Golfer’s harrowing nude photo ordeal
Former golfer Paige Spiranac has opened up on the horror of having a nude photo leaked, revealing how the stigma of the scandal haunted her for years.
Speaking on her new podcast Playing-A-Round, the 26-year-old - also a social media celebrity with more than two million Instagram followers who refers to herself as the "OG Insta golf girl" - explained how she felt "violated" after she was betrayed by someone she cared deeply about when he shared the intimate picture among friends.
A self-confessed "people pleaser", Spiranac sent the photo because she wanted the guy she was dating to like her but was shocked to find out he'd forwarded it to mates after their romantic relationship ended.
Making matters worse, his friends refused to tell Spiranac how they got the photo and she was inundated with messages from strangers who had seen the private picture asking if it was really her.
"It was horrible," Spiranac, an American college golf star who had a short career in the pros, said. "Just getting these random messages from people you don't know and they've seen you in such a vulnerable way. It was disgusting."
Spiranac was emotional during the podcast discussion, breaking down in tears as she retold the sickening response from the person responsible for distributing the photo when she confronted him about it.
"When I finally confronted the guy and said, 'I can't believe you did this to me', he said - and I'll never forget this - 'You are the sl*t who sent it to me'," Spiranac said. "He said, 'You deserve this'."
At this stage, the photo had been shared around privately without being leaked on the internet, but Spiranac was paralysed with fear that at any moment it could be uploaded online.
"I would wake up every single day, I would check my phone and be like, 'Am I going to be on (website) TMZ today? Am I going to be here, am I going to be there?'" Spiranac said.
"That was the worst part. I was constantly stressed out that someone was going to see it and someone was going to get it and that it was going to get out.
"Also, that was one picture. I don't know what else he had or what he was going to release. If he did it once, he could do it again and again and again."
The torture was real for Spiranac. She received death threats and was repeatedly told on social media she only had herself to blame for putting herself in this position.
Minutes before a press conference at a tournament in Dubai, she was threatened with blackmail by someone who wanted money or more photos or else he would release her picture online.
That was breaking point for the athlete, who regularly dealt with accusations she had only become famous because of her looks, not her talent. During that press conference Spiranac cried as, without mentioning specifics, she opened up on the pain and hurt caused by trolls calling her "promiscuous" and "making judgments about me that aren't true".
'THEY HAVE ALL SEEN ME NAKED'
The photo continued to follow Spiranac around. At a celebrity golf event at Edgewood in Lake Tahoe, America, a fan who had been nothing but pleasant to her for the first couple of days called her over for an autograph, only to pull out a blown-up copy of the nude photo - in front of hoards of people, including kids.
Spiranac started bawling as she faced another crushing example of how that photo would always be part of her life.
"I can never escape this picture," Spiranac said. "It's always there.
"These little things kept happening where I was like, 'OK, I think I'm over it'. Maybe a month will pass then it gets brought up again. And it gets brought up again, and brought up again and it keeps also reminding me of this guy and what he did to me and all of this trauma.
"Every life event was also tied into that, which was super traumatic for me."
Eventually, not long after being told she would be a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit model - one of Spiranac's dreams - the photo found its way onto the internet.
As she travelled around the golf circuit, it was painfully awkward turning up to men's PGA events because she knew "they have all seen me naked … and they're so fake to my face that they won't say anything about it".
Spiranac said she was regularly "sl*t shamed" by guys and sent unsolicited images of their genitals, outraged by the double standards of it apparently being acceptable for men to send pictures of their bodies but not women.
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'THAT WAS THE MOMENT I WON'
Thankfully, it was the opportunity to pose for the famous Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition that helped Spiranac overcome her demons - four years after the photo scandal first erupted.
She said on her podcast "winning in my mind was taking control of my body" and she did just that while working with the iconic magazine.
Of all the snaps taken on that job, one in particular stands out for Spiranac and it helped her get closure on the traumatic chapter in her life.
"I was nude, I was completely naked. That was the best moment for me," she said. "I felt so empowered and I was like, 'OK, if I'm going to do this, I'm doing it on my terms and I took it back, I took my body back.
"That was the moment I won, right there, when I did Sports Illustrated Swimsuit and I had my t**s out."