DISCLAIMER: Writing this blog post has been a strange and wonderful journey. I thought I could write a really simple post announcing that I have a boudoir marathon coming up, but as I started - and re-started - writing, I kept finding myself diving into a deeper story, and I think that's a clear sign that I needed to dig deeper and say more and share more about myself, my work, and where I'm coming from.
So if you don't want to read the whole story, scroll down to where you see some photos for details on my upcoming boudoir marathon - the first of what I hope will be many!
And now onto the blog post...
I've always been a huge fan of boudoir and pin-up photography.
My obsession with pin-ups started when I was in my teens and I discovered women like Bettie Page and Jayne Mansfield. I loved the confidence they could exude in a single photograph. I also loved that many of the women I saw in pin-up photos had round bellies and fat rolls and bigger boobs and bums. Because my whole life, I've been bullied for one thing or another, and most of the time, it's been about me being "fat."
I used to REALLY fear the word fat. It haunted me for almost 30 years. It started when I was 5. It's been shouted at me. It's been whispered under my bullies' breath along with cruel laughter. It's been said to me over and over by doctors when I've gone in for issues completely unrelated to my size. It's been implied over and over again by both students and fellow fitness instructors. It's been graffitied on sidewalks alongside my name at junior high.
It's something I used to run from. I wanted to be ANYTHING but fat. Fat was something I had to strive to be better than, somehow. It's something I had to move past and escape and never utter because heaven forbid it was a word that would EVER be associated with me again.
(WTAF, right? I know.)
I can't even begin to start to tell you about the journey I've had with self-love and body positivity. I'd need days - no weeks - of your time. (And I'm gonna maybe write about it in a book one day - HINT HINT IF I EVER GET TO IT.) But in a nutshell, I can tell you I've been up and down - through self-loathing, self-harm, disordered eating, sleeping with jerks in an attempt to feel pretty, exercise addiction and obsessive calorie-counting - always trying to fix not myself, but everyone else's definition of me.
Because deep down, at my core, I've always been super down with who I am. I'd say, "sorry if this sounds arrogant," but that's just society's training of me to be a well-behaved and humble woman, so I'm just gonna say it: I'm great! I'm kind, compassionate, smart, talented, and YUP - beautiful, too. I dare say I'm a hottie. People, I'm a catch.
And so are you.
But it's so easy to get bogged down. To get caught up in the world telling us we're too fat or skinny, or we're too large-breasted or flat-chested, or we're too weak or too muscular, or we're too queer, or our skin isn't the right colour, or we aren't able-bodied enough, or our names aren't easy enough to pronounce, or, or, or, or...
So I've found self love and I know I'm fab. Do I always feel this way? Hell NO! I've thought I found self love and then realized I was still just trying to please others. I've actually found self love and then lost it from time to time. I've struggled to remember my self love on really, really dark days, or when someone says something that triggers my deepest insecurities. Our relationships with ourselves and our bodies are hugely complicated. There's no switch to flip to make you, me, or anyone feel spectacular all the time. I'd say, "wouldn't that be nice?" but how would we grow if nothing challenged us from time to time? How would we know joy without sorrow?
In the last 6-12 months, I have been asked so many times about building community and safe space, and how I got so good at it. I was even asked to speak at an event on the subject (shout out to my friend Jocelyn of The Virtual Effect for inviting me!), and to be totally honest, until that moment, it wasn't something I had even considered to be a strong suit of mine, or something I even did.
I agreed to speak, because at that point, it was a question that had come up so frequently, I felt like the universe was finding a way to force me into realizing something, and then think about it. (I've found the universe to be very good at pushing us towards introspection when we really need it...and when we're open to listening.)
Am I a "community builder"? What does that even mean? How do I make people feel so comfortable when they're around me?
I'm going to try to keep this as short as I can, so I'll just tell you now that I had my realization. It hit me randomly, in between the frantic to-do lists always running through my mind, and it hit me like a ton of bricks.
I've always been a misfit. I've always been "fat."
And I've spent my entire life doing my absolute best to make sure that no one else ever has to feel that way around me, because I know how much it hurts.
And for the record, when I say I don't want people to feel "fat," I'm using that word to mean all the hurt, negativity, and shame we feel when we don't fit in, for whatever reason. It's in quotes because it's a concept that, while very real in its impact on me and so many other people in the world, is bullshit.
Fat babes of the world, I see you and love you. Skinny babes of the world, I see you and love you. The bottom line is that no matter who you are, what your size is, your age, the colour of your skin, your gender identity, your disability, your mental health, etc., you are spectacular, beautiful, worthy of love, unconditional acceptance, joy, and happiness.
Yeah, I'm fat. So what?
How does this all tie into boudoir photography and why am I writing all of this on my work blog?
Like I said, creating safe space is something I always strive to do, and so is promoting diversity and inclusivity. So when I knew I wanted to start offering boudoir photography, and I started to work towards building up some marketing materials and portfolio images, I reached out to friends to be my models. And of course, I ended up with an amazing variety of gorgeous human beings eager to take part.