Hello, my name is Eno, I enjoy walks on the beach, reading a good book, watching intellectual documentaries, playing guitar, and oh yeah, I take my clothes off for money. When I tell people that this is what I do, their reactions are either, “erm, why are you doing this?” or “really, so do you like fuck old men?”
No, I do not fuck old men or any men for that matter for money. I am not a whore, or a prostitute, or an escort. I only phrase what I do in this way to test just how ‘liberal’ people really are (the verdict, most liberals are closet conservatives). I am a life model. I pose nude for artists. It all started with this stupid recession and my teachers at school telling me that University was the key to a bright future. Bullshit! In my experience, University is the key to debt, and depression, and it is the reason why I have found myself doing what I am doing.
A few months ago, I was so skint that I seriously considered prostituting myself to the highest bidder, but unfortunately, getting into prostitution isn’t something that they teach you at school, and I can’t say that I know any pimps, so google was my last resort. Apparently, prostitution is illegal in England, so google wasn’t very helpful in kick starting my career as a sex worker.
With the due date of my rent looming, and the requirements of my third year dissertation stalling me from getting a part-time job, the idea of life modelling popped into my head one day. Perhaps it was a message from God? Though I highly doubt this. I rang a few colleges that ran art classes asking if they were looking for new models. They all turned me down saying that they weren’t looking for anyone at the moment but they would keep me on file. I knew what this meant, that I was still broke and unemployed, so being a product of the internet age, I put an ad on Gumtree, along with a headshot of myself, which in hindsight was a bad idea.
Literally a few hours after my ad went live, I received five emails from different men claiming to be artists, asking me if I could send them some nude photographs of myself, I of course refused. I also received emails from real artists asking me what my hourly rate was, and if I had modelled before. I fibbed a little and told them that I had, (posing in front of your mirror is posing, right?) Somehow they knew that I was lying. It soon became evident that these real artists wanted experienced models to work with them long term, and not some student who wanted to make some fast cash.
Through word of mouth, I heard about a small art class in my area that was being run by a local artist, I rang him up, telling him that I was a student in desperate need of cash and he offered me an audition to see if I was a good fit for the group.
The studio was in a cold room in a derelict looking building which I walked past over and over again, convinced that my google maps on my Android had steered me wrong. The artist who ran the class seemed friendly enough; he introduced me to his class of very aged artists, who all told me that they were excited about the prospect of drawing me, because it had been a while since they had drawn a black model.
Not many people had seen me naked, even my past partners had never really properly seen me fully nude, and I didn’t know if I was ready to be so vulnerable in front of a room filled with strangers.
As I was only there for a quick audition, there was an experienced life model there waiting to model for the class. She was a friendly youngish woman, who after introducing herself to me said; “God, you’re very brave coming here on your own, is it your first time?” I told her that it was, and she said to me, “the moment your robe drops, your nerves drop with it.”
She modelled for an hour or so and I was allowed to sit and watch her, eventually I got a pencil and paper and started sketching. It was interesting looking at a naked woman from the point of view of an artist. Despite the fact that I studied art during my G.C.S.E’s and A’ Levels, because I went to a catholic school, I was not allowed to practice life drawing.
During the hour, the model did a few short poses, ranging from standing, to sitting, to lying down. From where I was sitting, everything looked very easy. How hard is it to lie down? I thought. After a short tea break, I was asked to get ready to do a short pose.
In the changing room, I was nervous; I didn’t want to do it. I had always had a complex about my body despite the fact that I eat healthily, jog 4-5 times a week, and cycle everywhere. Not many people had seen me naked, even my past partners had never really properly seen me fully nude, and I didn’t know if I was ready to be so vulnerable in front of a room filled with strangers.
If I walked away, I’d have no immediate means of feeding myself or paying my rent. I didn’t want to ask my mother for money, not out of pride but because I didn’t want her to sacrifice her wants or needs for me again. So I did it! I changed into a robe, walked out into the class and exposed my naked flesh to the room.
It was liberating, for the first time I felt truly comfortable in my own skin. It was like therapy, my whole body just calmed, and paused into an almost vegetated state, frozen in a lying down pose. It wasn’t as easy as I thought, my muscles cramped at times but when this happened, I was allowed to stretch out and then return to my pose. My audition lasted twenty minutes, and afterwards, the artist who ran the class pulled me to the side to thank me and asked me to come back. He told me that he paid his models £13 an hour cash in hand plus a little extra for transport. £13 and hour plus transport! For me, an incredible poor student, it was like winning the lottery!
My side career as a life model started four months ago, since then, I have managed to get a part-time job at my university, but I still model from time to time, only now I don’t do it to cure my debt, I do it to heal my depression. When I am in that cold room, naked, posing for artists, I feel like I am a part of something, which helps cancel out the fact that when I’m sat in my lecture room, taking down notes that I will probably never glance at again, a part a me can’t help thinking that I’ve just wasted three years of time that I will never get back, and money that I didn’t have.
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