The naked truth on nude models

The naked truth on nude models

For many Thai women aspiring to work in the industry the reality is they will have to reveal their bodies to earn a living

About 30 students arranged in a circle face one another in a classroom studio. Canvases and brushes are in readiness for the arrival of the model. A young woman walks out from the changing room wearing only a gown.

She saunters to the stool in the middle of the circle, removes her gown, sits down and puts on headphones to listen to music from her mobile phone.

The students stare for a moment before mixing various colours of paint on their palettes to try and replicate the model’s skin tone. The classroom is dead silent. Nothing moves but hands and brushes.

“Students must maintain silence, refrain from the use of mobile phones, talking or taking photos,” art professor Nawin Biadklang explains. “They cannot mention or post anything on Facebook. Most importantly they cannot speak or act inappropriately toward the model.

“She is our teacher today and no artist survives without respecting their mentor.”

Ambition laid bare: Nuan, not her real name, has been in the modelling business for nearly 20 years and has no qualms about stripping off.

WITH ALL DUE RESPECT

The Portrait and Nude Painting course is held one semester every year at Silpakorn University’s Faculty of Painting, Sculpture and Graphic Arts.

Mr Nawin’s fascination with female nudity spans two decades when he was a student at Silpakorn who was drawn to nightlife on the streets of Bangkok.

“Women’s beauty differs. It’s not only physical, but her character counts. It’s the artist’s job to select which angle to portray.”

When he was a student, the models he painted were go-go dancers and bar girls his instructor recruited from the Patpong area.

“I must confess, I didn’t much like the models employed to pose in class,” he said.

“The professor recruited them from go-go bars in Patpong and because they usually worked all night, sometimes they were late. Many times, they fainted or fell asleep while posing.

“Also, their skin didn’t look fresh because of the type of work they did. I didn’t find their personalities interesting because they did not pay attention to the modelling position.”

Now that he teaches, he opts for professional models. However, he is picky.

“It is very important to select models with natural beauty, without surgery, so that in each position, either sitting or lying down, their bodies appear natural,” he said.

“The models are usually in their twenties and thirties. Some are still in school. Many do it to collect as much money as possible as long as their bodies allow.”

Mr Nawin said there was nothing sexual or obscene about the nude modelling in his class.

“Models face all kinds of things when working in entertainment venues,” he said. “But in the classroom, the models feel respected. They feel their contribution is worth something.”

BEING SEXY IS HARD

While Mr Nawin’s sentiments are noble, earning a living from exposing her body is an everyday reality for one of his models.

Nuan, who does not want her real name used but is happy to have her face photographed, is 34 years old and has been in the “nudity business” for almost 20 years.

Her first taste of the entertainment industry came as a 15-year-old vocational student when a television production team visiting her school gave her a part as an extra.

“I was paid 500 baht for that short walk behind the lead actress,” she said with a smile. “They only shot my face a little, but I was happy.

The bit parts in films and TV shows continued when she was a teenager, paying 300-500 baht per day. Nuan said she could earn up to 10,000 baht a month and was proud she never had to ask her mother for money.

One day, when she was wearing a swimsuit for a scene shot at a pool, another of the extras asked her if she was interested in posing in a bikini to promote a motorcycle company at a motor show. That job led to more contracts posing in scanty costumes. Her first nude photo shoot followed a year later.

“I went to the casting for a nude calendar for one battery brand and got the job. I looked 20 even though I was still a teenager.”

But exposing her naked body for the first time was a difficult experience.

“I was so stiff in front of the camera. The stylist just kept pushing me — more action, more curves — but I just didn’t get it. Tears flowed down my cheeks. I thought being sexy was so hard.”

Bare essentials: A model prepares for work at Silpakorn University’s nude painting course.

THE FULL MONTY AND MORE

Nuan improved and more assignments poured in, working as a sexy calendar girl for products including motorcycles, engine lubricants and paint. She continued her studies as a vocational student, but a teacher found out about her moonlighting.

“He asked if the girl in the calendar was me and I said yes,” Nuan told Spectrum.

“I said my mother knows everything, I hardly skip class and I take care of my family. Later, the teacher let me go and I wasn’t suspended. My friends at school liked my job though. They got excited.”

After graduating, Nuan became a full-time nude model for a men’s magazine and also did naked stand-in work for film and TV, such as body double work for shower scenes.

As her profile and portfolio expanded, she was booked for nightclub work and bikini fashion shows. But with the increased exposure came increased verbal and physical abuse from male clients.

“They always shouted something for us to hear,” she said.

“One time, a man tried to pull me down from the stage. I was wearing a bikini at the time and I just kicked him right in the face before he stopped.”

Nuan’s work also started to include “appearances” at private parties where VIP and high-profile guests demanded more than an ordinary social get-together.

“There are those bachelors’ parties where a groom is tied up and the models dance around,” Nuan said.

“Models don’t go to these events expecting to go naked. It all depends on how the clients deal with us or the intermediary or the modelling agency.

“Usually, removing a piece of a bikini starts from 2,000 baht.”

All in a day’s work: A Silpakorn student works on an oil painting, while Nuan models for the class. Far right, students at another course draw in pencil while the finished product is inspected, below right.

FITNESS CLIP FAME

Despite her two decades in the business, nothing could have prepared Nuan for the ruckus created by a job she was booked for earlier this year.

Nuan claims she is one of the women in a controversial video of a naked gym romp that went viral earlier this year.

The minute-long clip showed a group of women and six or seven middle-aged men dancing naked in a gym. Police later identified the gym as the Ebi spa in Wang Thong Lang district. The men, who are wearing shorts or towels wrapped around their waists, are seen caressing at least two naked women. Nuan identified herself to Spectrum as the woman with red-tinted hair who is groped by two men.

She said she was contacted by a male intermediary who acts as an agent between the models and the clients, which include government officials, politicians and business leaders.

Nuan and the other models were offered 25,000 baht to appear at the party, with the fee doubled if they agreed to go fully naked.

“It was the 5th of January and it was a New Year’s private party. There were four models that day,” Nuan told Spectrum.

“I was introduced to about 10 men, all of them in their forties or more, who said they were state officials including attorneys, judges and politicians. It was not my first nude appearance in a gym.”

Nuan added she had attended similar private parties at hotels for political leaders from both the “red and yellow” sides of politics. “If I told you their names, then you would know because they are in leadership roles,” Nuan said.

Nuan claimed the clip was shot by a valet from the spa’s parking lot who stopped filming on his mobile phone when a bald man wrapped in a towel walked up to him.

After the video was released in mid-January, police searched the centre on Pracha Uthit Road which houses a spa, gym and massage rooms. The spa and fitness centre are only separated by a glass panel.

Staging indecent acts carries a punishment of one to 10 years in jail, a fine of 2,000 to 20,000 baht, or both. Police also threatened to charge those seen naked in the clip with indecent exposure.

Pol Lt Col Sampan Luangsajjakul, deputy chief of the Wang Thong Lang station, said the gym owner was charged with supporting and facilitating obscenity. He said each of the girls was fined 500 baht. None of the men in the clip have been fined or face charges.

Nuan declined to comment on whether she engaged in sexual activities with the clients, adding she could not speak for the other models.

Outside of regular modelling and escort work, Nuan said the intermediary had contacted her many times to attend similar parties. She said she has entertained bankers and business leaders, and attended parties held inside a military barracks.

After the video went viral, Nuan said her bookings had increased and clients referred to her as “the girl in the fitness clip”.

“I have had more similar appearances at events after that. But people seem to have forgotten about the clip now. Thai people forget things so easily.”

FULL EXPOSURE

Lek (not her real name), 34, is a graphic designer and part-time modelling agent.

Her job experience at a Thai edition of an international men’s magazine gave her access to more than 100 models who grace the pages of the publications.

Her training as an art student makes her the perfect intermediary between Mr Nawin and models like Nuan.

“It is very important for someone to understand art to recruit the models for me,” Mr Nawin said.

At the magazine, Lek recalled hundreds of girls queuing up each month for a chance to have full-frontal and topless photos taken as part of the casting process. The opportunity to be featured is a big stepping stone in their careers.

“The girls are usually in their twenties, although we do not have an age limit,” Lek said.

“Some are already working in a massage parlour and want to do a photo shoot to update their profile. There are also those who want to do it just because they want to be a model.”

Although she has left the magazine, Lek still arranges “nude and sexy” assignments for the models. She said these involved singing engagements, single or group dancing shows, stripteases, bikini runway shows and private parties.

“A fee for singing, for example, starts at 10,000 baht,” Lek said. “This might cover four hours and a model sings for 15 minutes per hour, which means she gets 2,500 baht per song.

“A photo shoot can be between 10,000 and 30,000 baht, and the appearance fee really depends on the clients, their requirements and working hours.

“Sometimes, the model is asked to work from 7-10pm. Some parties last from midnight to dawn. I can’t pinpoint the exact fee for models.”

RESPECT YOUR BODY

Despite the indignities inherent with nude modelling work, Nuan barely hesitated when asked whether she would prefer earning a livelihood as a regular model.

“No,” she replied. “Even if I was a regular model I would still do sexy jobs. I like it.”

As she ages, Nuan knows her days as a model are drawing to a close. She has regular Botox injections, but is aware this cannot prolong her career forever.

“At the moment, I work 20 days a month,” she said. “Sometimes, I have a photo shoot in the day and a runway show at night.

“I never earn less than 50,000 baht a month. The most I earn is 200,000 baht a month. But I always have savings, always.”

Nuan is also in a strong relationship with a man she said is comfortable with her line of work. “There are countless offers from rich men to take care of me so that I can stop working, but I would not be his only woman.”

Mr Nawin said that commercial nudity has always been frowned upon by polite society, but a great deal of hypocrisy is involved. “Commercial nudity has happened for a long time and it is everywhere,” he said.

“I don’t have anything against women working in this profession as long as they aren’t forced to do it. I view it as a legal activity to satisfy man’s need for visual stimulation.

“As an artist, your intentions categorise your work as art or as obscenity.”

Nuan agreed that her assignments in Mr Nawin’s classes gave her a different sense of satisfaction.

“Every time I appear in the classroom, students wai me both before and after class,” she said. “Even though I can’t move and become numb for three hours, I am very happy about my contribution to art.”

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