Last night I was cast last minute to pose as a nude statue at Pageant of the Masters in Laguna Beach, CA, where classic works of art are recreated using live models. When I arrived, they showed me my costume. It was a g-string and a wrist cuff that was used to tether my wrist to the stand I was posed against. The remainder of my costume was a bucket of bronze paint.
My job for the evening was simple. I was to hold a pose for 90 seconds on stage. But this isn’t a typical show. An audience of 3000 people would have all eyes on me; and most of them would have binoculars so they could study me closely in my pose. I’m 41. What 40 year old woman wants 3000 people studying her naked body with binoculars?
Well, I did. This has been a dream of mine for several years and I finally got called. I wanted to do it because it was such a unique experience. Especially at my age. The other nude models are usually in their 20s. But I got to do this at a point in my life when most women would say, “Oh hell no” and hang up.
But certain things had to happen in order for me to have this experience.
Obviously, I had to fit the part. Nude statues typically have to be lean models. Here a strict diet and exercise paid off for me. It awarded me an opportunity I wouldn’t otherwise have had. As we age, we get tempted to “let ourselves go”. Letting ourself go can mean letting go of opportunities. I’m trying to stay youthful, strong and adventurous enough so I can live life fully – whether it means doing crazy acroyoga poses, hiking Machu Picchu, or shamelessly dance-walking.
When I heard they needed someone to fill in, I jumped on it. I called them and offered to sub. Opportunities oftentimes have very small windows. You gotta act fast when the window opens (or inspiration hits).
Lastly, I didn’t care what others thought. I didn’t care about my body being judged through binoculars. I didn’t care what others thought about me flaunting my little naked body on stage – because it doesn’t matter to me. I’m in charge of my life; your opinions and judgements don’t derail me from doing what feels good to me. I don’t give others that much power over me.
Therefore, when I got the call back asking me to perform as Bubble Dancer, I said yes. I said yes to checking a box on my bucket list. I could have said no due to fear, insecurity or judgement, but that would have been letting ego control me.
When I stood posed naked behind the curtain, waiting for it to open, I remember being struck by how perfectly calm and and solid I felt in my skin. In that moment, I understood what it felt like to be vulnerable, and yet free of ego and fear. And THAT was the truly phenomenal, unique experience of my evening.
Over the years, I developed an interest in being on stage. I didn’t want to star in a play or have a big solo in a musical, I just thought it would be interesting to be a background actor or have a bit part in a major production. I was intrigued by the idea of staring out into a captive audience of 3000 people.
Two years ago I got cast as a live model for the Pageant of the Masters, a world famous production that reproduces classic masterpieces using live models. For 30 shows that summer, I would hold a pose for 90 seconds before an audience of 2600 people each night. I didn’t have to talk, sing or move. It was perfect! No talent required. And I got the exact experience I was looking for.
Time to pull out that bucket list and check that box… Done!
I enjoyed the show so much that I auditioned again this year. I got cast again, this time as a bronze Erte statue. Awesome. I would be spending 30 nights of my summer holding a glamorous pose for 90 seconds, staring out into an audience of 2600 people each show.
Three weeks into the show, I realized something. The show wasn’t having quite the same appeal as it did the year prior. I didn’t get that familiar “high” when the spotlight illuminated my piece for the audience.
Then I got it. The first year the show was exciting because I was checking the box of a dream I had.
What was I doing the second year? I was checking a box that had already been checked. It was like placing an order for something I had already received. I got my fill the first time. It was an experience I wanted to have, nothing more than that.
Now that I had checked that box, I felt nudged to move on to checking other boxes. Time to do bigger things, time to devote my time to new experiences instead of reliving the same experience over and over again.
That made me consider something else. Where else in my life was I checking the same box over and over again? Where was I restricting my own life by staying in a sandbox I already knew well? Those nudges gave me an epiphany.
The pageant experience was a stepping stone to nudge me toward something bigger. I now know what it is like to see 2600 people staring at me on stage. So what’s next? Dancing on a TV show? Speaking professionally? Maybe this is a stepping stone to doing a TED Talk or performing before millions of viewers.
The sandbox was a stepping stone to get me ready for the beach. And that beach gently nudges me toward the ocean. The ocean may be a daunting expanse of unknown, but it is where the richness of all possibility and fortune lies. I can’t keep playing in the sandbox if I want to get to the ocean. And those nudges I’m getting are clearly telling me one thing: It’s time to head for the ocean.