Blame it on the jaded media culture of my generation, but when someone asks me about posing nude for several photos featured in The Dirty Show I just don't see what the big deal is. It's just skin, and all the naughty bits are covered. Besides, I'm the girl who showed up to Theatre Bizarre as Leeloo from The Fifth Element one year and Ariel the Little Mermaid another — clearly I have no qualms about showing a little skin.
And yet people gasp when I shrug. You see five-and-a-half feet of bare flesh; I see a need to lay off the pizza for a few days. (Ideally doing so without falling into the stereotypical "girl who thinks she's fat" categorization — I'm just keeping it real here; I'm healthy and I don't like missing meals.)
Hi. I'm Nicole Rupersburg. I like long walks on the Riverwalk, cheese and beer. You may know me from local magazines, websites and blogs, and also the New York Post (yeah, I'm kind of a big deal).
In other words, for better or worse, I am a member of the media. I often waffle between whether this is a good or bad thing. This is because Detroit is a very small city. You could fit all of Manhattan, Boston and San Francisco combined within the borders of just the city proper and still have room to spare, but the mentality here ... it's a little more Mayberry than Manhattan. In that small town, everybody-knows-everybody, tongue-clucking, finger-wagging sort of way.
I made a name for myself as a blogger and as a bitch. I can't help it — I rather enjoy pointing out when someone acts like an asshole. And will say so. Very publicly.
In the time I've spent challenging people to go ahead and try to ignore me, I've learned it's actually easy to ignore them — rather than to stomp my feet and scream at the sky at how fucking ridiculous this town can be. I've also learned the absolutely critical necessity of disassociating my public persona from my private life — it's amazing just how much people think they know about you (and more specifically, how much they think they know you ... and more pointedly, the appalling things they justify saying because of it) just because they follow your blog and stalk your Facebook profile.
I'm now fiercely protective of my privacy; it's all about the control of information. If I let people think they have access to everything, then my private life can remain completely private. My closest friends and confidants are about as far removed from my professional world and the "Detroit scene" as if they were elk breeders in Alaska, and with a gun to their heads probably couldn't accurately define what I do for a living. The rest of the world can continue making their assumptions, and I'll keep throwing scraps to keep them salivating.
Scraps like posing nude for The Dirty Show.
You might assume that my claim of wanting to protect my private life would be completely invalidated by this fact alone. Is there anything remotely private about baring one's privates? Tsk, tsk, tsk. ... The way I see it, if people want to gossip then I'll give them something to gossip about, all the while taking pride in the fact that whatever they're saying is probably wrong. I've never modeled a day in my life, much less done it nude. I don't have any piercings (those holes are permanent), tattoos (really permanent) or a particularly countercultural "look" (putting that kind of image together takes a lot of time, money and effort), so I certainly don't fit the image of the typical Dirty Show model. As far as the old "Any girl who does X is Y," I'm not a stripper or a slut (at 30, I'm still in single digits, thanksverymuch); I don't have low self-esteem ("I'm sexy and I know it"), and I'm not looking for attention (it will find me regardless).
What else do people assume about girls who take their clothes off for the camera? Oh, right: daddy issues. Well ... OK, yeah, that one is true but that's not why I did this. Posing nude doesn't make me any of those things any more than having an opinion and speaking it makes me a bitch — and if you think so, you're probably an asshole.
I've been asked if I'm worried at all about potential repercussions from my foray into the erotic arts. My situation is certainly different than that of a professional (lawyer, teacher, that sort of thing) ... I really don't have to worry about any kind of career fallout. (If anything I'll just hear the old "How do you eat so much and stay so skinny?" even more than what I already do.) In media the more outlandish things you do and say, the more people love you. Or hate you, which effectively amounts to the same thing. (A fan will read most of what I write. An anti-fan will read every last word and then some several times. I learned this from Howard Stern: Private Parts and have found it to be incontestably true.)
Just as I don't apologize for being a "bitch," I won't be apologizing for posing nude and putting "Dirty Show model" on my résumé. Besides ... I look damn good in those photos.
Like various topless performers and artists who've dabbled in nudity, I would like to be able to say something really profound and noble about the whole experience — that it's about my personal empowerment as a female, having authority over my own sexuality, and the almost spiritual experience of allowing myself to be so vulnerable for an audience. And it would make for some great editorial flair to say that I even cried afterward because it was all so very emotional.
The reality is that I was at photographer Luis Jimenez's house, who also happens to be a good friend of mine. We were in a makeshift studio set up in the back room, Braxton Family Values was on the TV and I was drinking cheap bubbly out of a straw so as not to mess up my lipstick. I had to keep reminding myself to suck in my stomach and push my boobs in. At one point the makeup artist, another friend of ours, walked into the room while I was lying on a table and caught me at a very unflattering angle. He screamed, "Oh, my god, I just saw your ovaries!" and we all had a good laugh.
I'd like to say I did it for the empowerment, women's rights and all that, but really I did it for Luis, who one day mentioned an hour deep into a bottomless mimosa brunch that he wanted to submit something to the Dirty Show this year, and I offered myself up as his model without a second thought because, eh, what the hell. (I even bought shiny new boots for the occasion.)
So before you go to the Dirty Show and gawk at all the nekkid girls and boys, remember that to assume makes an ass out of you (and not so much me). Thanks for reading through to the end. You can now go back to the pictures.
See Luis Jimenez's pictures of Nicole Rupersburg on display in the Dirty Show, Feb. 10-12 and 14-18 at Bert's Warehouse Theatre, 2739 Russell St., in Detroit's Eastern Market; dirtyshow.org.