Hello everyone, I know I’m awful at blogging so last year I decided to make a documentary about my work. I soon discovered that I felt too rude asking if I could actually film at shoots, so the documentary turned into a video diary, with most of the footage being shot while I was driving to and from work.
I found it hugely entertaining and comforting to have a way to pour out my feelings about my job, and it was very helpful when I was doing long tours and feeling lonely.
I spent last week editing the hours of footage down into a 20 minute video, and my lovely husband Hywel helped me to get it online. You can see it here; and I hope that it maybe gives some insight into what being an internet model really involves.
I miss it now that the year’s over, so if people enjoy it, I may do more.
Thanks as always for reading,
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LOL, sorry everyone, my last two posts got rescheduled magically and disappeared. All very odd. I expect someone’s hacked it and at any moment they’ll start posting stuff that I didn’t actually say. Becqucrel So, errr, watch out for that.
Now the last two posts are the wrong way round, so apologies for any confusion in reading that this’ll result in.
Thanks for your kind comments about my knee; I’m continuing to do physio and swim for all I’m worth, and have been given some lovely anxiety counselling, so I’m feeling more normal. I’m not back at work but am hoping I can keep all my bookings for November/December, and I’ve been doing some fetish shoots (hooray, I’ve been sitting and lying down lots) in the meantime, they’reway less physically stressful than doing dance/art nude stuff. Hooray, I think I’d maybe go mad otherwise, missing my career is hard.
Anyway, shall continue to update, but as always, thanks for reading.
Image courtesy of Chris Clever Rout
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SUNDAY, 25 AUGUST 2013
Mind Over Matter
Well, I’ve been having an eventful time; let me tell you about it. It’s a bit of a painful story with no neat ending to it so far, but it does involve a healthy portion of fun kinky shooting somewhere in it. This will, true to form, probably be rather long, so I’m breaking it down into multiple posts that’ll appear here over the next couple of weeks. Sorry the first installment is kind of downbeat.
Now, anyone who works for long as a model will tend to start finding their career being shaped by the work they’ve already done. Photographers tend to choose models for their new projects who already have a body of work in a similar style – it makes sense to book models with a proven track record in the genre. For me, this genre has been dance.
I trained as a ballet dancer and gymnast throughout my childhood and teenage years. An injury finished my hopes of turning professional and after picking up the pieces of my rather shattered hopes, I diversified into acting instead. Later I became a model, and a photographer who knew I’d once danced bought me a pair of pointe shoes and photographed me dancing again. It felt wonderful and I liked the images. Armed with the pointe shoes, I started offering ballet-style modelling as one of my USPs. It worked well, and gradually over the last decade I’ve been booked more and more frequently for ballet themed pictures. It’s been great fun and very profitable, although it’s far more taxing on my body than any other style of work I do (including hard bondage). My original back injury has flared up from time to time, and two years ago I sustained an upper back injury too, which rumbles on, never quite going away. Then a year ago, after taking up running in an effort to make myself stronger for my dance work, I sustained first a foot and then an ankle injury. It’s made all my shoots harder, painful and subsequently less fun, which has been sad because I love my job.
Dance modelling is most certainly kinder to your body than being a professional dancer, since you’re rarely required to actually dance continually for more than a few minutes at a time. On the other hand, photographic studios can be much colder than dance spaces since they’re so often situated in poorly insulated industrial units. And crucially, they almost always have concrete floors, which makes jumping uncomfortable and ultimately damaging. That’s probably partially accounted for my failure to heal from my various niggling injuries, and the fairly relentless schedule I’ve set for myself has been a contributing factor too. Poor Hywel (my husband) has done his best to suggest I take a gentler approach to my work but I’ve been grateful to have a dance-related career snatched back from the jaws of defeat after having come to terms with knowing I’d never be able to realise that particular dream, and it’s been hard to turn stuff down. And I’ve been proud of being offered so much work; my schedule’s been booked around 6 months ahead for the last couple of years, and it’s allowed me to tour the UK, Europe and beyond. Not bad when I remember the 18 year old I once was, in an orthopedic surgeon’s office being told I’d never dance again. I’ve wanted to shout back to her across the years that it’ll be ok.
And it has been, sort of. But then in May this year, I felt a sudden twinge in my right knee while I was coming downstairs.
I ignored it, I was about to shoot a contemporary dance movie for a director I respect very much, and I didn’t see a reason to cancel. The shoot was painful and frightening, my knee flared warnings at me every time I knelt on it. But I got through and hopefully delivered a useable performance; the production stills look cool to me.
The drive back down South was painful, my trip to the Isle of Wight for shoots the following day nearly unbearably so. My doctor was able to give me some generic knee exercises but they seemed to make things worse if anything. The following week I asked if one photographer if they’d mind postponing a shoot, to allow me to get to a sports physiotherapist. They kindly consented, but the sports massage didn’t help much, and over the next couple of days I found myself repeatedly apologising to photographers that I couldn’t kneel down.
I literally limped through the next couple of weeks. A wonderful ballet themed shoot with Shaun Hodge in an empty mansion house in London produced beautiful images, but I got through the shoot by standing on my left leg whenever possible to spare the sore right one, and by taking the strongest painkillers I could find, which didn’t seem to do much.
Two days later I was booked for a day of bondage and dance work. I awoke in pain, and driving to the studio helped matters not at all. This time, painkillers seemed to do nothing and by mid afternoon, getting up from where I’d been seated on the floor sent a bolt of pain through my knee, making me gasp. By taking a double dose of painkillers I got through the last bit of the shoot in what I now recall as a haze of unreality. I drove myself the few miles to my hotel for the night and called Hywel.
In a miserable conversation we agreed I should cancel all my bookings for July; a decision which cost me thousands of pounds in lost earnings and felt like tearing down all the carefully constructed business relationships and friendships I’d spent 10 years building up. It was ghastly and I don’t know how I’d possibly have got through the last few weeks without Hywel, lucky me to have married a man who doesn’t require me to be a calm and perfect physical specimen at all times. I am not.
After two days of emailing apologies to everyone and receiving their unfailingly kind responses to my cancellations, I was left with an empty month in my diary. For the first time in a decade, I didn’t have anywhere to be.
And with utterly vile timing, Hywel was going to be away from home. This never happens; I think I’ve spent 2 nights alone in the house during the whole of our cohabitation – as webmasters reading this will know, running a pay site does tend to tie you to your office. But Hywel was working as Director of Photography on a mainstream film, and I was very proud of him; without a question, he had to go. I thought I’d be fine; I could walk, climb upstairs if I was careful, and I could work for at my computer in his absence. Various lovely friends and family members offered to stay with me if I got lonely, but I thought I’d be fine – actually I thought it might even be fun once the pain started to lessen; I could bake, sew, book shoots for 2014, revamp my blog.. I even had grandiose ideas of writing an autobiography.
But what I actually did was to have a lot of physiotherapy and sports massage appointments but not feel any improvement. Kind friends kept checking in, but I kept having to tell them that nothing had changed. I swam, but it hurt too much to do more than 4 or 5 lengths. I went to Pilates classes with old ladies who seemed in a better physical state than me. I limped round supermarkets, picking up the minimum amounts of supplies before the pain got too much and I had to go home and use ice packs on my knee.
I sewed in the meantime; I especially enjoyed making a kimono for a photographer who commissioned me.
Let me know if you need anything outlandish made for you by the way, I think it might be my secondary career because I LOVE it 🙂
Hywel came home at the end of the week to check on me and my lack of progress. Then he came home on the second Sunday, and things were still no better. I started to get very scared.
In my third week at home I started feeling rather strange emotionally too. Still in pain from my knee, but the stress of dealing with a possibly-career-ending injury began making me feel a bit divorced from reality. Driving began to scare me, I felt as though I couldn’t concentrate. I felt unhappy around strangers, and I didn’t want visitors either. When the phone rang, the names of concerned members of my family and friends on my display made me feel anxious. My best friend re-iterated her offer to come and stay with me, but it was the last thing I wanted although I always love her company. Then, abruptly, my arms started aching too. Typing suddenly became untenably painful, as did texting. I felt cut off; holding my phone up to my ear was painful; when Hywel called I’d prop the phone on the sofa, and lie over it to talk.
Then I had a panic attack; I’d gone swimming, but my knee was too painful for me to achieve much. I was overwhelmed by feelings of despair – my whole life, all it seemed to amount to was a dingy local authority swimming pool frequented by the elderly and infirm. I hurried into my clothes and rushed out of the building; I took refuge in my car but still felt panicky – I realised I was crying and that taking in breath was suddenly very hard work.
Although I fervently wanted to get home, I didn’t make it out of the car park. I was crying too hard and I couldn’t see so I pulled over, blindly, to the side of the path.
After some time, a knock on the window made me snatch in my breath and jump backwards in my seat. A concerned lady had come out of the sports centre and seen me. Unfortunately, even when I’d remembered how to wind down my window I found myself unable to speak to explain what was wrong. She eventually retreated; courtesy is important to me and I felt ashamed not to be able to thank her for her kindness in trying to help me. I’m hoping to recognise her one day so I’ll be able to explain and say thank you. But by now a small crowd seemed to have gathered and I felt horribly exposed so I started my engine and drove home. As I drove down the hill to our house I realised I was screaming, over and over again. The sound scared me.
Talking to Hywel on the phone helped; he was going to be home again that weekend. He said that I should probably look at cancelling my bookings through August and September too, and I couldn’t help but agree – I couldn’t imagine being able to stand up for long in heels, let alone dance en pointe, or jump and land on my injured knee. So I started burning more bridges (or at least that was how it felt) in a series of mails which were significantly shorter than the first ones I’d sent out – my arms were too painful to type much.
Then a second stupid panic attack came along ; I’d been planning to go to the local supermarket in preparation for Hywel coming home the following day, but somehow, I kept putting off the journey. Finally, late in the afternoon, I realised that if I didn’t go soon the shop would be shut. I only needed to grab a sweater and my shoes from upstairs before leaving the house, but that journey felt insurmountable. I felt panic building in my chest again. Then I was bent over double in the kitchen, screaming and screaming over again. I couldn’t stop and I felt as though I’d gone crazy.
Then I was curled at the bottom of the stairs with the telephone in my hand. I telephoned the UK’s emergency medical advice line – I thought calling an ambulance was probably overkill since my arms and legs were all still attached to my body and because despite the feeling in my chest, I did appear to be breathing more or less effectively.
I’m suspicious that I probably sounded quite mad in the ensuing conversation. The health professional I spoke to was very kind and helpful and suggested I take a taxi to the hospital. I agreed, but once I’d disconnected the call I knew I wasn’t going to; the Emergency Room would be crowded with people and I couldn’t cope with that idea. Furthermore, I didn’t want to get back into the car.
I waited for Hywel to come home and it was a great relief when he came back, all calm and resourceful and rational. Then when Monday came I made an appointment with my doctor. She took blood tests to rule out any systemic condition that could be causing all the various symptoms I’d been having (I’m waiting for the results), and gave me anti-anxiety medication to hopefully arrest any further panic attacks in the short term.
And it was with this dreadful month only just behind me that I embarked upon my trip to the USA, to appear as a Guest of Honour at the fetish industry’s biggest annual event – Fetishcon in Tampa, Florida.
Which I’ll blog about next time, and it’ll be cheerier. Thanks for reading; I wondered whether this was appropriate to post really but hopefully it might help someone somehow one day, and I do like being honest about bad stuff as well as good stuff.
Thanks as always,
The kimono I made in an attempt to stay sane.
Courtesy of www.shaunsstudio.co.uk
Image Courtesy of Orson Carter
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I wondered if I should perhaps cancel my trip to Fetishcon, but the idea of letting so many people down in one fell swoop felt impossibly horrible – I’d never be able to explain to every fan attending the event why I couldn’t come; they’d think I was a big flake. Also, the event had been extensively advertised and I felt it was probably a chance in a lifetime; I imagined that if I cancelled the trip at short notice I might not be re-invited.
So I packed my bags and physio equipment and off I went to the airport, excited despite all the worrying – I always love international travel. And then something went right, rather surprisingly so. When I got to the front of the check-in queue, the clerk checked my ticket and told me I could use the priority check in. Puzzled, I did so; my luggage was checked in and I was ushered through the priority security screening and straight into the British Airways business class lounge. I was baffled; my ticket had been for ‘Economy Plus’; a normal economy seat with extra leg room. Maybe the ‘Plus’ customers were allowed to use the lounge but I expected to be ushered out again at any moment. In the meantime, I poured myself a pot of tea and helped myself to a bowl of lovely fruit salad. I relaxed in a comfy seat, resting my sore knee and feeling sure that this peaceful start to my journey would help me endure the long and probably uncomfortable flight.
When the flight was called, I found that it had been no mistake, I really was flying business class. My seat was in a gorgeous pod; it elongated to a totally flat bed when required, and screens came down to shield me in a private cocoon. I very rarely drink, but accepted a glass of champagne since I decided it’d anesthetize me. As I drank it, I toasted my mysterious benefactor if he or she existed – if you upgraded me and are reading this, then thank you thank you thank you. The 8 hour flight was over too soon; I extended and retracted the seat as many times as possible, ate everything I was offered, watched a documentary about ballet dancers (and sympathised since naturally all of them had injuries) and had a go at living in the moment. I’m awful at this.
Once I arrived in Tampa, more fun was to come. I’ve been corresponding with my friend Joe for several years, as well as exchanging Christmas presents. But till this trip, I’d never had a chance to meet him. We’d decided to have a go at converting our friendship to real life, and he’d come to the airport to meet me. It was wonderful to see him; he’s just as thoughtful, kind and good natured as I’d guessed from his mails. We went out to dinner (yum, American food. I had a massive dessert with cream and pineapples) and then back to his neat condo. And we did our physio exercises together – we both have the same foot problem and it was nice to exchange notes. Joe lent me a helpful book about it.
I slept beautifully despite my sore knee, and when I woke up we went and bought two different flavours of cookie dough and then ate it raw, greedily, for breakfast. We’d promised each other we’d do this some day, and it was great to do so in his sunny kitchen, whilst talking things over and finding out more about each other.
Then, via a quick lunch out, Joe took me back to Tampa airport to board a flight for Las Vegas. The plane was cramped, and changing flights in Atlanta involved a long walk across the terminal. By the time I arrived in Las Vegas I was very, very sore, and worried about managing to be a good model.
The following day, I drove over to Tomiko’s beautiful house and had The Most Fun In The World being eaten by her giant pet worm, as well as dressing as a super-heroine with her. It was fantastic to meet her; she’s an inspiring a model who’s built her own brand and fetish empire with a combination of beauty, talent and sheer hard work as far as I can see. She’s a fantastic entrepreneur; she made me feel rather lazy. I was happy to realise I’d be seeing her at Fetishcon the following week.
And once our shoot was over, I drove across the desert to Los Angeles. I’d never done this on my own before and I loved it. The desert looks magical to me, having grown up in the green, leafy and rainy England. I wound the windows of my hire car down so I could feel the wind in my hair and smell the desert heat. I felt that the trip had been worth it now it even if I couldn’t do the rest of my shoots.
Actually, via lots of physio, I managed more or less ok; people kindly kept me sitting and lying down a lot because I’d warned them; only one person accepted my offer to cancel as a result, which was completely understandable because of the style of pictures we normally do together. And being in California is always lovely for me, even whilst in pain. I ate Mexican food, looked at the ocean, and enjoyed the exceptionally courteous service that seems to be standard in Los Angeles.
Urgh, I dreaded taking my first genuine ‘Red Eye’ flight back across the USA to Florida, especially given that my knee was still sore. Everyone had been very careful and considerate through my shoots in California, but nevertheless, being active after my month off had stirred it up rather. Actually the flight worked out more or less ok and I arrived back in Tampa to find my lovely new-to-real-life friend Joe waiting for me. He took me back to his place for a few hours sleep before we headed to Downtown Tampa for my very first Fetishcon….
…Wow, what to say about Fetishcon. Lots of people had tried to describe it to me, but still I had no idea of what to expect. It feels inconceivable until you get there that a whole, corporate, downtown hotel can genuinely become a 3+ day fetish party, with play sessions happening downstairs whilst upstairs the world’s top fetish models rush from shoot to shoot in the hotels numerous rooms and suites. But as soon as I walked through the hotel’s doors, I was plunged into a new world. I was shy about explaining who I was when the check-in staff couldn’t find my booking. ‘I’m here for the, errrrr, convention’ I stammered rather foolishly. The clerk gave me a kind but slightly pitying look and found me a room.
And on the 14th floor, overlooking the city’s towerblocks and the hotel’s pool, I found the room I’d be sharing with Hywel for the next 6 days. It was beautiful. I didn’t have long to appreciate it though – I had a shoot to get to.
After returning from 3 fun hours of bondage with a gentlemanly photographer who turned out also to be from the UK (he’d done a fantastic job of turning his room into a studio, with ropes and restraints hanging all over the place) I got back to my room to find my husband waiting for me.
Gosh, it was good to see him. We’d both been anxious on parting, I’d been particularly concerned that by the time I saw him again I’d have got myself into an even worse physical mess and that he’d feel he had to pick up the pieces. And I really wanted both of us to have fun if we possibly could; being here felt like a chance in a lifetime and I didn’t want to wreck it. I was so happy to be able to reassure him that yes I was in pain, and yes I was still anxious, and frightened about the future; but I hadn’t done myself any further damage since everyone had adapted their shoots to my limitations. It gave me some hope that I’d still be able to shoot for Restrained Elegance if we were careful and maybe did part-day shoots rather than full weeks. It felt marvelous to be the USA together, ready to experience Fetishcon.
The next day, we both woke up before 6am because Hywel’s jetlag had mysteriously infected me. We decided to get up and go to the pool to watch the sun come up. It was beautiful with the sunrise’s pinkish light reflecting off the mirrored glass surfaces of the surrounding tower blocks. And, at risk of sounding a bit (massively) sentimental, I felt safer with Hywel there, as though I’d be more likely to be able to get through the rest of the trip ok now that he was with me.
That night we went out for a splendid dinner (with massive desserts) with my friend Joe and with Isobel Wren, an American model I’d never had the chance to meet before. We met in the bar which was by now filling up with the most fabulous assortment of glamourous people who weren’t yet dressed in full fetish wear since the event hadn’t officially started yet, but who were most certainly not the typical clientele for this downtown hotel. I started seeing faces I recognised and felt the beginning of real excitement for the opening ‘meet and greet’ party the next day.
We watched dusk falling over the bay, and I felt a bit more peaceful than I had in a couple of months.
The next evening, Joe arrived for the Meet and Greet and we also met up with our British friends @fantasydabblers They kindly admired my see-through glittery dress which I’d made especially for the convention; out of EXTRA kindness Joe had also brought me a box of Hostess cupcakes which I love beyond almost anything and which I was absolutely sure would have medicinal, knee-mending qualities.
Once the convention started, I was stationed at a booth (with a chair, I was extremely grateful to discover) with other models/producers as neighbours. A quietly spoken, courteous gentleman next to me introduced himself as ‘Jim’ and after a ghastly moment in which I said nothing but peered at his name badge, I realised that he was the great Jim Weathers of Bondagecafe.com, whose work both Hywel and I have been fans of for a decade plus. I became rather puce and spluttery through admiration; how awkward. Poor me, this kept happening. Lew Rubens appeared, as did Candle Boxx, Jewel Marceau, Sandra Silvers, Vivian Irene Pierce… it was all rather overwhelming, but in a thoroughly splendid way. I couldn’t stand up much, which feels ghastly and rude when being introduced to people you respect, but everyone was kind about it, and Hywel kept me company for much of the time and kindly explained my limitations (well, not all of them thankfully) to people.
And meeting fans was absolutely awesome. Not all of them were fans of me, I hasten to add; some of them didn’t know who I was of course, but almost all of them were polite, interested, and interesting to talk to. I certainly feel as though I’ve learned more about what people who buy our work appreciate most about it, which is a valuable insight. And signing photographs of myself was also illuminating – seeing which pictures were the most popular gave me more knowledge about where my future as a model should maybe go (if I can get back to something approximating fitness that is).
I got to join in with the annual Superheroine Showdown (fantastic) and the Fan Photoshoot (also great fun) and hid in my room with Hywel and ordered room service in the evenings – talking is tiring even when one’s in the best of health, and eating dessert in bed is always a good idea I think.
On the last morning we watched the sunrise from the pool again, packed our cases, had a final massive American breakfast, and prepared to get a taxi to the airport. At which point our amazing new real-life friend Joe arrived and insisted that he’d take us there. Which was a wonderful end to our trip; Joe and I talked ALL the way to the airport (Hywel rolled his eyes and let us get on with it) and I was very sorry to leave him, especially since he’d promised me that there are dolphins in Florida but hadn’t made any actually appear yet.
We’re home now; Fetishcon is a happy memory I’m extremely grateful to have, especially cos I could share it with Hywel, and I’m grateful to have met many new friends as well as being able to catch up with old ones.
I don’t know what my immediate future’s going to hold; I know I have to get back to physio and resist the temptation to book any shoots over the next couple of months. It was great to discover that I could limp through a few without any dramatic ill effects, but I don’t want to make a career of doing that – if I can I want to heal fully because in the long run I’ll do better modelling that way, but more importantly I’m pretty sure that it’s easier to enjoy life when you’re not in bad pain. If I can I’d like to get to a state where I’m not having to take codeine and paracetamol to get through my shoots; I hope that if I work hard at physio, and equally hard at relaxing (which is probably going to be a great deal more difficult) that I can maybe achieve this. My arms are still painful but I’ve managed to type this by taking plenty of breaks, so I hope that I’ll be useful to Hywel for office work while I wait to be able to take up my role as a model again properly.
Thank you for the support from photographers, fans, friends and family alike. It’s an awful cliche but I’m grateful to discover for myself that at bad times you realise that some of the people in your life are prepared to put themselves out far above any call of duty to help you. I’ll be forever grateful to those of you who’ve kept texting when I’ve stopped returning messages, who’ve carried on emailing even when I said I couldn’t email back. Those of you who’ve phoned, who’ve offered to visit, who’ve sent cards, flowers, and chocolates which helped me feel I hadn’t been forgotten while I was home alone and feeling like the world was ending for me. Thank you, thank you. I’ve been in a bit of a crisis; work has taken over my life too much over the last few years and I’ve been deaf to friends (and Hywel, who’s been sending out distress signals about it for half a decade now) who’ve tried to suggest that I stop insisting on leaping round the world in pointe shoes without cessation. If this experience is teaching me anything, it’s made me realise that health and friendship is worth protecting, even if it means working less. I just hope I’m not learning this too late.
Thanks to everyone who’s helped me over the last few months, and I’ll be trying to be a less absent friend in future. And when I come back to modelling I’m going to try to make the best pictures in my life.
Thanks for reading,
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