The most embarrassing thing that I’ve ever lived through happened while I was naked, on a modeling stand, in front of a classroom full of people.
I was a very new model; I’d only posed for life drawing maybe three or four times before. For this class at the local college, I was sitting for my first three-hour long pose.
About two and a half hours into the pose, my foot fell asleep. I had heard that something almost always falls asleep during a long pose, so I wasn’t worried. What I didn’t realize was that I’d also lost feeling in my whole leg all the way up to my hip.
In a long pose, the model takes a quick break to stretch every twenty minutes, so when the timer went off, I stood up and stomped on my foot to get my circulation back. Or at least, I tried to; my leg had other ideas. Instead, I fell over rather spectacularly.
That should have been the end of it; falling over naked in front of a group of college students was embarrassing enough. However, the stand was wheeled so it could be moved in and out of the classroom. Whoever had set it up hadn’t locked the rollers, and when I fell it went flying in the other direction. I ended up taking out half the class with the modeling stand, and falling headfirst into the lap of a student on the other side of the room while still naked--and unable to stand up, because my leg still wasn't working.
I was convinced that after that class, I was done with modeling. I was too mortified to ever come back.
After the class had finished and I was hoping to make a quick escape, the instructor came over to talk to me. Things like this don’t matter, he told me. Nobody was going to remember that a model fell down while they were taking a college art class.
I think it’s obvious that he didn’t mean it literally. After all, I’m still telling you about it. I remember it pretty viscerally, and I’m pretty sure that both the student I landed on and the ones I accidentally bruised with the modeling stand didn’t forget what happened. After all, how often does a naked woman land unceremoniously on top of you? But it did teach me an invaluable lesson: nobody cares if you fail.
I had failed spectacularly. I had fallen off a stage buck-naked into somebody’s lap. It was worse than the worst thing I had imagined being possible. And yet, nothing terrible actually happened to me. Nobody pointed, laughed, or even snickered behind their hand. Nobody glared at me for smacking them with a really heavy modeling stand. Nobody even said anything. They just picked up their drawings and went back to work. They were more concerned about their art than my accident.
Realizing that I could make such a big blunder without consequence gave me the courage to go back and model again.
It also gave me the gumption to try all of the stressful things necessary to build a professional modeling career. I honestly don’t think I would be a professional model today if I hadn’t fallen off that modeling stand. Starting any freelance endeavor means trying new, scary things that are easy to fail at. I had to put naked pictures of myself on the internet, negotiate rates (asking for money is terrifying), and travel alone to places I had never been for work.
Whenever I wanted to try something new but was afraid, I would ask myself the following questions: “If I fail completely at this, will it be worse than falling off a stage naked into a stranger’s lap? Will it be more memorable?”
It very rarely is, on either count.
Those two questions have helped me with new adventures too, like starting a blog or learning to dance ballet as an adult. Sure, I still get terrified that I’m going to fail. Failure is scary and sometimes horribly embarrassing. It’s also a pretty common occurrence (although rarely as dramatic as falling naked off a model stand). But I don’t let it stop me anymore. I let myself fail, because I know that nobody will care. And most of my successes would have never happened if I hadn’t taken the risk.