Choosing Myself: The Social Ramifications of Living With Body Hair

Just over a year ago I got a text from my lover at the time. We were planning to attend an event together and had been discussing our plans and what we would wear. “Shave your armpits for me?” She asked. “Shaved armpits are my fetish.”

I felt like I’d been punched.

For most of our relationship I had tried to find a compromise between my body hair and her preferences. I kept my armpits shaved most of the time and my legs shaved almost all of the time. Eventually she took me to get a bikini wax - my first - and continued to maintain it at home, waxing the sides of my bush into neat lines and taking the hair off my labia. I justified it as potentially being good for my career. Perhaps it would make for better images if no hair stuck out of my lingerie. Maybe I’d book more glamour shoots.

But when I looked in the mirror after that first wax I wanted to cry. My bush, a cherished symbol of everything I loved about myself, no longer looked natural or complete. Its roaming borders had been tamed, and I felt like I had given up a piece of myself I would have been better off keeping.

Even so, we continued to maintain my bikini line, and I kept my legs and armpits shaved and smoothed for her. She was so happy with my new look, and I chalked it up as a necessary sacrifice to make the relationship run smoothly.

Things probably would have continued this way for quite some time if I hadn’t gotten in a car accident last June. My injuries were devastating and during my recovery I ended up growing out all my body hair. Showering was hard enough and I often needed help - neither myself nor the friends and family caring for me were concerned with keeping my body hairless. By the time I recovered enough that shaving was again possible, I found myself vehemently opposed to the idea. I had always loved the aesthetics of body hair and the injury had given me time to remember how attached I was to mine. At a time when there was so little I could control in my body and in my life, I was grateful to have found something I could control - even if it was merely whether or not I took a razor to my armpits and legs.

Choosing to grow or shave my body hair was always a profoundly personal decision for me. Throughout my life I have exercised both options as a way of regaining autonomy and declaring ownership of my body. From the first time I shaved my legs as an act of rebellion to the day I decided I wanted to stop, this was the one aspect of how I looked and behaved that I was always solely in control of. That’s not to say I never faced judgement for those choices, but that I had never let anyone else decide what I should do in that arena. Claiming complete control over grooming decisions was a way to claim my body as an adolescent, then to reclaim my body after assault. Through it I declared my independence, explored personal preferences, and grew to love and accept my body.

When I joined the artistic community with a fully grown bush, the body acceptance I found from artists and fans was incredible. That acceptance led me to dabble with growing out my armpit hair off and on for shoots with amenable photographers throughout my career, and even before the accident I had felt pulled towards keeping it grown full time. For the most part I have found that the people who appreciate the skills and talents I offer are willing to accept the decisions I make with my body as being a part of that package. I have worked hard to feature body hair as a part of my unique look, and I often get hired specifically because I have it.

As such, the shift I was gearing towards was not a surprise for the artists that I worked with, or for my wonderful and dedicated fans. I was merely deciding that, for me, the loss of one or two jobs a month was well worth the personal gains of refusing to modify my body regularly just to increase my income. I had already made that decision regarding my pubic hair at the beginning of my career, and now I decided to expand my brand to include armpit hair as well. Because I already had a good grasp of what techniques I could use to market myself as a model with body hair, I faced very little professional and fiscal loss as I made this change

I knew, however, that personal loss could be imminent. My lover would not be happy about the decisions I had made, but I was determined not to lose these aspects of myself I held so dearly. I didn’t want to shave or wax again, and I no longer viewed my hair as an acceptable sacrifice to make for the good of a relationship. My newly grown body hair was a reminder that I could grow through trauma and tragedy, that my body kept on working and wasn’t completely broken.

The night she texted me with her request, the implication - shaved armpits were her fetish - was that she could not find me sexually attractive unless I complied. It hurt immensely to realize that she saw my hair as undesirable, unhygienic, merely an unnecessary feature of my body to be plucked and trimmed away. The same part of my body that made me feel powerful, strong, and desirable suddenly made me feel small and unwanted. I cancelled our plans that night and stayed home, trying to assess who was right. Was I truly being selfish by denying my lover the pleasure of a hairless body?

Ultimately I chose to feel strong, powerful, and desirable again. I chose myself. And in truth, that’s what my journey with body hair has always boiled down to: choosing myself. I choose to do with my body whatever makes me feel powerful and fulfilled, and I hope that others do the same, whatever that entails.



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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Why I Write

I have always been a writer. Since I was a young child I’ve been trying to interpret my world through words, and I’ve honed that skill throughout the years. I was lucky enough to have affirmations early on that my writing was good enough to persist in the art - I won several contests and actually had a short career getting paid to perform my work as a child. While I ended that career rather than pursuing writing full time, I never lost my love for the craft.

The genres and mediums I have used have shifted throughout the years, but I always turn to writing when I need clarity. I am a firm believer in the importance of language, and due to my personality type I tend to use speech to help myself fully develop and refine ideas. So too do I use the act of writing. It serves well when there is no one available for me to think out loud to or bounce ideas off of, when whatever I am struggling with is something I prefer not to share, or when I feel like wrestling with something in a medium I can come back to later. I have always been drawn to write for others as well as myself, and I find it a powerful tool with which I can interact and share my voice with the world.

Even so, my love affair with the medium has not always been easy. I spent many years thinking no one would want to read my nonfiction works, and that my opinions were better kept to myself. And since the car accident last year it has been a struggle for me to redevelop my skills. Brain injuries are invisible, but their effects are quite tangible.

Some of you know that I have been writing on and off on my Tumblr for years. Why then have I decided to develop a dedicated blog? My modeling has helped me develop a platform through which my voice can be heard, and I take that very seriously. There is not only pride associated with this for me, but responsibility. If I can use this platform to help other artists, and perhaps shift aspects of this industry, I feel strongly that I should.  I have recently felt called more strongly towards writing than ever, and I believe that a dedicated blog will both force me to write more consistently and net more response than if my writing were merely lost among images on my Tumblr account.

I can’t do this without you though. The support my readers are giving me means everything. This blog is still new, but the positive messages and comments I have received have helped affirm that I am on the right path. Your support has helped me to realize that my opinions matter, and it feels wonderful to develop a public modeling persona that is more than just my pretty face. The photographers I work with and the fans who engage with me have always known that my skills surpass mere looks, but it can be hard to convey that via social media where it feels like skin is my number one sales pitch.

With this in mind I encourage anyone who enjoys my work to engage with me. Comment on my posts, send me messages, and let me know if what I write resonates with you, even and especially if you don’t agree. My goal here is not to boost my ego by speaking into a vacuum, but to engage with participants and fans of the artistic community and create a dialogue through which we can all learn and grow.



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.

Contact the Author


Credits and Lost Visibility: Don’t Do This!

In the artistic community the practice of giving credit is essential. It is a sign of respect to those who created the piece and often a legal requirement. But beyond that it is also a way of supporting the artists - an essential key in increasing our visibility. That’s why many photographers send me images to share after a paid shoot, even though they aren’t contractually obligated to do so. They know that if I choose to share their image in my portfolio or social media there’s a good chance that some of my audience will decide to check out their work, or maybe even follow them. That’s also why I make an effort to credit every photo I post, and why every image on this website has full credit given in the alt text. (I’m not perfect though - please bump me if you realize I missed someone!) I’ve actually had people tell me that my website would look better if I requested images without watermarks, but I’d much rather offer my co-creators visibility than erasure.

With this in mind, it’s incredibly confusing to me that Model Mayhem, arguably the leading industry portfolio site, has chosen to absolutely ignore the importance of crediting artists. Ironically they made this mistake in a how-to video releasing their latest feature of ‘verified credits’. The images they used were of a good friend of mine, the amazing model Christine ‘Idiivil’ Adams. (Shot by photographers Fotokai and Michael Magers, and featuring the work of hair and makeup artists Melanie Leandro and Karen Bates-Ashley.) Rather than giving Christine proper credit they chose, knowing full well who she is, to call her “Molly Mayhem”. This would have been excusable in two circumstances: If they had asked her permission to name her differently, asked the photographers for permission to use the images, and credited all parties at the end of the video everything would have been fine. Alternately, they could have bought the rights to the images and and used them without credit, the parties having been remunerated. Instead, they chose to ignore the parties involved and use images without granting proper credit, risking the anger of community members in good standing. Given that these images were used in a marketing video, I’m amazed this decision got past the legal and PR departments. 

I’m sure we can all agree that this was a terrible decision, but let’s take a closer look at how this will affect the parties:

Christine is an amazing model and is becoming well known in the community, so I and perhaps many others recognized her immediately. But statistically there must have been at least several thousand people who watched this video, loved her look, and had no clue where to find her. They might find out who she is when other community members who know her discuss the video, but unfortunately it’s highly unlikely that most people figured out who the other parties involved were. It’s significantly more difficult to recognize photographers and makeup artists than a model from the images they help create.

Now, Model Mayhem may realize they made a mistake and choose to credit the video properly. But here’s the crux: in many issues like this it’s already too late by the time changes are implemented. The video has already drawn the bulk of the traffic it will generate, and most people won’t go back to watch it again. The five artists who were prominently featured in this video have already lost their chance to be acknowledged or possibly hired by anyone who might have found them in the first few days of the video’s release. That visibility can’t be regained, and because of the bad taste that will leave in these artist’s mouths MM has likely lost the chance to work with them again, even if they do give credit belatedly.

Visibility and branding is everything in this business, and timing is critical. Connections are made eclectically and every new opportunity counts - a video like this could very well gain an artist a job or two if people like what they see, but even more importantly the artists would have gained followers, who could have eventually been converted into new clients. It all comes back to visibility, and in an online landscape that revolves around social media, information is moving so fast that anything posted becomes irrelevant within hours. This means that there is a small window of opportunity for visibility, and even less of one for fixing mistakes. Forgetting to immediately credit a participant in an image you post in your portfolio is one thing. Choosing not to credit artists in a high profile video that’s being posted to a huge audience is quite another. 

How can Model Mayhem fix this? I recommend a public apology across all their platforms with full credit to all participants and a revision of the video. I also recommend rethinking their policies to be in line with their communities’ core values. Regardless of legality, had Model Mayhem been on top of and in tune with the needs and desires of their customers they never would have shown such disrespect, especially in a video about the very practice they violated. 

As for you, regardless of your role in (or out) of this industry please be conscious about granting credit where it is due. Credit your co-creators when you post images, and if you share the work of an artist you love make sure to add proper credit and a link to their work. It may very well make a difference.



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.

Contact the Author

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