I’m a Professional Plus-Sized Nude Male Model
And I have over a decade of experience.
For many people, my job is a literal nightmare: showing up to class naked.
I’m in my mid-30s. I stand 5 '11” and hover around 290 pounds, with a shaved head, well-kept beard, a fantastically hairy back and, in all honesty, a smaller-than-average penis. My job is to stand in the center of a room with anywhere from one to a hundred or more strangers, strip completely nude and stay that way for an average of three or so hours while these strangers observe, draw, paint, sculpt and interpret every angle of my body in bold, dynamic lighting.
I’m a nude art model. More specifically, a plus-sized nude art model for life drawing classes. I have plied my craft in drafty art schools, prestigious universities, artists’ basements, Brooklyn office buildings, art galleries and various bastions of free expression in the greater tri-state area. I have faced the minions of doubt that appeared to me as manifestations of my bare form in the countless sketchbooks of first-year art students and the directions of instructors for their students to “really focus on the negative space in the pelvic region.”
Nude Modeling Begs a Few Questions
We can start with the usual question: Yes, erections can happen and it’s not a big deal; you just excuse yourself for a second. For women, it’s not an issue if it’s that time of the month; just ask the session runner to keep your bottom on (although I have posed with female models where I have spied a string and they just kept the poses more…discreet). People who know me know what I do and don’t really care. Some have even come to draw me. In my 10 years of experience, no one has ever pointed and laughed. No, I have never been propositioned. Yes, I am a very shy person. And finally, yes, I still get nerves sometimes, but they’re more about posing than being nude.
One of the most misunderstood aspects about nude figure modeling is what exactly it is a model does, namely the posing itself. Usually, a session runs on average three hours and involves holding poses for various lengths of time, from just a few seconds to several weeks or months, for roughly 20 minutes at a time. Short poses require broad, dynamic gestures that mimic actions and can be quite exhausting. Longer poses involve standing, sitting or reclining in one position for a full 20 minutes, possibly even more over many sessions, and can end up being painful and mind-numbing. Cultivating a roster of creative, unique poses has proven to be a massive challenge, and I have had my fair share of cramps, strained muscles, numb limbs and even tumbles. There is a special form of panic you feel when you’re not even halfway through a long pose and start to notice a little burning climbing up your legs. If a model isn’t careful, they might find themselves in the middle of a classroom, unable to move or feel anything from the waist down. Learning my body, and what it can handle, while being an interesting model is a constant effort.
Being a nude art model requires learning to become comfortable with the five words, “OK, so, whenever you’re ready…” For most of my life, I have existed within the awkward liminal space between my desire to be seen in my truest, most realized self and my wish to be huddled away, hidden in the ether.
Being a Musician Oddly Translates to Nude Modeling
I have worked in this line of business for 10 years, but my life’s work has been—and still is—in music. When I started working as an art model, I had become frustrated with my occupation. I’m a performer at heart—I’ve played hundreds of shows as a musician. But being a musician can be a limiting gig at first for someone who’s hungry for stage time. You spend more hours prepping, planning, traveling and moving gear than actually performing. I had become more familiar with getting to gigs than playing them.
In stark contrast to where I was in that moment of my life, the first modeling gig I got in that time was in front of a room of roughly 20 freshman undergrads, and it felt just like my first time performing music in front of an audience: a recital. Now, while my parents weren’t there feverishly taking pictures for the family album and my teacher wasn’t in the wings chomping piano chords and nodding while mouthing me the lyrics, the same terror gripped me. As I stared at a large wooden model stand in the middle of a semicircle of empty easels where, just like the stage and soon-to-be-filled seats of a Catholic school basement auditorium 15 years prior, I looked upon my charge as a slack-jawed, doe-eyed neophyte, I realized the question I was asking in those moments was the same: Am I allowed to do this?
Whether it’s performing music or nude modeling, getting up in front of a room full of people and requesting their attention on any level demands that you accept who you are as well as what you can and can’t control. Once the robe is off and the timer has started, you are here in the moment. Every insecurity or personal hang-up must be put away. You are no longer operating as a specific human; you are now the object. Just like an actor becomes the character or a musician becomes another member of the band, an art model becomes a body, a collection of limbs, meat and movement used by artists to learn and create. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t.
Nude Modeling Helped Me Manage My Performance Anxiety
I still absolutely experience nerves. I second-guess creative decisions all the time. Annoying tics—like my leg shaking out of my conscious control—throw off my rhythm. I exist more in the aforementioned reclusive ether, staring out the window or trying to get out, only to be kneecapped or restrained by my fears when trying to leave. Posing nude for groups of people lets me explore the initial hit of having everyone’s eyes on me, while also maintaining exposure over an extended period of time and delivering on an audience’s expectations. If I could stand naked in front of a group of strangers for three hours, I think singing some songs might become a bit easier.
Suffice it to say, eventually, the leg did stop shaking. Onstage performances and public speaking engagements of all kinds became much easier to deal with. On a subconscious level, I know how to better manage the swings of a performance and understand that a performance isn’t a single point but a wiggly line. There are high moments and low moments. Being able to operate calmly under pressure while also knowing that every audience is different lets me focus on my adjustments instead of overcorrecting based on a panic mindset. On a conscious level, I am able to manage how an audience receives me better, as well. After hundreds of bookings and dozens of referrals, I know I can do this gig and deserve to be here. The same goes for music. I can now move on from a less than stellar gig knowing that I deserve to be where I am. Moreover, if I don’t have a particularly good performance, I am no longer frustrated that I have to wait days, if not weeks, to have another shot to maybe get better at my performance mindset.
I’m lucky that I have always enjoyed and been comfortable with being nude. That being said, I have spent most of my life dealing with massive body and self-esteem issues, so I kept this appreciation of not wearing clothes mostly to myself.
Nude Modeling Isn’t for Everyone, but Not Because of Looks
While modeling for life drawing sessions has helped me be a better performer, the benefits to my confidence have been without comparison. I still struggle with body issues, especially being overweight, but having a room full of people applaud, or even give a standing ovation, at the end of the night as you stand there, bare, every flaw exposed, is a massive boost for a person’s self-esteem.
That being said, I would hesitate to recommend nude modeling to everyone. This line of work is as much a privilege to be offered as it is a service you are offering. While the job is built on a trust that you will operate as a decent human being, you are still offering yourself to someone else, and that can be a lot for some people; maybe too much. While I have found modeling empowering, for some this might be an experience that triggers a traumatic response, especially in the wrong scenario.
But no one should feel excluded from modeling because of their looks. There is no such thing as an ugly body. I had a difficult time accepting that reality myself, but the supporting evidence I’ve accumulated over the years is quite overwhelming. You can be a model of any shape, size or age or with any physical malady. Every body is welcomed.
So, whenever you’re ready…