I got a phone call from a mate, another musician, playing a venue where I was due to perform the following week:
“Vanessa, this is hilarious! The bouncer’s Mrs has told him he can’t work here next week, cos you’re naked in the promo poster”
Naked piano player! Been called that quite a lot. Sometimes because of unfortunate placement of a piano can make you look pretty naked (if you’re wearing a strapless top and shorts, yeah? See it?) and also, probably, because of my repeated-clothesless photo-shoots.
Now this obviously opens a whole load of cans of (naked) worms. When I first started out in music, I was (and still kind of am) uncomfortable with having my picture taken, or using pictures of me to promote music. I’m a musician, not a model, I’ve never wanted to be a model. I didn't have any promotional pictures of me at all.
But then there is the whole image thing – it’s true, people judge you and what your music will sound like by the clothes you wear. I find that concept in itself so bizarre, and in protest I just stopped wearing clothes. Not in a “LOOK IT’S A VAGINA” way, but as far as I’m concerned my body has been through a lot in it’s life and I’m quite proud of it for still being here. I don’t have a problem with nudity at all. And I prefered that approach to "what are you trying to say with that dress/jacket/hat?" (the answer is nothing, I try to say things with my mouth)
I’m also a big fan of the people over at FREE THE NIPPLE campaign – why is it the female nipples are illegal, but it ‘s fine to put a man nipple anywhere you want? I’ve not been brave enough to actually go topless at a gig – or do the whole hog Amanda Palmer style and sing naked (check out her tune “Dear Daily Mail”) but you may have noticed – I take risks with my breasts at gigs because I can. They are mine and I’ll do what I want with them. I encourage everyone else to be proud of their chests, whatever shape or size or gender it may be! Celebrate our bodies. And to help anyone who is confused – just because someone has a naked body does not mean they want to have sex with you, or that you can touch it. It might be ok to touch it, why not approach the situation with respect, you might get lucky? If not, remember it does not belong to you, but it never did, so you’ve not lost anything. No need for anyone to be upset.
I’ve got over myself a bit now and I’ve found clothes that I’m happy to wear on/off stage and in photos (naked photo shoots can be bloody torture, it's sooooooo cold). I think I will always feel a bit awkward about image, while also enjoying confusing people by suddenly wearing something completely inappropriate (like the time I turned up to meet a band wearing a tutu – their label had sent me clothing recommendations before I go there. Tutu was not on the list.)
And finally – I met the wife of that bouncer and she’s awesome. We did shots.