In 2007, a start-up rocked the web with its fearless vision to combine the social network with adult photography into a formula that enables models and photographers to profit via a user voting system. The start-up, Zivity, even managed to raise a $1 million round of seed capital from Silicon Valley investors, notorious for steering clear of adult sites.
“We think it’s our unapologetic approach that has nabbed our investors,” founder Cyan Banister commented then. “Women who want to be sexy is not pornography, and us stressing that has helped us a lot. It’s never been about creating a site that’s a dirty little secret, and investors really need to hear that.”
We had an opportunity to speak with Banister last week and asked her to tell us something she hadn’t told anyone before about Zivity’s story.
“The first time I posed nude was very nerve-wrecking,” Banister said. “I called all my photographer friends and I said ‘I’m thinking abut this company again’ — I tried to start this company ten years ago and I was very young and inexperienced and lacked a lot of maturity in person and business — and I told them, ‘I need to pose nude because if I can’t do this, I can’t start this company.’ ”
She set up the appointment and dove in.
“I knew nothing about looking at the camera, or how to pose,” she recalled. “I loved it. It was transformative. I didn’t think much about my body but afterward, I looked at it in the pictures and thought ‘wow, my body is nice.’ I regretted not doing it sooner and appreciating myself sooner. If I could go back, I would tell myself to pose sooner.”
That’s essentially the heart of Zivity right there — it’s about beauty in all its forms, it’s about the discovery of self and the sharing of this self through collaboration with photographers and through interaction with users.
Banister’s first shoot never made it into the site because the images didn’t meet the site’s quality guidelines.
“Has no one seen these?” we asked, our curiosity piqued. “Can we see them? Can we run them?”
Ask and you shall receive.
Presenting the photo shoot that started it all. Un-Photoshopped, and never before seen:
“A camera will show you something about yourself a mirror never can,” Banister told us. “When you see a picture of yourself, you see everything. Have some shots taken. Even if you don’t do it for the website, do it for yourself. Delete it if you have to, but do it.”
And just in case you want to check out this fabled website of epic win, you can get a 30-day trial by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, no credit card required — until the end of those 30 days, that is. Then you’ll need to pay up. But don’t worry, you’ll find no damn good reason not to, and over 500 reasons worth doing so.
(Be patient, the 30-day trial messages are sorted manually, not by machines, so give it 24 hours before you leave us impatient comments. Not that we don’t love your eagerness, our sweet flytraps of oversharing and voyeuristic delight.)
Oh, yeah: you’re welcome.
Special thanks to Enrique Gutierrez for inadvertently catalyzing this.