I am looking at her as she sits straight up on an orange velvet armchair.

Her long, dark hair is tucked behind her ears and there is an ever-so-slightly defiant expression on her face, as if to say: ‘Yes, I am naked — so what?’ It still amazes me that the woman in this oil painting — with her unflinching gaze, bare chest and soft stomach — is me. I never thought I would hang a nude portrait proudly on my living room wall — let alone commission and pose for it myself.

This level of self-confidence seemed impossible to me as a teenager with anxiety. My appearance was so important to me that I compared myself to magazines models and failed every single time. I tried my best to avoid mirrors. It would have been a horrible thought to commit my naked body on canvas.

That’s why it feels so powerful for me now, at 31, to look at this picture of myself proudly baring everything. And it turns out I’m not the only one commissioning nudes of myself as a sign of self-acceptance.

Radhika Sandhani, 31, (pictured) commissioned a naked portrait of herself by Nicholas Baldion after setting out to change the way she thinks about herself

Radhika, a 31-year-old Radhika Sandhani, (pictured) ordered a naked portrait by Nicholas Baldion of herself after set out to alter the way she views herself.

In recent years, it’s become something of a trend, with people sharing their paintings on social media with hashtags such as #SelfLoveArt and #NudeArt.

In fact, when I contacted my chosen artist, who charges about £800 per portrait, he said he was already being commissioned by other women to paint their bodies in a celebratory way, as part of this growing movement. I was compelled to create a portrait.

My first relationship was a short-term one. I ended it five years ago and decided to become a freelancer. My first relationship ended and I was unable to rely on my boss or boyfriend for support. I had to be the one to validate myself. But I was also my worst critic.

Then I decided to make a change in my thinking about myself. It wasn’t easy, but I started to realise just how often I inwardly criticised and berated myself. Instead of dwelling on the negative aspects about me, I decided to notice what I loved, from my quick wit to my shiny, long hair.

Next, I started accepting things I didn’t like about myself — from my impatience to my big nose, which I’d always hated.

At school, friends said I’d be beautiful if only I had a smaller nose, and I’d spent my whole life believing this. However, now I was determined to be happy with my nose just as it was.

By posting pictures on social media of my side, I faced my fears head-on with the hashtag #SideProfileSelfie

To my surprise, many people joined in to compliment me on how gorgeous my nose was. I quickly became an influencer of body positivity, encouraging others to feel good about themselves.

This new way of thinking has changed the course of my life. I have decided to publish a book to share my stories and help other people.

Radhika (pictured) said she had reached a place where she didn't want to look like anyone other than herself, following years of longing to look like Hollywood's heroines

Radhika (pictured), said that she was at a point where she no longer wanted to be like any other person after years of longing for Hollywood’s stars.

Thirty Things I Love About Myself is out today and follows the story of Nina Mistry, a British-Indian journalist who hits rock bottom — ending up in a jail cell on the eve of her 30th birthday and going viral in the worst way — before embarking on a journey to do the seemingly impossible: love herself.

Nina’s story mirrors mine in that she attempts to write a list of 30 things she loves about herself — one for every year she’s lived — leading her to radical self-acceptance.

This means that I don’t have to resent myself for making small mistakes, but instead forgive myself for being human and fallible. Most importantly, I’ve started to celebrate myself for being me, rather than wishing I was different.

It’s why I decided to commission a naked portrait of myself by Nicholas Baldion, an artist whose classical yet bold style I’ve always loved.

After years of longing to look like Hollywood’s perfect romcom heroines, I’d reached a place where I didn’t want to look like anyone other than myself.

I’ve started to view my painted self as a Botticelli 

That’s not to say I wasn’t nervous about the painting process. It took me several weeks to get back to Nicholas when he sent photos of naked nudes asking me what styles and poses they liked. I just couldn’t see myself brazenly sitting on a chair wearing no clothes.

While I was eager to get the portrait done, I felt terrified about making it happen.

In the end, I gave him the only reference I had of a naked painting that didn’t scare me: Leonardo DiCaprio’s drawing of Kate Winslet in Titanic.

The photographer agreed to take photos of me with my preferred pose and not just paint from life. I’m normally fairly comfortable with nudity — my time at an all-girls’ school means I don’t bother to hide in a towel in a gym changing room.

The thought of being scrutinized by a male artist made me anxious. Sofia, my best friend and close confidante agreed to be with us during the shoot.

At first I found myself awkward, making too many jokes and was often uncomfortable. My nudity began to feel more natural as I settled down into the perfect pose. Yes, I wasn’t wearing any clothes, but my chosen pose of reclining on the sofa meant it didn’t look too shocking as half of my body was concealed.

Then Nicholas suggested I sit upright on my armchair — it felt less romantic than my Titanic vision. When I saw the picture, it was disgusting. It was so. . . naked.

Radhika (pictured) admits she'll now think twice about letting someone in her home, as some people will think the portraits are completely mad, or arrogant and narcissistic

Radhika (pictured) says she won’t let anyone in her house now that the portraits have been taken.

My stomach was creased because I was sitting so it was easy to see my natural rolls. I knew I was meant to be a body positivity influencer now, but I wished I’d breathed in.

Nicholas agreed to paint the horizontal one instead, but asked my permission to use the seated one as inspiration for another painting, and I agreed — so long as it never had my name on it.

A month later, he sent me a photo of the finished product, only it turned out he’d done two: the one I’d asked for, and the one I’d hated.

‘If you don’t like it, you never have to see it again,’ he told me. ‘I just thought it was such a powerful pose that I was desperate to paint it. And I think it’s the better painting of the two. I love it.’

It was also a great experience. It was still evident in my stomach, however it looked so much different when translated into paint. It was soft and earthy, with the bright orange armchair, that I loved, as well the radiant glow on my skin. I still wasn’t convinced by my stomach, because I’m so used to the filtering on social media. Couldn’t he have just softened that crease a little? When the actual painting arrived, my opinion changed.

This is me. It’s what I look like. Of course my stomach is curved — I have a womb behind it.

It’s the first time I feel truly sexy, beautiful and enviable. 

My painted self began to look like a Botticelli or Rubens. Instead of wanting to edit away my ‘flaws’, I realised I wouldn’t be me without them.

The other picture of me, lying on the couch, relaxed in my skin but a bit nervous, is still one I love. It’s softer than the bold confidence of the seated portrait. I’ve chosen to hang it over my bed, where only I can see it, while the other takes pride of place in my living room.

Two nude paintings I have of myself now make me giggle. Some people will think it’s completely mad, or arrogant and narcissistic. And I imagine I’ll think twice now before letting someone into my home.

But the truth is my portrait has nothing to do with believing I’m better than anybody else. It’s simply a case of accepting who I am, being grateful for this life and body I’ve been given, and celebrating it all.

I will always have moments of doubt and insecurity, but this painting will remind me that true beauty — the kind we see in galleries, not glossy magazines — isn’t constrained by perceived flaws. It’s not about trying to look like everyone else, but celebrating what makes us unique.


Heather Spencer (53), is an international recruiter based in Clapham.

Heather Spencer, 53 (pictured) from Clapham, London, decided to commission a naked painting of her body to celebrate how far she has come

Heather Spencer, 53 (pictured) from Clapham, London, decided to commission a naked painting of her body to celebrate how far she has come 

In 2013, I was diagnosed in my brain with 2 brain tumors. Three years later, surgery took place. It was terrifying because there was a real chance I wouldn’t make it.

It was a life-saving experience that made me realize you have only one chance at survival. Shortly after, I made the decision to change my life and hire a personal coach during lockdown. My weight loss was three-anda-half-stone after fifteen months of online training.

Now I’m a size 10 to 12, just like I was in my 20s, only this time I have the soft body of a 53-year-old. And yet, I’m more confident than ever.

For the first time in my life, I feel truly good about myself and I’m comfortable in my own skin. This is me. It’s what I’ve gone through and it’s where I am now. I was ready to accept it.

I decided to commission a naked painting of my body to celebrate how far I’ve come. I’d seen artist Jaz Ward posting nude paintings of her clients on Instagram and asked her for three: one of my bum and legs, one of my back, and one from the front. These I wanted to hang on the wall so that you could see 360° of me. They’re £300 each, but it’s a treat.

At first, Jaz was going to trim my cellulite and give me a rounder bum. But she said no, I’ll do you as I see you. I’m glad I trusted her because now I see myself through new eyes. I know it’s me, but if people come over they won’t.

This pose is very sexy. I’d lost that side of myself and this was to help me get that confidence back.

It’s helped me feel sexy again, and after being single for a while because of my health and Covid, I’m now ready to put myself back out there.

My friends think it’s great. If other people think it’s vain, I don’t care. It’s completely for me, to show where I’ve come from. It’s a pat on the back to myself.


Harriet Catchpole is 24, a Suffolk waitress.

Harriet Catchpole, 24, (pictured) from Suffolk, was inspired by artist Sophie Tea on Instagram after changing who she follows on social media

Harriet Catchpole, 24, (pictured) from Suffolk, was inspired by artist Sophie Tea on Instagram after changing who she follows on social media 

Growing up, I never saw myself as desirable; I didn’t have any curves. Only after I attended university in London, where I met many confident and diverse people, did I feel inspired to love myself.

It made me wonder why I was so concerned about what other people thought and how social media affected my life. It was time to accept my skin and how it looked. Changes in my social media followers led me to feel a lot more positive.

I used to be so upset about my skin all the times. But I’m able to let go now and take a moment to stop wallowing in my pain. I say: ‘You are you, and no one else is you.’

That’s when I began to think about getting a nude artwork. I was inspired by artist Sophie Tea on Instagram who has become famous for her self-love nudes, but she charges £4,000.

I couldn’t afford that, so I found Bronagh Genovesi through TikTok, and commissioned a nude from her for £250, sending her a photo of myself. Because I was a bit cautious, I chose not to include mine.

At first I was anxious about my stepdad and mom’s reactions. But actually I think I’ve encouraged Mum, who’s 55, to feel better about her body.

When I presented my sister at 29 years old, she was so impressed that she painted her nude.

Mine hangs on the wall opposite my bed and when I look at it, I’m really proud of myself. I can’t wait to have it up when I buy my own house one day.

This was a step outside of my comfort area, but it has made me see myself as art and changed my outlook on my body.

It’s the first time I feel truly beautiful and sexy.

  • Thirty Things I Love About Myself by Radhika Sanghani (£15.99, Headline Review) is out now.