Just take a look in the comments section of any social media post or article that mentions public nudity and it’s easy to tell that it’s not something many people are comfortable with. In a country where some of the most popular television programs show nudity during primetime hours, it’s shocking just how turned off folks are by nudity. When it comes to travelers of color, despite many of us being proud to show off our, ahem, assets, head to Hedonism II on the very Black island of Jamaica, and you’ll find more white people there than not. Recently a travel writer wrote about her experience at the resort, and the comments from other travelers of color was a resounding ‘I’m good love, enjoy.’
But one Black-owned travel company is looking to change all that.
Founded by friends Patricka Hogue, 36, Claudine Nicaisse, 42, Richard Cantave, 32, Michelle Jackson, 43, Daphne Martin, 40, and Shatora Thomas, 39, Black Naturists Association is a travel company looking to disrupt the travel game by shattering stereotypes around nudity and encourage body positivity amongst Black travelers. Since starting their mission, BNA has become a movement, with nearly 3,000 followers on Facebook alone, vying to come on one of their epic naturists getaways. In addition to offering trips to destinations like Miami, Mexico and Haiti, the group has made their presence official by partnering with the American Association for Nude Recreation (AANR) to provide annual memberships and travel savings to singles and couples interested in the naturist lifestyle.
ESSENCE caught up with the free-spirited group to find out more about their mission, dispelling naturists myths and why they feel it’s important for Black travelers to dare to bare it all.
What is the Black Naturists Association (BNA), and how did you get started?Black Naturists Association: Black Naturists Association is an association that advocates nudity through naturist environments and activities, to help promote healthy body images and self-esteem for those in the Black community. We were founded in 2016 by a group of like minded travelers who discovered a common interest in traveling to nude beaches and naturist friendly destinations around the world.
Why did you feel it was important to start a nudist group specifically for people of color?
We felt it was important to start BNA so that people who looked like us had more representation in naturist spaces, and that the spaces we provide on trips and meet ups were free from any sexual pressures or overt sexual undertones. We realize that sex is healthy and natural, but we also want to make nudity normal without it being automatically associated with sex or sexuality.
What are some myths you feel people of color, or people in general, have about nudist groups and activities?
The immediate myth is that all nudists are swingers and engage in sexual activity during meet-ups or trips. However, we are not a sex or swingers club and we have very specific rules around sex while on a BNA trip. We also have a zero tolerance policy as it relates to harassment of any kind.
Women tend to be more body conscious than men, what tips do you have to help them better embrace the nudist experience?
For women that may be a bit hesitant, we recommend easing into getting naked at a nude beach or BNA trip. You can start with going topless and then take more off as you become more comfortable. Bottom line is once you get naked you’ll see that everyone is enjoying the space they’re in and isn’t worried or judging how you look. They will be admiring your bravery and probably your body as well. We all have the same parts, they just look different on each person and we embrace it all.
What activities does BNA do on trips to help promote body positivity among guests?
The best thing about our trips is that the entire experience is tailored to promote healthy body image. We engage in similar activities to other trips were people are clothed. We bowl, play spades, lounge by the pool, have game nights, and sing karaoke. On one of our trips we had a photographer do glow paint photos for guest that were interested.
What can first timers expect at their first nudist experience?
Anyone joining the BNA family for their 1st nude experience in a group setting can expect to be surrounded by open-minded professionals that are very welcoming and supportive. The group is conscious that everyone’s comfortability level varies when it comes to shedding clothing for the first time. We want everyone to feel comfortable, so respecting boundaries is a must. And of course, every BNA trip brings about plenty of laughter and new friendships.
Which nudist destinations are your favorite?
We have to shout out Haulover Beach in Miami and Cypress Cove Resort in Kissimmee.! Haulover is just an awesome beach and the water is always perfect. Once you’ve swam naked in the ocean (or really, anywhere, for that matter) you’ll never want to put on a swimsuit again! The people at Cypress Cove are welcoming and engaging, and the vibe at the resort is amazing. The amount of love we receive and the amazing people we meet each time we go is like none other. It’s actually our visits to these places that remind us just how much of a need there is for an organization like BNA. We’ve constantly had people of color coming up to us and saying how glad they were to see us, because they were often the only “fly in a bowl of milk” so to speak, in most, if not all, nudist environments and events they attended.
BNA has done trips in the states and abroad, do you find that the views on nudity differ greatly?If so, how?
The views on nudity vary as widely as recipes for gumbo and potato salad! A lot of countries, the U.S. included, have a very conservative and limited view of nudity. The naked body is seen as something to be hidden, sometimes vulgar, and needs to only be revealed in relation to sexual activities or doctor visits. Other places have a much more liberal view, and embrace nudity in a way that appreciates that every body is beautiful, and people are free to reveal or expose themselves as they see fit (appropriately and within reason, of course).
Many of your guests are corporate professionals, how do you ensure everyone’s privacy is respected?
We take safety & privacy seriously; pictures are never allowed unless first ok’d by everyone involved. We occasionally take group photos for promotional use, but before doing so we make sure to get everyone’s consent. Before pictures are posted, we again check with participants if there are any concerns before releasing. In addition, although we have a public Facebook group where all can participate in discussions, we reserve a separate group for members to ensure their privacy.
If you had to describe BNA and nudity in three words, what would they be?
Liberating, empowering and life-changing!