As a professionally naked person on the Internet, I get a lot of weird emails in my inbox. One of my favorites was from a "company" that wanted me to pose for their website. They didn't want porn. They didn't even want my nude images. They wanted something far worse:
I had to laugh. Didn't they know that I was a model so I could have other people take my picture?
I had missed the selfie craze, and I was proud of it. None of my Facebook friends were bombarded with me making funny faces while I squinted at the back of my cellphone.
But if I’m being honest, I was a little jealous of the capable selfie-er. I couldn’t take a decent picture of myself. In contrast, one of my closest friends (you know who you are) takes selfies for almost all of her profile pictures. She documents every gourmet meal and cute outfit. And she always looks adorable doing it.
And then there are other models. The ones that use selfies to show the behind the scenes of their shoots and share snippets of their adventures. It makes them relatable, more open, easier to connect with. I certainly wanted that. I don't want to just hide behind the mask of polished, professional images. I want to be approachable and human. I want to rock out with my flaws out.
Luckily, I'm not the only model who doesn’t know how to take pictures of herself. As it turns out, my modeling partner in crime Keira Grant hadn’t dabbled in selfies either. So we decided our Europe tour together would be a learning experience. By the end of the trip, we were going to master the art of the selfie.
The start was pretty rough. You'd think selfies don't require any skill at all, but there's actually a surprisingly steep learning curve.
We couldn't figure out how to keep from obscuring the background with our ginormous heads (And really, what's the point of taking a selfie if you can't use it to brag about the cool place you were?). Once we realized that we couldn't stand too close to whatever we wanted in the picture, we still had to figure out camera angles. Do you hold it above you for the infamous Myspace view? Straight ahead? Keira still claims that every time I take one, the angle I use makes her chin look huge. I blame being tall. Or rather, her being short.
And then we had to unlearn some modeling habits. It turns out facial expressions work differently when you're looking at yourself on a touch screen. Eye contact, angles, expressions, all of them change. At least we never devolved into making duck faces.
However, by the time we'd made it to our second country, we had this whole selfie thing down. We were even posting them to Facebook.
I still wouldn't call myself a selfie expert. I haven't mastered the "looking in bathroom mirror with cell phone" pose, or the full-length "look at my adorable outfit." But I did learn to love the selfie on that trip, at least in moderation.
As it turns out, selfies can be empowering. When you're taking a picture of yourself, even with a crappy cellphone camera, you're in control of the narrative. You're not just the object in the picture anymore, looked at through someone else's lens. You're the storyteller, too. And you get to present yourself—and your life and experiences--however you want.
Taking selfies on the trip gave me a way to claim my experiences as my own. I didn't just look at the famous cities, buildings, and museums. I was interacting with them, too. Selfies were a way of saying, "I'm here. I'm not just a passive observer. And I have a voice and a story, if you want to listen."
Granted, it's not likely that I'll become a professional selfie model anytime soon (in no small part because that email was probably a scam). But I do plan on taking them more often, and yes, even sharing them with others. I want to keep talking about my life with my own voice, and my own point of view.
But I will promise you one thing: I’ll never make a duck face.*