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Nude Awakening

Elle / July 2012

Can stripping off improve your self-esteem?

It’s what nightmares are made of: I’m in a bright room, surrounded by strangers. They form a tight circle around me and begin to close in. Some whip out cameras, their flashes blinding, documenting my every limb and lump. I look down and realize—oh, no, not again!—I’ve somehow forgotten my clothes.

Cue the sweaty wakeup.

If, like me, you’re averse to nudity, stripping down is hard enough—let alone for an audience. But not so for my friend Margot, who has found confidence at an unlikely gig: She’s a nude-art model.

Once a week, for three hours at $20 an hour, Margot poses in a small room with a pair of photographers—one man, one woman—and prepares for her close-up. She admits that the first time felt awkward as hell, but within minutes the novelty was gone. “You quickly forget that they’re wearing clothes and you’re not.”

But what about—my greatest fear—the scrutiny? I can’t imagine I’d forget being naked. I suspect that my inner voice would be in overdrive reminding me about my scrawny wrists and flabby midsection.

I put this to Zain Meghji, host of How to Look Good Naked Canada. He points out that it’s likely my narcissism at play. “You never know what another person’s thinking,” he says. “In this case, they’re only concerned with getting your lines and shading right. And, really, when you have more curves, there’s more to work with and it’s a more interesting picture.”

The pictures are more than interesting—they’re sexy, says Margot. Her boyfriend is quite impressed, and she suggests that I try it for my own. “You just have to get over your fears and let go of your inhibitions,” she says.

I’m not quite there yet, I say with a laugh. But I think tonight’s disrobing will be much less stressful. No cameras? Too easy.