We do so much fat hating in our culture, don’t we?
Like seeing a fat person at McDonald’s and thinking, “well you wouldn’t choose a salad bar, would you?” or sitting beside a fat person on an airplane when they’re taking up the armrest. I think on a long flight even a Buddhist thinks, “that fat, arm-resting fucker.”
I used to be 40 kilograms heavier. I was Rubenesque.
I was also, at the time, a life model: a job where you take your clothes off for people to paint pictures of you. I decided to give it a try when my skinny life model friend bemoaned their use of her straight-lined body as their ‘masculine’ model. They asked if she knew any curvy women willing to pose. Curves, I thought? I have 47 of those. I think they mean me.
Watch this TEDx talk on what it’s like being a plus-size model. (Post continues after video.)
I preened for my first session, trying to make myself hairless, scar-less, spotless. I arrived expecting that ‘Titanic’ scene. Chaise lounge, heart of the ocean. “Draw me like one of your French girls”. I found myself in a community hall. Summer. No air-con. A few milk crates. One bright spot was the sponge cake and cups laid out for morning tea. The artists watched me impatiently.
I disrobed and stood naked in a room of strangers for the first time since my birth. And, like that day, my nakedness now had no one batting an eyelid. They weren’t giggling at the exposure of my bum. They were studying it with appreciation.
I balanced myself on the crates. The realisation that I had to hold this pose for three hours drove out every thought about being starkers. Two hours in, we broke for morning tea. I was last to the sponge because my paralysed legs had to be taught how to walk again. Looking around miserably for cake scraps, I was taken aback by comments like “thank you for coming”, “your body is marvelous”, “we never get to draw voluptuous women”. The artists were animated. They wanted me to see their paintings. They could barely fit me on their canvases. I saw myself glorified. A thing of beauty. By the end, I had five more bookings for future jobs. I had found my niche.