Naked reality television is totally in. With the advent of shows like "Dating Naked," (exactly what it sounds like), "The Nak'd Truth" (like the "Real World" nudist colony edition) and "Naked and Afraid" (survivalists, minus clothing) nudity on television is trending. Richard Hatch from the first season of "Survivor" started a movement that took a short 14 years to catch on.
And local body painter Natalie Fletcher is cashing in on the trend. Big time. In last Wednesday's final episode of the Game Show Network's reality program "Skin Wars"—a show where contestants use bodies as canvas for paintings—Fletcher was announced the winner of the first season, securing a prize of $100,000, a year-long supply of body paint and a featured guest artist slot at the International Make-up Artists Trade Show in Los Angeles. (IMATS). Judges RuPaul (OMG YES! That RuPaul!), Rebecca Romijn (OMG Mystique!) and body painting icons Craig Tracy and Robin Slonina awarded Fletcher the prize based on her final two-model painting, a colorful paisley creation.
Here is a video of Fletcher's winning moment and the reaction of her friends and family in Bend.
"Skin Wars" takes itself more seriously than some other nudity-friendly reality television, combining nearly naked bodies with fine art. In the August premiere, 10 artists began the competition with one eliminated each week in high-stress painting challenges including having to camouflage their models into a grocery store and painting models head to toe as inspired by the artist's hometown. The show attracted more than 11.3 million viewers, and was the most watched original debut for GSN, ever.
A week after her big win, Fletcher sat down with the Source at Silver Moon Brewing, in front of the backdrop of her Bend-centric mural she painted in the brew pub just a year earlier, and chatted about her experience on the show.
"It was so stressful. The industry is really big and everyone knows each other and I didn't know anyone because I live in Bend. There are big hubs in Orlando, New York, San Diego of body painters, but there's not one in Bend. And I don't have the cash to go to these conventions," explained Fletcher. "Once I saw that the judges were going for the creativity part, I thought, 'That's one thing I can do, creativity.'"
Fletcher, the second youngest contestant with a comparatively low level of industry experience was a frequent fan favorite, but found herself in the bottom two contestants for the last three challenges before her win.
"Everyone had their own style. That had to be the hardest thing to judge is so many different styles of painting in the same competition. It's like judging impressionism vs. surrealism, that's tough," said Fletcher. "Especially the top three, Shannon, Dutch and I are all very different painters."
But that spark of creativity saved Fletcher time and time again. A lesson that she's taking to this weekend's Living Art America competition in Atlanta, GA.
"I saw myself thrive on the bizarreness of what I would do. Because we didn't have external influence—no references, we had no Google, no TV, no nothing—we had to really think about what we had seen and known in our past. When you reach that deep into your soul it's really intense which is I think why I cried so much," said Fletcher.
Now saddled with her dream sponsorships, a year's supply of body paint and a chunk of incoming cash, Fletcher said she has a few big projects in mind.
"My three manifests, my main dreams: #1: I want to paint on "The Tonight Show." I really want to paint Jimmy Fallon. #2: I really want to paint an ad that's in Vogue magazine. There's been body painting there before. Ideally the cover. #3: I want do Sports Illustrated. In the early '90s they started painting swimsuits on models. Joanne Gair, my idol, was the first one to do it."
She also explained that she is in the process of planning a cross-country road trip in which she paints models in her signature camouflage style into landmarks, an idea that's been floating around since the Source first interviewed Fletcher back in 2012.
"I'm going to head to southern California and do the first painting there and zig-zag across the states painting landmarks," Fletcher said. "I'm finally going to do it."