Let's talk about body image

I had an amazing session at the beach. It was one of my wonderful male clients who wanted to show his passion for the ocean. As always, I brought Rachel (my Hair and Makeup artist) with me and together we all created something really cool.
My client left, and I was looking at Rachel (who always looks amazing) and the gorgeous beach, evening light. We HAD to create more portraits. So I dragged her along and stunning things happened.

Now, earlier that day, I had talked with Rachel about how I wanted to teach her some of the things I know. So when I told her to try out my camera, she was all for it. And she did great! That girl has an eye! That is one of the reasons I love working with her, because her attention to detail is out of this world.

That day she photographed me. I wore very little makeup, as I usually do, and a simple black, Maxi dress. It’s one of my go-to outfits because I can move around in it, it’s comfortable, and I really like how I look in it.
I was no where near ready for portraits that day though. My days of modelling are far behind me, and I haven’t fine-tuned my skills in a long while.

It was hard being there, on the other side.
It was hard worrying about how I looked like.
How I knew my arms look.
Worrying about my rolls.
My hips.
My butt.

These are all things I usually love about myself…..emphasis on usually!

Like everyone else I struggle with body image. I often feel attractive and beautiful, but I am also aware that I do not fit into the standard idea of what beauty is. I know, I am overweight. I see it every day when I look in the mirror. Most days I smile and praise my curves……other days…..not so much.

Lately, I’ve been stuck in a rut creatively. I haven’t created work that felt true to me and my mission in life - to help empower women and to help them see their own beauty. It had become more about something else than empowerment. It had been diluted and through my own current mental state (that’s a topic for a different post, but it’s safe to say that things have been a tad challenging), I had slacked off.

I allowed me to lose track of myself! Something I swore would never happen.
And here I was, realising that I had removed my own independency. No one did it for me. It was me! Only me! I had gotten comfortable. I stopped seeking to learn. I had forgot to question my path.
And then something started stirring. A few people started kicking my butt, saying “SNAP OUT OF IT!”. My brain started waking up. Thoughts were coming together again. Ideas started taking shape.

If you are stuck - change! Adapt! Develop! But don’t stay stuck. Don’t dwell. Move! Get out of the quick-sand. It will only suck you down deeper until you can’t even hear your own voice.

I was loosing my voice and the solution was to adapt and develop.
And that was when I decided to host a model call for two new genres that I have decided to familiarize myself with and add to my repertoire.

One of these genres is Boudoir photography.
I started thinking about how I could empower women even more than I had previously done.
I had seen what the body-positivity movement had done to the plus size industry. Now, when I shop for clothes and underwear online, the models are like me and like many others. They are stunning! Beautiful and powerful! Editing is kept to a minimum and there they stand with their perfectly, imperfect bodies, owning every inch of them!
I want to do that! I want to show the perfect, imperfections. I want to show women how powerful their bodies are! How they have carried burdens, children, life on their shoulders and on their hips.

If that is not beautiful, I do not know what is!

So that day, standing on the beach, teaching Rachel about cameras, shutter speeds, apertures and ISO, everything came full circle. She was literally holding a mirror up in front of me.
I saw the images, and parts of me cringed. Not because they were bad. Frankly, they came out gorgeous (in my own opinion) but all of my flaws are so apparent in them. The things I severely dislike about my own body, not to say hate, is right there for everyone to see. There is no hiding. And I have been trying to hide for so long.

Looking at them after I came home, a bunch of questions started to take shape. How can I empower women, when I myself, do not feel empowered?
How can I preach self-love, when I dislike how I look in pictures now?
How can I only show how I used to look like in pictures, not how I look like now?

So I looked at them. I mean, REALLY looked at them. I looked at every roll. At every bump. I looked at my red-patched arms - the result of a bad, OCD-like picking habit I have had since I was 16. I looked at my fat around my hips, thinking how it made them look square. I looked at my stomach, that has gotten too big - most likely due to stressful over-eating, not enough exercise, and not enough passion for my own health - my passion and attention has been elsewhere.
And I asked myself, why do you dislike what you see?
The answer was apparent though not easy.

I dislike it because it reminds me of everything I have gone through. It reminds me of ugly words that have been spoken to me. Of nasty eyes. Of abuse and misuse. Of a hardcore journey, that no matter what, landed me on my own two feet, battered and bruised but safe none the less in a life that is beyond anything I could have imagined for myself.
All the things I hate about my own body doesn’t stem from how it actually, physically looks like.
It stems for WHY it looks like that.

As I am writing this, tears are streaming down my face, I am realising so many things in this moment. But one thing that keeps on popping up in my head is this poem.

Today I asked my body was she needed
Which is a big deal
Considering my Journey of
Not Really Asking That Much.
I thought she might needed more Water.
Or Protein.
Or Greens.
Or Yoga.
Or Supplements.
Or Movement.
But as I stood in the Shower,
Reflecting on her stretch marks,
Her roundness where I would like flatness,
Her softness where I would like firmness,
All of those conditioned wishes
That form a bundle of
She whispered very gently

Could You just Love me like this?
— Hollie Holden

I don’t know what my conclusion is really. I now that I, like most other people, need to work on my self-image. I know, that my body is deserving of my own love. And I know, that I want others to love their bodies as well.
That combination is bound to bring magic!

But here you have them. My un-edited, non-altered, touched or squeezed (the Gods now how much I wanted to), portraits that my beautiful and amazing hair-and makeup artist took of me - holding that mirror to my face and forcing my body to ask me, “Could you just love me like this?”
The more I look at them……..the more I do!

@Photocredit: Rachel Toussaint - https://racheltoussaintmakeup.com/