way we look. It would seem that feeling bad about your body is just another hassle we need to live with, like menstrual cramps and high heat bills. But, I started to question that resignation. When I think about how women everywhere feel ashamed and embarrassed about their bodies, my blood boils. Beyond the obvious body shame so many women harbor, I see another, hidden level of body hatred in our culture, too. If a woman with a job that appears to require an extreme amount of confidence could be inwardly wrestling body image demons as nasty as mine, doesn’t that exemplify the degree to which our culture really struggles?

I figured if there’s any hope for women feeling comfortable in their skins, the change had to start with me. That’s where modeling comes in. It’s practice being an example of one form the human body can take. As artists know, bodies come in many shapes and sizes. Mine is my shape and size. Their acceptance of my form has helped me become more accepting of myself. Every person deserves to feel comfortable in her own skin and that conviction often gives me the extra bit of nerve I need when it’s time to strike a pose.

In addition to her part-time work as a figure model, Dallas Rising also has her own personal coaching practice, Living With Purpose. She lives in south Minneapolis with her husband and two rescued dogs.1