NUDE MODELING LETS ONE WOMAN BARE HER SOUL; 300-POUND RACZ ON PEDESTAL IN A QUEST FOR SELF-EXPRESSION.
The tawdry task of posing nude is something 58-year-old Marra Racz accepts with pride.
In a world deluged with X-ray thin, pencil-legged models, Racz is bringing Botticelli-esque beauty back with a bang and challenging the conventions of modern beauty by inspiring artists to draw her 300-pound figure in all its glory.
``I am like a white cloud,'' says Racz in her smooth Transylvanian accent.
Her sultry poses leave little to the imagination, but it's her generous shape that keeps her booked solid in art classes at the Brand Library and schools throughout the San Fernando Valley.
``Never in my life did I imagine I would do nude modeling,'' she says. ``But I never imagined that posing for artists could be such a wonderful mode of self-expression. They just lose themselves.''
When it's time to undress one recent evening, Racz drops her clothes unabashedly under unflattering fluorescent lights and steps to the podium with grace. Like a flamenco dancer, she gracefully flings a Spanish fan in front of her lap to begin her first pose.
With 12 students looking on, she closes her eyes and shifts her heavy figure onto one leg and draws a deep breath as the melodic beat of Gregorian chants plays in the background.
Five minutes into her first pose, her teacher and friend John Alacantara senses she is tired and asks her if she wishes to stop. She opens one eye and looks at the egg timer she uses to time her poses.
``Thirty-six more seconds,'' she replies, returning to the same pose.
It is this type of dedication to her students that is expected and returned in kind.
``There's almost an energy between her and the artist,'' Alacantara says.
Racz describes that energy as a circle that starts with her devotion to the arts and ends with the inspired drawings of her students.
``I know it's always going to be a good day when Marra comes here,'' said Renee DiGregorio, sketching her first pose with quick strokes.
Racz finds it easy to give herself to her students. A nurse by profession, Racz says she learned from both live and dead bodies as part of her training in physiology. In gratitude, she lends her body as an instrument to teach her students about the volume, weight and movement of a more robust figure.
``I am not ashamed to show what fat does to the human anatomy. You're going to see the arm sagging,'' she says as she grabs a fold of skin.
It may not be as pretty as a skinny arm, she adds, but it's hers nonetheless.
But not every student appreciates the challenge.
``She's too hard to draw,'' says Murial Nell, shaking her head in frustration. ``I prefer more curvy models.''
Racz's unusual modeling career began five years ago as a fluke. An artist approached her and told her she had good bone structure and suggested she consider posing for classes. With photography as her first love, she thought it would be a good way to give to the arts and make money to support hers.
To her chagrin, photos of her gutsy poses in the buff turned up in an ad for a ``900'' number.
``There was this photo of me butt naked with a caption that read: `Let me be your high-calorie dessert for tonight.' I just about died.''
Despite Racz's natural ease with her body now, she has - like a lot of women - battled with a poor body image nearly all her life.
It took nearly half a century and the expanse of an ocean for Racz to finally learn to love herself. That moment, she said, began when she became a U.S. citizen - a moment that Racz says made her feel like somebody. It was there that she began to search for her worth and find spirituality.
``My nudity,'' she explains, ``is beyond my sexuality, and my sexuality is beyond public display. It takes courage to stand in front of total strangers, knowing how you look and knowing how they hate overweight woman in this country.''
The road to America
Born in Hungary two years before it was turned over to Romania, Racz describes a life of painful struggles.
As a child, she says her people were persecuted by the Romanians in much the same way Serbs persecute Bosnians.
``I couldn't stand the way Romanians wanted to erase the memory of the Hungarian people,'' she says.
As an adult, she endured the humiliation of being married for 13 years to a man who didn't bother to conceal his affairs. Nicknamed ``Thread,'' she thought she was too skinny.
``I had the perception that my body was not full enough, and that's why he had mistresses.''
The affairs tormented her marriage. She clung to the idea that a child would give her the attention and love that she needed. Despite having a life-threatening heart condition, she proceeded with a high-risk pregnancy.
Her baby girl, named Amaria after her favorite flower, was stillborn.
That night, she called her husband and told him not to bother picking her up from the hospital. Her marriage was over. Soon after, in 1979, she started on a trip to the United States to forget a life of pain and begin anew.
She drank in as much new information as she could, first teaching herself how to speak English by watching television and then putting herself through nursing school.
Time still has not washed away all the pain from her youth, but Racz now uses it in her self-expression.
In recent years, Racz has found healing in the hands of others by placing her flaws and vulnerabilities on display each night and by making no apologies for her size.
``I know how I looked, but I'm not here to seduce, I'm here to inspire and teach.''
Her advice to others who struggle with weight problems and body image is simple: ``If you cannot do something about your weight, you should do something with it.''
Photo: Marra Racz, 58, who began posing in the nude five years ago, models for an art class in Glendale, where the students include Roy Able.
Tina Gerson/Daily News
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|Title Annotation:||L.A. LIFE|
|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Mar 18, 1998|
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