I have to do this to earn money

SINGAPORE - Slut , whore, porn star.

These were some of the words that netizens used to malign a 23-year-old mother of two after she posted nude photos of herself on Facebook.

People can be so judgmental.

Mary (not her real name) might have been naive to have posted such provocative pictures and not expect lewd comments and condemnation, but it's all part of her work.

She is a lingerie model, a profession she went into with her eyes open because, she said, she has limited options as an N-level certificate holder.

Modelling is the highest-paying job she can get, said Mary, who previously worked as an auxiliary police officer and an administrative associate, but found that they didn't pay enough.

And posting the pictures, in which she's sometimes naked but without exposing any naughty bits, had the desired effect - they managed to drum up more business for her.

"I actually saw more job offers from photographers after the pictures went out," she said.

She is used to lewd comments from strangers as she frequently posts risqué photos of herself onto her Facebook page.

But her latest batch of pictures was becoming too hot to handle, so she took them down two hours after posting them.

By then, they had 50 shares and more than 500 "likes".

Also by then, they had taken on another life online, making the rounds on the Internet after netizens shared them on the popular HardwareZone forums.

Among other comments, many of which are too crude to mention here, she was called a slut who did not consider her children's future.

Mary told The New Paper on Wednesday evening that she removed the pictures because they had attracted too much attention.

"Usually, I would only get around 100 'likes' for my pictures. But these became too hot and I was concerned."

As she had wanted to generate publicity for her work, she had made no attempt to make the nude photos private.

She removed them only after she felt the situation was getting out of hand.

But Mary, who is in the midst of a divorce, felt her critics have no right to accuse her of being a bad mother until they have walked in her shoes.

"Do they think that I enjoy exposing my body to strangers? They don't understand that I have to do this to earn money. I'm in a bad financial state right now," she said.

Her divorce proceedings have been a drain on her financially and she is also taking law classes to become a paralegal in a bid to upgrade herself.

The classes are not cheap, she said, declining to reveal which school she is in.

And she doesn't even earn that much from modelling - $2,000 at most in a month, and that doesn't happen often.

She usually charges $100 to $150 per session.

"I know I can't do this (modelling) forever. At some point, I have to stop," she said.

Mary's busy schedule, balancing photo shoots and classes, means that she needs a babysitter to care for her nine-month-old daughter on weekdays. She sees her daughter only on weekends.

'I'm not a bad mother'

"Which mother wouldn't want to spend time with her children? I'm not a bad mother, I want to take care of them. But I have shoots, I have classes, and I have assignments to do."

Her two-year-old son lives with her estranged husband, and they visit her occasionally.

One of her childhood friends, Mr William Ng, 28, said she's a caring mother and a good friend.

"She just needs extra money for childcare. People should learn to grow up and stop calling her names if they don't know her," he said. When they meet, she's a normal person just like anybody else, he said.

"As a mother, she is more mature now. She doesn't do it just because she's vain and wants attention," Mr Ng added.

Mary has two brothers and is the middle child. Her parents are divorced and she lives with her mother.

Her family does not object to her modelling, she said, and she even sends revealing photos of herself to her father and brothers after each photo session.

"They praise my pictures and encourage me," she said.

In fact, it was her older brother who encouraged her to get into modelling.

"He told me to make money while I'm still young. They don't find it wrong at all," she said.

But her relatives often gripe about the pictures to her mother, who defends her daughter's career choice.

"She understands that it is to earn money and there's nothing wrong doing it."

Her mother works as an office assistant and is unable to help look after her granddaughter.

When TNP told women's rights advocacy group Aware about Mary, its executive director, Ms Corinna Lim, said Aware believes that it is Mary's prerogative to choose what she thinks is best for herself and her children.

"It is not for us or anyone else to dictate to an adult woman what she should do to earn a living. No one should condemn her for trying to do her best to support her family," she added in an e-mail.

On her part, Mary does not think her children will react badly when they grow up and find out about her work.

She said: "They will still be my kids when they grow up and they will understand what I had to go through for them. Blood is thicker than water."

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