How boudoir photography can be body positive
For the last five or six years, I have wanted to be a nude model for an artist or art class. I’ve dreamed of my rubinesque body being sketched or (if I was really lucky) painted. When I lived in Chicago, I reached out to dozens of art schools, classes, workshops, and even individual professors, offering my services. But I never got a response. Since then, I’ve periodically perused craigslist to see if anyone was hiring nude models, but that always brought up creepy posts.
I’ve been passively hoping for an opportunity to come up, when I stumbled upon Anessa Charlotte’s intagram. Anessa did a boudoir photoshoot with someone else I follow on Instagram, Stephanie Sheldon. Her shoot was very tasteful and modest. Stephanie is the founder and owner of multiple local companies and I was so impressed that she posted boudoir photos on her Instagram. I thought it was brave. I was intrigued.
Anessa’s page featured women of all sizes, shapes, colors, gender identity. Cis and trans people. Not everyone wore lingerie, the women in her photos wore all sorts of clothing. Her portfolio felt alternative to the traditional boudoir where women give photos to their new husbands (which there is nothing wrong with, just not for me and my purposes). I knew that I wanted her to shoot me. I thought it would be great to have some professional shots for my website and Instagram. I emailed Anessa to inquire and her rates were reasonable, so in about a week I scheduled my first boudoir photoshoot.
The shoot was easy and mostly comfortable. I had a couple of outfits. Anessa guided me throughout out the whole process. She told me how to pose with my body and face. She was also open to any idea I had. Most importantly, Anessa was affirming throughout: telling me how great I looked, how I was doing great, how my hair was her new hair goals
Throughout the shoot, Anessa would show me some of the shots to make sure she was capturing what I wanted. When I first saw some full body photos of myself, I was struck by the size of my stomach. I didn’t realize how far it stuck out lately. I know that I am at my biggest weight right now but I usually don’t notice the physical changes until I see a photo. And I’m always depressed after. More than once, I’ve sobbed after seeing a photo of me that showed how big my stomach was.
For my entire life, I’ve thought I was fat. At the very least chubby and needed to lose weight. My mom was nervous for me when I was in third/fourth grade and had some chub. So she made a lot of comments about me watching my weight. But what I wish my mom would have done is help me develop a healthy relationship with food. I’ve never had that.
In high school, I developed a binge eating habit with fast food, but I never gained weight. However, I thought I was fat because I compared myself to the other girls, who were sticks with prepubescent shapes. I look back now and know that I was never fat. I just had curves. But I felt different. My Pom team even had to order a special skirt because no one on the team had ever been my size – I was a size 8.
Now I know that I was not fat and my body was fucking rocking throughout high school. After my freshman year in college, I started to gain weight. And I’ve fluctuated ever since. Its been a long, mostly boring journey with my body. Mostly what I can tell you is that I have spent the majority of the last 10 years hating my body on a bad day, tolerating it on a good day.
I know that I have beautiful hair and a pretty face. All that meant though is that when I looked at pictures of myself, I would just stare at the bigger parts (stomach, hips, sometimes arms and legs), just saying to myself, “If only that part could be trimmed down”. I would imagine in my head what I would look like If I could just photoshop that stomach down to be flat and I would revel in how hot I would be.
Here is a list of things I have thought to myself hundreds of times throughout the years:
I would be so hot if I lost 20 pounds
I would be so hot once I start working out every day and get cut
I will be so hot once I do Whole30
I would be so hot if I lost 40 pounds
I will be really fucking hot if I do yoga every day for 90 days
I would be so hot if I lost 60 pounds
I am going to be so hot once I start doing Orange Theory
My beauty always came with a qualifier. I could not be gorgeous or hot with that stomach. When I was looking at the photos during my shoot, that stomach glared at me. I thought the same thing to myself, “God, I would be so hot if I just didn’t have that”. Mentally taking an eraser to my stomach to trim it down. But I looked so good. I looked so hot. Why did my stomach define my beauty?
I started to think about bodies as geometric shapes. We’ve been told that the white, European woman is the standard of beauty. Historically that means women’s bodies are lean, trim, skinny. In recent years, our society has fetishisized women with big hips and butts, like Queen Bey. This new standard of beauty is far from inclusive or even obtainable. In the wise words of Tina Fey, women are expected to have “long Swedish legs, small Japanese feet, the abs of a lesbian gym owner, the hips of a nine-year-old boy, the arms of Michelle Obama, and doll tits. The person closest to actually achieving this look is Kim Kardashian, who, as we know, was made by Russian scientists to sabotage our athletes.”
While different shapes have started to be seen as beautiful, all of the shapes involve flat tummies and the absence of fat in areas like arms, legs, back, face, neck, etc.
When I started to think about women’s bodies as geometric shapes, I thought how I have a circle on my stomach and the sexy women in magazines, tv, movies have flat lines. Why did the line equate to beauty? Why did the circle mean I was ugly or fat or not enough? Why did this difference in shape stop me from fully loving my body?
Thinking about bodies as shapes made me realize that there was no logic to my thinking of “I would be so hot if….”. There was nothing stopping me from being hot now. It was just my belief that flat line = hot. It’s not true. All shapes are hot. They’re just lines.
I was so tempted to hate the photos Anessa took of me showing my stomach. But I thought that would be a waste of experience and money. I leaned into it. I took photos in just my underwear and bra, showing all of my rolls. I felt beautiful. I was beautiful. I am beautiful.
If you are considering doing a boudoir photo shoot, do it. Don’t think about it. It is 100% worth it. And you are beautiful.
If you are interested in boudoir, contact Anessa on instagram @anessacharlotte