Interview with Juno Li – Life Model

Featured image – Artist: Richard Gray / Model: Juno Li

How did you first get into life modelling? Is it something you have always wanted to do?

It was very spontaneous and quite funny, really. I was performing at a spoken word event one night and got talking to one of the other performers about side hustles. She mentioned that she had been thinking about life modelling, and that was all it took for me to get the idea in my head. I joined the Register of Artists’ Models (RAM) that night when I got home, before waking up the next morning with big regrets. I thought, “Why did I join? I don’t want to do this,” but I had to audition to stay on the register, and I’d already committed to the registration fee; so I decided follow through. The week preceding my audition I was terrified, but when it finally happened I felt a tremendous sense of liberation.

What do you find to be the most challenging part of life modelling?

I have a very complicated relationship with my own body image, and life modelling requires me to confront this in a public way. Throughout my teenage years I suffered with quite an all-consuming eating disorder — I remember for the longest time thinking I would rather stay celibate than ever have someone see me naked. I took my body very seriously, and I still have days when I do not want to be seen by anyone; but life modelling is helping me move on from this. There is something very healing about seeing yourself through a solely artistic lens, and through everyone else’s eyes.

Copyright – Photographer: Gary Geezer / Model: Juno Li

I see that you have also had a photoshoot with Gary Geezer. Was that your first photoshoot? Is photo work something you are looking to get into?

It was my first nude photoshoot, yes. I’ve been asked to do similar shoots by many photographers in the past, but always declined because I didn’t like their work enough, and often found the nudity in their images was very sexualised. One of the beautiful things about life modelling is its complete focus on shape objectivity and removal of sexuality; you can exist as nothing more than a form wherein attraction is completely irrelevant. I feel that in photography, it’s much easier to enter territory in which attractiveness of the subject is placed above artistic value in terms of importance, so I’m much more selective and cautious when it comes to photographic modelling. Having said that, I have a huge appreciation for photography, so when I do find people I want to shoot with I often really love the outcomes.

What is the most challenging pose you have had to hold, and how long did you hold it?

It was the one captured here by the brilliant Alexandra Veres; my right arm was over my head with my entire upper body weight supported by my left forearm, while my legs were bent and splayed across the modelling bed. I chose it as a 15 minute pose despite having never tried it out before, and very quickly realised it was going to be a strenuous hold. My arms were quavering with exertion by the last minute, but I managed to maintain form to the end. I cultivate a lot of physical strength required to hold difficult poses from mental belief, so I spent most of that 15 minutes repeatedly telling myself I would make it.

Copyright – Artist: Alexandra Veres / Model: Juno Li

A strange question, but if you could invent a product to make life modelling easier, what would it be and why?

It would be a device that tracks the angles of each pose I do throughout a session, to help me make sure I’m giving everyone equal opportunity to practise different techniques — drawing my face, foreshortening, and so on.

Is there any specific process you go through to prepare for a life drawing session?

I eat either nothing or very little the entire day beforehand, and shave everything. I’m trying to break both of these habits.

Copyright – Photographer: Gary Geezer / Model: Juno Li

Could you share any interesting/funny/scary anecdotes with us about any shoots you have done?

When I was 19, I did a shoot with a popular photographer who had come across some images of me online and asked to book me. I wasn’t nude, but I was wearing a selection of skimpy outfits that I had styled from my wardrobe upon his request. The shoot went fine, but when driving me back from the location he started speaking about a “lengthy affair” he’d had about a decade earlier while married with children to his current wife. He went on to tell me all the details with a strange nonchalance. His wife didn’t share his interest in French cinema, but his lover had — and was everything his wife wasn’t beyond that, too. It was likely that his wife knew anyway, he said; after all, she was a very intelligent woman. This feeling of deep discomfort settled in me and I suddenly became hyperaware of the fact I was in this stranger’s car, that he was in complete control of the situation, and that I did not trust him. I didn’t say much and started planning exit routes. When I got out, he handed me my cash and I remember feeling dirty in some way. The photos turned out well, but I never worked with him again.

Is it easy to find work as a life model? What have you found to be the easiest way to find work? 

I found it relatively easy from the start, but getting consistent work took a bit of time for me. For the first few months, I depended on RAM’s Joblink Search, which is great. Now I also use Instagram, and send a lot of cold emails to life groups expressing interest, providing a short description of my appearance and asking them to get in touch with dates. Building genuine relationships with artists at classes is also a good way to get recommended to organisers. Reputation matters, so be reliable, professional, and commit to every job you take on; if you’re not building your reputation up, you’re destroying it.

Copyright – Artist: Mike Lang / Model: Juno Li

How has life modelling changed since the pandemic, and what do you think the future holds for life modelling? 

I’ve only been life modelling since May this year, so I haven’t seen the effects of the pandemic in this area firsthand, but I have spoken to artists who say there are a lot more life classes in London now than there was pre-pandemic, and of course, the rise of online classes is also notable. This increase means it’s likely easier to find work as a life model now than it was a couple of years ago, but I also have a hunch this surge may be temporary. I know quite a lot of groups are seeing their numbers drop due to the number of classes running now, so I suspect some will disappear in the coming year.

Do you have any goals you want to achieve in the next 2 years? 

I am currently training in circus arts, and want to start learning contortion to utilise in my modelling. I’m very hypermobile as it is, so I expect I’ll take to it quite well. Other than that, I hope I can find contentment and start earning enough regular income to afford a dog — I’ve dreamed about having a Samoyed for years.

Copyright – Photographer: Gary Geezer / Model: Juno Li

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