Being naked on stage and screen.

There is a recurring theme in my career.

I am often naked.

It is a running joke in my family.... “So Libby, will you have clothes on this time”?

Yes, yes very funny. Now you try walking out onto a stage in front of 800 people in your bra and undies. Every night. 8 shows a week. For months on end. And then tell me if it’s funny.

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with being naked in my work. On one hand I think that nudity and the human body are just a part of life that should be embraced and explored. Acting is exploring humanity! I love exploring sexuality, sensuality, power and vulnerability.

On the other hand I have often seen on-stage nudity as a challenge… and too often it became the ultimate motivation to be thin. THAT is what eating disorders thrive on. Give me a deadline (opening night) and a good reason (your character is naked) and I had 100% discipline.

Think about how brides always lose weight before their wedding. There is pressure to be beautiful (which society tells us means starving), lots of eyes on you, a photographer, and a fabulous dress. Now throw in a bunch of theatre critics and a love scene and you have a dieting disaster waiting to happen.

I always considered myself to be one of the ‘healthy ones’ in my work. I have always eaten food, been relatively healthy with my food choices, exercised, and managed to avoid bulimia and anorexia or any of the more extreme disorders… but lurking underneath was perfectionism and extreme pressure on myself to have a so-called ‘perfect’ body.

I also have an autoimmune disease that affects my metabolism. But more on that later.

Throughout my career there has been both external and internal pressure to have a rocking body while bouncing around on stage in my underpants.

I also want to point out that I chose these roles, and that none of the nudity was either gratuitous or unwelcome. Most of the time it was written into the script, sometimes it was negotiated with the director, and twice it was encouraged by me to add vulnerability to the role or a sense of ‘voyeurism’ for the audience. The point I am trying to make is not that nudity should be eradicated, but that the very act of being naked remains fraught with so much continual pressure and demand on one’s body.

Let me break it down for you:

2005 I played a junky nightclub owner in a black bra and leather pants gyrating on a bunch of pretty, young boys, high on ketamine, singing something about Caligula.

2006-2008 I was at drama school where we were half naked in every second show… that’s just part of the deal. I was also diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Hypothyroidism and battled weight gain, exhaustion and utter self loathing for not being as thin or ‘little’ as the other girls in my year.

2009/10 I was told by my first agent (not my current one) to lose weight but I was still very much struggling with Hypothyroidism and simply couldn’t. I extrapolate that this had something to do with why I wasn’t getting any work.

2011 I shot an entire music video in nothing but a skin coloured body suit with a revolving 360 degree camera.

2012 A VERY raunchy sex scene with an actor 10 years my junior, and I remember hitting my head on the camera while being told to “throw your hair back and moan”. The camera was literally on my ass. First time I’ve seen my breasts on the big screen. A memorable event.

2013 I had my big break-out role in a sexy, brilliant play exploring sadomasochism and gender roles. This was the single most extraordinary time in my career. I just so happened to be in black lingerie for the majority of the 92 minute running time.

Venus in Fur 2013 - Photo by Stephen Henry

2014 My thyroid crashed again after I contracted a parasite and I struggled with weight gain. I was luckily CLOTHED for the year of work.

2015 Recovering from surgery and a full gut health protocol from the parasite I went straight into a play where I was the ‘bombshell’ in midriff tops and skin tight dresses.

Later that year, I starred in an intense one woman show, where I began curled up on the floor, half naked and very vulnerable lying in the middle of a blank stage as people entered the theatre, before putting on my costume in front of the audience.

2016 Mostly clothed... except for a promotional photo shoot for a play where I was in a red lace teddy. They eventually retracted the photo as the poster for the show because it was deemed too racy for their subscriber audience.

2017 I worked on my first U.S. feature film and had to do a 15 minute scene FULLY NAKED in front of movie star Danny Trejo. Closed set and respectful crew, but nonetheless… being starkers on set in Los Angeles was bloody terrifying.

Later that year, I went on a 5 month theatre tour, 8 shows a week, in nothing but a bra and panties. There were 3 sets of stairs and 7 doors and I had to go ass-over-tit backwards over a couch as one of the stunts. In lingerie.The backstage crew counted the sets of stairs I ran up and down over the course of the performances at over 2000. In my underwear. 2000. Insane.

2018 I starred in a gorgeous, haunting film where I spent about half the shoot in my knickers in a freezing cold lake in New Zealand, and had to film an intense sex scene with a very fit, very buff male actor.

2019 CLOTHED and on my way to understanding my body and health via Black Iron Nutrition.

2020 creating the revolution that is FkSknny.

Okay so you get the picture. I was naked A LOT.

I wouldn’t change a single thing about any one of those shows … they are my life’s work and my passion and I cherish every moment of those experiences.

But I WOULD change how I approached my health and nutrition.

I used to just eat salads, and get up at 5am to do endless cardio or go to a HIIT class and destroy myself. I reduced my carbohydrate intake to zero and sometimes dinner would consist of salmon sashimi only.

Not eating enough food then made my sleep intermittent and disturbed and it made me highly anxious and giddy. Sometimes I would get head spins on stage when I got up from a chair or spun around quickly. Not to mention the total destruction of my metabolism, thyroid, hormones and just general enjoyment of my work and my life. I used to look down at my body, at the curve of my stomach and wish it would go away. I would look at the jiggle of my bum in my knickers and hate every inch of it.

None of that is okay.

Knowing what I know now:

- I would eat carbs

- I would eat protein with every meal

- lots of healthy fats

- I would lift weights

- I would train constantly varied functional movements (shoutout to CrossFit)

- I would meditate

- I would prioritize my sleep

- I would tone down the exercise intensity while under pressure to perform

- I would work one-on-one with my Black Iron Nutrition coach to monitor my progress, my sleep, stress and hormones to make sure I am supporting my health

- I would look down at the lovely curvature of my body and know that it is beautiful, that it is healthy, that it is okay to look this way.

These are the things I do now.

These are practices that I implement each and every day.

Now when I get a role, I don’t crash diet and think about how thin I need to be to be acceptable as the character. Now I know that my body is in a fantastic place, exactly where it needs to be, and this is now the character’s body. That’s all there is to it. This is not only for my own peace of mind, but also because I want an audience to see a woman’s body as healthy and nourished. If I constantly destroy my body and believe it’s only worthy for ‘consumption’ or entertainment if it’s malnourished and underweight… then what kind of message am I sending out into the world?

My body has a bit more muscle on it and stands a little prouder these days. I am emboldened by the changes I have made in the past 18 months and somehow I feel sexier than I ever have. I am physically stronger, but also more powerful in multiple ways - I carry my body with more authority and I am willing to speak up for myself in difficult situations. These are all byproducts of changing my mindset. This is the ‘bonus round’ I get in life for evolving, educating myself and trying to change what was clearly broken.

So when you see someone naked on stage or on screen, take a moment to understand what they are going through and hold your judgement. They are human beings too. We have created a societal pressure to look a certain way, when really these stories are not about bodies, but about souls. See the beauty within.

See it in them, and you will see it in yourself.

'The Hunted' 2018

#naked #bodyimage #crashdieting #blackironnutrition #nutritioncoaching #actor #actress #loveyoself #naked #film #theatre #health #fitspo #crossfit #fksknny #revolution

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