A number of ex-glamour models have sent us testimonies about their experiences and reasons for doing this work.
These comments have been collated from the petition, Facebook, letters and blogs. We have only credited the public comments from ex-glamour models, or where we have explicit permission. We respect the wish of others who contact us to remain anonymous.
We feel so honoured that some women have chosen to share their stories with us, we think it takes enormous courage and honesty and we are very grateful to have their evidence from inside the glamour industry.
We are not suggesting that the personal stories here represent every glamour model’s experience but as we hear a lot publicly from successful models we thought it was also important to hear the other side of the story.
Comments from ex-Topless Models
‘I’m ashamed to say I was once a glamour model at the tender age of 18 my friend got me signed up to an agency and after about 6 months I was featured in nuts and the daily sport. I was unhappy with what I was doing but was considered ‘cool’ by many and ‘fit’ by men. My agency practically bullied me into things I didnt want to do and the final straw came when I went for a test shoot with the daily star. I was with a few other girls and when we walked in we was told to line up without indroduction and take our tops off, we were then told a simple yes or no one girl was so baddly insulted about her breasts that she ran out crying. we were disrespected , talked to like dirt and seen as a piece of meat! I’m all for the nomorepage3 campaign society needs a shake up!’
‘As its important to me, I was a nieve 16 year old who done topless modelling and now realize how vunerable I was, my daughter is now 17 and I couldn’t dream to think about her doing such a thing, these capatilist biggest who are responsible for the page 3 phenomina need stopping, now.’
‘The irony, in another lifetime, when I was 16 years old, I was gullable and foolish enough to appreciate money over myself the people who are responsible for this still going on today, prey on young girls who are trying to fend for themselves and stand on their own two feet, so from experience, please support this page, in order to help the young girls see this isn’t the right way to have a carear, its just capitalist pigs making money from innocent young females.’
‘It’s mainstream objectification of women. It shouldn’t be in the newspaper.’
‘I came 2nd in page 3 idol in 2000 with a AA bust. I said no to doing the page 3 always. my ex entered me. i do lots of commercial modeling like french connection, nivea, marks and spencers, film and campaigns. u cant if page 3. sorry its just tacky it starts no careers off. it makes perverted men smile and they do not raise money. they get paid £120. starts careers off?? they are so funny…you cant do anything else once you do that.’
‘I did do glamour modelling for two years i started when i was 23 and finished when i was 25. I walked into Samantha Bond agency and they told me flat out that i was too old, Mags wanted girls that were between the ages of 18 and 21. I am very fortunate to look younger so i wasn’t too put off by this. i was never the popular girl in school and was mildly bullied and i also suffered from depression and i guess i looked for validation in the wrong way. I saw guys saying how ‘fit’ all these models were and i wanted to give it a go. I had a very supportive boyfriend who was always telling me that i can do whatever i want. I started sending it DIY pics to magazines and ended up getting a few calls back and shoot arising from it. I honestly wish i never did it now. I dont think i was in the right state of mind, i went in feeling confident in the way i look and came out the other end feeling i needed surgery and procedures to alter myself. I am working on getting back to how i was before, but its hard….
I think girls are very very naive when they think that they do not need prepare for the future because at the moment they are earning ‘ok’ money and are being adored by teenage boys around the country. It is also a slippery slope into the world of adult sex chat too……lots of girls start out modelling and getting £100-£300 a day at best, and then they hear that the babe channels on TV pay between £30 -£100 an hour. Girls get caught up in the excitement of having more money and they end up doing things that at first they said they wouldnt do. I was one of them, i did one shift at Elite TV to earn some money and i was there in a tiny outfit on a satin bed talking to a guy down the phone i realised ‘What the hell am i doing?! This isnt modelling’ and i didnt go back there. But its so easy to lose sight of your morals. Girls RARELY make a career out of Glamour, all the girls that are well known, Katie Price, Sam Fox, Jodie Marsh etc, are famous for other business ventures or they desperately seek fame by going on reality TV. This isnt how the 99.9% of glamour models will end up.
When i used to do topless modelling i always tried to convince myself that i was ‘liberating women, we live in a time where we are celebrated for our bodies’ and i think this is the motto that alot of models try to feed off of to make themselves feel better about what we are doing.’
‘I was from a good working-class but upwardly mobile family and I was part of the first generation of this family to go on to further education. I went to a girls’ grammar school, my parents pushed me to get my ‘O’ levels and my ‘A’ levels and insisted on the value of education and the importance of making my chances in life. They didn’t want me to end up working at the Co-op, they wanted better for me.
I was an intelligent, sensitive and rebellious child but I daren’t go against my parents and I got those ‘O’ levels and ‘A’ levels even though I hated school.
At age 12 something happened that blew all of that certainty about my parents’ values out of the water, and the memory is seared on my brain. Lying on the living-room floor, I opened the family newspaper to be confronted with a young woman posing provocatively and exposing her breasts publicly for all to see. In an instant I understood my real value to the world. I understood what my developing body was for. I realised that everything my parents had told me about my value as a person and the value of education was a lie. I could see that my parents colluded in society’s judgement of women’s value – they had bought the newspaper! My dad had seen that image! Did he see me in the same way? Why didn’t my Mum say anything?
Page 3 was hugely visible in the early Seventies – certainly round our way. It was taken as read that the ‘Page 3 girl’ was the sexual ideal. Even the ‘nice blokes’ looked at and talked about Page 3, and every time it happened I shrunk a bit inside, and on the outside tried to become more like her. I had small breasts. I could never be like her.
I remember my first real boyfriend – he was lovely – telling me that I could go to a fancy dress party as a Page 3 girl, and my mortification – one, because obviously I couldn’t (I couldn’t ‘measure up’, surely he could see that?) and two, because he had thought it was a compliment.
The constant visibility of Page 3 taught me not only how I had to look sexually, but how I had to behave. All men liked the girls that shared it round sexually – in a newspaper! – so I had to be like that, otherwise I would be seen as a prude. I would see myself as a prude, and that would make me feel even less sexy. I also learned that my job was to please men sexually, that’s what ‘sex’ meant to me.
I became promiscuous. I used my body to have power over men – just as the Page 3 girl did – I had no idea of its own needs, my own needs.
There was a lot of porn ‘coming in from the Continent’ in those days so Page 3 was not the only illustration of the sexually-serving role of women in the Seventies. But it had the official stamp of society’s approval on it that made it irrefutable.
When I was 22 a man on the street stopped me and said ‘You are so beautiful. You could make a lot of money doing topless modelling’ and all I could think was ‘he thinks I’m good enough? He thinks my breasts are big enough?’ After all my years of insecurity about them, here was validation that I did in fact ‘measure up’. I arranged to meet the man, topless photos were taken and published in a seedy little porn mag. After doing topless, the step to open leg shots and ‘harder’ porn was a small one. I had already given him the impression that I was ‘liberated’ and ‘confident’, so how could I spoil that illusion? I would have felt stupid and immature.
It took me two years of increasing self-hatred and depression before I had my breakdown. What I had thought would be confidence-boosting (my body is good enough!) had been exposed as the opposite. The dependence all my life on outside validation, just to feel like a ‘real woman’ turned out to be an empty goal, and in pursuit of it I had neglected to build up any inner self-worth.
There were many like me in that industry, I could see it, the tough cool exteriors hiding insecurities just like me. I knew others who went further into porn – once you start on that path, why not?
Page 3 is a game of pretend. The models are selling themselves as something they’re not – sexually available and always ‘up for it’. That’s a really damaging thing to ‘celebrate’ young women for. I’m not pretending it was only Page 3 that led to all my problems, there were other factors I’m sure, but Page 3 certainly had the biggest impact on me as a girl entering puberty. I hate Page 3 with a vengeance. I am so glad that I made my mistakes in the days before the internet, but I am still terrified that these images of me will surface somewhere.’
‘I was a glamour model from 2003 and I was around for the start of the real girls boom. I got into modelling while at university when I entered a student competition in FHM and won, thus setting a train in motion that it’s taken almost 9 years to get off of. I did well at modelling. I’d often get asked for advice on how to get into it and would surprise people by always advising against it. It’s not a nice world, and in reality it’s not very glamourous. I understand how it looks from the outside though, mainly because I was seduced by the perceived glamour myself.
As an insecure and quite ‘different’ girl, I had no confidence in my looks at all. I wasn’t popular. While never bullied, I’d spent most of my early teenage years being told by boys in various ways that I was disgusting and the majority of my late teens and early twenties believing every word.
By the time I hit university my self-esteem was at all time low, which coincided – perversely – with a decision by the male population that I was actually alright. Despite the awkward and sometimes humiliating situations that ensued, I found that I had gotten a taste for the attention and played up to it. I created a persona (‘Pink’) that was the person that I had always wanted to be growing up; pretty, loud, sexually confident and outrageous. Basically everything that I wasn’t before. It was all an act, but as the people at university hadn’t known me before they didn’t know any better, and to many this is who I was. By being this fantasy person I could live out all the things I thought would make me sexy and attractive, so I became a cheerleader and I started modelling. Studying and all my dreams of a traditional career went out of the window.
By the time I graduated I couldn’t tell the fantasy me and the real me apart. My first attempt at getting into modelling saw me approaching a cheesy portrait studio in Norfolk to take some glamour shots. Upon arrival I was promptly locked in a studio by the vastly overweight middle-aged photographer who then attempted to ply me with alcohol (I didn’t drink) and pose me in vaguely pedophilic outfits. Terrified, I ran out of the studio crying and upon seeing the terrible photos that resulted, told myself not to try again. However, a few months later I was coerced into another (infinitely less scary) shoot in a friend’s back garden and the pictures turned out quite good so I sent them in to FHM, not expecting a reply.
The next day I got a phone call from them scheduling a shoot and my modelling journey began. Attention given to those who have never had it before can become quite a toxic drug. In my experience the majority of glamour models I have met have had something to prove. Whether it be against a school bully, an abusive boyfriend or parent, or even against themselves. They want to prove that they are wanted and beautiful, possibly because they don’t get that kind of attention at home. It’s such a specific thing to do – to share what society dictates should be private with the world – and it’s something you rarely find the prettiest girl at school doing. Having been told she is beautiful all her life she doesn’t feel the need. But there is a neediness to glamour models, this need to be wanted, of always being the ugly duckling – the underdog almost – that consumes them and makes them do what they do….
On the whole I did very well out of modelling. I had a long-running column within one of the lads magazines, shot for Playboy, did Page 3, even worked with some fashion photographers, but I knew I was one of the few. For every girl who made it there was a long list of also rans, and even though I was doing well I wasn’t making the kind of money I’d been lead to believe glamour models were making. For the majority of my career I was living on a basic wage of £500 a month, sometimes less. Unable to pay my rent and living expenses and unwilling to go into the murky side of things to make more, I got into a lot of debt. People talk about female empowerment but a lot of our job was to pander. To pander to readers, editors, casting agents and embody an ideal that would change on a monthly basis. Brunettes one week, big boobs the next… we became the sum of our parts. Success was totally arbitrary and had more to do with the whims of booking agents, photographers and picture editors than how hard you worked at it.
Competition was so rife that one bad shoot or hair cut could cost you everything. I watched girl upon girl get into it only to disappear six months later. The average career of a successful glamour model is about 3-5 years, only a small percentage make it longer than that, and even then not by much. Plus, girls who do this don’t just go away and have a quiet life afterwards. It’s not the 80s anymore. The internet has made it so their ‘little mistake’ or ‘bit of fun’ from when they were younger can now be searched on Google by potential employers and becomes very hard to make go away. Due to the competition that the Nuts-era real girls created, there is little to no money in glamour modelling. Why pay a model when a real girl will be just as popular and work for free? Girls get into it expecting money and fame yet big names in modelling are a thing of the past and the lack of money (and difficulty going back to a normal job) has pushed more girls into the seedier sides of the industry.
I never did it myself, but many of the girls who wouldn’t have considered it five years ago find themselves working on the babe channels just to make ends meet, and from there it’s a slippery slope into escorting and prostitution.
The law sides with photographers when it comes to copyright meaning a model’s image can be legally resold without her receiving a penny. There is no minimum wage for models, no unions, pension plans or healthcare, and girls are regularly expected to work for free. The magazines’ appetite for new girls outweighs a girl’s chance to have any kind of long-lasting career and low fees rob the average model the chance of making any money from it, despite the fact that the pictures printed may lose her her normal job. Modelling can and will damage your career prospects for the rest of your life. Girls going into it don’t see this, they see the cache, the confidence boost of extra attention, and the thrill of their friends seeing them in a magazine, but wouldn’t it be better if they were in that magazine for something more than their cup size? Why are women selling themselves so short? Giving up their careers for a flash in the pan as a sex object? These are the questions we need to be asking ourselves’.
‘As a former topless model, I feel I have a certain perspective on the Sun’s Page 3 topless women issue. When I was 18, I used nude modeling as a way to earn money to support my acting career. Was I thrilled and empowered by my job? Some days and jobs, yes, but the majority of my time was spent consumed by inner conflict about my choice.
Just because an attractive woman decides to pose topless does not mean she’s happy about it, although Neil Wallis, former deputy editor of the Sun, points out a model’s choice of appearing on Page 3 as a reason why it’s ok. That doesn’t take into consideration that many times people make bad choices based on a situation or certain pressures or seeing something as the only way out or toward a dream.
If I had had other models of female success presented to me every day as a young woman, I may have seen other possibilities and ways to feel beautiful and admired in the world rather than posing nude.
Wallis goes on to explain that the women who do buy the Sun have no problem with the Page 3 photos. Really? Has he asked them? Just because there are women who buy The Sun does not mean they are happy about having to see photos of topless women every day. Perhaps they have just come to accept this is the way their world is and there’s nothing they can do about it.
Also, claiming something should continue because it is an “institution” as Wallis does is a weak argument. It was “tradition” that only men could vote or work outside the home; certainly Wallis doesn’t wish for a return to this kind of thinking, does he?
And as for the argument that we would be hurting these Page 3 women by taking away their chance at a nice paycheck and a chance to feel glamorous? Umm, hello! How about instead making Page 3 an opportunity for women to feel glamorous by having their name in print–a daily chance to show off what these women can do not what they look like.’ (Sheila Hageman)
‘Someone heard I had been a model and typed my name in and found Page 3 girls. When I did those pictures there was no internet. It was just a newspaper. Never in a million years did I think I would be on there. I checked and there are quite a lot of pictures of me and the trouble is, they are linked to worse sites. I was not prepared for the enemy of the internet. It is a dangerous world. I think it is very difficult to get pictures off there. It’s a horrible feeling.’ (Susie Flashman Jarvis)
‘The period with the whole ladette thing I felt I was being objectified. But that was my own fault for being young and too silly to have an idea of the kind of photos I was doing, and not understanding at 18 those photos would then be there for ever. I’m accepting of them but I wish I had understood at the time. I’m very pro-women and I love women being sexy but there were some photos I did which were quite degrading. There were a couple when the tone was wrong. It was explicit, and when you’re young you don’t understand the impact of those issues. You’re not a woman yet.’ (Samantha Womack)
‘It was a very different world then, It was the flower power era – people were burning their bras. We fought for equality and now we live in a society where it’s dangerous for women to reveal all – it’s a bad message to put out. We see and hear things everyday of women being attacked and raped, so this message of nudity in these family newspapers is not necessarily a good one. When I was doing Page 3 I never felt any threat or I was at risk, whereas today I think girls are. I have a daughter and I really wouldn’t want her to be any part of that industry.’ (Nina Carter)
‘I think it has been around for so long, and perhaps it has had its day really. Things have changed so much..’ (Linda Lusardi)