My Body Is Something I Get To Enjoy And Utilize As I Please: Devi The Model
- IWB Post
- May 9, 2019
“I shoot art nudes because I think they subvert these forces more than reinforce them, by pushing the boundaries of “appropriate” female behavior, and by showcasing, proudly, a supposedly “flawed,” too dark, too curvy body. I like doing that. I find it empowering,” says Devi aka Googlymonster, a nude model who has been shattering beauty norms around the world through her flawless flaws.
Yes, I said it right there, Devi’s a nude model! However, intriguing as it might sound, that is just one aspect of her identity and you are bound to get astonished beyond belief if you get to talk to this women.
While I got certain of a warm, beautiful, and intelligent soul the very first time I approached her for the interview, I was certainly not ready for the kins of intellectual stimuli this woman helped me with.
The least I can say is that, in her deeds and in her words, this woman is revolution personified and she knows it well enough. Like she says, “I hope that my art helps transform the way that we traditionally experience the female form by creating new and different meanings, and hopefully, that refines the discourse around it.”
She adds, “I get to make a living and take care of myself while creatively exploring the playful, sensual, goddess-like feminine energies within me – forces that were repressed while I was coming of age. It’s like therapy; it’s rad.”
Devi was just 23 when she posed nude in front of the camera for the very first time. Curious to know how it all started? Read on:
Please share with us the first experience of going nude in front of the camera. What was going on inside your head?
It was the height of the recession, and I just sort of needed work as an unemployed, recent college grad. I saw an ad online for nude models and I was like, okay, sure, I guess can do that. In retrospect, I’m a bit surprised at my lack of hesitancy or caution, but somehow, I guess the life I had lived up until then, and the stuff I’d been through, had conditioned me in such a way that it really wasn’t something I was afraid of.
Obviously, I didn’t wanna get raped or murdered, so I did my homework. I’m not sure that I can remember any really interesting content floating around in my head when I was nude for the first time in front of the camera. I guess enough people had seen me naked at that point, and I wasn’t particularly self-conscious in front of the camera or the photographer.
I do remember that my main concern was about where the images would be distributed, about who would end up seeing them, and if this decision I’d made would somehow come back to bite me in the ass. Obviously, in the end, I just said “screw it” and did it anyway.
Did your work as a nude model help you fight any of your body insecurities and channelize them into self-love?
Being an art nude model has definitely changed my relationship with my body into something more dynamic and healthy. I feel a greater, more enduring sense of peace, with less fear circulating around in my head.
Like many women, I was conditioned to view my body primarily as something that gives you status if it looks a certain “perfect” way, and as something that had value mostly in relation to the way men viewed it. I’d internalized at least some of these messages like “you gotta leave something to the imagination.”
However, by using my body as a creative prop, it becomes something entirely different. While I do enjoy the look of an hourglass figure as much as the next person, in an artistic realm, perfection gets boring. For example, when I pose abstractly, my tummy rolls add texture, and my uniquely heavy bust takes on all kinds of strange, cubist forms. When I can create something truly fascinating using my body, it’s a transcendent feeling that allows space for pride to grow, and shame to dissipate.
Also, how did it help you embrace, accept, and celebrate your own sexuality?
Well, as an awkward, nerdy, neurodivergent, Indian American teenager, I think maybe I was lucky, looking back, because, for the most part, I may have missed experiencing some of the worst types of sexual objectification.
Although I absolutely wanted to feel ‘hot,” like anyone else, I had little confidence, probably seemed “weird” or tomboyish, and I was pretty much ignored by the opposite sex, while being teased by my friends and called a lesbian (turns out I am queer of sorts, so I guess there was something to it). So, while as an adult, I’ve since experienced slut-shaming on epic levels, things were a little different for me as an adolescent.
Inside, I felt sex was for ME, something that I craved. I actively pursued sexual experiences because I was curious, and they were an exciting, fascinating treat, not something that I felt was pushed on me.
In my heart of hearts, I’ve always owned my sexuality, and I’ve always wanted to do so openly. In making nude art and distributing it myself, my body is something I get to enjoy and utilize as I please, and primarily, it is something that I– not some man, or some corporation – profits from.
Please tell me about the most empowering photo shoot that you have done till date.
That’s a tough one. I’ve done hundreds and hundreds of shoots, and many have been enlightening in different ways. I’d say my favorite shoots tend to be ones where I trade my time with other art models who, like me, do photography. In other words, we shoot each other, and awesome vibes ensue.
What according to you is the best way to reclaim our bodies from popular opinions, standards and stereotypes?
Deprogramming ourselves is no easy task. I know the feeling of hating my body for being unusual, very, very well. But making art has taught me something different – that my body is fascinating and beautiful, not in spite of, but because of what makes it unique. Seeing my body as a work of art interwoven with my humanness and my essence, helps me see that gritty and complex can be gorgeous while cookie-cutter “perfect” can be characterless and bland.
Given the nature of your work, you must certainly be garnering a lot of male gaze online. How do you deal with it?
It’s really interesting to see the absurd ways that men around the world respond to the odd social experiment that is my Instagram. For example, for every South Asian guy who assumes that I must be a freewheeling nymphomaniac because I pose nude, there is one who is really obsessed with the question of whether or not I’m a virgin. However, “what is your boobs size?” is probably the number one question I get asked.
Like many women, I’ve grown accustomed to having my looks scrutinized while out living out in the world, so online, it’s even easier become numb, honestly. It’s all so repetitive and predictable, and for the most part, I don’t pay a lot of attention.
How do you deal with the trolls and people whose only work is to somehow pull women down when they see them getting empowered in ways that challenge their repressive ideologies?
How do I deal with these scared, angry, sad little guys who don’t like seeing their power over women eroding? And what do I do with all the hypocritical ones who follow me and seem to enjoy my content, but tell me that I’m destroying the world with my boobs? I mostly ignore them, but occasionally I take screenshots of some of the funnier, more ridiculous messages that I get and share them, partially, because it’s entertaining, and also just to remind my followers that men like this really do exist and they are everywhere.
Do you think that the female body is the political ground on which patriarchy rests by robbing us of our agencies through our very forms and colonizing them?
We know that narrow ideals of physical beauty and restrictive dictates around female sexuality have been used as a weapon to strip us of our agency, and ultimately, control us. The patriarchy perpetuates the message that female sexuality, and by extension, our bodies (which paradoxically, are hypersexualized, for the benefit of men) are fraught and dangerous. And one of the ways we deal with our fears is through repression, which ultimately, just makes everything worse.
I also do what I do because I know that there is nothing inherently degrading or impure about the bare human body, and the amount of clothing a person wears or doesn’t wear has nothing to do with whether or not they are deserving of equal respect and dignity as a human being. I think this is particularly relevant when looked at through a postcolonial perspective; I reject the idea that as brown folks, our ancestors had to be “civilized” into covering up, or that my great-grandmothers who basically enjoyed top-freedom in the tropics of South India were “low class” savages.
How do the patriarchal segments respond to your work? What is your message to them?
A lot of it reminds me of catcalling on the street. In terms of messages I receive, typically, if isn’t a description of graphic sexual fantasy, then it’s a question about how on earth I could “expose myself like this.” The general implication is that there must something pathological that would explain my behavior– narcissism, a constant need for attention and validation from men, or maybe, it’s just the depressing, dysfunctional sexual exhibitionism of a lost, fallen woman (I get asked a lot if I’m a sex addict).
Bizarrely, a guy recently messaged to ask whether the images I was posting were taken “with my permission” or “by force,” which was both really funny and really sad. Some message to express their undying love, I’ve even gotten a few serious-sounding marriage proposals, completely out of the blue. Others, on the other hand, want to make sure I’m aware of how ugly and fat I actually am, or how saggy my boobs are because you gotta take these stuck-up bitches down a notch, particularly when they ignore you online.
So it’s a lovely mixed bag! My message to them? Maybe try reading a real book, one that wasn’t authored by a pickup artist. Or take a class at an actual school, in a discipline like Psychology or Anthropology, instead of getting all your knowledge from Youtube and Twitter. Figure out that women are people, somehow, and stop being fucking weird.
You have shared how your work has helped you cultivate self-love and confidence. Has your blooming relationship with your body also impacted your relationship with the people around you, your romantic relationships perhaps?
My grace and comfort in my own skin has definitely shifted over the years, and I feel more myself around people – I’m less awkward and more embodied, uninhibited, and authentic. I’ve chilled out quite a bit, which as a spaz with ADHD, is a pretty big accomplishment.
Nonetheless, there’s no doubt in my mind that the expressive movement, dance, and meditational aspects of my work have cultivated a stronger bodily wisdom and sensuality within me, by bringing my awareness to primal energies. I’ll bet my boyfriend agrees.
What do you think needs to be changed about the way we discuss female bodies?
Everything, pretty much! Fear-based narratives, that program us to feel that women’s bodies are so inherently erotic for out-of-control, ape-like men, that they must be covered up no matter what the context, whether it’s for a woman’s own comfort, or to feed her children or in my case, even just to celebrate my body through art should have been obliterated like, during the stone age.
It’s funny how we can view images of topless men on vacation, even our world leaders, like, say, Obama, or Putin, and somehow not reduce them to sex objects because of the fact that they are “exposed.” I mean, the fact that someone might find me hot in a bikini, or nude, doesn’t change the fact that I’m a smart, talented, multifaceted person, capable of doing lots of other things besides arouse. The fact that people have seen my body nude doesn’t make me deserving of shame or somehow any less worthy of respect than anyone else.
How do you preserve the sanctity of how you see your body and your sexuality in this world of rapid commercialization?
By just being myself – a down-to-earth, real, flawed, vulnerable human being who makes part of her living making art and sharing it. I don’t plan on turning myself into a soulless product, optimized for mass consumption, anytime soon, even in the hyper-capitalist hellscape I live in that is the United States.
As you powerfully shatter the prejudiced notions pertaining to body types and resultant stereotypes, what is that one empowering message in body positivity that you’d like to give to all the brown women out there?
Don’t be afraid to be loud and proud, because we need to be, for each other! The more we stand in solidarity against the brainwashing we’ve all been subject to, the quicker we’ll all start to see how batshit crazy it was that we ever bought into white supremacist beauty standards in the first place.
Constantly striving to be a wholesome voice in contemporary feminism, IWB has come up with the campaign “ The Cuntry” to stand up for sexual choices of women for pleasure and not just for procreating. The campaign will take you across the country as we navigate the sexuality of women, how it has been repressed all this while, and seek ways of freeing it.
Campaign partner Kamasutra has joined us in our quest and will help us in taking you across the Cuntry as we navigate the dynamics of women’s sexuality in India and attempt to free it from the confining fetters of repressed ideologies.
We invite you to bring your love/lust stories to find power in the spoken word and set yourself free. We’d love to know how you rose above the burden of stigma that the society so liberally throws on our shoulders. We seek your stories to inspire, empower, and liberate those hesitant to make the first move towards claiming their agency in sexual pleasure.
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Image Courtesy: Devi’s Instagram
First published on Nov 13, 2018.