Written by Jamie Gonzalez .
Art courtesy of the author.
Like most people with a body, I have been plagued by a life-long battle with self-acceptance. I won’t even bore you with details about the years I spent looking in the mirror (or even fully avoiding it), and hating myself and my body because, frankly, we all know what that’s like.
The real story here, the story of my self-acceptance, is about me modeling nude for an art class one beautiful Saturday in Palm Springs, California. For those who have never had the pleasure of being in a life drawing class, it basically goes like this: a nude model will hold a pose for anywhere between 30 seconds and 40 minutes over the course of three hours, with five-minute breaks between poses, while students draw them. I can’t even remember where or how I found out this was a thing people could get paid for, but once I did, I became a little obsessed. I searched for an art class in which I—a short, fat woman—could be what I’ve always wanted to be: a model.
I searched for an art class in which I—a short, fat woman—could be what I’ve always wanted to be: a model.
After many calls and emails, I finally got a response from Maridy, a wonderfully sassy artist who taught a life drawing class throughout the snowbird season (or summer, as the rest of the world calls it). She thanked me for my interest and requested a full body photo so she could see what I looked like and book me from there. As you can imagine, I was afraid that once the picture was sent, I wouldn’t get the job. But when Mare (she goes by Mare) called me the next day, she was ecstatic that I was a fat person who wanted to model! She went on to explain that they almost never get fat models, and the artists really get bored drawing straight lines all the time. I was honestly kind of shocked at how easy and accepting this new endeavor was for me.
So, on to the good stuff: getting naked in front of a room full of strangers. A few weeks after my phone call with Mare, I was scheduled for her 8 a.m. class. When I arrived, she greeted me and gave me the rundown. She assured me that everyone in the class would be respectful—no picture-taking or nasty looks—and very sternly told me the artists don’t like it when the model moves too much. She then gave me a private place to get my clothes off and my muumuu on. (Some models use a robe; personally, I fancy the muumuu.)
When I first thought about doing this type of work, I kind of assumed that being naked in front of a room of strangers would be the hardest part. But, let me tell you, attempting to hold a single pose for more than five minutes is way harder. Mare was so excited about having a fat model that I really did feel at ease removing my muumuu and taking my first pose. After the first few poses, however, I couldn’t even focus on the fact that I was naked because I had to concentrate so fucking hard on holding my body still for the artists.
I saw my belly, my saggy breasts, the part of my butt that does that weird thing—all the parts of myself I considered flawed, thoughtfully drawn in a range of beautiful pastels.
Once the class was done, Mare had all the artists turn their works so she could critique them. This was also the moment that I saw myself for the first time through the artist’s eye (or 10 artists’ eyes, rather). In short, it felt fucking amazing! I saw my belly, my saggy breasts, the part of my butt that does that weird thing—all the parts of myself I considered flawed, thoughtfully drawn in a range of beautiful pastels.
Needless to say, that experience changed everything about the way I saw myself. My body isn’t flawed; my body has movement and the shapes it creates are appreciated and wanted. My body is art. I think that feeling had more to do with the fact that I finally felt free—free to look at my body in positives rather than negatives. I felt free because I went into a space that applauded and praised the fact that I’m fat. I was allowed and encouraged to take up space, then rewarded with art of my beautiful fat body and $60 cash. Definitely not a bad way to spend a Saturday morning.
Now, while I know for most people this is a fairly extreme way to start accepting one’s body, it’s definitely something I encourage everyone to try at least once. For those who are just too shy, try getting undressed, going to a full body mirror and really looking at your body, and remember that straight lines are boring anyway.
About the Author
Jamie Gonzalez is a model and self portrait artist living in Manhattan. She enjoys chicken sandwiches and helping people see their own beauty through her modeling/art.
Follow on IG: @Gingerkidasaurus