While workers continue to feel the impact of COVID-19, Dallas restaurant employees are getting support from many restaurants and organizations providing meals and groceries to those who need it.
And then there are people who are also getting creative with how they’re raising money to relieve unemployed or furloughed service industry workers.
One of those is Deep Ellum bartender Katherine Doolittle, who has launched a photography series called Nudes for Industry Babes and Dudes.
As the name suggests, it’s a subscription-based photo series in which Dallas service industry workers are photographed in the nude to raise money for unemployed or furloughed service industry workers.
Doolittle, who had been working at Ebb and Flow, says she was inspired to create the effort after Australian model Kaylen Ward raised more than $500,000 for wildfire relief in Australia this past January by offering nude photographs of herself in exchange for proof of donation.
“I figured if she can do that, maybe we can do that, too, to raise money for the service industry,” Doolittle says.
To recruit models for the series, Doolittle posted on social media and asked friends to participate. However, she says she didn’t get a lot of volunteers until the series was mentioned on Eater Dallas.
When she spoke to the Observer on Monday, the Patreon page had been live for two days, but Doolittle says they had already raised $2,000. While you might expect that some restaurateurs may not want to be associated with this kind of content, Doolittle says she has received overwhelming support.
She does say some people around her had doubts as to whether she would be successful with the Nudes for Industry Babes and Dudes project.
“Of course, I knew that there was going to be people out there who didn't necessarily agree with the content, but what they can't disagree with is the charity aspect: We're raising money to help other people who were thrown into unemployment,” Doolittle says. “There were some naysayers who were like, ‘Who’s going to pay for nudes?’ Surprisingly, a lot of people. I know girls who make almost six figures on OnlyFans, so there’s definitely money to be made.”
On the Patreon page, members who pay $10 per creation will be able to see professional, topless photos of the models and have access to the chat community. Members who pay $25 per creation will have access to full nudes and “more fun.” For $50 per creation, members can access all the content of all the models.
Those who don’t care to see the nude photos can simply make a donation.
One of the models and founders of the series is downtown resident Renee Steele, a Deep Ellum regular who, before COVID-19, frequented the bar where Doolittle works.
“A lot of the people in Deep Ellum know that I’m not very bashful,” Steele says. “I’ve been known to flash a boob or two sometimes late at night when I’m over there.”
Steele says she hasn’t noticed any negativity since the launch of Nudes for Industry Babes and Dudes, but she did admit that she and some of the other models were nervous about their appearances.
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“We're all a little bit heavier than normal because we're all drinking and eating our sorrows away,” Steele says. “Some of us didn't have our nails ready, some of the blondes had their roots showing. It was really hard to prep for it, so we just had to have our trust in the photographers to be able to beautify us after the fact.”
Photographers include Deep Ellum resident Kathy Tran and Phoenix Taylor, the latter of whom previously worked in the service industry. Given his experience, Taylor says it was a no-brainer when Doolittle asked him to come on board for the series.
While the project is still in its infancy, Taylor anticipates it will garner a great amount of donations, with hope to acquire enough to provide rent assistance and deliver meals to those who need the help.
“I lived in Deep Ellum for a long time,” Taylor says. “It’s like the heartbeat of Dallas. And I know that the people who keep it alive are the ones that were hit the hardest during this time.”