Interview with model “Layla Vera”

Featured Woodland Photo – Copyright to Francesco Catania

How long have you been modelling? Is it something you have always wanted to do?

I’ve been modelling for six years, at my first shoot, I was 23 years old. For the first few years, I was not that active and didn’t have an online portfolio. For the last four years, I’ve taken it much more seriously. 

Actually, no, ha-ha. As a child, I did two shoots because we had a photographer as our neighbour, but that was just for him to practice and for me for fun. My passion for modelling came later.

Do you remember how you got your first photoshoot?

Yes, I do! All right, so I know that it sounds contradictory, but I am not super comfortable in my own skin. But I was also raised by two parents who made being nude very normal, and not something sexual. This combination led to me wanting to improve my self-confidence by being an art-nude model for artists/painters. Spoiler: I have never done that.

Searching on the internet led me to a Dutch website with advertisements by painters, photographers and sculptors searching for nude models. I reacted to some painters, but that didn’t lead to anything. On that website, I saw one advertisement for someone who wanted to make a book with nude pictures of all different people, to show that everybody’s body are equal. I thought that that was a great idea, and I responded. After I sent the response, I thought, “shit, what did I do?!” To be painted nude is very different from being photographed nude. That was my first photoshoot. Her project never finished, the book never came out, and nobody saw that photo, but it was my first shoot and sparked more! 

Copyright Photographer – Michael Glabbeek

Can you tell me your feelings towards Instagram’s restrictions on nudity in art?

The fact that women’s nipples have to be covered and men’s not, I feel, is a big problem. They shouldn’t make a difference between male and female nipples. By censuring it, they make women’s nipples more erotic and sensual than men’s.

An extreme example: I travel a lot (my other big passion), and a few years ago I was backpacking in Iran for two months. In Iran, as a woman, you are obliged by law to cover yourself. Your hair, arms, elbows, and knees cannot be visible. So long sleeves, long trousers or skirts and a hijab. I went to a swimming pool with a quite western thinking Iranian woman. The swimming pool, of course, has different timeslots for women and men, and nobody of the opposite sex can work during the other sex’s timeslots. While we were there in our bikinis, she asked very seriously about our situation in the swimming pools. When I told her in the Netherlands, it’s mixed (I didn’t tell her we also have mixed saunas where everyone is nude), she asked, “Doesn’t every man have an erection all the time?” 

I think that shows that if you always cover everything, every nude (female) body part becomes sensual. In this case, the woman thought that no man could ‘handle’ a girl in a bikini.

Furthermore, I think that by covering nudity, you make it appear as though the nude equates to sensuality and eroticism. I get that they don’t want pornography on the platform, but whether something is erotic or sexy has everything to do with the vibe, expression and setting of the model and photo. For me personally, a lot of pictures of models in lingerie on Instagram are far more erotic than my nude pictures. But what is considered erotic depends for a large part on personal interpretation. 

For example, regarding vaginas and penises, I’m unsure where the line is. Personally, I don’t like to show my vagina. I would definitely show my nipples if I didn’t have to blur them, but I would not be comfortable posting pictures with my vagina on Instagram even if it was allowed. So I would probably still crop or censure those photos. 

How would you describe a typical day when you have a photoshoot?

I always shower, shave and wash my hair the same morning as the photoshoot. Normally I never blow-dry my hair, but before shoots, I do. I don’t wear make-up in day-to-day life and don’t even own any. That does save some time preparing.

Then, I have to ensure I don’t have lines on my body from tight clothes. My body shows lines really quickly, and it fades really, really slowly. So I wear no bra, and I wear socks where I have cut off the elastic top part. Then I wear a loose dress.

Then, I have to ensure I eat enough during the shoot because I’m very sensitive to eating too late, and you see it on my face when my sugar level is too low. (One time, a whole photoshoot failed because I skipped lunch during the photoshoot. In every picture, my face looked miserable.)

So I pack enough food.

The night before, I packed a bag with some clothes that matched the mood board for the shoot, and I travel to the shoot by public transport. Most of the time, the shoot takes three to four hours, I travel back by public transport, and because my overall energy level is quite low, I rest on the couch for the rest of the day.

Copyright Photographer – Koen van Neerven

Have you ever thought about going on the opposite side of the camera and becoming the photographer?

Yes, I sometimes take photos a little bit myself, but mostly zoomed-in street photography. Mostly patterns, I see in everyday life, and all made with my phone. 

Ideally, I would like to be able to create self-portraits, but I don’t have and don’t want to make time for learning everything about cameras. My three passions (modelling, poetry and travelling) are all awesome, and I can’t make time for one more. 

If one of your friends came to you and wanted to be a model, what advice would you give them?

Hmm, I have to think about this one. I would tell them that it’s not easy to earn money with modelling and that networking (and social media) takes quite some time but is necessary to meet new photographers to shoot with. If they are okay with that, I would absolutely support them and try if some of the photographers I worked multiple times with would be willing to shoot with them to start a portfolio. 

If they want to be a nude model, I would also warn them that it is quite a decision to place themselves naked on social media platforms. It comes with misunderstandings from people, weird DMs from sugar daddies, and your pictures will be on the web forever. You must be wise and selective with whom you work and keep yourself safe.

I would also tell them that you can definitely bring your own ideas. That often photographers like it if you have a good idea and make a mood board. So you can really let out your creativity. And then, while shooting, the photographer will shape your ideas to his flavour of photographing. 

Copyright Photographer – Paul Vanbueren

Can you please describe the photoshoot you had the most fun doing?

Oh, that’s difficult! I think it has to be an outdoor shoot in nature. Although… Aah, it’s difficult for me to separate the photoshoot from the results. That’s a bit strange; I didn’t know that yet, ha-ha. I think the connection with the photographer is most important; the more I feel at ease, the more relaxed and fun the photoshoot feels. 

What is the hardest part of modelling?

For me, that is to stand up straight. In my normal life, my body is always quite bent. I have scoliosis, and keeping my body straight and upright takes a lot of energy. 

But it is very important to make good pictures. When I see photos of me in my private life where I don’t pose, I’m always shocked at how bad my posture looks. 

Another thing that I always have to be conscious of is not letting my self-worth depend only on my looks or outward appearance. And even more so, to not compare my body with other (model’s) bodies. I have an eating disorder, so I have to be extra careful. It started long before I started modelling, so I sometimes painfully joke that I can’t get one from modelling.

Copyright Photographer – Michael Glabbeek

I see you also write Poetry. Can you tell me a little more about that?

Yes, of course! It’s my other big passion, but it was (is) also often a struggle. I’ve wanted to be a poet since I was 11 years old, but there were years in which I didn’t write anything. At age 20, I attended a writing academy for a few years, but I didn’t finish the degree. Then I didn’t write for a few years, and I thought the passion was gone. Since the end of 2021, my passion is back, and I even created a second Instagram page for my poems (they’re all in Dutch, though I also have English ones, I haven’t posted them yet). Having Instagram helps me to continue writing. I have to say the fact that a few people read them helps my flow. 

If you could plan the perfect shoot for you to model in, what would it be and why?

I think that would be a shoot in an extreme landscape. Preferably with stones, where my nude body mimics the shape of the stones. It has to be somewhere with rocks and mountains, so it can’t be in the Netherlands. I just really like it when the shape of the nude body matches nature. I think the picture would be in black and white. 

Copyright Photographer – Yana Metz

If you want to see more of “Layla Vera” check out her Instagram

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