FORMER golf professional Paige Spiranac has spoken out on the horrendous experience of having a nude photo leaked – and how she managed to take back control of her body by getting her “t*ts out” on her own terms.
The 26-year-old social media personality sent the picture to a guy she was dating, but things turned nasty after they broke up.
Her ex decided to share the picture among his friends, and before long the image had circulated beyond control, with Spiranac having to face a barrage of messages from strangers that had seen the image.
When the American decided to confront people as to how they had got their hands on the picture, they refused to tell her.
On her podcast, Playing-A-Round, she said: “It was horrible, just getting these random messages from people you don’t know and they’ve seen you in such a vulnerable way. It was disgusting.
“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, you deserve this.”
As time went by, things began to spiral more and more out of control.
“I would wake up every single day, I would check my phone and be like, ‘Am I going to be on TMZ today?” she added, “Am I going to be here, am I going to be there?’”
“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.”
As can be the horrible nature of social media, Spiranac received disgusting abuse, including death threats – with trolls telling her that the torment was her own fault.
And things reached breaking point when, just minutes before a press conference in Dubai, someone threatened to release the picture online unless she paid him… or sent him more.
Spiranac subsequently broke down in tears in front of the media, and without revealing the specifics, talked about how hurtful internet users “making judgements” about her was.
At an event in Lake Tahoe, a fan that she believed wanted simply an autograph, pulled out an enlarged copy of the nude photograph – in view of lots of other attendees – including children.
The incident again brought Spiranac to tears, as she felt the sheer weight of seemingly never being able to “escape” the image.
She continued: “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.”
Spiranac also felt the ludicrous double standards of some men, as she was continuously “sl*t shamed” for the picture – while simultaneously being sent pictures of men’s genitalia from strangers.
She had always dreamed of appearing in the swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated, and when the opportunity arose, it helped her lay her demons to rest once and for all.
Her perspective then shifted a little: “Winning in my mind was taking control of my body,” she mused, and she did just that.
Among the glossy photoshoot with the famous magazine, one picture in particular stood out for her.
She said: “I was nude, I was completely naked. That was the best moment for me.
“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.”
Spiranac now has over two million Instagram followers, and has looked to use her platform for good.
In 2017 she became an ambassador for Cybersmile, a charity that aims to provide support and educational programmes in order to help combat cyber bullying and its effects.
She has now entered the next stage of her career with the launch of her podcast, as the self-styled “OG Insta golf girl” aims to continue to contribute to good causes.