A Model Student

I was a pretty shy kid. I decided in high school that: 1. I wanted to be more outgoing and 2. I didn’t care if I looked foolish if it meant other people could learn from me. I was successful for the most part, but I continued pushing myself in college.

One fine fall day during my third year of school, I saw an ad placed by the art department. “Life Drawing Class Model needed. Nude, $10/hr. Draped, $8/hr. Contact So-and-So in the Art Building.” At last, I thought, my chance to be outgoing, humiliate myself, and have others learn from me. I applied for the job.

Life drawing classes, we know from television, are the ones where students get to draw nude models. Usually something wacky happens, such as the model or the student gets turned on, or the model is old and ugly. This is a class for zany antics, not actual learning.

Nothing strange happened while I modeled. One of my friends, several years older than I, had modeled and found one of the students to be a former high school classmate. A little awkward, but ultimately no big deal. When I tell people I was a nude model, they ask if I had to do anything special, like shave my pubic hair. Nope. The entire point of life drawing is to learn how to draw from life. Professors of life drawing want a variety of bodies and poses so their students learn about all bodies and poses.

I did occasionally use props or adopt specific poses to reinforce the day’s lesson. But often I was free to position myself as I wished, and if I tired, I could let the prof know and take a break. The classic “Aphrodite” pose was the hardest. Something about the position of the arms made the tension tough for long periods.

A nude statue of the goddess Aphrodite with one hand extended in front of her breasts, the other in front of her genitals.
“Aphrodite” was a difficult pose. Photo by R.beteille, via Wikimedia Commons

Modeling was an on-call job. The individual professor called the model and asked if one was available for X time. One had to commit to the entire class time, which was three hours. One always had the option to say no. And one had the option to be nude or draped (covered). I like making money, so I chose nude, and for a while, I made more money per hour with my clothes off than on.

A Roman sculpture of Melpomene, a woman in a draped outfit holding a severed head.
Looking good, Melpomene, but that’s only $8 an hour. Photo by George Shuklin, via Wikimedia Commons
A Roman sculpture of a nude woman.
Now that’s more like it! Photo by Castielli, via Wikimedia Commons

My first class was an afternoon 200-level drawing course that met on sunny afternoons. I was asked to bring a robe to change into. When I arrived to class, the professor told me I could change in a side storage room where the canvasses were kept. I was nearly naked when I noticed the large windows and the college students strolling by.

Once in my robe, I returned to the front of the room. The class assembled, and the professor said, “Well, let’s just do it.” So. I took off my robe. . .and. . .sat down on a couch. I worked for that professor a few times, and sitting on a comfy couch was pretty much the extent of the poses, and I thought, “This is an awesome way to make $30.”

That semester, I worked for one other professor, who taught a night class. She was interested in more advanced poses, which meant standing with my arms stretched out and my torso twisted. Throughout this class (and every other art class), the students would take breaks and view each other’s work. During one such break, the professor said she really liked having me as a model because I was curvy. Thanks?

During the spring term, I posed for one class many times. I built a rapport with the professor and students. I loved it, and I loved seeing the art they were able to create with my body. I even got a few stealth art lessons as I listened to the professor work with her students. This professor said she liked that I could hold the poses for a long time. I almost got off on the wrong foot with this class, though.

That January, it was very cold and icy, as it often is in the Midwest. I was going to model later in the day, so I had my robe with me. I left it behind in the student union. As I strode across the quad, I realized I didn’t have the bag. I turned on my heel and fell on my ass. Some kind passerby helped me up, and I slowly walked back to the union. My robe was not where I’d left it, nor was it at lost and found. I had to attend the art class without it.

Let’s just say my walking around naked during the break time freaked everyone out. The prof pulled me aside and told me I could bring a robe. Context is important for nudity. (I did get a new robe and all was well.)

I happened to be taking an art history class at the time. I derived great pleasure from walking through the halls of the art building before and after class, looking at all of the pictures of me.

That spring, I also performed in The Vagina Monologues. The production was held in a small shadowbox theater; with no back stage, the actors sat in the audience until it was their cue. Before the show started, a young woman (an actual audience member), sat next to me. “Hey, you look familiar. . . did you model for my class?” I said probably.

I enjoyed modeling immensely, but my boyfriend didn’t like it. So I stopped. And I’m embarrassed to say I just stopped accepting calls; I never contacted the department to say, “Take me off the list.” I was only 21 and still learning the ins and outs of how to behave professionally. A learning experience, but one that still gives me a twinge of guilt.

Some people join Toastmasters when they want to become less nervous in front of a crowd. Some try to picture the audience naked or in their underwear. Being naked yourself, though, now that’s the quickest way to learn how to be comfortable in front of a group of people.

By Natasha

History. Hindi cinema. Hugging cats.

3 replies on “A Model Student”

So cool and I’m jealous of your guts! I know where I went to college, students were not allowed to address the models outside of class. If they did address the models around campus, they were not allowed to bring up the modeling, just in case the model didn’t want others to know. Students who broke the rule were swiftly disciplined, which made the modeling more of a safe space.

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