Melina DiMarco is the coolest kind of model—one who’s in it for the right reasons, and actually uses modeling as a platform for causes that matter. Right now, her cause, in addition to keeping busy with gigs through MSA Models, is fighting over-sexualization of women on social media through an awesome and empowering app called nood, which is a photo editor that covers your real nipples or vagina with stickers of ladyparts (since, you know, Instagram is fine with men showing their nips, but our photos get taken down if we do the same). Disappointingly, the Apple App Store decided to stick with corporate patriarchal norms and rejected nood, citing “objectionable material.” Seriously?
Even though you can’t download the app YET, thanks to Apple’s shitty, double-standard policy, you can help fight against their hypocrisy by signing a petition to get it approved. And since nood is nothing less than brilliant, we picked DiMarco’s brain about how she got the idea, her experience in the modeling industry, and how she fights back against sexism every day.
STYLECASTER: How and why did you become a model?
Melina DiMarco: In art school, I fell in love with the creative process of modeling. I was approached by classmates to model for photography and drawing projects, and the change in perspective from studying figures to using my own was exhilarating. There is this undeniable power when your only tool is your form, and that became my art.
SC: Did you always feel passionately about fighting female objectification?
MD: I think I’ve always felt certain ways about various topics, but didn’t quite develop my voice until after college. When I began modeling professionally, I struggled to understand why beauty was still locked in a box. For the most part, the industry tells you what beauty is and what it should look like. When you don’t possess all of those qualities, it can become hard to navigate. I think as I confronted these troubling realities, my mind began to brainstorm on how I could create positive change; how I could help spread diversity and empower the female form.
SC: Where did you come up with the idea for nood?
MD: I wanted to share work that made me feel empowered, which sometimes involved nudity as creative expression. But I became overwhelmed by the feeling that I was doing something indecent. I was met with uncomfortable and unnecessary sexual comments, and hypocritical community guideline restrictions on social media. I felt like there was no way to share my art in a way that would be understood as I intended. Everywhere I looked, I only saw negative x’s and bars or cutesy hearts covering female nipples. It was extremely limiting knowing I could only resort to these options or be reported as inappropriate.
To my surprise, my family also vocalized their disapproval. They had always supported me even when they didn’t understand my motivations, however nutty. But now I needed to constantly defend myself as if I were doing something misguided or immoral. It terrified me that neither strangers nor family could understand my perspective.
Nudity is a natural part of life, and all of this resistance was baffling. As a model and as a woman, I wanted to choose how my body was being represented without shame, and I knew I was not the only person to feel this way. nood was conceived in a moment when my self-doubt and guilt were at an all-time high. I was second guessing myself, trying to find ways to continue to communicate in the exposed manner that made sense to me, when I realized an option that had never been presented to me before. What if I literally put ladyparts on my ladyparts? The thought made my nips hard. I could highlight the ridiculousness of social media rules, empower female bodies, and cultivate change!
SC: Do you feel that the mission of nood is at odds with how the modeling industry portrays women?
MD: Sometimes, yes. I think our mission is at odds with society in general. There needs to be a major shift in how we view the female body. I’ve been lucky enough to work with some progressive individuals. But, that doesn’t mean there haven’t been moments as a model and as a designer where I’ve had to open up a dialogue and stand my ground. When nood got rejected from the App Store, it was extremely frustrating. There are far more “inappropriate and suggestive” apps that already exist. This sends out a message that a woman’s body is socially acceptable when it’s objectified and sexualized in media, but not on her own terms. And that’s a problem.
SC: What are some important ways that you think we can all fight against female objectification?
MD: I think continuing to vocalize our thoughts on the subject matter is important. Take control of your body and represent it how you see fit.
What’s something you wish every woman knew about owning her body/sexuality?
MD: To throw away the shame. Nudity is natural. Sexuality is natural. However you wish to represent YOUR body is YOUR choice. And you should be able to do so without restriction or hypocrisy. Be body positive. And know even as a model, I have stretch marks on my butt, and folds in my armpits that have always looked to me like vaginas.
SC: Where do you hope your career will lead next?
MD: I’m not entirely sure. But I hope to keep creating in ways that help others feel more confident with themselves.