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Getting naked with strangers

Laura Power
Northern News Services
Published Friday, November 9, 2007

YELLOWKNIFE - Have you ever had one of those cliché dreams in which you realize you're naked in a public place?

Well last Thursday wasn't a dream, but it was just as surreal.

NNSL Photo/Graphic

Laura Power: "I found myself naked and surrounded by strangers who were - quite literally - sizing me up." - Photo by Stephen Bedingfield

I found myself naked and surrounded by strangers who were - quite literally - sizing me up. It was one of Terry Pamplin's life drawing classes.

Instead of drawing, I decided I would contribute by posing in the nude for the artists. There were about 10 of them, sketching in a circle with me at its nucleus.

People said I was brave to do such a thing, but really, there was nothing scary about it. The class was professional and encouraging and did nothing to make me feel uncomfortable.

Admittedly, dropping my bright red, toaster-and-kettle-patterned fleece robe - sexy, I know - for the first time was a little strange. But once you're naked for five minutes, it's not like they're seeing something they haven't seen before.

Before I get into this, let's rewind for a moment to the summer of 1996.

I was a 13-year-old girl enrolled in modelling classes at an agency in St. John's. One day we weighed ourselves and took our measurements. I was far from plump at about 140 pounds and a B-cup bra (ah, memories), but the instructor started making excuses for my weight. Maybe I was starting my period soon. Maybe this. Maybe that. My mom picked me up and I cried my pretty little eyes out.

That day, I started feeling bad about my body.

Fast forward to last Thursday - 25 pounds and three cup sizes later. That day, I started feeling good about it.

I'd be a liar if I said I wasn't used to people staring at my chest, but it was completely different in this room. Everything that other people may have tried using their X-ray vision to see was now completely exposed, but I didn't feel uncomfortable.

People were looking at me as art and not as a sex object. Even though they could see every line and dimple, I felt more appreciated than a magazine cover model.

"There's no qualifications, so there's no particular body style that we're looking for," Pamplin said when I asked him what they're looking for in a model. "The greater variety, the more challenge it is for the person that's working."

Well thank God for that - I have a severe lack of straight lines and therefore am all about variety.

"In theory, you'll never get it down pat because each person presents a new set of dimensions," he said.

"People have studied it forever because it is such a challenging thing."

We started with 10 one-minute poses and then moved on to a few longer ones, the longest being for 30 minutes. In one of the short poses, I realized too late that I had put myself in a fairly unflattering pose. That was fun.

Luckily, for the 30-minute pose, I got myself in a comfortable, eyes-closed position. For that half hour, surrounded by silent sketchers, I felt like a goddess. That may seem silly, but it was as though I was a 163-pound supermodel, confident and upside-down.

So how did I do, really?

"I think you did fine," Pamplin said. "We enjoyed working with you, so we're in the mood to have you come back and continue."

Well, maybe I will.