When news happens, text SDE and your photos or videos to 80360. Or contact us by email and phone.
Taking your clothes off for a living
EMMA Houghton always hated her body and had no confidence.
That was until she pledged to say “yes” to new experiences, which led to her stripping for strangers.
But since she has posed naked for groups of artists across Hampshire, she has learned to love her curves and enjoys being the quintessential voluptuous muse.
The 24-year-old, said: “I used to feel ashamed and fat but since I’ve started life modelling, I’ve learned to love my body.
“The artists say they want people with fat, with boobs and bums, womanly shapes.
They tell me not to lose anymore weight.
“Yes I’ve got back fat and stretch marks but I know I’m never going to be a size six and I embrace my curves. Curvy women are beautiful.”
“To be honest I was nervous but you forget straight away you’re naked.
To be a life model you can’t care.
I find it sad so many young women have body hang-ups.”
Emma said there is a difference between life modelling and getting naked for a lads’ mag.
She said: “It’s not exploitative at all, it’s not leering or sexual. It’s appreciating the body for its beauty.”
Emma who is statuesque at 5ft 11in and lost two stones since she finished her fashion and textiles degree at university, shrinking from 16st 7lbs to a curvaceous 14st 7lbs, keeps fit by cycling and exercise classes and she admires the drawings.
She said: “I love seeing the art.
“Some people draw you larger, some draw you thinner. I don’t mind, it is all about how they see you through their eyes.”
WHEN 55-year-old Gilly Dean tells her friends she strips off for strangers, the reaction is normally one of disbelief.
“I would never do that”, they splutter.
But Gilly says life modelling has helped save her life – and she enjoys the extra money it provides.
A former high-flying IT business analyst for a bank, Gilly enjoyed an affluent life with her husband and people viewed them as a dream couple. But the breakdown of her marraige led to Gilly
suffering such terrible mental anguish, she was admitted to Marchwood Priory Hospital.
As she recovered, she realised there was more to life than making money.
“I suddenly had a different perspective on life. I wanted to just do things for the fun of doing them.
And life modelling became something I wanted to challenge myself to do like a dare.
“My life couldn’t get any darker, I was literally shattered and felt like s uch a victim so maybe the
modelling is my way of reclaiming myself back. It’s something he hasn’t ruined. It’s empowering.”
The art lover, who works as a firstaider, medical secretary and volunteers, said despite being cold
and aching from the poses, she loves the spiritual side of life modelling and it allows her to meditate.
And, although Gilly hates photos of herself, she loves enabling artists to be creative.
“I’m 55, I’m sure models are mostly 20 years younger, but a body is something to be proud of.
“I can’t imagine having had the confidence to do this ten years ago. I got to 50 and actually there’s something quite liberating about it because you think you can do anything now.
“I’m lucky my body’s in good shape, I don’t know how long that will last, but I find there’s something beautiful and graceful about an older, even elderly body.
“It’s like a tree in the winter, it has its own beauty. We are all on the same passage of life and it needs to be honoured and treasured.”
HIS life once revolved around money, a good job and fitting
in with the norm.
Now Paul Stillwell makes a living from getting naked full time.
He earns just about enough to cover his bills but he says his life couldn’t be better because for the
first time ever, he is happy.
When the 41-year-old isn’t life modelling, he works as a naked butler and hosts life-drawing parties for women.
“You must be really confident,” I blush as he shows me a full frontal.
But it’s life modelling that has turned his life around, he said.
“When I was a kid, I was painfully shy. Even when we went to the beach I wouldn’t take my clothes off, but life modelling has helped me in so many ways.
“There’s more to it than sitting still and getting paid.”
Paul said his well-paid job as a graphic designer led to him having a nervous breakdown.
He was suicidal for 18 months, leading to months of therapy.
He said: “The breakdown was so severe I was lucky to get through it alive but it taught me the key to life, to follow your happiness.”
Paul began painting celebrities and met them to autograph the art, leading to him rubbing shoulders
with Johnny Depp and Al Pacino.
But that didn’t make any money, so Paul found himself scouring the internet to find a source of income urgently.
Now his jobs can include anything from an art class to stripping off in subzero temperatures for a
photoshoot on the beach at Durdle Door.
He said: “If anyone had told me I’d have been an artist I’d have laughed at them, then if they said
you’d make a living out of getting naked in front of strangers I’d have said 'yeah right, come on'.
“I’m far happier than I’ve ever been.
“People always ask me if I ever become aroused when modelling but it isn’t an issue. Life modelling
has made me overcome my shyness and I feel so full of life.”
Working life model Rachel McCarthy, who runs the Register of Artists’ Models, answers key questions.
How much do models earn? The RAM recommended rate is £12.50 per hour. Some artists pay more, some less. One of RAM’s chief purposes is improving models’ pay, conditions and rights.
Who can be a life model? Anyone, as long as they can sit still and are reliable, punctual and pleasant.
Do you have to be a certain age or size? No. There is a shortage of larger ladies, due to society’s current idealisation of stick-thin women. It’s a shame – artists love drawing larger models.
How do you become a life model? If you join RAM, you can get work. You literally learn on the job. I did!