The latest celebrity to be outed as one of the famous who gets their ‘kit off’ in private is BBC Presenter, Kate Humble. In an article published by The Telegraph (07/09/2014), Humble was quoted as saying that she and her husband had: ‘danced naked in the middle of the desert in Jordan once. If you can’t get your kicks in that incredibly innocent, joyful way then the world is not a good place.’
This is old news. As early as in 2008, in an interview published by the Metro, Humble admitted that she liked dancing naked in ‘particularly beautiful places….’
Other stars listed by the Radio Times in an article published on 19/09/2014 include Justin Timberlake, who in a book by Michael Heatley about the recording artist is quoted as saying: ‘I was born naked and I’m going to die naked. I don’t see anything wrong with it.’ Actor Kevin Bacon is another celebrity named by the TV and Radio listings magazine as someone who enjoys a bit of home naturism with his wife and children and was quoted as having said: ‘There’s something therapeutic about nudity… take away the Gucci and Levi’s and we’re all the same.’
And of course, the Radio Times could not write an article like this without a mention of perhaps the most famous of them all, Dame Helen Mirren. After Mirren said that she found visiting a naturist beach ‘very comforting’, she was touted as a potential public face for the lifestyle and named “Naturist of the Year” on both sides of the Atlantic. Yet Mirren has also told The Sun newspaper: ‘In truth, I have a much greater interest in a great nightie than nudity.’
The thing is being “famous” means that, rightly or wrongly, people take note of what they say. For instance, actor Angelina Jolie has used her fame to highlight the use of rape as a weapon of war against women on the world stage; Emma Watson used her’s to give a voice to gender inequality at a meeting of the UN General Assembly. These are very serious subjects and it is right they have people like Jolie and Watson to keep them in the minds of politicians who are (mostly) elected to make the decisions for the rest of us.
Naturally, naturism pales by comparison but a reason to have and support organisations like Naturist Action Group and British Naturism, is to have others take our lifestyle seriously. If you think about the times it appears in the media, it is often because someone has been arrested for appearing naked in a public place or perhaps convicted on little evidence that a crime had been committed at all. Other occasions may come about because the editor (usually but not always male) charges a young journalist (usually but not always female) to write a piece to fill a page or so, as there isn’t enough ‘news’ to go around. Even if the journalist admits to feeling comfortable in the nude during the visit, and may even suggest the likelihood of a return visit, all too often the final piece includes a double entendre or two. If the article is generally pro-naturism, these hackneyed old comments only serve to once again link social nudity with sex and undo all the good it might have done, and put off any reader – particularly female – willing to try naturism for themselves.
Another reason why naturism might get into the media is because of a quirky question in a survey commissioned by a company wanting free publicity. They know the editor’s eyes will light up as soon as he (or she) comes across the words: naked, nude, naturist or nudism and these will almost guarantee the article being published.
What strikes me, however, is that it doesn’t have to be like that. Grayson Perry is now a highly respected artist and potter, but he is also well known as a transvestite. More often than not the media use Perry to comment on his or on others’ artistic endeavours and only occasionally does his transvestite alter ego, Claire, come to the fore. However, suddenly being a transvestite is seen as “OK” and exposé articles are old hat. The topic is now largely off the agenda. Perry would not claim to be a spokesperson for every transvestite in the UK, but for some, this is exactly what he is.
I believe that if a celebrity came out firmly in favour of naturism then he or she may have a similar effect. The problem is, finding one willing to nail their colours to the naturist’s mast when they do not require the publicity to promote something they are doing for themselves at the same time? Perry came to the media’s attention because he won the Turner Prize in 2003.
It is also my belief that it was the efforts of organisations like Stonewall – to change the public’s attitude towards the LGBT community – that played a significant part in Perry’s willingness to engage with the media and the public about his transvestism, and for the media to set aside that part of his life until it became the topic under discussion. This is why NAG believes naturism should be more proactive, and not reactive, with its dealings with the media, and here are some suggestions of how we could do that:
An awards ceremony; this could pick up on the ‘Naturist of the Year’ award given to Helen Mirren – the only time it has been awarded incidentally – but this time other categories could be added. Off the top of my head, we could have the “Best Naturist Club or Resort”. This could be broken down further into British club or resort and International club or resort. The best nudist beach perhaps could be another. We could also turn on the non-news articles and decide which was the best of those published, and so on. I’m sure this list could be expanded to half-a-dozen or so categories.
If that is too po-faced for you, we could have a mock awards ceremony, along the lines of the Razzies or the Ig Nobel, where the recipients of the “award” for the different categories are strangely always busy elsewhere, so unable to collect them.
Picking up on the Turner Prize idea, naturism could have its own prize for the arts. The nude has be a favourite subject for artists, sculptors and photographers for centuries after all, so why shouldn’t we encourage good artwork with the idea of promoting naturism?
Lastly, we could make a greater effort to put academically robust opinion research and other types of research into the public domain. Of course, this could be done in addition to, not just instead of, any of the above suggestions.
Clearly it will need a great deal more thinking than I have given it here. We know from the reactions the public give to protests like the World Naked Bike Ride that they are not really shocked by simple nudity. We now need them to take the lifestyle itself seriously and being proactive with the media will achieve that. Some in the naturist community will think I’m once more off my trolley and that we should keep things as they are, better still we should go back to how it used to be, secret, behind high walls and closed gates because they are concerned about their own privacy. Sadly we can’t. People have been seen using beaches, the wide-open spaces, even their own gardens to enjoy the sun and the air naked. We cannot stay still, and we certainly cannot turn the clocks back. So we must move forward and embrace the media to take charge of our own destiny. As the newspaper entrepreneur Lord Northcliffe once said: “News is what somebody somewhere wants to suppress; all the rest is advertising.”