Unfortunately, being a woman in an image-obsessed world can be hard. You’re too fat, you’re too thin, you’ve got cellulite, you’ve got wrinkles… No wonder so many women end up uncomfortable with their bodies. So what’s a good way of overcoming this? Well, if one woman is to be believed, the answer is to walk around naked.
Naked, that is, apart from underwear and body paint. Could you do that in front of people? One brave woman, Julie Nolan, certainly could. In fact, she volunteered to do it, and her experience was documented in a video for BuzzFeed.
Like so many women, Julie has claimed to dislike aspects of her body. It started when she was a teenager in high school. “I was in a musical and I had to wear a leotard onstage,” she revealed. “The next day at school I heard someone talking about my cellulite on my legs.”
“I was always really concerned with if I looked skinny enough and that kinda planted a seed in my head,” she went on to say. And she certainly wouldn’t be the only person in the world to have had her self-esteem eroded by a careless comment about her body.
Recently, the term “body shaming” has become a buzzword: it refers to how damaging it can be for people to be told that something about their body isn’t good enough. And while body shaming frequently takes the form of bullying, casual comments about appearance can form part of it, too.
Your average women’s magazine or tabloid often contains subtle – or downright flagrant – body shaming. How many times have you seen a headline suggesting that a popular female celebrity should lose weight or, elsewhere in the media, tips offered on removing “imperfections”?
Bearing all of this in mind, it’s no wonder that women like Julie have body insecurities. So, with the help of BuzzFeed, she turned to a talented body painter – who would transform her into a walking work of art.
That artist was Pashur, an award-winning Los Angeles-based body artist. Cleverly, Pashur created a simple pair of jeans and white T-shirt for Julie, paying close attention to the little details like buttons and pockets.
“To me, body painting is a very interactive art form”, said Pashur. “Your work comes alive on a canvas that is alive.” It’s debated to this day whether or not body painting is “legitimate” art, but to the people who actually practice it, there’s no doubt that it is.
“By wearing body paint I feel like I’m taking off a shield and I’m putting myself out there,” said Julie as Pashur’s work started to take its full shape. “I’m really scared, but I feel like it’s going to be a positive step forward.”
What’s more, once the full piece was completed, Pashur added something extra. “The last thing we’ll do on Julie is put sealant on her to make sure the paint is more durable and doesn’t come off.” After all, the model losing her T-shirt thanks to perspiration would definitely dampen the outcome.
Now, once everything was in place, Julie checked herself out in a mirror. She was happy with her new “outfit,” too. “It’s so cool!” she exclaimed. “I’m not as scared now because it looks like I’m wearing clothes.”
“I think I’m ready to show everyone,” Julie said. “Let’s just do it.” So, almost completely naked and with BuzzFeed’s cameras following her around, she ventured outside into the big wide world and went to find some people.
The result? Most of them didn’t even realize it was paint. “You didn’t notice?” Julie asked in surprise of the first people she ran into. But Pashur had done his work so well that even in the bright sunlight the body paint just looked like clothes.
And while Julie was nervous, the nervousness seemed to subside as she met more people. When she went into an office and walked around, the same thing happened. “Do I notice anything?” one guy asked. “Uhhh…”
Everyone Julie spoke to was impressed with the quality of the paintwork once they realized what it was. Moreover, they were completely unconcerned about the near-nakedness of the model. “But the sandals are real?” one guy asked. (Yes, they were.)
There was not a hint of body shaming going on anywhere, either – surely the best possible outcome for such an experiment. And Julie felt good about it as well. “I came into this feeling scared, but I feel like I conquered a really huge fear that I had.”
“Going outside wearing only body paint is really similar to having insecurities,” she said. “You feel naked or you feel all these negative things about yourself that no one else sees or no one else understands.”
At the end of the video, Julie cries a little as she says, “Sometimes you overthink things and you don’t want to do things because you’re scared of what other people are going to think.” However, she had come away from the experience with an important lesson.
“What matters inside is what counts the most, and that’s where your strength and your beauty come from first,” she concluded. And in a world still very determined to fit all women into the same “attractive” mold, that’s a good thing to know.