Guest post written by Michelle Oxier

Before photo boudoir

“I’m not model material! Especially not boudoir model material!”

That’s what I’ve always thought. I never saw myself as having the “right” body for boudoir photos, but that didn’t mean I didn’t want to do it. I’ve always wanted to have my hair and makeup done by a professional, and to have my photo taken so that maybe I could see myself as the opposite of what I’ve always been told or believed about myself.

 

Then I found Acts of Beauty on Facebook and my attention was grabbed. Body positivity was in the forefront of what they were doing. Any woman, any size, shape, color, background… ALL women should have the opportunity to see themselves as the beautiful creatures they are… even me.

I spent the next hour on their website in awe. There were women like me featured in the gallery. There were blog posts that made me feel like Star was talking directly to me. I knew that if I was going to gather up the courage to have someone photograph me in an open and vulnerable way (ie: in my bra & panties!), Star had to be the one to do it.

On the day of my shoot my anxiety was in full force. Did I pack enough clothing and accessories? Did I pack too much? Was I really going to be able to loosen up enough for these photos to turn out great? Or would I become tense like I usually do when someone takes my photo? And was I really going to find the courage I needed to take my clothing off?

(Narrator: She was)

Gorgeous plus size boudoir photos

From the first moment I met Star, I knew there was something special about her. You expect to be treated a certain way by a business when you’re a customer and of course those expectations were met, but what I didn’t expect was the genuine kindness and care that is so obviously exactly who Star is. It’s not forced, it’s not fake, it’s completely natural.

It was that kindness and care that made me comfortable when I stepped into her studio. She made sure I was taken care of. She understood when I broke down in tears because I still believed I wasn’t the type of person who should be doing something like this. She gave me hugs, she fed me chocolate, strawberries and croissants while Michelle, her incredibly lovely hair and makeup artist, enhanced my features.

To be honest, I am not someone who is comfortable in front of a camera, I never have been. I was sure I was going to be an awkward mess the entire shoot. Ten minutes in, I was surprised to discover that I was fine and actually having a lot of fun! There was this sense of sassiness and spunkiness coming out of me that I didn’t realize existed!

Gorgeous plus size boudoir photos

Michelle, ten minutes into her shoot

Star guided me through posing, I wasn’t left to flounder and figure it out myself, she knew exactly what to do. She made me laugh, she made me comfortable. To me, that’s one of the most important things a photographer can do for a subject…bring them to a level of comfort that will allow them to be themselves…that’s when the real beauty comes through.

A few weeks later, I returned to the studio to view my photos. I was nervous. You know how you can pick apart photos of yourself based on what you think is good or bad about how you look? I fully expected that to happen. It didn’t.

Gorgeous plus size boudoir photos

I was proud of the woman I saw looking back at me in those photos. She was fierce. She was beautiful. She was strong. She was worthy. She was imperfect and she was okay with that fact.

As I sat there staring at those images, I knew that it was time for me to realize that I was all of those things too. Not just in a photograph, but in real life?

 

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Looking to hang out with amazing women like Michelle in a body-positive, supportive atmosphere? Check out the Acts of Beauty Insiders Facebook Group here!

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“I feel betrayed by my body.” I’ve read this a few times in the discussions on our Facebook group today, and in my work I hear this a lot. Our amazing bodies grow entire new humans, survive massive stress and illness, or just plain love cake, and they get bigger. Softer. Stretched. And we feel betrayed, because being big and soft and stretched is supposed to be a sign that we aren’t good enough. Don’t try hard enough. Don’t value ourselves enough to take care of ourselves.

A woman who takes care of herself is fit. Capable. Not sick. Has energy and tight skin and a smooth stomach. These are the prizes we get for good behaviour.

Now, you read that and you know that it’s not true, right? But when you look in the mirror, those are the standards you’re using to judge yourself. Maybe a lot, maybe only a little, but we all carry or have carried those beliefs because we were all raised with them.

When your body becomes softer, looser, and bigger, that’s not a sign of failure. It’s a natural consequence of life. And the only thing that makes a toned & tan body “better” than a just-gave-birth body is that the people around you, sold the same lies you were, will congratulate you for slimness and be, at best, silent about the kind of beautiful that comes after life has its way.

When we see before and after photos of people who have lost weight it’s easy to congratulate them, to feel envious, to think the person in those pictures has gotten the reward for good behaviour that we crave. But health is not measured by your dress size. Health is about eating food that nourishes your body and soul, moving your body in ways that makes it stronger, creating a life that fulfills you and doesn’t sicken you with stress.

Being thin is not life’s win condition, and it shouldn’t be yours. Strive for health and happiness, but make a conscious decision about what that looks like for you and why.

Am I saying no-one should ever try to lose weight? Well, kind of, yes. It’s not that weight loss is bad. It’s that I think we should all work towards being our best self, and as physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually balanced as we can be. In some or even many cases, weight loss will be a byproduct of those changes. But as long as weight loss is the only goal, you’re missing the chance to celebrate an enormous number of successes and you are prioritising a part of the process that (in my opinion) is one of the least important.

We’re not going to make it through life looking like 20yo bikini models. We’re going to stretch, sag, and, frankly, age. The only way to do that with grace and sanity is to start redefining beauty and stop equating that slim, fit, springy body with success and worthiness. We need to revel in our softness, forgive our curves and stretchmarks, hold our pendulous breasts in our hands and enjoy the weight and flow of them, watch with wonder as our smile deepens and our eyes crinkle with life.

So if you’re trying to lose that last 20 or 50 or 200 lbs, that’s fine. But I think you’ll be much happier if you add in some other markers for success and celebration too; trying a new activity, reaching a realistic fitness goal, calling your friends more, making art, saving a kitten or playing an instrument or making a neighbour’s day. The impact you make in the world has nothing to do with your weight.

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From the moment I first spoke to Jennifer, around this time last year, I knew I had to do a shoot with her. Kind, compassionate, strong, and brave, she felt none of those things- but she had finally started to realise she deserved to. Seeing the changes she has made in her life since her shoot has been utterly heart-filling.

This video was shot just after she saw her photos for the first time; below you can read a bit more about her experience in her own words.

What’s your story? Why did you decide to do boudoir right now?

After spending 10 years in an unhealthy marriage, I figured I wasn’t worthy of love or affection and that I must have something wrong with me. I had been sick and battling Rheumatoid Arthritis and Lupus and had gained weight and my doctor was telling me as well that I was not where I should be. As I was going to enter the dating scene again I decided I needed to finally take my own advice, the advice I always give my girls: that you need to love yourself first before finding a partner to love, or you will always settle for less than you deserve.

Before your session did you have any worries or fears?

I was self conscious and worried. I told myself she is no miracle worker and even though she had gorgeous pictures on her site I shouldn’t expect that for me. That I would settle for ok. I hated my body and felt ugly, undesirable and not sexy at all.

Beautiful moody natural light boudoir photo

What was a highlight of your session?

The way Star and Michelle treated me, like I was important and so worth their time. They made me feel beautiful and sexy. Star made me feel comfortable and talked to me before and throughout the session, asking questions and what I was comfortable with. She played music I liked and kept telling me how beautiful I was and that she loved the pictures. I was flying high after it.

How did you feel when you saw your photos?

I cried. I couldn’t believe how beautiful I was. I was in awe, and it was not like she put a Snapchat filter on them- it really was me. I was so happy. I was amazed by how beautiful and sexy I looked. To see myself through her eyes has touched my life forever.

Beautiful curvy boudoir photos_0001

What would you tell someone else considering coming to Acts of Beauty for a boudoir session?

Love yourself enough to do this. Give it a chance. I know it’s daunting but I wish every woman could love themselves like this and Star is the woman to help you do it. She is so kind and fun and totally puts you at ease. Do it! Do it for yourself and allow yourself to see your body through her eyes. It’s worth it.

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No more excuses- Get in here and take off your clothes

You’ve been considering doing a boudoir shoot. In fact, you’ve been thinking about it for a while. But here you are, reading this blog post instead of flouncing around my studio in your underwear. Why? Here are some of the worries, fears and, let’s face it, excuses, that keep people from doing the awesome thing they want to do.

I need to lose weight

You don’t, actually. For one thing, boudoir is about feeling gorgeous in the body you have- not judging yourself for not having the body you think you SHOULD have. I know, all our lives we’ve been subjected to a barrage of advertising telling us what beauty looks like, and what to buy to make ourselves fit the mold. Well, this is your chance to call bullshit on that.

Why are you still measuring yourself against society’s messed up expectations? What good is that doing you? And why does a dress size get to decide how much happiness you deserve?

Beauty comes in a wonderful variety of shapes and sizes, and I know how to flatter ALL of them with my camera. I can show you beauty you had no idea you possessed. All you have to do is trust me.

One more thing: Research shows that people who love their body are more likely to make positive lifestyle changes. So the confidence you build, having fun in the studio and when you see your amazing photos afterwards, is going to do a lot more to help you become the person you want to be than telling yourself you don’t deserve to feel beautiful until you lose the weight.

Body positive beauty boudoir

Beauty is not a dress size. <3

I’m just not sexy like that

Ooooh, golly. So few of us are! All those women on the website with bedroom eyes and come-hither smiles- most of them didn’t come in here feeling sexy or confident. It is NOT your job to walk in here and get your sexy on. It’s my job to coach you every step of the way, from your expression to your pinkie finger.

And, secret truth: I can take sexy photos of you whether you feel sexy or not. Even if you never once relaxed during your several hours in the studio, getting your makeup and hair done and laughing your butt off at the ridiculous things that come out of my mouth when I’m shooting, I could still take photos of you that rocked your world.

(You will relax and have fun, though. Every single woman finishes her shoot and says “Oh! I had no idea it would be that much fun! I feel amazing!” And then I say I told you so, because I’m a grownup.)

Sensual Boudoir Pose

It costs too much

Yes, a good boudoir shoot is expensive. But it’s more than just pretty photos; this is an experience that has the potential to change your relationship with your body and boost your confidence in a way that sends ripples of positive change through your entire life. Can you imagine how it would feel to step out the door with confidence every morning? To truly believe your partner or family when they said you were beautiful? To be able to take a compliment without squirming? A boudoir experience with us can be a powerful and important step on your road to self-love.

If this is what you want to do, we’ll make it work. We have flexible payment plans, take credit cards, and even book months in advance so you can do one of our pre-payment plans (with cool bonuses, too!).

But for most people, it’s not really that they don’t have the money- it’s that they’re not sure it’s worth it. I get that. So, don’t take my word for it! Read our Google reviews, ask for opinions in our VIP Facebook group, talk to one of the amazing women whose photos are on our website. Come have tea with me and see what you think.

Body positive beauty boudoir

When I saw my photos I cried. I was in awe, amazed by how beautiful and sexy I looked. To see myself through Star’s eyes has touched my life forever. 

 Love yourself enough to do this. Give it a chance. I know it’s daunting but I wish every woman could love themselves like this and Star is the woman to help you do it. She is so kind and fun and totally puts you at ease. Do it! It’s worth it. Do it for yourself and allow yourself to see your body through her eyes. It’s worth it.

~Jennifer

 

It’s time to start writing a new story for yourself. It’s time to put yourself first, just for a little while. Come laugh away your fears and insecurities, have an amazing day of fun and art, and let me show you how beautiful you are. No more excuses.

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I have a complicated relationship with Christmas. I love it- I love warm fires on cold nights, twinkling lights and the smell of pine, family and cookies and socially irresponsible carols about bullied reindeer. I love giving (and getting!) presents, and the way friends make time to catch up and people make an effort to make strangers smile and take care of people less fortunate than them.

But. You knew there would be a “but,” right? I always, sooner or later, start to crumble under the pressure. Making memories with my kids sounds so wholesome and easy, but they fight over which ornament they’re going to hang and whether it’s eggnog time and whether air is for breathing and- well, seriously, they fight over everything. I plan a special day but tempers fray when we get a late start, or they would rather watch some crappy TV show than read Christmas classics by the fire. My idyllic visions shatter upon first contact with the enemy family.

And then there’s the gift giving. I LOVE giving presents. I love finding just the right present for someone I love and seeing them light up when they open it. When I was a kid I’d save for months in order to be able to buy my mom and brother things I was sure would wow them (success rate: likely hit and miss, in retrospect). But (there it is again, the “but”). As an educated adult, consumerism makes me ill. What sort of labour practices produced the toy my kids want? Is the store paying a fair wage and treating their workers well? And am I setting my kids up for success if I teach them that “stuff” brings happiness? How can I justify spending hundreds of dollars on gifts when there are people dying out there, people my money could help? I muddle through, trying to find a middle ground.

I expect this Christmas will be pretty much like the others; heart-filling moments when I think “Yes, this, this is it” rapidly followed by ones where I wonder if selling my kids on Kijiji is a viable new Christmas tradition. This year, though, I’ve got a new plan. I’m going to do my best to revel in the bits that are beautiful, and let the chaos roll on past while I watch it with amusement. Rather than rush about looking for perfection or trying to create Family Christmas Togetherness, I’m going to slow down and connect in little real moments with my kids and add in some things that really make me happy, even if my kids couldn’t care less- like pulling out the recipe for my Nanna’s crescent buns and fudging my way through a Christmas carol on my dusty harp.

Maybe Christmas isn’t some kind of complex parental performance art designed to make children happy. Maybe it’s just another perfectly imperfect day with family, but with better food and presents thrown in. Maybe we can chill out. Maybe.

Baby goat contemplating the Christmas tree, 2015. Some years were crazier than others.

 

 

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