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, workshops and even individual professors, offering my services. 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 really creepy posts.
I’d been passively hoping for an opportunity to come up when I stumbled upon Anessa Charlotte’s Intagram. I saw that 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; so I was very 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 is there is nothing wrong with, but 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 brought 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 photos on her camera 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 now, which is an odd thing to not realize, especially since I know that am at my biggest weight right now. But I tend to have an idea in my head of what I look like that’s much thinner than I actually am; and I usually don’t notice the physical changes until I see a photo of myself, after which I’m always depressed. More than once in my life, I have 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. 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, just a really unhealthy relationship with food. I always thought I was fat because I compared myself to other girls I went to school with, who had 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 f*cking rocking throughout high school. After my freshman year in college, I started to gain weight. I’ve fluctuated ever since. It’s 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, but 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….” Then I would escape into a Photoshop daydream imagining what I would look like If I could just shave down my stomach to be flat 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 f*cking 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 Fitness 6 times a week
My beauty always came with a qualifier. In my head, I could not be gorgeous or hot with my large, round stomach. When I was looking at the photos during my shoot, my stomach glared at me and I glared back. I thought the same thing to myself, “God, These pictures would be so hot AND I would be so hot if I just didn’t have that fat stomach, blemished with cellulite and stretch marks (even though I’ve never had a kid)”, mentally taking an eraser to my stomach to trim it down a few inches, removing any sign that cellulite and stretch marks were present.
But the pictures were hot. I was hot. I looked so good.
Why did my stomach define my beauty?
We’ve been told in America 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. Liking big butts is not the same as body positivity and fat acceptance. This new standard of beauty is far from inclusive or even obtainable. In the wise words of Tina Fey in her book “Bossy Pants,” 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 compared to just 30 years ago, all of the shapes involve flat tummies and the absence of fat in areas like arms, legs, back, face, neck, etc. I’ve always had a small butt, and now its disproportionate to the stomach, hips, and legs that it surrounds. I do not fit into the beauty standard of our society.
I started to think about bodies as geometric shapes. I thought, I have a circle on my stomach and the sexy women in magazines, tv, movies have flat lines for stomachs. 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 freaking shapes.
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. And so are you.
Before Anessa sent the edited proofs over for me to choose which 40 images I wanted, I was nervous that I wouldn’t want even half that many. I surprised myself when I went through them and actually wanted 53. I happily paid extra for the additional 13. The photos turned out so great. While I know a big part of that is due to Anessa’s talent, I’m not going to use this platform to be modest. The pictures were hot because I was hot. I am so happy for every single photo. Not just for the content I can use on my website and Instagram but because the whole experience allowed me to do something I so badly – love my body, unconditionally.
For a long time, I’ve been listening and reading to the likes of Lena Dunham, Lindy West and Roxanne Gay and their body positivity beliefs. I have really, really wanted to be like them. But for whatever reason, I couldn’t love my body. I was still mad at it (me) for not looking like Jennifer Lawrence.
I have been mean to my body. I’ve talked so much shit about my body. F*ck. I can’t believe how mean I am to it. I pump it full of fast food and cigarettes and alcohol, and deprive myself of sleep and peace. And then I tell everyone how disgusting my body is. But now I know that I can still work on my body and believe it’s perfect at the same time.
My body is amazing and strong. My body is beautiful. It is Rubenesque. It is big and sexy. I take up space. I fill out dresses; my hips, stomach, legs, and breasts form beautiful, supple curves. My stomach has cellulite and stretch marks from gaining weight rapidly. My belly is full from eating and drinking and having too much fun. I am sexy and I am strong.
To my body: I am sorry that I’ve been so mean to you. More than that, I’m sorry that this won’t be the last time I’ll say sorry. I don’t know if I’ll ever truly accept you. I say I do. Sometimes I think I fully accept you. But I haven’t gotten there yet. I’m so sorry that I’ll probably be mean to you again. When I do, please forgive me. I’m not perfect. But I’m working on it.
But for now, I love my body. I thank Anessa for having a huge part in this. I am so thankful to finally be a part of the body positivity movement, the self-love club. I am thankful for all the women who got to this club before me and inspired me to find a path here.
If you are considering doing a boudoir photo shoot, do it. Don’t think about it twice. It is 100% worth it. And you are beautiful.
Author: Stephanie DeLacy
Author Bio: Stephanie is a coach and blogger passionate about inspiring mindfulness, connection & authenticity. She can often be found reading in bars, running at a very slow pace along Lake Erie, practicing yoga and traveling. She is the proud mom of Daphne, a five-year-old hound and two cats, Olive and Pizza Baby.
Link to social media or website: http://www.minimumviableadult.com