“What's wrong with being naked?" Artist and entrepreneur Bei Kuo talks about the power of nudity
by Jessica Simps and June Moon
What is it like to be the hot girl, to be that naked girl on the internet? To play the games, get more followers, to be the flirt and use the game of misogyny against itself? On Instagram, where followers are social capital, using your body as a tool is just smart economics.
Jessica Simps met Bei Kuo, an artist and entrepreneur who grew up in Taiwan, online. After the Sluts Against Harper campaign She reached out to Jessica, one naked woman to another, looking for some solace and confirmation that our presence and our nakedness was, well, important. Jessica fell in love with Her sense of play — She has fun with Her own skin and laughs at your gaze. And why should play be interpreted as for the eyes of the other rather than ourselves? To play with one’s own image is to have a beautiful relationship with one’s own body.
June Moon: Did you start out with nudity in your work, or were you trying other things?
Bei Kuo: I was just really trying to get more connections [with photographers and models] and gain more followers, trying to play this social media game for the preparation of launching my lingerie. After doing this for a while, I start getting some "interesting" comments on social media. It makes me think more deep about the relationship between my body as a woman and what society projects on women. But after exploring more about nudity, the feedbacks that I receive makes me start questioning — “What is wrong with being naked?” Those feedbacks kinda keeps me posting nudity to just see what's kinda of stuff the Internet gonna throw on me.
JM: The eyes are “a way in”: Who are you looking at? Who are you speaking to?
BK: I always feel my Instagram is how my boyfriend sees me everyday (of course, not every single picture). It's never been for anything or anyone when I standing in front of the camera. I have never been on a set and thought, "I am gonna pose like I'm on Playboy cover," or, "I have to look hot in the pictures." Those pictures are just me being me, doing things that I think are fun and playful.
JM: How has your relationship with your body changed?
BK: I don't really think it has changed much. Before modeling, I was already very comfortable with my own body. I knew I don't have skinny long legs like all those models, I got this weird-looking nose and these tiny boobs and booty. I knew I wasn't a “society-standard” sexy girl, but I don't want to be one. I grew up in Taiwan and lived there for most of my life. Back home, no one ever think I'm a pretty girl and because of that, I learned in a very early age that I have to deal with the body that I've been given to, love and accept it all. I've never wanted to fit into the society anyways. But the weirdest part is that, after I moved to New York, I became this exotic and unique-looking Asian girl. Especially after I put myself in front of social media. I feel my non-society-standard "Asianness" becomes fit in and I hate that, but enjoy it in a weird way. It sounds so embarrassing but I've never had that in my life!
JM: Artists address cultural concerns in a perceptible, visceral way. How does it feel to be a guide? Your work mixes personal and political complexities together. How do your emotions resonate?
BK: I didn't really expect these two questions come to me. I don't think I am leading something or doing anything political. Maybe I'm just being naïve and don't realize that i'm onto something special? If nakedness is the powerful aspect, then I feel fine with that. I say, what's wrong with being naked? Why is being naked somehow such a rebellious act? As long as we see nudity as an organic thing, maybe naked bodies won't be so sexualized and there won't be so many cultural concerns.
JM: Describe the thin line in between porn and art.
BK: People got turn on by the weirdest things nowadays, the thin line seems to hard to define and I don't think I can draw you one. Everyone has different standards. If you see my nudity as art, I will give you a cutest smile and tell you thank you :). But if my work make you hard, then I guess it’s porn to you. But it doesn't mean that you are allowed to sexualize me as an object, and definitely not okay to send me your dick picture. We are on Instagram trying to work, not on Tinder trying to get laid. And if I wanna fuck someone, it will never be you, honey.
JM: What is your work like in relation to your desires?
BK: Working for myself as a model and a lingerie designer definitely make me happier compared to working for someone else. It presents more challenges and I don't know if everything is going to work out well, but I am feeling positive about it.
JM: How do you process the reaction from others?
BK: I used to get a bit upset when people make comments about my works is too porny. They make me feel I should be ashamed about it. Making art and making porn, why can't they coexist? Art, nudity, porn and even sex. People love watching and doing it, but why so judgemental when we put those things together? Society needs to treat them in a healthier and open-minded way. What's so shameful about making art and making love? I stop getting upset when I realize the judgement of nude work is all subjective.
The other time that got me really sad was that some girl made a comment saying that She's not surprised if I got raped by 20 guys ‘cause I questioned, "What's wrong with being naked?". I was so shocked that it's 2016 and this girl who's on Instagram who's actively using social media made a comment like this. Maybe She grew up in a culture that women were not treated equally? I almost got raped when I was a kid, luckily almost. Was I dressing slutty and running around with my pussy showing? No, I was only 10 years old. The reason that got me so emotional is because She actually tried to justify the act of rape by blaming it on woman. Rape is rape, how can you blame it on the victim instead of the one who commit the crime? I normally don't mention too much about myself on social media but I actually think getting reactions like this, it's quite good, because I get the chance to talk about things that I think are important.
Having a body, whether it be nude or clothed, never gives anyone else the right to it, not with their gaze, not with their hands and not with their words. It’s almost impossible to survive in the world as a woman and never fear someone else will take advantage of your body.
It’s an even scarier but powerful position to put yourself in when you embody the naked girl, the one who shows Her skin willingly, makes you look Her in the eye and understand that She is everything. She is the beautiful, the luscious, the wicked and the intelligent artist who no ~ would not fuck u even if u tried.