I dabbled a little in professional modelling when I was younger, mainly specialising in the gothic and alternative, but also extending to artistic nudes and the odd glamour shoot to pay the bills. This started out for me as a means of self-expression, when I was having severe mental health issues and struggling to express myself in my usual ways, such as writing and blogging. I loved modelling. I had a good friend who was a professional photographer, and he would indulge whatever wacky project I set my mind on conquering. With modelling, I could go from ordinary little goth girl to creepy ragdoll or sexbomb in a matter of hours. Modelling was my creative playground, and even when I found myself having to take an increased amount of glamour jobs to earn cash, I still relished the opportunity to begin with my own basic creative concept and watch it develop into something miraculous with the hard work of professional photographers, make-up artists and clever styling.
Although I enjoyed the creative freedom of expression and fun-filled photo shoots that my brief modelling career allowed me, there were aspects of it that put me off continuing to do it professionally. It was a physically demanding role which often left me worn out for days afterwards. Inventing new creative concepts, as well as booking photographers, MUAs and hair stylists was an extremely time-consuming task, as was building my network of fans online. Long hours reaped little rewards as I remained a relative unknown and was still often expected to work for free or for very little financial gain. In the beginning, I had found the benefits – self-expression, fun, variety, had out-weighed the limitations, but as I got busier with study and day jobs, I found I had much less time and energy to dedicate to modelling. After a series of cruel attacks on my appearance from trolls online (one of whom actually turned out to be a friend of friends), I decided to hang up the proverbial lingerie and concentrate more on my studies and day job. To this date I have no regrets about making this decision. I firmly believe that when something you began doing for fun, stops being fun, it’s time to stop. I still occasionally participate as a model in life drawing classes and direct my creative mindset elsewhere.
When naked and intimate photographs of more than 100 famous women including Jennifer Lawrence, Lea Michele and Kirsten Dunst were leaked online, I was, like many people around the world, horrified. When I had been modelling for nudes, I always knew there was a risk that they would fall into the wrong hands. This was a risk I took willingly in the name of doing something I loved. When some coworkers at my day job found my nude photographs online, and used them as leverage to bitch about me behind my back, and I found myself increasingly isolated in the workplace, I had already made a conscious decision to stop modelling professionally. I used people’s responses to me in the workplace as a tool to gauge whether or not their friendship was worthwhile pursuing, knowing that I still had plenty of friends outside of work who were accepting of my lifestyle choices. Since then, I have moved on to a job where my personal life has never been brought into question, or treated negatively.
It was very easy for me to move on from modelling, as the little local success I had enjoyed was quickly forgotten, and new young alternative models came on the scene to take my place in the Glasgow modelling scene. Comparing my negative experiences to the global scale on which the likes of Jennifer Lawrence are currently being scrutinised for their bodies, the trouble I had with trolls and my workplace interactions seems insignificant. There is an important line to be drawn, however, between nude photographs of women made for public viewing, such as the work I did, and nudes shot in private of women such as Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who tweeted, ‘To those of you looking at photos I took with my husband years ago in the privacy of our home, hope you feel great about yourselves.’
I made a conscious choice to release nude photographs of myself into the public domain; these women made no such choice. The nature of the photos released is comparable to that nude selfie you snapped in the mirror because you looked FINE that day; private message threads shared with your husband before you were even married; that intimate first date with someone new. At some point along the way, our culture has decided that the professional is personal and vice versa. We think that because we are offered access to the professional work of actresses like Jennifer Lawrence, that their private lives, and their bodies are also for public consumption. While the attacks I received for my modelling work were cruel and uninvited, this was a risk I had to prepare myself for in producing work for public consumption. Any piece of professional art is open to critique, and nobody will ever please everyone, but our bodies, and the intimate moments we share with our partners, are sacred, and should not be available for viewing without our consent.
Our society has become so accustomed to viewing and scrutinising female bodies, that it has now been normalised. Viewing the nude bodies of female celebrities may not be viewed as an invasion of privacy because we scrutinise every other area of their lives, from the food they eat to the men they date. We see them dressed lavishly in lingerie for magazine campaigns and justify scrutinising their bodies because they are available for us to view, but when private photographs are leaked, we must recognise this for what it is – an invasion of privacy, and an extension of the flawed concept that women’s bodies are public property. These women didn’t have a choice in making these photographs for your consumption, but you have a choice as to whether to view them and become implicated in this mass sexual assault. Do the right thing and don’t google.