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I posed nude for art and it gave me a whole new perspective

I’m walking around my friend’s photography studio in nothing but my skin, discussing the value of 12-year over 18-year Scotch. I set down my snifter after taking a nice, smoky sip and lay beneath the flashbulbs, ready for my nude close-up that will hopefully appear in a Phoenix gallery the following summer.

Now I’m in an Arizona swimming pool the temperature of a Yellowstone hot spring. My wardrobe is a piece of red see-through fabric. The photographer tells me to take a breath and float beneath the surface, stretched out, sun scalding my nipples — all for National Geographic. I submerge. In the silence of the water, I’m David Byrne wondering, “How did I get here?” Just another day at the office.

This, friends, was not always the case. Once upon a time, I wouldn’t let my mother see me naked climbing out of the shower. My mother. She cleaned my diapers, yet seeing my adult boobs was too much?

Unlike many of my cohorts, I kept my clothes on in college. I wasn’t sexually active. Despite how many men hit on me in bars and how many times I heard I was smoking hot, I didn’t believe it. I thought I was The Chubby One — and nobody wants to see The Chubby One naked.

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Except I wasn’t actually chubby, and people did actually want to see me naked. After college, one of my best girlfriends asked if I would do a boudoir shoot for her to help build up her portfolio. I agreed, as long as she supplied me with beer and cigarettes for the duration. It was not an entirely nude shoot. I had on underwear and even a man’s shirt at one point. Still, it was sexual in nature — or, at least, I felt sexy.

Then I moved to Phoenix, and I guess I gave off some vibe because a female friend soon asked if I’d be willing to take some naked pictures for a presentation she was doing about the power of nudity. I, shockingly, agreed.

Maybe my confidence was at an all-time high because I was married to someone wonderful. Maybe it helped that I didn’t feel like The Chubby Girl anymore. Or maybe (and more likely) I’d come to realize being naked was fun.

I did that first nude photo shoot, and my friend’s presentation was seen by hundreds of people — and I didn’t even blink. Next, I got into bodyscaping, where photographers took abstract photos of my naked form. I moved away from Arizona before I got to have my body painted for a shoot, and yes, I’m still disappointed about it.

Over the course of my nude modeling experiences, I’ve learned that women come in all shapes and sizes (thank you, Captain Obvious), but that the shape and size doesn’t matter one whit. Tall, short, curvy, slim — when reclining beneath those flashbulbs with the entire focus of the room on you, there is no body shaming. There are no judgments. As a nude model, you are there, and you are the center of attention. You are the work of art, and you are worshiped.

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I now tell every woman I know to do a nude photo shoot at least once, just to experience that feeling of artistic adoration. There is power in nudity, yes, but not the kind of power you see in strip joints. There is power in revealing yourself and not being afraid. There is power in that level of confidence, and once you’ve felt the P-O-W-E-R, you’ll understand.

Your nudes don’t have to hang in galleries or be entered into international competitions. You don’t even have to share your nudes with your significant other — although they’ll thank you for it. (And yes, nude modeling does make you more comfortable in the bedroom.) You can do a nude shoot just for you, to show yourself you can do it and that you are worthy of admiration because you are. It’s not sexual. It’s not trashy. It’s empowering.

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