Bali was nothing like I imagined.

I don’t exactly know where I got my ideas about Bali from, or even why I decided I needed to go. But I had a clear emotional picture of the place- serene, with lush vegetation, cool morning breezes (?!), and quiet people with peace in their hearts doing yoga. I, too, would learn to love yoga while I was there; I would become mindful, and, soothed by the island’s gentle palm fronds, finally learn to meditate without going on wildly impatient ADD adventures in my head while I waited for the gong to release me.

Obviously, it was none of that.

Paradise, writ LOUD

Ubud, where our gorgeously paradisical estate was located, was- outside the quiet perfection of our gardens and villa- colourful, raucous and friendly. The uneven streets were brimming with people, motorcycles, taxis, and religious celebrations. Children with drums and tinny shakers and long snaking dragon costumes roamed the narrow sidewalks collecting donations in what seemed to be the Balinese equivalent of a lemonade stand. There were offerings everywhere- no, EVERYWHERE, watch where you step- little woven bamboo boxes with incense and flowers and candy for the gods that were refreshed several times a day by smiling women in ceremonial dress.

I don’t think I’ve ever visited a city that felt so welcoming and yet so utterly foreign. Religion and spirituality were woven seamlessly into everyday life; wherever you were, at any given time, you could see an offering, or smell incense, or hear the music of a ceremony or celebration. It seemed as natural and expected a part of life as eating or dressing. There were temples on every street, and sometimes more than one- sometimes a garden with a fountain that you could just glimpse through an ornate gate in a high wall, sometimes great stone edifices with grand staircases, richly carved walls, and statues. I got the impression that in Bali skills like stone carving, sculpture, painting and woodwork were more widespread, kind of like being a good cook in Canada; noteworthy but not unusual, every family has at least one.

Ubud-Bali-Womens-Retreat

Arriving in Bali I expected serenity. When I left, it was with new friends, a fresh sunburn, the ability to bargain skillfully for a sarong (and FAR too many colourful sarongs), hundreds of incredible photos, and memories of standing naked in a rainstorm in a national park surrounded by brave, extraordinary women.

I did not, at any point, do yoga.

 

 

Looking for more? Check out blog entries about our past destination boudoir photography retreats

 

 

 

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Family Photography Fundraiser

 

Hey guys, want family photos?

Originally  this fundraiser was planned for the Lacombe area only, but then all my Edmonton folks complained about being left out. Sooo… your wish is my command! This is probably the only time you’ll see me doing family photography for a good long while, so get in here!

The Story

A bit over two years ago, I met some of my best friends. We didn’t speak the same language, share the same religion, or cook the same food- but that was part of what made our friendship special.

The Al Omars are some of my favourite people in the world. Bashar, the dad of the family, is friendly and hardworking; Naema, the mom, is sweet, determined, and incredibly smart. Ghazeye, the oldest kid, is sassy and bossy and thoughtful in equal parts, where her just-barely younger sister Juliet is fiery, loving, and a deep thinker. Ibrahim is a serious soul with a great sense of humour tucked inside, and Mohamad is an intense little clown with more personality in his mischievous little finger than most people have in their whole body.

I can only imagine the bravery it took to leave everything they knew and loved behind to come to a country where they understood no one and every tiny aspect of their new life was a challenge. Things we take for granted- like buying groceries, registering for school, and getting around town- were impossible tasks at first, and it took an incredible amount of courage and determination, plus a huge team of volunteers, to help them adjust.

Now the family is thriving, but not everyone is so lucky. Back in Lebanon, Naema’s sister and her children still live with hunger, the imminent threat of violence, and poor access to education and healthcare. They’re not safe.

The Fundraiser

This September I will be offering mini family photography sessions at a fraction of the usual cost to raise money for the Lacombe Community Refugee Effort, so that we can help Naema’s sister and her kids- and possibly others in need as well- to find safety and a fresh start. So come get some great photos and help a great cause while you’re at it!

The Details

20 minutes, 7 professionally edited photos that your family will treasure forever, and a genuinely fun family photography experience- plus you get to make the world a better place by helping a refugee family find safety and a fresh start.

Location: Hawrelak Park (rainout location: Acts of Beauty Studio)

Dates: Appointments available Saturday Sept 22 1230PM-630PM ( if you can’t make this date, let me know- if I have enough people I will plan a second date)

The Cost: A minimum $100 donation to the Lacombe Community Refugee Effort (tax deductible receipt available)

Who to bring: Your partner, your kids, your grandma, your pets- you name it! For groups of 6 or more there will be a small extra fee as we will want to book you more time.

What you get: 7 high-res digital images with a print release so you can take them to any lab or order prints online. You may also order prints through me.

When you get it: 14-21 days after your session.

How to book: Email me at star@actsofbeauty.ca with number and ages of people to be photographed and when you are available (the broader the range of times you give me the easier it will be to get everyone booked efficiently) and I will send you possible appointment times.

 

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My favourite part of being a boudoir photographer is showing people their photos. The gasps, the shocked “Is that really me?!”, the excitement, the relief, the tears… the part where they finally start to believe in themselves. I also hear a lot of stories- sometimes hard stories- about the things that brought people to me. Here’s one of them.

Don’t Call Me Cute

Growing up a chubby girl, all people ever called me was cute. “You’re so cute,” they’d say, or “Look at your cute round cheeks.” Pretty was for other girls. Skinny girls. Girls with long legs and lithe bodies. My mom was the only one to ever call me beautiful, and every kid knows their mom doesn’t count- not in that great tally of voices that tell you what your body is worth to the world.

As they grew, those girls with slender waists and graceful limbs became beautiful and sexy. I stayed cute. Cute is a word for children and puppies, not for grown women, but no one but me seems to notice that. Sometimes, searching, they compliment my smile. That’s allowed, fat girls can have a nice smile. Friends and lovers, meaning well, continue to draw me back to childhood with that one word- cute. No one has ever called me sexy. Beautiful. Sensual. And I know it shouldn’t matter, I know mine should be the opinion that counts, but knowing it doesn’t make it true. How am I supposed to feel sexy when no one has ever seen me that way?

Making the appointment to do these photos was hard. Not bailing was harder. Believing I was worth it was the hardest yet. But looking at these photos I can finally see myself as sexy. Beautiful. Fucking HOT. And I wonder- why did nobody tell me?

 

Edmonton Boudoir Photographer Curvy Plus Size

 

Edmonton Boudoir Photographer Curvy Plus Size

 

Edmonton Boudoir Photographer Curvy Plus Size

 

 

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  • Peggy

    Knockout! Drop dead gorgeous! Those eyes are stunning, and those curves are killer!ReplyCancel

  • Sharon

    WOW….. JUST……. WOW!!

    How no one ever told you that you are drop dead gorgeous is mind boggling…… don’t ever look down on yourself, with anything other than pride.ReplyCancel

  • Melissa

    StunningReplyCancel

  • Aimee

    You are a fucking goddess. My God, you’re absolutley stunning. Society is fucked. I feel your anguish, honestly I do, from experience. You are nothing short of spectacular. Sexy, sultry, exotic, and just a little bit naughty.ReplyCancel

  • Barbara

    You are stunning I mean absolutely stunning! So proud of you for sharing your story and for having the guts to do this shoot! You Rocked this Shoot! You go girl and don’t ever look back! You are Not CUTE! You are STUNNING and SMOKING HOT!ReplyCancel

  • Debbie

    One word…. DAMN.ReplyCancel

By now you know my basic philosophy- if it’s fun with your clothes ON, wouldn’t it be even more fun with your clothes OFF? So when Priyaa Ravi of Herbal Henna Arts approached me with the idea doing a nude henna body art shoot, I was all in. It’s always been in the back of my mind that I wanted to do something like this- I love the way henna or body paint can add complexity to nude photography. So we arranged an art shoot to test and see if this was something I could start offering my clients.

The Artist

You never know what you’re getting when you are approached by other people for collaboration, so I was thrilled to find that Priyaa is a true artist, who has been dedicating herself to creating beauty through henna for many years. Our model (who did her first boudoir shoot with me a bit over a year ago because she had “never seen herself as sexy,” would you believe) was very patient throughout the painstaking application of a complex design- and the results are just spectacular.

Priyaa spent a lot of time researching full-body henna body art ideas and inspirations before the shoot, and came with a variety of design ideas. Together she, the model and I decided on a sweeping design of flowers and leaves that incorporated small clear gems into the dark henna:

The Art

We did our best to create Facebook-friendly images, but in the end found ourselves with breathtaking henna body art that was clearly and beautifully nude. So while I can’t show the full photos on Facebook, here they are in all their stunning glory.

Full-body-henna-designs-nude-bodyartFull-body-henna-designs-nude-bodyart

The Coach

So how do you transform someone from a shy first-time client into a fine art model? Getting people to relax and look great in front of the camera is one of my favourite things to do, but sometimes for special projects I will also bring in my favourite professional model/BFF Miss Alexia Day to consult, and that’s what I did here (she’ll also be teaching fine art posing at our retreats this year!). Check out this behind the scenes photos of her coaching:
Full-body-henna-designs-nude-bodyart

Be Brave, Make Art

Want a shoot like this yourself? I now offer collaborations with some of my favourite henna artists, and costs start at just $750 for both the spectacular henna AND the finished art for your wall. Email me at star@actsofbeauty.ca for more details!

 

 

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  • Vivienne

    Wow this is phenomenal ❤️ReplyCancel

    • Star

      Thanks Vivienne! We have an incredible team. <3ReplyCancel

Stephanie is fun and vibrant and sensual and she did a shoot a few months ago that I am gonna blog the SHIT out of. But today I want to share her fabulous wisdom, rather than her fabulous… other assets. This is some of the best life advice you’ll ever get, so listen up.

*  *   *

On Happiness

So much of our lives is centered around our relationships. I’m not just talking about romantic involvements, but also all those other connections we build on a day to day basis. If I could give everyone three things to remember it would be these:

You are the gatekeeper of your own happiness

Surround yourself with those people who help YOU make your life happy, not those people you rely on to make your life happy. The two sound very similar but the difference is great. We are the keepers of our own happiness and it is our own responsibility. If you rely on others to make you happy, not only are you creating a dependence that is not under your control but also putting a stress on those around you that is not fair. Those people that help you make your own life happy are the greatest friends you can have, and hopefully you can be the same kind of friend to them.

You are enough

Seek out your own self worth. Don’t base your self worth on the opinions of other people. Don’t see what you provide others as your only measure of self worth. It is so easy to fall into the trap of feeling like without the relationships we have and the things we provide to others we would be worth nothing. Each of us is worth everything to ourselves.

Learn to be alone

Learn the joy of being alone with yourself. Even if it’s just for an hour. Turn off your phone. Go on a date with yourself. Experience the world as a “you” not connected to hundreds of others. Ask yourself questions about yourself. There is no greater joy than knowing that you could be completely happy if you were completely alone.

~ Steph Kuhn

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See what I mean? Beauty AND brains. This holiday season, take some time to appreciate yourself and treat yourself to whatever makes you happy; don’t wait for other people to make your holidays great. You deserve happiness and you have the power to give it to yourself. So get on it!

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