Empowered Muses: A Conscious Community of Models

Last August I had an idea that set off a chain reaction. I’ve long been frustrated by the lack of resources available for models who realize they’re running a business and want to learn how to do it properly. When I started I was well aware that I was running a business, but I didn’t expect it to be so damn hard. I grew up in an entrepreneurial family and was selling products at flea markets and farmers markets by the time I was seven. But just knowing sales skills, and that I had to act as a business owner if I wanted my modeling to be a viable career, wasn’t enough - traditional business skills don’t transfer over to most creative professions, and they’re particularly difficult to apply to freelance modeling. To add to the difficulty level, there are little to no resources online explaining how to run a successful career as a freelance model.

I was ranting about this to my partner one day when a lightbulb turned on - what if I created those resources? What if I created programs through which I could teach models the business tools and skills they need to create a comfortable income, that would allow them to skip over the awkward learning stage I struggled through for three years? What if I could teach them how to avoid the worst of this industry so that they could enjoy its best? So I got to work. I interviewed models of all skill levels to find out what their biggest challenges have been, and I started forming a curriculum. I talked to models, revised the curriculum further, and held individual coaching calls. Most notably, I finally stepped into a long time goal of mine and opened a YouTube channel. I now have over 30 videos posted on topics from Choosing a Modeling Name to Nude Modeling With A Period.

Model Mayhem found my videos and asked permission to share them, and all of a sudden my view counts have skyrocketed. With their promotion I’m able to help huge numbers of models through my videos. But it doesn’t feel like enough. These videos will help new models exponentially, and they’ll offer some definite benefits to established models who need a boost, but I still wanted to find ways to offer deeper support to those who wanted it. 

My dream has never been merely to help models find financial success. I want to teach models how to run balanced, sustainable modeling businesses because that frees them up to do so much more than just make ends meet. I want to create a movement of models who are aware of the impact that the imagery they create brings to the world, who stand firm in their value and demand respect rather than allowing the world to belittle them for their choices. Models who bring creativity, vitality, and energy into their collaborations. Models who remember the passion that brought them into the field in the first place. Models who have an end goal bigger than creating pretty pictures. I want to create a movement of models who have a message and know that through their art they are creating a platform through which the world will hear them. Thus was born Empowered Muses.

You’re going to be seeing a lot of Empowered Muses moving forward. I’m in the midst of building a web presence for the brand, as well as creating some particularly juicy free resources beyond my YouTube videos. (Plus some kickass programs for the models who want to work with me!) My blog may become more oriented towards helping models than it already was, and much of my social media presence will be focused on that as well. I’m still an active model, so I’ll still be sharing images, but my main focus will be on helping the community that has so richly supported me over the past five years.

I will continue posting YouTube videos, but I’ve decided that my original plan of posting twice weekly won’t allow me to create the quality of videos that I’d like, so I’ll be dialing it back and focusing on creating more valuable videos.

I am happily taking requests for video and blog post topics, so if there’s something you think would be particularly helpful please leave me a message in the comments. And, as I invite you to join the Empowered Muses community with me, I invite your feedback. Please share below what your vision is for the freelance modeling industry, and what an Empowered Muse looks like to you.

About the Author

Eleanor is an accomplished traveling nude model and has been pursuing her art since 2010. Her work has been published in a variety of magazines, books, and galleries, including a special event at the Louvre.  Through her business Empowered Muses she also helps freelance nude models who are tired of getting all the wrong gigs gain the confidence they need to attract plenty of great clients, and she is fiercely dedicated to helping her clients and the models who follow her create safe, fun, and profitable modeling careers creating art they love. To see more of Eleanor’s work you can visit her website or follow her on Facebook.

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Home for the Holidays

Right now I’m curled up in my PJs on my mom’s couch in the house my grandma used to own. Over the past two days my roommate and I drove over 500 miles to get here - we dragged ourselves in last night wet and exhausted, LA traffic finally beaten. 

Last year my family were the last people I wanted to spend Christmas with. I’ve had a rocky relationship with them, and it’s definitely been a long road. Those of you who read my post on stigma and sexual assault may recall that my father dealt with the news of my modeling career in a way that was particularly traumatic for me. If you’ve seen my Flashes of Beauty interview you know that at the beginning of my journey as a model I struggled deeply with how my family viewed me because of it. What I wasn’t as public about was the fact that shortly after that video was published I cut all ties with my parents and didn’t speak to them for over a year.

That was a very difficult time for me. I missed my family deeply, but it gave me the space I needed to grow into a woman who was strong and confident. By the time I was ready to resume contact with them I knew who I was and what my boundaries were. I made it clear that if they wanted a relationship with me my career was a forbidden topic unless they wanted to have a conversation as equals in order to understand why I do what I do. Any further attempts to convince me that I needed to quit, however, were cause for me to end the conversation and, if repeated, the relationship. In return, I try not to speak about any aspects of what I do that make them uncomfortable, and be conscientious about what of my work life I reveal.

Even with those rules things can be difficult. Sometimes I wonder why I let them back in, and other times I wonder how I ever lasted a year without them. I love my parents deeply, quirks, faults, and all, and I’m happy that I am able to have them in my life.

But it isn’t always easy, and in the two years I’ve been back in touch with them this is the first year I’ve found myself wanting to spend the holidays with them. It took a lot of work to get here. Most of that work was on myself - I’ve finally molded myself into an emotionally healthy adult (I know, right?!), and I’m finally able to spend time with family without internalizing their issues. I can appreciate time with them without letting myself be sucked into their drama now.

The thing is, I wouldn’t have gotten here if I’d never started modeling. It might have been the catalyst for a lot of painful family encounters, but it was also the catalyst for a process of self realization and empowerment. Had I never begun on this journey I would still have an ambiguous relationship with my family, unhappy and disrespected but unsure of how to change that pattern. Short term, my family finding out that I pose nude was a painful and traumatic experience. But long term it gave me the space I needed to create the best family relationship I’ve ever had.

I have grown and healed in amazing ways throughout the past five years. Through my conversations and encounters with photographers, fans, and my fellow models I have come to recognize myself as a powerful and beautiful individual. As we wrap up 2015 this holiday season I want to let you all know how much I appreciate your support. Every time you click like, comment on a photo or a blog post, or send me an email, you remind me of what I’ve built - and why.

So thank you, and happy holidays.

About the Author

Eleanor is an accomplished traveling nude model and has been pursuing her art since 2010. Her work has been published in a variety of magazines, books, and galleries, including a special event at the Louvre. To see more of Eleanor’s work you can visit her website.

Contact Eleanor

Horrible Advice We Give New Models (And What We Should Tell Them Instead)

Over the course of my career I have received a lot of opinions and advice from peers, mentors, and random community members who had something to say. Some of this advice was stellar, and some was better ignored. There are many opposing opinions in the freelance modeling industry, and since some viewpoints are repeated loudly and often it’s not uncommon for new models to take bad advice as gospel. In other instances, most of the industry agrees on a piece of advice that is outdated, or perhaps well intentioned but ill informed. In this article I’m going to tackle four common pieces of advice that new models run across, why I think they’re wrong, and what I recommend instead.

Please note that this was written from the viewpoint of a freelance model, and is mainly intended to help freelance models. I don’t know how applicable this article will be to models who have agency representation.

Bring An Escort vs Do Your Homework

This is one of the most hotly contested issues in the freelance industry, and it can make or break a new model. When I first started as a model I lost several gigs by insisting that I had to have an escort present, and I still cringe to think about how unprofessionally I behaved when contesting the practice with potential clients.

Requiring an escort to be present may seem logical on the surface: you’re going to be working one on one with photographers, typically men, and often in their home studios. But it’s frowned upon for a reason. Photography requires trust, and in order to succeed as a model you have to be able to hold your own, be comfortable around photographers of either gender, and behave with the professionalism you would employ in any other job. 

I’ve never found the “you wouldn’t bring an escort to your office job” analogy very persuasive, but here’s an analogy that works better: consider modeling as similar to the employment of house keepers and on call masseuses. Both are jobs typically held by women, and both regularly go to the houses of strangers to work. If they can do that without escorts, so can you.

To keep yourself safe without an escort, it’s wise to screen photographers before every gig by contacting models they’ve worked with previously. Make sure to trust your intuition, maintain professional boundaries, and don’t work with anyone who sends up red flags. Having an escort along in a truly dangerous situation would put both of you in danger - it’s better to avoid the situation completely.

(If you are under 18 this point does not apply to you. You will typically need a parent or guardian with you in order to sign paperwork so that images can be used. If you’re under 18 and a photographer insists against you bringing someone along, that may be a red flag. Please consult an adult.)

Trade Constantly to Build a Portfolio vs Trade Up to Build a Portfolio

When you start out you need to develop your skills and build a professional looking portfolio as quickly as possible. Because of this, it’s often recommended that new models accept every trade opportunity that comes their way and work with as many photographers as they can. While you certainly want to work as much as possible, it’s important to receive images from your shoots that will benefit and improve your portfolio.

Do your research and find local photographers whose work you love. Find those who seem amenable to TFP arrangements (reading their bios often helps), and contact them with a polite and professional message inquiring as to whether they would like to collaborate with you. Make sure to trade with photographers who shoot a variety of styles, and discuss before the shoot what you both want to add to your books. Also make sure that you know ahead of time how many images you’ll be getting, and in what time frame. Keep in mind that as you improve you’ll have to leave some photographers behind and seek out new ones to trade with - the skill level of the photographers you’re working with should be constantly improving. Similarly, you’ll want to be constantly renewing your portfolio as your skills improve. Don’t just add new images, but replace old ones as their quality falls behind the rest of your portfolio

The biggest tip I can give to a new model looking for photographers to trade with is this: rather than merely assessing the images in a portfolio, also look at the dates they were uploaded. For trade it’s ideal to work with photographers who are either new and looking to learn and grow, or already established and still expanding their skillset. If a photographer has images in his portfolio that are five years old and depict the same skill level as those he uploaded this month, he’s probably not a good choice unless he’s extremely talented and well renowned.

Dump Your Boyfriend vs Assess Your Priorities

Many new models become invested in their new pursuit only to find that their partner is jealous or angry and wants them to stop. They often turn to the Model Mayhem forums asking for advice, and the advice given is usually along the lines of “He sounds like a controlling bastard, dump him.”

If your partner really is a controlling bastard, it probably is in your best interest to dump them. But if they are merely dealing with an unexpected reaction to your modeling and are trying to communicate it respectfully, it’s far better to have a conversation with them than with strangers online. Perhaps there is a compromise that can be made, or you two may agree that what you do is your choice and your partner will accept that, though unhappy. If you do find that you have to choose between modeling and your relationship, the best advice I can give you is to weigh your priorities. Were you really going to make an income from this or would it have been a hobby? Are you completely in love with modeling and can’t imagine giving it up, or is it something you could live without? Is your relationship one you see as lasting or was it just supposed to be short term anyway? Which would you most regret giving up?

No one can answer these questions for you. But taking the time to figure them out is going to serve you much better than dumping your partner the second they mention something is making them uncomfortable.

Shooting Nude? Bring a Robe vs Bring a Wraparound Dress

I’ve often been teased by how vehement I am about this, but advising a nude model to bring a bathrobe to a an outdoor shoot in case she has to cover up quickly is ridiculous. How many park rangers or policemen would actually be fooled by that?

Alternatively, investing in a few wraparound dresses provides the same quick protection with a much more plausible appearance. While you certainly won’t look like an experienced hiker, you will have an easier time selling yourself as a tourist out picnicking. I recommend having at least two - one short sleeved, and one long sleeved for morning shoots and cooler days.

I’ve been using wraparound dresses since I first started shooting nudes, and they allow a much higher level of convenience and security. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to have to explain to a ranger why I’m hiking barefoot in a fuzzy pink bathrobe.

My hope is that this post will help new models skip some of the hurdles that held me back when I started out. Please feel free to share it with anyone you think might benefit from it.

In the meantime, I’m curious. Have you been the recipient of some bad advice? Did I miss something that is commonly recommended to new models and really shouldn’t be? What’s the biggest piece of advice you could offer to a model who’s just starting out? 

Let me know on my Facebook page or in the comments!

About the Author

Eleanor is an accomplished traveling nude model and has been pursuing her art since 2010. Her work has been published in a variety of magazines, books, and galleries, including a special event at the Louvre. To see more of Eleanor’s work you can visit her website.

Contact Eleanor

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