Every woman has body image issues. I don’t care if they’re a size 2 or a size 20. I am no exception to this rule.
When I was 14 my best friend was a size zero, and her classmates made fun of her for being skinny and flat-chested. Meanwhile, at my school, the boys called me fat cow, ugly dog, stupid, and any other cruel things they could think of. Between that and the bullying I’d experienced in the previous five years at school, I had severely low self-esteem. We used to stand in front of a mirror together and lament about how we wanted to be shaped like each other. “I’m fat,” I’d say. “I wish I was skinny like you.” She’d say, “I’m too skinny. I’d rather be your size.” Neither of us was happy.
One day she and I were at the mall and a modeling agent approached her and said she wanted to sign her. Me, her chubby, ugly friend, stood by and realized nothing like that would ever happen to me because I wasn’t pretty.
When I was in my twenties I worked at a produce distribution company. One day a coworker told me that a bunch of the warehouse guys had been sitting around and making fun of me because my arms were so hairy. I went outside and sobbed, feeling the all-to-familiar sting of bullying. My pretty, blonde boss (who all the guys lusted after) came outside and tried to comfort me, telling me about how the kids at school made fun of her because she was so skinny, and even in 100-degree weather, she wore sweats under her jeans to look heavier. That night I burned myself and tore skin as I waxed my arms for the first time.
I’ve been working my whole life to undo those feelings of inadequacy, and at 38 years old, I still fight them every day. I still scrutinize myself every day.
EVERY woman has a story about why they have body image issues. Tyra Banks, one of the world’s most famous super models, spoke about the kids in school making fun of her big forehead. Even girls we look at in movies and magazines have flaws they are very aware of. Trust me, I’m a photographer, I know. Just go to YouTube and watch retouching videos. They airbrush models within an inch of their lives. They even stretch their torsos and legs to make them look taller and thinner.
Check out this ridiculousness: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AKlVyUJw3TM
When that model saw the final image, what did she think of herself? Did she think, “I’m not tall enough or thin enough so they had to change my body”? (This is one of the chief reasons I shoot film – to keep the integrity of photography alive.)
All of these things considered, becoming a boudoir photographer has changed my life. I’ve photographed women of every shape and size, and I’ve learned something from each and every one of them. When I photographed Emily (Tormented Sugar), a plus size model, she was so beautiful and confident… It gave me a front row seat to how beauty comes from within, and just because she’s a larger size doesn’t mean she’s not gorgeous and sexy. She is such an inspiration to me. I thought, “If she can be confident, so can I!” It gave me one more tool in my toolbox of recovery.
Check out Tormented Sugar’s blog here: http://tormentedsugar.wix.com/official
Then yesterday I had the honor of photographing my friend Brooke. We became very close when she was a teenager and I was in my twenties. She has always been a little sister to me. She’s beautiful, kind, gracious, and generous. She’s one of the sweetest, funniest women I know. She’s not a skinny mini, but who cares?! Look at this woman! She’s stunning!!!
She was INCREDIBLY nervous about her boudoir shoot, which she did as a 10-year anniversary gift for her husband. She talked a lot about how her body has changed since having her son and pointed out all her flaws. Like any woman, she was terrified to bear all in front of the camera, worried her photos would be terrible.
As we were shooting, laughing, and having fun, she relaxed. As I posed her in different outfits (then without any outfit), she got more and more comfortable. At the end of the shoot, she was in the bath tub and I asked her to dunk under, getting her face and hair wet for some unique, creative shots. I was standing on the edge of the tub above her. She said, “You want me to go all the way under?” with hesitation in her voice. I said, “Do you trust me?” “Yes.” And she did it. As a boudoir photographer, I hold women’s trust and intimate secrets. (My clients joke that I know them as well as their doctor.) These women REALLY trust me and allow themselves to be vulnerable in front of me. That is a powerful thing, and I’m completely honored that these women trust me this much.
When I sent Brooke a few digital teasers after her shoot (I can’t WAIT for the film to come back from the lab!!!), she LOVED them, and she said, “Thank you for making me feel beautiful!” THAT is why I do what I do. I get to give women the gift of confidence. There is no better gift than that!
I recently booked a pinup/boudoir photo shoot for myself with a female photographer I trust because I really want to get past my fear of not being pretty or thin enough. I want to know what it’s like to be vulnerable in front of the lens. I want to show my clients that I truly understand what they’re feeling. And I want to give my husband a beautiful gift, of course! Honestly, I am TERRIFIED. I’m worried about looking fat. (I was literally pinching the fat on my arm just now.) I’m worried that when I look at the photos, I’ll be disappointed in what I look like. I booked it for next month, even though I haven’t reached my weight loss goal, and THAT makes me very nervous. So so soooo nervous… But I’m going to draw from the bravery of my clients and just do it. Just do it!!! I promise to keep you all updated on the progress as I prepare, as I do the shoot, and after.
Thank you thank you thank you to all of my beautiful clients!!! You’re so brave and inspiring! If you can do it, I can do it!