In Brazil, we are told, vanity, as an excessive pride in one’s appearance, is not viewed as a negative attribute. All the people, men as well as women, are expected to go to great lengths to look good. As a result of the tremendous pressure to look slim, beautiful and young, Brazilian women were reported in 2014 to spend eleven times as much on beauty products as British women. Yet even in this society which worships the youthful figure, there are women who want their sisters who are no longer young and slim, to feel beautiful and sexually attractive without the need to have a tantalisingly elusive body form, or undergoing surgery.
Cosmetic plastic surgery is big business in Brazil. It is reported to be the world leader for both buttocks reshaping and tummy tucks, and when it comes to the number of breast alterations it is second only to the USA. It is not surprising that such unnecessary trauma and expense has provoked a reaction and there are Brazilian women trying to move in a different direction. Pioneers such as Darcy Toledo and Jane Walter have founded a photography business called the Nude Agency to help every woman find her own natural beauty.
Nude Agency employs an all-female team of 10 photographers, make-up artists and fashion designers. It offers ordinary women the chance to feel like a top fashion model for a day, and gain a portfolio of professionally taken sensual photographs. The women can choose to be fully clothed, but most prefer to wear just lingerie, which they can pick from a large range that the agency provides. Some opt to dispense with the lingerie. Clients are helped to select the most flattering outfits, and find the right poses and lighting.
At first, clients were more interested in obtaining sexy pictures for their partners, but soon the majority of women came for their own delectation. Clients claim a boost in self-esteem, feeling better about themselves and feeling like a professional model. The service is not cheap with prices ranging from $440 up to over $1800, depending on the number of photographs to be taken. Customers can also chose to have a mocked-up fashion magazine, or a calendar. By comparison, surgery is much more expensive, may produce no longer-lasting effect and is not without risk. The proof of the photographic approach is in the growing demand that has attracted other similar enterprises to spring up since Nude Agency was founded in 2006.
What is good for Brazil can be good for women everywhere. Perhaps a new human right has been discovered: the right of every woman to be treated as a fashion model for a day. If this is what it takes to give every woman the self-esteem to be confident in her natural body shape, it is a right to be treasured.