A few years ago I did a boudoir session for my husband, but really it was for me. I had lost about 25 pounds, and I was proud of my body for the first time in my life. I’ve battled an eating disorder since I was 17, so I didn’t have a good opinion of my body. Throughout my teens, my mom criticized me, saying things like, “No one will want you if you’re fat. Men don’t want to marry fat women.” She believe in starving yourself, as she did it in her 20’s, living off hard boiled eggs and cigarettes. “I was a size 0!” she still says proudly.
Like most women, I criticized my body every day, only seeing the flaws. But when a photographer captured me on film, and I saw how beautiful I was through their lens, I knew I had to accept myself as beautiful. I had to put aside all the self hate and start loving myself. How was I supposed to expect my clients to do that if I couldn’t?
Most of all, the experience really enlightened me on how it feels to be in front of the camera, so exposed. It’s a powerful, liberating experience. After my session, I was able to connect more with my clients because I had experienced it myself. I truly understood what they go through when they’re in my studio. At the beginning of my session, I couldn’t stop shaking and sweating. I was in full-on fight-or-flight mode. It was shocking how nervous I was, considering I do this for a living. All of my clients ask me, “Are other women nervous?” I say, “EVERY woman is nervous. I was SO nervous.” Believe me, it’s normal.
There’s something truly powerful about seeing yourself through someone else’s eyes. I’ve been complaining about my acne scars, and my friends say, “I can’t see them.” I point them out and say, “Right HERE! You see that?” “No.” But I see it every day, and in every photo of myself in profile. All of us have flaws! There is not one single perfect women on this planet. She’s a supermodel? She probably has cellulite, because we ALL do. She’s thin? She might have stretch marks or scars under her clothes. We need to stop labeling women, even to say, “She’s perfect.” No one is perfect! As a group, us women need to come together and make the decision to accept one another.
Then there’s the dark side of being “perfect.”
One of my past brides is literally the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen in person. Every time I see a photo of her on Instagram, I shout aloud (alone in my office), “OMG she’s SO BEAUTIFUL!” Like, it’s almost painful to look at her. Guess what? She doesn’t have a perfect life. Her mother values her for her looks and is extremely jealous of her. Men have used her for her body, just to toss her aside after she fell for them. Women don’t want to be friends with her because they’re so jealous. When she found her husband, she knew he was the one. He sees all of her, including her amazing brain. (He’s pretty wonderful.) This woman is so talented and intelligent, but all people see is her beauty, and they take her at face value. They assume she’s stupid or bitchy. On the day of her wedding, we had a conversation about it, and I said, “I never thought about it before, but it must be really hard to look like you do.” She said, “It is.”
As I’m getting older, I’m also realizing that (good) men don’t expect us to be perfect. (And the ones that do aren’t worth a damn.) Haven’t you asked your significant other about a flaw, just for him to say, “I don’t see it.” It’s because he doesn’t look at you that way. Your man doesn’t criticize your body. You do that to yourself. You point to your little tiny muffin top and say, “I’m so fat!” He looks at you like you’re crazy because he doesn’t even see it. Here we are killing ourselves at the gym, trying to get rid of the “chicken cutlets” where our arm meets our chest, and HE DOESN’T CARE! He looks at you as a whole woman, and just loves you as you are. He sees your personality, sense of humor, intelligence, and love.
Women criticize women’s bodies. Not men. They don’t notice most of this stuff. They notice your boobs and butt, and he doesn’t care at all if your butt isn’t perfect. He’ll still slap it. The idea that all men are criticizing our bodies comes from fashion magazines and movies. It’s not real.
Every single time I’ve photographed a boudoir session, the client’s man loves the finished results! I have a strict rule that I don’t Photoshop anyone without permission. I feel that if I do, that’s a message to the woman that says, “Your body isn’t good enough as it is.” Instead, I work with them so they can find the right wardrobe. I pose and light them in flattering ways. If they do ask for Photoshop, it’s typically smoothing out acne or stretch marks. I never change the shape of their bodies.
Even with flaws, every client loved their photos and so did their man. Your man wants to see you as you are. They don’t want over-processed, overly-retouched images that don’t even look like you.
More than anything, a boudoir session is for YOU. I’ve even had clients come into the studio that are single! It’s a gift to themselves, and that’s a beautiful thing. When you see yourself in the right lingerie, in the right light, with the right pose, you’ll love how you look. It’s literally the best version of you.
The biggest impact will be on your self-esteem. After I deliver an album, I always ask, “How do you feel about yourself?” Every woman says they feel better about themselves, beautiful, sexy, and empowered. As I mentioned before, it’s incredible to see yourself through someone else’s eyes, especially someone you don’t know well. Some women say they were really shy before their session and it brought them out of their shell. There’s something very freeing about getting in front of the camera wearing lingerie, or nothing at all. Once you do that, you’ll feel like you can do anything!