Take a Risk and See What You’re Made Of

The best job I ever had was the one where I took my clothes off for money.

Um, let me start at the beginning…

I was 19 years old and a sophomore in college. I had recently been dumped by a cheating boyfriend (my 2nd cheating boyfriend in less than a year).

I was feeling depressed. I had no close friends, no college major, no job, and no self-esteem.

One day, I was cutting through the art building to get across campus to my next class. I would always cut through buildings to avoid the snow and cold.

I felt so at peace in the art building. It smelled like paint and pencil shavings. On one of the bulletin boards next to the display cases was a plain white poster with the text “Models Wanted.”

I had heard that the art classes needed nude models, and I had brought it up half-jokingly with my ex (that cheating bastard). He said that he’d leave me if I ever took a job like that.

But he was gone now.

I looked at that poster for a long moment and felt a smile spread across my face…

The next week, I was standing in my white bathrobe in the clay studio with about a dozen students. In the center of the room was a rotating wooden platform with couch cushions and sheets haphazardly arranged on top.

I carefully took off my robe, placed it on a stool, and climbed up onto the platform.

It was exhilarating!

I’ve heard about people having nightmares where they’re naked in public. This was no nightmare—my job as a nude figure model was a dream come true.

I worked as a model for 2 years, and I learned so much during that time.

I’m stronger than I think.

Modeling wasn’t all ethereal poses and lounging on velvet pillows. It was physical work!

The classes were 3 hours long, and depending on the type of class (drawing, painting, sculpting), I would have to change my pose every 60 seconds or hold a single pose for hours.

After one 3-hour session of leaning in a half standing/half laying position on a couch, the students were packing up their supplies, but I couldn’t leave.

Somewhere around the 1-hour mark I had realized that a tingly sensation was crawling up my leg, and by the end of class, the entire left side of my body from my toes to my abs had fallen asleep.

That was some intense pain!

But the instructor and students were so grateful I hadn’t moved. If I could push through that pain, what else was I capable of?

My imperfections are beautiful.

Walking around at the end of class to view the finished drawings was the best part. The art students were focused on creating images as lifelike as possible, and they were lifelike: poochy stomach, cellulite down my thighs.

But it was me.

My imperfections were sketched so lovingly that I couldn’t feel embarrassed. I wasn’t perfect, but I was human and so happy to be in my body.

Being brave means there will be those who want to knock you down.

Putting yourself out there in any capacity means you’ll be open to attacks from small-minded, jealous people. I was at a house party when a drunken guy sauntered over to me and announce loudly, “I’ve seen your pussy!”

“Why yes, you have,” I said, then turned and walked away. No one could make me feel ashamed about my job.

That guy was a classless jerk who wanted to build himself up by putting me down. But there’s no way he’d have had the balls to pose naked in front of his peers.

Stillness brings me peace.

I used to wear glasses during this time (I’ve since had laser eye surgery), but I had to remove everything when I modeled, even my glasses. I was extremely nearsighted, and the art room was a fuzzy blur of colors to me.

Posing for hours and not being able to see gave me a lot of time to meditate. I had some really deep thoughts about my place in the universe

You could always tell when I had just finished a modeling session because I’d be smiling at everything with this faraway look in my eyes.

Nude modeling gave me self-confidence and a sense of assuredness. I’ve had some pretty good jobs in my life, but I’ve never had one that built me up the way that modeling did.

What risks have you taken in your life? What have you learned from being brave?

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  1. Alexandre L'Eveille on July 30, 2013 at 1:13 pm

    Hi Sage, I remember how hard the models worked in art school. I was on the other side of the easel. I admired their confidence to be able to do that in front of a roomful of strangers. The first few times, it was probably more embarrassing for the students than for the models. It really helped us so much to have someone willing to do that. We had a motley variety of body styles and it allows the person drawing to practice their skills.

    I love the liberation of doing exactly what that jerk turkey said he’d leave you for!

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  3. Dan Hawkins on March 1, 2012 at 2:41 pm

    So why did you only model for two years? I tried it when I was 18, and, like you, I loved it. I loved it so much that I never quit. I’m 45 now, and I’ve been modeling for 27 years. In fact, I started my own blog about art modeling. And for one day at least, back in 2001, I was the most famous nude model in America when I sat across from Regis Philbin and talked about my favorite part-time job.

    • Sage on March 1, 2012 at 2:56 pm

      Hi Dan! Thank you so much for visiting my blog. I stopped modeling after 2 years because I graduated, then I got a corporate job in publishing. That’s wonderful that you continued modeling. I miss it sometimes…especially when dealing with office politics.

      • Dan Hawkins on March 1, 2012 at 3:00 pm

        I’ve graduated, got a Master’s degree in library science, and now work in a corporate IT job. I model for quite a number of evening classes, at least two a week during the regular semesters. Summer and December/January get pretty slow though. I don’t really need the extra money; I model because I love doing it. And, at times, that extra money does come in handy.

        And in case you’re interested, here’s a clip to my 15 minutes of fame… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iUlFCRDuceg&feature=player_embedded#!

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  5. xvavaveganx on February 25, 2012 at 4:33 pm

    Wow girl, that is a heck of a lot of courage and strength! That is really admirable. I remember a friend of mine asked me to pose for him in college for his hw for figure drawing but I couldn’t do it. I guess that is one fear that I haven’t been able to overcome.

    I love when something as difficult as a breakup turns out to be an experience that is liberating and defining and empowering. Thank you so much for sharing this story! I don’t know if I’ve had my defining moment. I have a feeling it may come in the way of me finally competing in what I love and what I’ve been training for, whenever that may be.

    • Sage on February 25, 2012 at 5:57 pm

      I would totally come watch you fight if you enter some kind of ultimate fighting competition! Have you thought about what you’re training for, like do you have an end goal?

      • xvavaveganx on February 25, 2012 at 6:29 pm

        That would be so fun! I really love MMA but have zero grappling experience so I’d say that I’d probably start off with either straight up boxing or maybe kickboxing. My end goal is to compete but I know that I’m going to have to dedicate more time to my training to get in there. Right now is tough but I’m working on making some more time for it 🙂

  6. Anna@ThriftyBusiness on February 25, 2012 at 6:52 am

    Sage, what a fantastic post! I just thought about how I’d feel right before taking off the robe if it was me standing before the class (and wondering if they could sketch all my fears and insecurities). Im a bit terrified even as I type this! Way to conquer your fears – I bet this was a defining moment for you on some level.

    I hope you don’t feel too bummed about your boyfriend in retrospect. You’ve got Chris now! 🙂

    • Sage on February 25, 2012 at 11:50 am

      It WAS a defining moments for me. It made me feel like I can do anything.

      Nah, I’m totally over that guy. Chris is a major upgrade! 🙂

  7. Cara on February 24, 2012 at 6:52 pm

    I laughed when I read that you boyfriend (cheating jerk) would leave you if you posed for that art class! I can remember once when my sister called me up, crying so hard, the only think I could make out was: “at least now I can get my nose pierced” – fortunately, I knew that her boyfriend was vehemently opposed to facial piercings, and thus figured out they had broken up!
    I love when relationships ending make you realize who you really are and what you can accomplish.

    • Sage on February 24, 2012 at 9:14 pm

      Haha! That’s funny. Why do we lose ourselves in our relationships? I’m much better at being true to myself now that I’m older, but I can’t believe how easily I used to give up my goals because of someone else.

  8. Cara on February 24, 2012 at 3:13 pm

    What an amazing experience, you really are fearless! I modeled for a friend who’s getting into boudoir photography last fall. I was terrified until the clothes came off and then it was totally liberating/exhilirating and while I’m not perfect the pictures are gorgeous and absolutely me. I am so glad I did it!

    You asked for a tutorial on the felt flower hairclip I had on yesterday, and I did one a long time ago here: http://i-dabble.blogspot.com/2011/03/flower-power.html but I’d be happy to make you one if you just let me know what color(s) you love!

    • Sage on February 24, 2012 at 4:40 pm

      Well, I don’t know about “fearless” but I’m getting there. That’s awesome that you tried boudoir photography. It IS scary, but once you’re in the moment it’s incredible!

      Thank you so much for the link to the flower tutorial! I do scrapbooking, beading, and stamping, but my crafts have been gathering dust for a while. Your blog inspires me to start being creative again.

      Oh…and I’d love a pink flower clip for spring…just sayin’… 🙂

  9. Megan Gann on February 24, 2012 at 11:06 am

    Ohmygosh, I’ve always wanted to do that. The drawings are so beautiful, and congrats for going for it! Some people inquired in one of my early art classes, but they don’t take volunteers (at my “Volunteer state college”).

    I’m still working on my bravery and taking new risks.

    • Sage on February 24, 2012 at 4:31 pm

      It was so much fun, and it did make me feel beautiful. My coworkers couldn’t believe it–they think I’m so sweet and innocent! Well, I guess I am, but I still like to take risks.

  10. Molly on February 24, 2012 at 10:18 am

    Sounds like quite the exhilarating experience! Kudos to you for being so brave and for not letting that jerk at the party get to you. How crude of him!

    I’ve become much braver as I’ve gotten older. I stand up for myself now instead of letting people take advantage of me. I think my first serious relationship and divorce was a turning point for me. I learned that if that didn’t break me, not much will and that I’m stronger than I ever realized!

    • Sage on February 24, 2012 at 4:28 pm

      Good for you! I feel like I’m getting stronger and braver as I get older too.

  11. Shybiker on February 24, 2012 at 6:17 am

    What a fabulous experience and brilliant post. We learn so much when we face our fears. About ourselves and the world. Even surprises, like how physically demanding it can be to model.

    For me, it was a life-changing event to learn how to ride a motorcycle. The day I was scheduled to take my first lesson, I stood outside the door of the school and felt a tsunami of fear. I could die! But pushing through that opened a world of joy to me.

    • Sage on February 24, 2012 at 6:31 am

      That’s awesome that you faced your fear and learned how to ride a motorcycle! From your blog, it’s obvious that riding brings you a lot of joy. It’s amazing what we can experience if we just take a risk.