tl;dr: I’m nonbinary

My relationship with my body is a complicated one. This is not unusual. I’d say it’s fairly typical for AFAB, femme, and queer people living in the US, but at this point I think it’s just fairly typical for humans.

Forgive me, however, if I claim that mine might be slightly more complicated than the norm.

Born missing a mix of bone, muscle, and tissue in my right torso, I grew up in and out of Shriners Hospital for Children in LA. The adults in my life took great care to explain that there was nothing wrong with me but that I wouldn’t grow like others my age. Because I have no major pectoral muscle, my right breast would never develop.

I was told that surgery was an option if I wanted it and that it would be my choice. From a very early age I was adamant that I didn’t want it. I had no desire to change my body. When puberty hit and bullying took its toll I decided otherwise. I had surgery within the year, a preliminary operation to implant a tissue expander to which saline was added every six weeks. I was fourteen.

By the time I was sixteen, I’d had three surgeries. One to place the tissue expander, another to replace it, and the third to place an implant and reduce the size of my left breast to match.

Why was I never offered therapy when I expressed a sudden desire to change my body in a way I had adamantly rejected for the decade prior? Why are kids who do know without a doubt that their bodies are wrong for them refused this same easy path to surgery that I benefited from? Why was it considered reasonable to put a preteen suffering from bullying through three brutal surgeries without any sort of emotional or psychological support, and allow me to think that somehow the surgeries would stop the bullying?

Make no mistake: while it took me years to recognize the truth and call them this, the three surgeries I had between the ages of 14 to 16 were gender conforming surgeries. The only thing that made it perhaps too easy for me, versus painfully difficult for others to receive this same care, is that mine matched my assigned gender at birth.

It took me more than a decade to realize they didn’t match my actual gender.

During the summer of 2019, I started to recognize that the way I felt about my body was perhaps not a cis way of feeling about one’s body. The word dysphoria wove its way into my mind and stuck there insistently, and I started to research binders.

I ultimately decided that they weren’t a feasible option for me, but the fact that binders seemed a viable option to handle the way I felt about my breasts stuck with me. The rage starting to surface around being so easily allowed a surgery I’d previously insisted I did not want - rather than being offered loving support in deciding whether it was likely to solve the issues I wanted it to - took on a new light.

(I was also wrong - my new binder arrived a few weeks after I wrote this, and I love it.)

In November 2019, I noticed a few things that led me to think I wasn’t alone in questioning my gender. My spouse had made a few comments that made me wonder, so I worked up the nerve to ask. She came out as trans, and I shared that I had been questioning as well. We each asked the other to try different pronouns for us - she loved them, I didn’t. And over the next days and weeks, as I saw her experience finally living her truth, I questioned my experiences.

If that was what being trans was like, my experience didn’t stack up. I decided I must be cis and I buried it all.

When I started having intense bottom dysphoria in the summer of 2021, I went all out with self doubt and flagellation. Many angry internal rants against Freud ensued. (Seriously, fuck that guy.) I convinced myself that, if that was the only “symptom” I had, no one would ever believe that I wasn’t just a perverted cis woman with a fetish. I didn’t believe I wasn’t just a perverted cis woman with a fetish. 

About this same time my implant started to hurt, and I ended up referred to a specialist two hours away who told me it had likely sprung a leak and needed to be replaced.

I’d known that this was coming - implants are supposed to be replaced after a decade. But I wasn’t prepared for the intensity of my reaction to this news. All of a sudden I had to quickly make a decision that I’d hoped to put off for at least another few years.

I didn’t want to have another surgery, ever. That wasn’t an option.

My second best option would be to ensure I never needed another: remove the implant without replacing it. I wanted to choose that so badly, but I wasn’t sure yet if I could support myself post-pandemic without my modeling career. I didn’t have time to think through whether or not I could brand that change in a way that would allow me to still survive off my modeling income. Plus, when I mentioned the possibility of my choosing to only have one breast to my wife, she burst into tears. (An emotional reaction she still feels guilty for. I promise you, she’s immensely supportive.)

A leaking implant was a direct threat to my health, and I didn’t have time to weigh my options as methodologically or meticulously as I normally would have. Finals were approaching, stress was rising, and I had to make a decision - now. Within two days I had a surgery scheduled for only a month and a half away. 

My wife and girlfriend accompanied me to the city where my specialist was based, brought me to the OR, waited nervously in a hotel room while I had surgery. They helped care for me afterwards, when the hospital insisted on discharging me same day despite the fact that I am allergic to every oral pain med imaginable and could only take Tylenol for my post-op pain.

Every aspect of my experience reinforced the fact that I never wanted another surgery in my life, while reminding me that I had chosen to replace my implant instead of remove it and thus would absolutely have to have another. From the incredible pain of recovering from surgery on nothing but Tylenol, to the care I received bordering on malpractice, the months I spent recovering from that operation sent my dysphoria into overdrive, while simultaneously triggering an alarmingly comprehensive history of medical trauma.

There is nothing quite so defeating as realizing too late that you allowed a doctor to place something in your body that you didn’t want, didn’t need, and that is actively harming you.

I was badly concussed a few months later, and it was all just too much. I kept my simmering resentment around all my many surgeries, my conviction that I should have been offered access to professional help with my decision making, and I buried everything else. All my complicated feelings around gender and what it means to me, all my awareness of my bottom dysphoria - it all got swept under the counter to be dealt with at another time.

Obviously, it can’t be quite that simple. Dysphoria isn’t just going to go away because I ask it nicely.

I remember one not-mortifying-at-all conversation with my girlfriend in which I haltingly explained that I had intense bottom dysphoria, but I didn’t want to change my pronouns, so I was definitely cis. Both my girlfriend and my wife are trans women, and I can only bless them for having the patience of saints with me throughout this process. It must have been agonizing.

Then, shortly after getting what I affectionately referred to the big queer haircut of my dreams, after a week spent alone dog sitting for family throughout which all of my gender feels reemerged in a way I was desperately trying to push back down, days before my 30th birthday, my girlfriend very lovingly reflected the way I had been talking about my breasts and asked if I thought I might be more comfortable with a binder. And the dam broke.

Everything I knew was there and had been trying to just shove down for a few more months, a few more years, until some time when my life felt more settled and less chaotic and terrifying and more able to handle this kind of revelation - it all just came flooding up.

I cried. A lot.

I raged for weeks about how frustrated I was that nothing I had ever seen depicted in the range of nonbinary and trans folx reflected my experiences.

I insisted over and over again that if I didn’t want to change my pronouns, still wanted to present as femme, still wanted to call myself a woman, I had to be cis.

Until I realized that cis people don’t spend so much time trying to convince themselves they’re cis. They just know.

I tried on the label nonbinary - tentatively, shyly, approaching it like a horse that might bolt if I came on too strong. And it fit.

Then I spent months searching for a specific term for myself that could help me feel at home. I’m so tired of always being on the edges and in between in every community, and I wanted to feel included.

I found some. Demigirl, girlflux, autix, neurogender, genderfae…. There were a lot of labels that hit close to my experience, but not quite right. As a libra, I’m particularly fond of librafeminine, but I don’t know that agender is my primary experience. Sometimes I feel agender, but a lot of the time I feel like I have too much gender, in an infuriatingly undefinable flavor.

Ultimately, I decided that I’d found labels close enough to feel like I fit, and varied enough to realize that there’s room for me here even if I can’t find something that perfectly encapsulates my experience. I decided to stick with calling myself a nonbinary woman and just move on from there.

Wardrobe was next, and I quickly proved true to stereotype and embraced the pirate aesthetic of my dreams. Still fairly femme, flirty, dramatic af, and just masc enough to hit the spot. If it can be described as pirate, fae, or dapper, I love it.

Reassessing my relationship with clothing has definitely been my favorite part of this process, and it helped me realize that a lot of what I’ve worn for photoshoots (outside of lingerie and glamour stuff) has been much more me than much of my day to day clothing. Oops.

As soon as my egg broke for good last September I knew that I wanted to start testosterone. It took me months to even make the appointment, but in March 2023 I got the prescription, and in late April I started microdosing T. As I write this, that was a little over a week ago. While most of the effects will take months, I’ve felt more consistently alive, happy, and confident this week than I can recall ever feeling before.

I’m so excited to see how this turns out, but I’m also terrified. In so many ways, I like how I look. I love my modeling career, even if I’m semi-retired. I will always make art with my body, but I do worry about how this community will accept my particular brand of gender fuckery.

In this entire journey, my concerns about my modeling have been most revealing of my internal fears, assumptions, and biases involved with being nonbinary and what that’s supposed to look like. I’m working to relearn all this, but I feel very vulnerable. And I know that when I come out publicly, as Eleanor, I won’t only experience support.

Some of my fears are unfounded, rooted in anxiety and a long history of imposter syndrome. It’s unlikely people will think I’m doing this for attention.

Other fears are more realistic, even if they’re based in mistaken assumptions about what nonbinary must look like - I’m a very curvy femme, I like being a very curvy femme, and I want to remain a very curvy femme. And all the models in our community who I’m aware of having come out as nonbinary or trans or started HRT have been significantly less curvy than myself. Perhaps, then, I’m just the wrong body type and should suck it up and play cis until I retire?

I reject that premise. Curvy people, large people, people of every body type are 3000% allowed to be nonbinary and trans. Just because the models I know who transitioned were a different body type than me doesn’t mean that I can’t come out publicly or be accepted as nonbinary. But the fear is still there.

I’m also having to reckon with the way this shifts my narrative around my body hair. For years I have maintained that women can be hairy too, that body hair on women is beautiful and attractive and elegant. I still believe this, I still insist on this, I will still die on this hill. And as I’ve realized that for me, my body hair was a first step to gender nonconformity that helped alleviate dysphoria and give me gender euphoria before I ever knew those terms, I have had to reckon with the fact that some of you will use my coming out to claim that defying gender norms is a choice that only trans and nonbinary people would make.

This is not true. My being queer and poly does not mean that everyone queer is poly. My being an SA survivor and a nude model and content creator does not mean that every SA survivor enters sex work or sex-work adjacent industries. And my being a nonbinary woman and enjoying fully grown body hair does not mean that any AFAB person with body hair is automatically trans or nonbinary. My discovering that I am not cis does not invalidate the fact that body hair on cis women is gorgeous, and that choosing to grow it is a perfectly valid choice. It merely means that I don’t get to be the example of that premise that I once thought I was.

This consideration of how my nonbinary identity intersects with both my body hair and my modeling leads us to the elephant in the room, the thing that made me legitimately consider staying in the closet for a while - my fanbase and what this means for me as a content creator. 

The short answer is, some people will be mad, and I’ve decided I’m ok with any loss of income that creates. The longer answer involves the potential loss of relationships I truly appreciate, as well as the realities of additional abuse and fetishization from internet strangers. Fun stuff.

Ultimately, however, I made a commitment some years ago to creating content that reflects who I actually am, and this is a part of me. It’s already there in my photos, if you look - I haven’t been hiding it, I just haven’t been focusing on it either.

I’m excited to create art that explores these parts of myself I am newly discovering, that play with gender and really raise the question - is it possible to be attracted to Eleanor and not be at least a little gay?

Jk, unless…

So what’s in store for me, for my art, my look, photographers hoping to hire me and fans who want to keep following me and everybody hoping I don’t go too overboard in this process because it’s such a shame, she was such a pretty girl? I guess we’ll find out together.

I truly don’t know where this will take me. There are places I don’t currently want to go, but I’ve said never about enough things to know not to do that anymore.

Here’s what I do know right now: I want to keep my curves, and add muscle definition. I want bottom growth. I don’t want acne but will almost certainly get it anyway. I am both terrified that my voice will change and excited to hear what it sounds like if it does. I have no idea how I’ll feel about facial hair, and don’t know if I’ll let that happen or try to go off and on testosterone at a dosage and frequency that prevents it.

I do know that someday, when I’m ready to face another surgery, I want my implant out. I may get my left breast reduced further, I may not. But either way I plan to be asymmetrical. I may very well get a chest tattoo to commemorate that. I’ll almost certainly get a larger side/undercut and experiment with new hair colors.

By the time this is over, I will have completely obliterated my “natural” brand. But honestly, what does that mean anyway? It’s been my bread and butter for years, but basically it’s meant that I don’t dye my hair, don’t get tattoos, grow out my body hair, and deal with people ignoring my public discussions about my implant to pretend that my breasts are completely natural. (Countless photographers have told me to my face during shoots that they appreciate my natural breasts because they can always tell “fakes”.)

The fact of the matter is, branding myself as natural implies that people who choose other ways of loving and adorning their bodies are somehow fake, phony, unnatural. Fuck that.

I’m choosing to be as me as I possibly can, and nothing is more natural than that. Even if the end result looks very different from anything people consider natural. Having one breast may look pretty unnatural, but it’s how I would look if I’d never had surgery. This whole “normal” two breast thing is actually unnatural on my body.

I wonder all the time what my life would have been like if I’d been offered support before surgery. Maybe I still would have picked the surgery. Most likely I wouldn’t have.

I can’t regret how it played out, because had I not had the initial three surgeries I almost certainly wouldn’t have had the rewarding and fulfilling career I’ve enjoyed as a nude model.

That doesn’t mean I don’t wish for a world where I was offered options instead of rushed into a surgery that matched my gender expression to my gender assigned at birth the moment I indicated an interest in it. Especially while minors with way more certainty than I ever had are refused the same care because they’re trans. I mourn for myself even as I mourn for the trans children and teenagers who want what I was mistakenly given.

I mourn, and I rage, and I will almost certainly write more about the discrepancies in care offered to a minor mistakenly assumed to be cis versus a minor solidly and assuredly telling the world they are trans.

I have joined yet another community whose rights are being stripped away, and it’s scary to realize that beyond all my fears of how this will play out for my modeling career, my very right to exist is now a matter of public debate.

This is why I’ve chosen to share this part of myself with you. I could have stayed quiet. I could have just announced I was nonbinary in an Instagram post, changed my pronouns to she/they in my bio. I could have said nothing and let you all wonder what the fuck was going on with my body over the next six months to a year.

And honestly, I don’t judge any model who chooses those routes. The internet is a harsh and judgmental place, especially to AFAB folx who bare their skin for art and/or money. And closets are safe and warm and usually full of clothes that make us happy.

But I’ve always tried to choose radical transparency, radical vulnerability, when sharing my experiences as a model. That doesn’t mean I share everything, by any means. But it does mean that I make an effort to show up authentically, even if I lose fans or potential bookings.

So this is me. This is a huge part of my last few years, the part I consider most vital and most important to share with you. Maybe you’re excited for me, maybe you’re just confused and wish us young folks would stop talking about gender so much.

I understand if it’s challenging. I understand I used a lot of language here without fully explaining my definitions. I understand if you decide to unfollow or unsubscribe.

To be clear, I’m not here to educate y’all about queerness or being nonbinary, and I don’t want a bunch of questions unrelated to bookings and commissions in my inbox. But I hope that, if you don’t already understand what I’ve shared in this post, you’ll consider trying to learn about it. Even if you do unfollow and unsubscribe.

And for those of you excited for me and eager to see how this all turns out - let’s make some art!

Happy Pride, y’all.

About the Author

Eleanor is an accomplished traveling nude model and has been pursuing her art since 2010 and posing nude since 2011. Her work has been published in a variety of magazines, books, and galleries, including a special event at the Louvre.

Contact Eleanor

Why I Stopped Coaching

Eventually, I keep thinking, I will become accustomed to the way life changes. It’s inevitable, after all.

But even as I keep improving the ways I react to change, I must admit: change is hard. It’s fucking hard.

And, as it seems I say so often when I post here, because I just don’t do so often enough - so much has changed since my last post.

As you may or may not have noticed, no longer exists. This was a difficult decision for me, but after months of thought it still feels right.

When I started Empowered Muses back in 2015 I was excited to offer the skills and tools and templates I’ve created over the course of my career to talented models who needed a marketing boost. I knew from past experience that I had developed strategies that allowed me to book plenty of work without cold calling. (A strategy that I don’t judge at all, but personally hated having to rely on at the beginning of my career.)

I jumped in headfirst, with plenty of passion and very little game plan. I invested hugely in coaching and education to help me get the business off the ground. I invested in learning how to create an effective webinar training, how to structure courses so people will learn from them, and how to market in a way that felt in integrity for me. This was primarily content marketing: emails full of valuable information, an ebook, free webinars, Youtube videos, a few live events, and the chance for any model who wanted it to book a free call with me for tips on how to advance their careers.

I’ve always felt that newer models deserve resources that will help them build a safe and profitable career without needing to pay for it, so I offered copious amounts of free information. I decided to charge only for the information I knew would advance a model’s career from moderately successful to immensely satisfying, tools and strategies that would pay for themselves in extra bookings.

And I taught so much more than just marketing tools - I worked with my clients on time management and career satisfaction. We didn’t just focus on making money, we focused on better paying and more enjoyable gigs so they could have more free time, more mental bandwidth, and spend more time at home with loved ones.

I explain all of this because I am feeling, quite intensely at the moment, the same imposter syndrome that haunted me throughout my entire time attempting to build Empowered Muses into something sustainable.

I truly believed in Empowered Muses. I still do. I believe that resources and training around business practices, marketing, copy, and more are important for new and experienced models alike. I also believe that our industry is so different that typical trainings won’t help bridge that gap - one of my clients had a business degree and successful startups under her belt, but couldn’t figure out how to apply that education and experience to nude modeling.

So I strove to provide the trainings and resources that I looked for when I was a newer model. I’m extremely proud of what I created and built. And I’m heartbroken that it didn’t work out.

Throughout the four years that I worked to build Empowered Muses I worked with some amazing models, and I received some lovely feedback that I will treasure for years. But I also had to turn down so many models who I knew I could help, who couldn’t afford my rates to work with me 1-on-1 or in a group program.

Over and over again I had to have difficult conversations about money with talented models who I knew could afford to pay my rates by booking just one or two extra shoots each month, knowing that by working with me they could book at least twice that, knowing they’d say no anyway because that’s an impossible catch 22 of a situation to be in.

And it broke me.

For years I kept trying, working with the models who could afford my rates, wanting to serve the models who couldn’t. I offered scholarships, group programs with sliding scale fees, and burnt myself out.

And in the process, my savings ran out.

At the time, I was still recovering from my surgery and had no other source of income.

And while I still believed that what I offered was going to make a difference for the models I spoke with, I also knew that I needed an income in order to survive. I began to feel, for the first time, pressure to sell. And I didn’t like that at all.

I didn’t ever want to feel pushy or salesy in helping models to make a decision that could affect their entire careers. When I started feeling like I was moving out of integrity and going into calls with the goal of signing up a client rather than just helping as much as I could, I knew it was time to make a change.

That’s when I met an absolutely beautiful woman at an event who said she wanted to try nude modeling and asked me to help. For the first time in ages, I lit up. That had always been my end goal, what I truly wanted to do with my life: helping women experience posing nude in a supportive, empowering environment.

I put together a wonderful program for her, and we started working together. It was magical, and I thought I’d found the future of Empowered Muses.

But as it turns out, most women aren’t incredibly keen on the type of spiritual work combined with a nude photoshoot experience I was offering. And again I found myself struggling, focusing on trying to get clients rather than trying to change lives.

And then somebody I knew well, somebody I trusted, somebody who had helped me grow Empowered Muses, suggested that maybe coaching wasn’t what I’m supposed to be doing right now.

I remember the conversation vividly. I was staying with a fellow model, laying sideways across the bed in the guest bedroom with my phone on speaker, trying my best not to sob and failing. I felt utterly betrayed. This friend I was talking to was supposed to have my back, and they dared suggest that I abandon everything I had worked for for the past four years, everything I had built and believed in.

But they were right.

I finally realized what they had tried to tell me - I was utterly depleted, emotionally, physically, and financially. I was still recovering from surgery while trying to work full time and support family members, and I was in a fundamentally unsustainable situation. I had worked full time through planning my wedding and barely took a two week break afterwards. My response to not being able to support myself via Empowered Muses was to invest in more and more training - over four years I spent probably 3-4x more on business trainings than I earned through Empowered Muses.

On no level was I capable of maintaining the rate I had been going at.

While I was absolutely convinced that my friend was wrong about me needing to quit coaching, I did concede that I needed a break. For the first time ever, I asked my spouse to support me financially 100%. In June, I did no work. No coaching, no modeling. No marketing. No sales.

And my creativity, my energy, and my enthusiasm for life began to return.

By the end of June I was focused on bringing in the bulk of my income through modeling again. By August I was lining up a part time job with flexible hours that would supplement that income. By September it was clear that Empowered Muses, as I had hoped for it to exist, was gone forever.

It’s taken me more than a few months to mourn that realization.

I’m undeniably happier now. I have more stability, more energy and creativity for photoshoots, and more confidence. But I mourn my dream of changing our industry.

In some ways, I’m sure I have changed it. I’ve helped pro models gather the confidence to raise their rates reflective of their experience and start taking deposits, actions which will help improve industry standards for everyone. I’ve shared game changing tools and strategies with a group of wonderful models who will, eventually, help the next generation of models, spreading those tools and strategies until the best of them are common knowledge. And I’ve created free resources that will be available forever, or as close to it as I can manage.

I’m sure that my foray into Empowered Muses garnered me some enemies as well. Some were certainly vocal: I had photographers who hated what I was trying to do for models, and models who hated that I had the gall to charge for it. And while the majority response I received was overwhelmingly positive, I do wonder how many industry connections I somehow damaged without ever knowing it. I believed in what I was doing, and I marketed it. At the end, I probably marketed it a little too vehemently.

But would I change the experience? Not at all. Mentoring models has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, short of marrying my spouse and becoming a nude model myself.

Someday, I hope I can complete my dream of creating a comprehensive online course for models who are seeking the tools I offered - something I can offer at an accessible price, without burning myself out.

In the meantime, most of the free resources I created are still available. Depending on my blogging urges, I may try to put out more.

Truth to tell, if a model wants to work with me badly enough to reach out and ask, I would love to do more 1-on-1 coaching. But I doubt I’ll ever again offer it full time. And honestly, that feels much better.

Immersing myself in the world of Empowered Muses helped me to crystallize and finesse the materials I offered in a way I never would have been able to otherwise. It was a valuable experience for me, and I believe for the models I worked with as well. But I’m much happier focusing elsewhere now, and I don’t expect that to change.

So if you’ve wondered what happened to Empowered Muses, now you know. And if you’ve wondered how I’m doing, I’m doing great. There have been a lot of changes recently, and at least two or three more things worth writing blog posts about are brewing. Life is never calm, and someday I’ll learn to make time for rest instead of hoping it will appear. But overall? Things couldn’t be better.

I hope the same is true for you.

About the Author

Eleanor is an accomplished traveling nude model and has been pursuing her art since 2010 and posing nude since 2011. Her work has been published in a variety of magazines, books, and galleries, including a special event at the Louvre.

Contact Eleanor

Invisible Illness and Me: Chronic Pain and Modeling

If you’ve read my latest two blog posts, you know that my health journey has not been a simple one. I’ve had chronic pain, chronic fatigue, depression and anxiety since my early teenage years. I’ve been hospitalized several times for various illnesses, and had four surgeries before I turned 25. In recent years I’ve dealt with the aftermath of a car accident that left me with a whole list of symptoms and a whole lot of questions: Why did this happen to me? How am I supposed to make enough money to survive? How does anyone manage to cope with health issues and keep functioning as an adult?

I quickly learned that the way I’d been living - non-stop, burning out and then going full speed ahead again immediately, booking 4-12 photoshoots per week while in school full time - wasn’t going to work anymore. I left school, I dialed way back on modeling, and I focused on regaining my health.

And I floundered. A lot. I tried a lot of things, many of which helped me regain energy temporarily but weren’t enough to maintain it long term. And because I didn’t look sick, people still expected me to be available for their projects as well as my own. It felt like I never had time to rest unless I was stuck in bed feeling too sick to enjoy it.

Many times I resigned myself to a life of fatigue, struggling to balance work and health, always compromising one to boost the other. Sometimes I expected to live that way the rest of my life, feeling good and getting lots of work done one week and then spending the next two weeks in bed.

It didn’t help that every time I started feeling poorly again the first things to go were the fledgling habits I was trying to implement that were making me feel better.

Ultimately, I spent four years learning how to balance my energy levels and care for my symptoms while also running my business and enjoying a personal life. The first time I finished work for the day and had enough energy left that I actually wanted to go outside and play tetherball was mindblowing. I felt like a kid again, like a weight had been lifted and I was free.

Of course it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows from there. I still have upswings and down - that’s how energy works. The difference is that now I know how to listen to my mind and body and give myself what I need before I burn out or melt down, whether that’s food, water, rest, or play. I still spend days in bed occasionally, but now it’s intentional, giving myself a day to rest and be still. (And catch up on my reading!)

Why am I sharing this? Because I’m not the only person I know who has struggled with this. In my family alone, there are at least three women with Fibromyalgia, five with depression, and two diagnosed with Lyme and co-infections. I’m pretty sure everyone else has at least one chronic invisible condition: Diabetes. Gout. Chronic Pain. Chronic Fatigue. Hashimotos. Anxiety. Migraines.

And it’s not just that my family is particularly unhealthy: most (if not all) of my friends suffer from at least one chronic invisible condition as well, as have most of my coaching clients over the past four years and most of the women I meet.

While doing research for an upcoming workshop I’m hosting, I discovered that in America 1 in 2 people suffer from chronic conditions, 96% of people with one or more chronic conditions live with a condition that is invisible, and women are statistically more likely to suffer from invisible illnesses. That means most women are walking around every day in pain, low on energy, and beating themselves up because they can’t get enough done.

To be honest, I knew that the statistics had to be high. From my lived experience I knew that most women have had, currently have, or will have some sort of chronic condition. But somehow I didn’t expect the statistics to actually reflect that. Invisible illnesses are everywhere, yet there’s very little accommodation for them in our society. 

This needs to change. I don’t have an answer to how that can happen, but I do know that talking about it helps.

Freelance modeling is a profession that seems to attract people with chronic pain and illness. Many of us can’t handle office jobs sitting all day, and definitely can’t handle retail jobs standing in one place all day. The ability to set our own schedules, work around our illnesses, and accommodate our own needs is appealing. The fact that modeling involves a mixture of movement and stillness is helpful when both moving too much and sitting still too long both cause pain.

We’re artists. Our chronic conditions do not define us, and they aren’t the only reason we do this work.

But in an industry where many of us live with chronic fatigue, chronic pain, and chronic (often invisible) illness, in a society where most of the people I know are living with these things, I think the more we talk about the realities we face and the decisions we make to accommodate them, the better off we all are.

So this is me, talking about my reality. I didn’t choose a career as a freelance nude model because of my health, but when health issues flared up it helped immensely to be working for myself in something other than a desk job. Modeling kept me active and fit when I had little motivation to exercise, and kept me motivated and got me outdoors when I had little reason to leave the house.

It wasn’t always easy - I’ve posed through migraines so debilitating that flash left me blind, sometimes without the photographer ever realizing. I’ve regretted booking shoots on days I had barely enough energy to get out of bed, and I’ve been proud of myself when I still showed up and did a good job.

I’m a lot healthier now than I used to be, and I still have a long ways to go. But I know now that I’m not alone. And neither are you.

About the Author

Eleanor is an accomplished traveling nude model and has been pursuing her art since 2010 and posing nude since 2011. Her work has been published in a variety of magazines, books, and galleries, including a special event at the Louvre. She now draws on her experience as a freelance nude model as a women’s empowerment coach, helping women reclaim their lives and bodies through transformative nude photoshoot experiences.

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