Yes, nipples. Sounds trivial, but it’s something that you need to figure out before you start modelling (or even have a proper think about if you’re an established model). Are you cool with being topless or nude? With see-through clothes? Or are you firmly in the no camp? Because you will be asked, numerous times, whether you’re comfortable to go topless on shoots, and it’s always best to be prepared with your answer so you can answer confidently on the shoot.
Fashion spreads in editorial magazines often feature models topless and even naked, and some of the models are very young. It tends not to be in a conventionally ‘sexual’ light: i.e., these aren’t the poses you’d see in Zoo magazine, and heterosexual males aren’t the target audience for most fashion magazines. However, it’s still often a young girl, naked, and you need to take into consideration whether or not you feel comfortable with an image with much of your body being shown.
To illustrate my point, let’s look at Keira Knightley’s recent picture for Interview Magazine:
This shot isn’t all about her breasts, in the same way that, say, Jordan topless in The Sun would be. She’s standing straight, posing in quite an androgynous way, with a strong hair and makeup look. Plus her small breasts are famously not the usual ‘inflated fun bag’ standard of lad mags. This shot is typical of many ‘fashion’, edgy editorial, topless pictures, where the model’s nipples are more like an accessory than sexually provocative. So, in conclusion: bare breasted models in the fashion industry are seen more as a statement, part of an outfit, presented in an almost asexual way. It’s just generally not seen as a big deal.
That’s the case ‘for’. Personally, I have never gone fully naked for a job or test. Firstly, it was because my mum told me not to when I started, and she chaperoned me on most of my shoots. But I do feel that she was right: the Internet was starting to be a big thing, and now it permeates every part of our lives. Those pictures will always be somewhere; they’ll never disappear. You need to consider that because one day, you may choose a career in which shots of you naked may not be desirable, for example teaching. It’s also that I rarely found it necessary: I felt that I’m a fashion model, what importance do my breasts have?! I’m here to show off the clothes.
I also wasn’t keen on who might see the pictures: what if dirty old men looked at them? That’s just my opinion but remember, images are consumed widely and indiscriminately, and I just think that’s worth taking into account.
We have retouch, so I’m more comfortable with sheer clothes: I just ask the photographer to retouch out nipples, and make sure they know that I’m adamant about this. However, you simply don’t have 100% control over retouch and post-production, so only go with this attitude if you feel like it’s not the absolute end of the world if you can see the sheerness. Case in point: Coco Rocha, who has a no-nudity policy, threatened to sue Elle Brazil for airbrushing her to look naked on their cover naked – despite verbal and written contract.
Coco was unhappy with this cover, in which the bodysuit she wore on the shoot was retouched out, making her look naked.
After nearly 14 years of virtually no topless or naked modelling, I actually did do a shoot for a friend of mine, Madeleine Morlet. Again it was important to me that you can’t see anything anatomical, but I just suddenly felt comfortable and close enough to her to pose for these intimate and respectful shots. I only did it because there was no airbrush, I know her as a friend, and she was female, which made me feel comfortable – all in all, it just felt honest. The shoot produced pictures that I’m happy to have out there on the Internet, and for the rest of my life – and that’s all-important.
One of my shots from my shoot for madeleinemorlet.com , the pictures from which I love
So despite a fairly strict policy, I changed it a bit later in life. That’s not bad, because I went with my gut instinct. What I’m saying is: as you get older, you may navigate your own moral maze a little differently to when you were younger. It’s just important to remember that, even though we’re surrounded by images of nearly-naked or totally naked celebrities and women day-in-day-out, your body belongs only to you – not the agency, the photographer or your Instagram followers – and you need to decide what you’re comfortable doing.
Though your body is now your tool; part of what you are booked for, it belongs to you and you alone. If you do something you are unhappy with, if you feel pressured into producing an image you will always regret, that will feel disempowering and affect you very negatively. People on shoots will respect your wishes if you firmly say no to what you are not happy with: I know a Jewish model who demands her own changing room backstage at shows and on shoots because she doesn’t just refuse to be photographed naked, she refuses to be seen naked by anyone other than her husband.
Just work out very clearly your boundaries, and learn to stand up for what you do and do not feel comfortable with. Your wishes must be respected, and, most of all, you will benefit from what every model should have: self-respect.
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