What my first plus-size boudoir photoshoot taught me about body confidence
I can’t tell you how many times I have claimed to do something for myself and not for society, or for the gaze of someone else. I will champion my bright pink lipstick by saying, “I spend time on my makeup because I love makeup,” or my excessive shoe collection by telling everyone “I just love shoes.” The reality is that those things aren’t just for me, as much as I wish they were.
Being a fat girl in today’s society can be kind of confusing. As much as I like to preach that IDGAF and that I am who I am with no apologies, my actions say something else. I do my hair and makeup, and love cute shoes and accessories likely because those are the bits and pieces of fashion that are accessible to me. I can’t be the cutest-dressed girl in the room because the cutest dresses aren’t made for me. I have to make myself look “put together” because, as a fat girl, if I don’t, I’m seen as “sloppy” or “unkempt.” These realities are something I face daily.
For awhile, I thought I had to put those thoughts behind me and ignore them. I believed that having those thoughts kept me from being the queer, body-positive, femme fashionista that I pride myself to be.
I wanted to challenge those thoughts by pushing the boundaries of my confidence and self-love, and that’s how I somehow came to the decision to book my very first boudoir shoot.
It was the one thing I could think of that challenged every one of those ideals. No one had to see the pictures but me. No one even had to know I was doing it. It wasn’t for my fiancee or my Instagram — it was for me. It was a way I could express my sexuality and learn to love my body, for me and only me. So that’s what I did.
First things first, setting up and getting ready for a boudoir shoot can be quite an experience in and of itself. I scoured Instagram to find local photographers who not only did great work, but offered an environment of acceptance and love, and would be my partner in this journey. I knew the photographer was going to have to understand my point of view and my purpose for taking the pictures. After a few awkward phone calls where I had to explain that this wasn’t for my husband (heteronormative, much?) and I wouldn’t be sharing the photos with anyone, I found the perfect photographer.
She was open, daring, and nurturing. Within the first five minutes of our conversation, I wanted to be her best friend. That kind of bond mattered to me. As much as this was important to me, it was important to her too — maybe even more important. Not only were we going through this vulnerable experience together, but she had to carry me through and make sure I made it to the end safely. That is a lot of responsibility to place on someone, and the fact that she understood is exactly why we were the perfect fit.
Speaking of the perfect fit, have you tried to buy lingerie as a fat person in a mall? IT IS NOT POSSIBLE. Okay, maybe it is, but not in middle America, where your options are limited.
This was my first time buying lingerie.
Ya, I know, you think by the age of 30 I would have purchased some lingerie — but nope. For some reason, I’ve just never accepted overt sexiness. I always felt sexy in a men’s t-shirt with red lips and messy hair, not actual lingerie. I didn’t want to give myself another excuse to hide my body, so I absolutely refused to go in that direction — I knew that I would need some real life lingerie.
After digging through some deep Google searches, I landed on Adore Me, a lingerie company with an amazing selection of plus-sized lingerie and undergarments. What really resonated with me, though, was the message they seemed to want to send: their lingerie is for every body. I saw women like me on their site, and I began to feel the same kind of comfort and connection I felt with my photographer.
As I shopped, I quickly realized I was only looking at cami sets and bodysuits, something that would cover my stomach (my “problem” area). It wasn’t until I reviewed my cart that I realized what I’d been doing — apparently these body issues were really ingrained in me. I deleted my entire cart and started over. I only allowed myself to shop in the bras and panties section to ensure I wouldn’t try and hide my own belly from myself. After settling on a few sets, I placed my order and waited.
So remember that thing I said about overt sexiness? Throw that out the window, because once these pieces came in, I was ALL about it. I wanted to wear my bra as a shirt — it was so beautiful. I have never felt so good in undergarments that actually fit me. No underboob, no side boob spillage, no back creases; I looked good and I felt GREAT. These garments helped me feel like I was worth every shutter of my photographer’s camera — I can’t stress that enough.
When the day of the photoshoot came, I thought I would be nervous — but I felt an unexpected sense of calm. I knew this day would be one of self-discovery and self-love, and I couldn’t wait to feel liberated from the standards imposed on me my entire life.
Instead of spending money on waxes and professional hair/makeup, I decided to have my house professionally cleaned so I could feel like I was worth a million bucks. I purchased the most lavish Home Goods blanket you could ever imagine so I could lay it over my bed. That way, I made sure I could physically feel beauty. I didn’t want to feel like I was hiding behind my makeup, but I did want to know that everything around me was contributing to what the photographer and I were about to create. With the lighting set, the equipment in place, and a little Jessie Ware playing in the background, I officially felt ready to start my boudoir shoot.
From the moment the first photo was taken, all of my anxiety was released.
I knew in that moment, nothing else mattered. I’d done it. I’d laid there half naked with nothing to hide my “imperfections,” and allowed someone to see me. I allowed me to see me. It was a feeling I can barely describe — like I was watching myself, like I could see how my body flowed from one pose to the other. I could see that when I did something that felt uncomfortable, I reverted to humor to keep myself going. I could see that no matter how I moved my body, I was still beautiful.
Liberating myself from self- and society-imposed standards was the most mind boggling thing I have ever done in my adult life. I had to fully accept my body as a part of me, and a part of what makes me beautiful.
From first shot to last, my photographer was my champion. She pushed me in directions I never thought I’d be comfortable with, but I trusted her. She wanted to show me how beautiful I was, and I wasn’t going to get in her way. She refused to let me retreat into old habits, or walk away when I felt overwhelmed. Our bond was something I can only describe as nurturing and safe.
As we wrapped everything up, I noticed another unexpected feeling — excitement.
We had done it. No matter what the photos ended up looking like, I had achieved self-love, and that is certainly something to celebrate. As the night went on, my photographer texted me “teaser” photos from the shoot, and I couldn’t help but cry. I was beautiful. I am beautiful. My body is beautiful. I was out there, all out there, all of me.
My first reaction upon seeing the photos was to show my fiancee. She loves when I show my sexy side; she would love these photos. I was ready to hit send when I suddenly paused.
I did all of this for myself — why do I feel compelled to share?
Can’t I be selfish and bask in my beauty? Can’t I just keep this one secret? And so that’s what I did. I promise to spend the rest of my life with my fiancee, but I also promise to never show her these photos. Sometimes, you just have to do something for you, and only you. You know what else is beautiful? She understood. She never asked or pestered me to see them, because she knew what it meant to me.
This boudoir shoot is the first thing I have ever truly done for myself. The confidence I have gained from it is priceless. I learned things I will never forget. And every day, I will walk with the confidence of a supermodel, because I am one.