Getting Naked For Money

I was in school full-time and needed a lucrative side job that was not too demanding of my time. So when I came across an ad for a job that paid S$30 an hour, I jumped at it.

All I had to do was to stand there and be totally naked.

But get your head out of the gutter–the job was posing nude for an established art society in Singapore. They needed models for their weekly life drawing sessions.

Auditioning to be a nude model

To be a nude model isn’t just showing up and posing; it’s common to go through an interview and an audition before they would consider accepting you into their rotation of models.

My interviewers showed me into a small room to disrobe and I considered calling the whole thing off and just going home. My heart was in my mouth, and I felt like throwing up.

But I was too far into the rabbit hole at this stage.

When I stepped into the audition room, butt-naked, the interviewers asked me if I had done art modelling before. I shook my head.

They told me I could start with a few short poses, so I tried to recreate something I saw on the internet–the position Venus took in Botticelli’s painting.


With one hand on my chest and the other resting on my mons pubis, I could feel my heart palpitating under my palm as my weight shifted to rest on my left leg.

The audition lasted half an hour before they told me I was hired, which surprised me. I had an itch in my thigh that I really needed to scratch, and I momentarily broke the pose to run my fingernails across my skin.


Working as a nude model

For three months, I would go to an art studio on Saturdays and pose naked for a group of artists for three hours at a time.

My job entailed coming up with some 5-minute poses, 10-minute poses, then staying in two different poses for an hour each. I’d get a short 10-minute break every hour.

The first few times I went to work, I was terribly nervous. I had never been naked in front of more than one person at once, and here I was, sitting on a piece of fabric draped over a chair, twenty or so pairs of eyes directed at my body.

I became painfully aware of the stubble in my armpits, each crease on my butthole, and the bulge of my round tummy.

But not once did anybody mention any of the flaws I thought I had.

My time spent in the studio began to feel meditative and I began looking forward to each modelling session. The pensive silence in the studio punctuated by the scratching of pencils on paper allowed me to get comfortable with being alone with my thoughts.

I found myself being hyper-aware of my body and how I occupied the space. It made me cognizant of how being a woman often meant my body was seen as a sex object, and subject to critical examination, whether I was fully clothed or not.


Learning how to be comfortable in my own skin

I asked one of the artists what his favourite body type to draw was. He confided in me that the skin’s folds and creases were interesting, and often a good challenge to replicate on paper. Bodies that were smooth and flawless weren’t as compelling.

After we spoke, I stopped sucking in my tummy.

I became more aware that the artists weren’t thinking about the way my breasts hung uneven, or that my legs weren’t completely hairless. They were completely focused on their drawings, and their gazes were dispassionate and impersonal.

Through their eyes, I was no longer a naked woman, but the subject of their art. I began reclaiming the agency that I, as a woman, was often denied.

Outside of the studio, it isn’t uncommon for women to be reduced to a pair of gams or “sexy lips”. Frequently, the way we look is deemed the most important thing about us.

And it was easy to slip into the mindset that I always had to work towards this gold standard of beauty and etiquette. Smile, but don’t laugh too loud. Play hard to get, or they’ll think you’re easy. Don’t sit with your legs open; it makes people think about having sex with you.

But in the studio, my body was no longer judged by its sexual appeal or physical appearance–it was judged by its functionality. I was posing as a person, not a mannequin or a doll, and most definitely not as a sexual object.

This way, I slowly learnt to become whole again.

Stigma Against Nude Modelling

Unfortunately, there is still a strong stigma against nude modelling, even though it’s a perfectly legitimate job that doesn’t involve anything sleazy. Being a nude model showed me that nudity isn’t something inherently shameful. If anything, being in the nude empowered me.

I would have kept working as a nude model, but staying still for extended periods of time ended up giving me chronic back pain, and I left the job after three months.

What would last more than the three months, though, was learning to love my body—small boobs and all.

Cover image: Source