You wouldn’t expect a girl who describes herself as an introvert to take off her clothes in front of a camera, but that’s exactly what Beatrix Mae has been doing for the past few years.
Mae began her modeling career as a teen with a focus on commercial fashion work. She had some success with Alberta publications like Vue Weekly and See Magazine, but fashion is fickle and if you don’t have the right look, the look that is trending, your prospects are limited.
Before long, Mae decided that mainstream fashion work wasn’t for her. At the age of 19, she decided to try nude modelling for the first time.
“I just found there were a lot of things I didn’t like about fashion stuff. It wasn’t the aesthetic that I like,” Mae says. “I do really like artsy-fartsy stuff. I like the kind of quirky and weird things, and I found that that goes hand-and-hand with nude modelling.”
Mae was working with Kevin Stenhouse, a Calgary-based professional photographer, one night when she decided to take the plunge.
“He was doing the Little Lamp project at the time, and so I posed for that,” Mae says. “I absolutely loved it.”
The Little Lamp project is a photographic series of artistic nudes featuring different models posing under a lamp. Mae had seen photos from the series and wanted to be a part of it.
The project kickstarted Mae’s love affair with nude modeling, which she sees as a way to express her creativity and reveal her true self for the camera.
“When you’re wearing clothing, or too much makeup, or when you’re really overly stylized, you don’t even recognize yourself,” says Mae, adding with a laugh: “With the nudes it is? just really bare. No pun intended! But it’s just you. It’s really easy to see that beauty within yourself.”
Mae says nude modeling has boosted her confidence and allowed her to move past the negativity she associated with the mainstream fashion business. At the age of 17, she was immediately told she needed to lose weight if she wanted a career in modeling.
“I don’t think that’s a really healthy thing to be telling someone that young,” Mae says. “There’s always a mold they want you to fit. They don’t really let you be you.”
In contrast with fashion models, Mae says nude models come in every shape and size.
“I like the idea that nobody will tell you, ‘No, you’re a little bit too heavy for this project,’ or, ‘You’re not tall enough,’ or, ‘Your nose is a little odd,” Mae says.
Many of the projects Mae has participated involve working with a single photographer in a closed, secure environment but on occasion she has posed for nude photography workshops. Doing a workshop means posing for five or six photographers, some of them complete strangers. Mae says this can be a bit nerve-racking for someone who is a bit anti-social, but having other models onsite helps.
Nude modeling is an art, but it’s also a business so workshops can be a good source of revenue. Mae’s standard rate is $100 per hour and workshops can last 12 hours over two days.
No matter the situation, as a professional Mae is always thinking about how to bring her creativity into the mix. This involves knowing where the light is, trying to create interesting forms and finding a rhythm with the photographer.
Much of Mae’s work winds up on the Internet. As a result, she has had to deal with criticism coming from people who don’t know anything about her but just have to offer their opinion.
“Some think I’m being oppressed or coerced into posing nude,” Mae says. “And then there are people who just think nudity is sexual and associate it with pornography.”
Despite the reaction from a few online critics, Mae says the people in her life are far less judgmental.
“I’m really fortunate that my family is all super supportive of it,” Mae says, adding, “My mom is super proud of me and says she wishes she had the same confidence I do.”
Since her first nude shoot, Mae and Stenhouse have developed a strong working relationship and friendship over the years. The two have collaborated on dozens of projects.
“The most unique thing about Beatrix is her versatility and her ability to be a bit of a chameleon,” Stenhouse says.
Mae adds, “I think we just mesh really well together. I will come forward with an idea and he’ll add to the idea and visa versa. I mean not everyone has that working relationship where you can collaborate. We just have personalities that work well together.”
Although Mae still spends much of her time in front of the camera, she has recently begun to assist Stenhouse with lighting arrangements and client interaction.
“The most important thing to me is that she’s making the person comfortable. They know that there’s someone there that has actually gone through it before and has experienced it,” Stenhouse says.
Mae has also begun to act as a kind of liaison between models and photographers by introducing interested parties to each other. It’s part of her plan to go beyond modeling into other aspects of the business.
This article was originally published by Notice Magazine in 2015