What was nearly nude John Cena really wearing at the Oscars?

John Cena appeared to be completely nude when he stepped onstage at the Oscars on Sunday night — but, thanks to a wee bit of Hollywood magic, he wasn’t. 

Behind the strategically placed envelope he held revealing the winner for best costume design, the professional wrestler and actor was wearing what’s known in the trade as “modesty garment.” The article of clothing, widely used in film, TV and theater productions, is used to cover actors’ private parts when a scene calls for a performer to appear as if they’re naked. 

Such garments  are often sourced from scrap materials, including yoga mats and leftover fabrics from other costumes. But with a spotlight on making what can be a vulnerable experience for performers feel safe, including formally in recent SAG-AFTRA contract negotiations, companies that specialize making modesty garments in different shapes, sizes and colors have sprouted up.

A lot of times, costume departments source these things from the fashion industry or use strapless thongs, but recently with the rise of intimacy coordination as a job on set, we’ve seen the rise of more specialized development and design of modesty garments,” Jessica Steinrock, an intimacy coordinator and CEO of Intimacy Directors and Coordinators, an organization that trains and certifies professionals who work with actors on scenes that feature sex and require nudity. 

John Cena wore a “modesty garment” when he presented the award for best costume design at the Oscars on Sunday, March 10, 2024.

Frank Micelotta

So-called intimacy coordinators are hired to supervise scenes involving nudity or simulated sex, and to liaise between actors and production staff.

Steinrock said an on-set intimacy coordinator told her she once resorted to using part of a padded dinosaur costume as a modesty garment in one sensitive scene. “They’ve been slapping things together, but in a vulnerable experience, to have part of a dinosaur costume attached can reflect a lack of care and dignity,” she explained. 

A few companies, including U.K.-based Intimask and The Modesty Shop in Canada now design garments exclusively to help actors feel comfortable in near-nude moments like Cena’s at the Oscars. In the U.S., Covvier, founded by a pair of set costumers, sells a range of products, including strapless, adhesive thongs and padded pouches. 

Despite how little of the body they cover and little fabric they use, modesty garments are often pricey. That’s because the industry is new, the businesses are small and the products are specialized, Steinrock noted. For example, a “padded pouch” similar to the one Cena wore costs $62. He was also wearing a type of butt cover, photos of the actor taken backstage reveal. 

Eventually, Steinrock expects prices for such professional garments to come down. 

“It’s early and these are new companies, and it’s exciting to see that there is a specialized market here to create products designed with high-quality fabrics to provide the protection and care these scenes require,” she said.

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