Op-Ed: #NakedForAustralia campaign revolutionizes fundraising


Photo credit: Sivan Ellman

L.A. based model Kaylen Ward generated a new fundraising platform. For every $10 donated to an organization helping the Australian Wildfires, she would send a personal nude through Instagram’s direct message.

Earlier this month, Australia was ravaged with the worst wildfires seen in decades. More than 3,000 homes were destroyed or damaged, and 33 people had died as of Feb. 1. U.S. firefighters even flew to Australia to help fight the blaze. The fires prompted fundraising efforts around the world, resulting in the most lucrative Facebook fundraiser ever. Celebrities like Pink and tennis star Maria Sharapova made large, high-profile donations, according to the Washington Post.

But LA-based model Kaylen Ward had a different idea of how to contribute to the natural disaster. Tweeting from the username The Naked Philanthropist, Ward told her followers that she would send them a nude photograph if they emailed her proof of a $10 donation to one of several wildfire relief organizations. 

Since the post was created, Ward said she has raised over $1 million, though the exact sum is unclear because she found it difficult to verify some donations. Because of the high demand for pictures, Ward assembled a team to help organize the requests. All of the money is going straight to charities and Ward is not getting a cut; however, she has gained a tremendous amount of social media followers. Some people have even started reselling Ward’s nudes.

Ward’s actions, although unconventional, are revolutionary. As the climate crisis worsens, everyone needs to stand up and face the gravity of the situation. In this case, the foundations supporting the Australian Wildfires needed monetary support. While I personally wouldn’t partake in this type of fundraising, Ward was able to raise money for a good cause and increase awareness of the fires.

Since the initial media attention, an Instagram spokesperson told Buzzfeed News that her account “was disabled for violating our policies. Offering nude images is not allowed on Instagram.”

Other models, such as Jenna Lee, Emmy Elliot and porn star Riley Reid have since followed in her footsteps. Many have come forward supporting this new way of fundraising (some are calling the campaign #NakedforAustralia) but it brings up ethical questions surrounding nudity and its stigma in society and social media. 

Ward harnessed social media for good, but relied upon the desires of others. In this sense, she was both empowered — by using her body to secure donations for a cause important to her — and disempowered — because her work reinforced systems that prize women only for their sexual appeal.

From this new fundraising platform, Ward fundraised thousands of dollars with one incentive: nude images. People were motivated to donate knowing the “prize” — the images. To me, this new type of fundraising makes it seem like people don’t care about the environment or the plight of people and animals affected by the fires. 

Although I feel that this fundraising platform shows the immorality of society, I think Ward is doing something that could change the face of fundraising. She is not standing idly by — like most of us — talking about the catastrophes plaguing our planet and then moving on with her day. She is using her body, something free and accessible, as a way to convince people who would most likely otherwise not donate to help save Australia.

Just as the pro-choice movement emphasizes the importance of women to have power over their own bodies, I say that a woman should be able to choose how she uses and shares her body, especially if it is for good. Ward is creating a new fundraising platform — the consequences and benefits are unknown. 

Ward’s approach is unconventional. Some may even consider it immoral, but it is being done voluntarily. I will not judge someone who is raising hundreds of thousands of dollars in the name of planet Earth. But how do we change society to recognize the destruction of the environment without incentivizing donations with nudes?