Model, Academic & Social Media Presence
We interviewed model and social media presence Jaime Geter about sexual imagery on social media, her experience stripping and what she’s hoping to study in graduate school.
LJ: You just graduated from undergrad and are looking to continue on in academia with a focus in gender studies. I know you also have a background in stripping and in modeling. Can you tell me what you’re up to currently?
J: I graduated from Rutgers in New Jersey this May and since then, I’ve moved back home. [I’m applying to grad schools] so I’m working on my research proposal now. I’m looking at cosmetic medical tourism and specifically the commercial realization of body parts in terms of like the Brazilian butt lift.
In undergrad, I did a thesis on the body images of strippers—that’s how I ended up being interested in the topic of plastic surgery. In college, I was a bartender and involved in nightlife and I stripped a little bit too.
LJ: And you also do some part time modeling currently, is that correct? Tell me more about that.
J: Ever since I was really young, I was told to get into modeling. When I was in high school, I went to modeling school in New Jersey and I did a few fashion shows here and there but nothing that important. In college, I tried focusing on modeling again. I would do photo shoots with different photographers in New York for free, and then eventually I went to a bunch of open calls at different modeling agencies and then an agency was interested, MSA models. They signed me, but they signed me as a plus sized model. That was something that was really surprising to me, because back then I was even smaller then I am now. I was literally like a size 4 or 6 so I was surprised that plus size started that small. But it was cool to know that I’m about to be signed. I thought that meant my whole life was going to changed. I thought I was getting a record deal, you know?
LJ: What did you notice about being a plus size model who does a lot of lingerie or nude photography?
J: I never thought it was weird, or extra courageous, to do photo shoots in bikinis or lingerie and shit. Those were just like the images I saw of the models that I looked up too. I always loved shows like America’s Next Top Model, and Project Runway. I always loved fashion and different images of women not wearing clothes, from hip hop and music videos. I never thought that was weird or out of the ordinary. So I was really shocked to know that once I became known on Instagram, that my images would be seen as porn and would go on porn websites. I never thought they looked like that until people started pointing it out to me.
LJ: Right, because there are so many images that are mainstream that include nudity that aren’t considered pornographic. You flip through Vogue and there are definitely images of women in their underwear and that is definitely not seen, by most people, as porn.
J: Exactly. Especially if the women in magazines are skinny and white, they’re not perceived as explicit. There are so many things I never realized about my body until I started putting it all over the internet, which made me totally rethink putting sexual images of myself on the internet. If you look at my page, I used to post way more mirror pics that I thought were sexy until people started trolling me so bad. People would call me pepperoni nipples. I was just shocked, even when people were trying to compliment me, it would come across as gross and vulgar and I just didn’t like the comments and shit people were saying. Lately, I’ve been rethinking how I portray myself sexually. I want to be careful about it because, emotionally, I’m more sensitive to this shit. I wish I could be more ballsy, like I used to be, but I’m just becoming more sensitive. I guess I’m internalizing more shit.
LJ: Let’s go back to the beginning. Do you remember when you were younger and when you started to think about your body as an entity? I’m curious when people think about their own journey with body image and when that started for you?
J: That is something that is pertinent in my memory of my childhood. I’ve always been super tall for my age, taller and bigger than everybody else. All my friends were like these petite, really skinny, white girls so it was always noticeable to me, especially in pictures, that I was just bigger. Everything about me, my feet, my hands, everything. I remember my boobs were growing and I would put my hand over my boob to measure one boob. I would think, oh my god, once my boob is as large as my whole hand, I’m going to hate myself. Now, my boobs are two hands put together and I love them.
LJ: Can you tell me more about your relationship with your body in middle school before you started modeling?
J: I grew up around preppy culture, ya know, Vanessa Carlton, Blink 182 type of shit. I was born in Trenton, NJ, in a super hood area but my parents are both professional, college graduates. My dad is an architect and my mom has her masters and she’s a guidance counselor. We lived on one good block in a bad city. It’s really hard to explain those dynamics to people, but I literally like wasn’t allowed to walk outside of my house. I didn’t have friends in my neighborhood. I first got introduced to black culture in puberty years and that kind of shaped the way I viewed my body. I was always interested in black men and hip hop culture and that was something that I aspired to, even though in school I was always around very thin, white girls that had very different ideas about what was attractive and ideas about sexuality.
LJ: You started working in nightlife and stripping in college. What was your body image experience like during that time?
J: When I think about femininity and the ideal female body, I definitely think about height, especially when I was a stripper. At a lot of strip clubs, you have to wear the stripper heels. I’m 5'9”, so when I wore the heels, I’d be over 6’ feet tall. That would make it harder for me to walk up to certain guys that were shorter. Some places didn’t let you wear shorter heels. That was definitely something that made me feel less attractive, especially being a stripper in New York City.
I’ve been in so many situations where I was the only girl without her body “done”, like without plastic surgery, without having gone to the Dominican Republic or whatever. I was literally sitting on a bed with four of my female friends and they were looking at my butt and they were like, Oh Jaime, you could just be like us and go get your body “done”.
LJ: How did you first start stripping?
J: In college, I got my bartender’s license with a friend. I thought that was a cool idea, working in night life cause I was like, yo that’s kind of like a party but you get paid. I never wanted to get a job when I was at school because, when would I ever do my homework? At Rutgers, anybody that had a job, it was really hard to juggle everything and I didn’t have a car in college.
I started bottle serving at this little shitty strip club 20 minutes away from my school. It was what you would call a truck driver strip club: it was like all these white trash guys and it was disgusting in there. It was a bring your own bottle place, they didn’t even have a liquor license. The waitresses would wear sneakers and like black bootie shorts and a black bra, you couldn’t look as sexy as a stripper. You’d just bring people ice and change. At that time, I was watching so many documentaries that were sex positive and I’m learning so many things that are so mind blowing to me about women in gender studies. And so many of the OGs and famous academics had been strippers and prostitutes. That was mind blowing to me. This was before respectability politics started changing how I view everything.
I started dancing because it seemed like easy, legal money that could be made on my schedule. I didn’t want to work during the week when I had classes, so working two nights a week seemed like a better option. When I first started dancing, I was less tainted by the restraints of respectability politics. Like I didn’t understand that for the rest of my life people would immediately put me in the category of bad girl because of my choice to be involved in nightlife employment. It happens to all girls in nightlife: bartenders, waitresses, hostesses, wristband girls, dancers, etc. But strippers get it the worst—outside of prostitutes of course. Even people that participate in nightlife live within this hierarchy along gender lines. Bartenders at strip clubs have more respect than the dancers for example. Now post-dancing, I’m more sensitive to others’ sexual perceptions of me.
[This] might be a simplistic understanding of activism, but I try to bring discussion of feminism and these profound political themes in with my instagram/modeling. But, it just never came across the way I wanted it to.
LJ: What were the financial dynamics? What kind of money do women make and what do they have to invest?
J: That first place I worked, they had a lap dance section which is like semi private and the waitresses were allowed to give lap dances. It was five minutes and it would cost $25 or up and you would have to give the club $5 of whatever you charged. So girls would just dance on a guy for five minutes and you could charge whatever you wanted for five minutes of just dancing on a guy with clothes on next to other people. I thought that shit was cool at the time because people do this at parties for free and I could get $60 for five minutes? I would try to do that 10 times a night, 20 times a night and at the time that was amazing exercise too, my body was looking so amazing just from dancing all the time. It’s a lot of exercise, it’s very athletic.
The clubs really just try to get money. You have to pay to work there, anywhere between $40 and $250 a night to work there depending on how nice it is—just to work there. The most I had to give to the club, at one time, was $250 a night, that was the most expensive. Usually, it’s between $70 and $100 a night. That is sometimes half of what you make. It’ll still be more than a normal job but it’s still a lot of money to give to the club. You feel like you have a lot of money because a lot of the money’s in singles, you might have a whole bag full of money, but it’s really not that much.
And so many girls pay to get their makeup done too because girls hate their faces and they feel like they can’t look good without eyelashes and the whole nine yards. That’s the other thing, I don’t like to wear makeup that much so my face would look very bland if I just did light make up next to a girl with all glitter, and eyeshadow and shit. So you have to look up to standards or else it just looks different, because your customers are just drunk guys in dark clubs. It’s like you have get sparkles and just play on all senses to try to attract customers.
LJ: How long did you strip for?
J: I did it on and off for probably two years. I haven’t really done anything in night life in a while because I felt like if I didn’t get my body “done” and really invest in my look and stuff like that, it’s not worth it. If you really like makeup and plastic surgery and stuff like that, that’s the industry for you.
LJ: Can you talk about how you’ve been impacted through studying women and gender studies and your experience with stripping? Those two things are a unique combination—do you connect those often or do they seem separate for you?
J: At the time, I was watching documentaries and reading books about all these famous feminists that were into sex work so it was very cool to me that feminism offered a space to women at every end of the spectrum. I always try to post images that show women in a hijab and women at other ends of the spectrum because if women should be free to be naked, they should be free wear a hijab. I feel like that is so important to highlight.
Being a stripper, I felt healthy. That’s probably the most active exercise regimen I’ve had as an adult since varsity tennis and basketball. My heart felt in shape. My tummy felt tight. Despite some drinking and of course weed smoking, I felt healthier than I do now at an office job where I sit all day. At certain lower-end places I would work, I felt my height and svelte shape were asets. At these places women didn’t “have work done” or undergone plastic surgery. At the higher end NYC and Philadelphia clubs, I felt less confident about my body. I received less customer compliments—my fuel to get through the night. At these nicer clubs many women invest in plastic surgery to shrink their wastes, augment breasts, and enhance their butt shapes. It was so weird going to a crap place one night and getting lots of positive body attention, and then the next night going to a place with invested professionals that blew me out of the water physically. I struggle using words like good or bad in describing my body image.
LJ: Tell me more about how your relationship to activism and how your body has intersected with that?
J: My introduction to feminism was in college. I had never heard of any of that before. Of course, like any 21st century millennial feminist, I was drawn to the sex positivism and what feminism meant for my life and my social realities. I just loved that shit. it just came so natural to me. I could skim over a reading and just dominate all the conversation in class, it just rolled off my tongue.
This is all happening at the same time as I’m starting to surface as a model/Internet person, people at school are starting to know who I am and treat me differently. I’m seeing that I have clout so I was thinking, how could I combine this with what I love? That might be a simplistic understanding of activism, but I try to bring discussion of feminism and these profound political themes in with my instagram/modeling. But, it just never came across the way I wanted it to. I just feel like it was just such a shit show.
LJ: So you feel like you tried to use your platform that you had gained from modeling to highlight and educated people about activism and you didn’t feel like it was successful?
J: I felt like I always needed to belong to some type of coalition or organization to have any type of real meaningful influence, but at the same time I’m getting more antisocial and it’s so hard for me to find like a niche of feminists that I fit in with. I love my classes so much, but I never became friends with my feminist women and gender studies classmates. They just never were my type of people.
LJ: I’m curious if you think your body image and your identity as a feminist, how does your ethnicity plays a part in that?
J: When I was younger, I was always the only black girl in my class. I saw the white ideal as skinny and the black ideal as hourglass, svelte, big butt, big boobs and that was always a body type my mom put in my head. She’s always put images in my mind of the shapely hourglass women as being the ideal but it was very different from the images I was seeing at school.
LJ: What has being on social media been like for you?
J: There is definitely something empowering about having 100% control of how you’re sexually portrayed and people can perceive as negative. When you think about it, some sexual images are given passes, in terms of respectability, like images that are connected to commercialization or codification of a type of product or service. Let’s say if a woman with 2 million followers posts a teeth whitening thing in a thong or whatever and it gets like 4 million likes, that shit will be perceived as more positive and appropriate than a girl with 200 likes that is just posting a mirror pic with no product. The product justifies using sexuality.
People are like, oh she was paid to do that, she probably got like a whole bunch of money for endorsing the product, like that makes it better. But if she makes a cool image using all her graphic design skills on photoshop, that shit will definitely get less likes and is less cool and will be talked about more negatively. That makes my skin crawl.
LJ: What about your own experience? What are your followers like?
J: I definitely come across trolls and stuff like that. I always say this: I hate my followers. I hate everybody that follows me. I feel like most of my followers are just creepy old men that want to send their dick pics to little girls. I’ve been trying to get a better following by changing hashtags. I always look at all my pictures and think, is this how i want to portray myself? I really look at them like a story.
LJ: How has social media played a part in the way you think about your body?
J: It’s definitely been challenging. I would have never known I had areolas that were perceived to be big if it wasn’t for Instagram. Think about it: you’re not even allowed to post nipples on Instagram but if I post a picture that has a tiny little bit of areolas showing, somebody will comment and say something about it, like immediately. And that’s so fucking annoying for somebody that over thinks things so much. It can be extremely hurtful.
I mean, I definitely get a lot more positive comments than negative ones, especially women and younger girls that I do not know that just love me from afar. Girls that I sorta know, you know little sisters of somebody that met me one time that love me, will DM me and encourage me and extend a lot of encouragement. That definitely outweighs the negative but I always always block somebody immediately when they say something that is a little bit negative. I just block them right away. Why would I want this person that’s being this critical of me to even see?