Naked and Deactivated
AN INTERVIEW WITH JESSA - FOUNDER OF THE NUDE BLOGGER.
How did you fall in love with the nudist lifestyle?
When I was younger, I used to head down the surf coast a lot with my friends. I started dabbling with topless sunbathing, exploring the more secluded areas of the beach. I didn’t want to be... looked at in a certain way, and I wasn't trying to be sexual, so I ended up at nude beaches, thinking people might be less inclined to stare.
In 2015, I was on a solo backpacking trip. At this stage, I'd spent the last few years visiting a lot of nude beaches, but in Montenegro that year I put my name down for WOOFING (free accomadation in exchange for work at a campsite/farm).
This place I signed up for - it was 'eco friendly', which I assumed was some sort of nature reserve. Turns out it was clothing optional. [laughs]. I didn’t realise at the time of booking, but once I figured it out I just sort of thought ... this is meant to be, because I loved being naked, but I’d never tried the lifestyle.
So I rock up to the gate of this place, and Steve – one of the owners – shows up completely naked. It was definitely a bit of a shock – I wasn’t used to someone answering their door naked! But I met his wife (who was also naked), and was shown around, and I just started to feel comfortable. You know no-one's staring because they don’t find it odd. I ended up cooking lunch... gardening... doing chores and every day things, completely naked.
That experience - that's how I really got into it. I fell in love with the freedom of it.
Can you delve into that freedom?
I have quite a spiritual view on our physical being. I think being naked is very symbolic of taking away the layers. Clothing and makeup can be incredible ways to artistically express ourselves, but at the end of the day, we're still here without any of it.
At times we want to cover up imperfections and flaws we feel we have, but being naked really brings us back to our most natural, physical form. It’s quite symbolic of that internal way of thinking. Once we can be free to be nude, we can let go of all those layers we build up over a lifetime.
People have such a fear of being naked in front of others. But we come into this world naked, and over time we’re conditioned to think it’s sexual and inappropriate in some way. Nudity doesn’t have to be sexual. Men and women can be naked together in a communal setting without it being... sexualized. There’s a time and place for sexuality, but a naked body isn't innately sexual.
Nudity, really, is returning to our pure selves, to a completely natural state. I suppose I attach quite a deep meaning to it… but nudity is also fun. I'll take my friends to a nude beach, and they'll take their tops off, and they realise it's just not a big deal. Once people try it, even if they’re quite hesitant... whatever shape, colour or size you are, it’s just not that big of a deal.
So, after your backpacking experience... you founded The Nude Blogger?
You know ... I'm definitely in the younger demographic, in terms of the nudist lifestyle. I'll go places and I'm one of the youngest there. You've got people that have been nudists for 50 years, but they grew up in an era where it was more acceptable, mostly because they didn't have social media.
I think the body positivity message - it's so important, especially for the younger generations. And once I got back from that backpacking trip, I realised I wanted to start a blog. I wanted to spread that message, to talk about health and wellbeing (I'd recently turned vegan)... but also, to explore the more taboo side of this lifestyle.
That's how The Nude Blogger was born.
What were the initial reactions you were getting?
Initially, it was overwhelmingly positive. So many people were reaching out, letting me know they’d dabbled in the lifestyle...people who'd previously been quite self-conscious had tried being naked more around their partner... that sort of thing. I think it's really helped a lot of people.
But obviously, with exposure comes criticism. There's always going to be haters, trolls, people judging you. And all the media attention I've been getting - that's definitely brought in a lot more negativity, which I wasn't seeing previously.
The 'media attention' you mention ... that's mostly due to your recent Instagram deactivation, right? Take me back to the day that happened. What was going through your mind?
Well... I'd just had a candlelit shower, and I was doing a face mask, and I was planning on such a relaxing night… [laughing]. Before my shower, I remember taking a photo of my face mask for Instagram, and after the shower I put the face mask on, went to post on Insgtagram... and it logged me out. My internet at home is so crappy, so I assumed it was just that. But after trying to log in numerous times, I showed my housemate, and she just said... your account’s been deactivated.
I was in utter shock. I was frantic, disappointed... just in shock. I was pretty gutted, to be honest.
What did you do from there? What can you do?
I know social media isn’t everything, but for me, my intention – I’ve had good intentions for my account the whole time. And there’s so much crap and negativity on Instagram that's awful for impressionable youth... I just thought – how can my account, which promotes body positivity, be deemed inappropriate?
So it was basically - if I’m going down, I’m not going down without a fight. Even – to be honest, I didn’t actually expect to get it back. I was just thinking, if anything, I’m going to use this to get some sort of attention on the message of body positivity.
So from there, you started gaining traction.
It was national and international! I couldn’t even believe the places it reached – Turkey, Greenland… it was crazy. I wasn’t checking it a lot, but my boyfriend would google it and be like oh my god, your story’s in Afghanistan. It blew up in Belgium, Norway, Denmark...
I think it proved how important this message is. There was obviously the whole controversy involved, with the nudity and the Instagram deactivation …. but I do think it proved body positivity is a relevant message. It definitely had a very wide reach.
My account was reactivated! I couldn’t believe it was actually given back to me, I thought there was no way I could get through to Instagram. But – I guess it turns out one person can make a difference.
Right now, just weeks after your re-activation, how do you feel about social media?
It’s such a powerful tool and way to communicate. I mean, there’s no way I could have ever, without social media, spread my message the way I’ve been able to.
But you have to be mindful of the people and things you're following. We learn about food, and being mindful about what we put into our bodies, and it's the same thing - with social media, it's what we're putting into our minds.
You have to get into healthy habits with the accounts you follow.
To Instagram directly... I want to say thank you, because I really am. I never heard back from them about why they reinstated my account… I’m one of 700 million or so users, and I know there's so many other accounts trying to spread a similar message, and they haven't been as blessed as me. Their accounts haven't been reinstated.
So I am grateful. But I do hope it’s a step in the direction of becoming more discerning between the accounts that should be shut down, and the ones that shouldn't.
What's next for The Nude Blogger, now you're back? Where to go after making International news?
The three weeks it was shut down... I can be a very hard worker, and I think I nearly over worked myself. I’ve basically completely slowed down. I think I just need to take a bit more time for me.
I did host my first naked yoga class a few weeks ago, though. I'm working towards hosting more of them - these female-only, three-hour, naked yoga workshops. That's definitely the next big project.
Other than that ... I just want to get back to what my blog's about. The last few weeks have been so incredibly hectic, and I haven't been able to create or write about what I want to. So I’m just going to get back into the flow of things – knuckle down a bit more. Workshops and writing.
Advice for those looking towards the nudist lifestyle, and unsure where to begin?
You have to learn to be comfortable within yourself first, before you go out there and try to make a point to other people. People always ask me – how do I start, how do I make that first step, and you need to be comfortable in your own personal space. You need to be able to walk around your house naked and be okay with it.
We’re all going to have fears that hold us back, but if you’ve got even a little bit of curiosity to see what this lifestyle's about, you’ve just got to put yourself out there. Obviously, you have to be mindful, and you have to be careful when it comes to going to beaches and that sort of thing, especially if you're younger. Just being responsible.
You’re never going to please everyone. But I always remember - what I’m doing is affecting people positively far more than the negativity I receive.