I remember the day clearly. I was walking through Mayfair Mall and I overheard two boys making fun of the way I looked and my weight. The tears immediately filled my eyes and I walked out before I was done shopping. I left and went to target and bought myself a scale. I remember the day I saw what my weight was.
I made a promise to myself that day. I promised myself that I wouldn’t stop losing weight until I hit this magic number in my head. So certain that once I arrived, all of my insecurities would diminish.
I remember the day I arrived at that number. Two kids and 130 pounds lost. I remember looking in the mirror and feeling so disappointed in what I saw.
The excess skin, a missing belly button, and the way my stomach was covered in stretch marks.
Disappointed in the way it felt like my let me down because everyone else seemed to just bounce back with no issue.
Shortly after that day, I was diagnosed with kidney failure, stage 3.
The amount of hatred I had for this body was unlike any other emotion I’ve ever felt. Years of this continued despise and feeling so miserable. So disappointed because it felt like my body let me down. Internally and externally.
I remember the day I told myself I wasn’t going to feel that way anymore. It was consuming so much of me and my time to hate this vessel.
Self-love and acceptance of this body that felt like it failed me has been the hardest journey I’ve ever gone down. Losing weight was easy in comparison. Slowly coming to the realization that loving yourself isn’t about what your relationship with gravity is or whether you have six pack abs. It’s not about whether you look like the girls in the magazines because the girls in the magazines don’t look like those pictures either.
I began hearing of my friends doing this thing called “boudoir” and getting intimate photos of themselves done. Feeling like being completely vulnerable and looking hard at myself was the only way to overcome this hatred. So I began asking everyone and anyone I knew about their experience.
One of my friends endured the worst few hours I could ever imagine. The photographer consistently cut her down and told her things like, “suck it in, your stomach is hanging out and it doesn’t look good.” “Is that really what you want to wear? It seems so revealing and maybe you’d rather hide that.” She told me that she felt so judged and uncomfortable and left feeling worse than ever.
I should add that my friend went to a Milwaukee photographer named ********* ***** (*Editors note: photographer's name mentioned has been removed to protect their privacy. We edited out their name, but this does not mean that we are condoning nor supporting this other photographer's heartbreaking behavior). The look on her face while she was telling me about what she went through was truly heart wrenching. Walking in somewhere and already feeling so self conscious to walk out feeling even worse... I can’t find the words to express the true look of heart break on her face.
She’s moved on and away from the area, and is doing well now. But it took her a while and having to get out to find herself again.
I immediately became afraid. Is that really what it’s like? I mean, if I’m looking to really hear and see the truth, maybe that’s what I gotta go through.
So I kept asking around. A friend of mine, Ashli, shared with me her experience with Laura. I’ll be honest, it sounded too good to be true. Maybe she just “left out” how she was told to suck it in or hide XYZ. She added me to the group and I was blown away. There were photos of women who looked like me. Their stomachs showed their story. Their legs and arms had some excess skin just like mine.
But still, I thought, I have to be ready to hear someone else tell me about all the things I’m self-conscious of. So I prepared myself to hear about how I should “turn this way and suck it in to hide XYZ thing that I’m so embarrassed of.” Like, I prepared myself to hear that.
I made my appointment on the day after Thanksgiving. I had been stalking Laura’s website and saving up to afford it. It felt expensive but there’s no price on self-love and I was going to give this my all. So I booked and made my appointment.
She sends you emails along the way with tips and tricks to prepare. So much of it felt new and overwhelming to me. Taking care of my body isn’t something I’ve done and taken the time for. Learning how to exfoliate my skin, drinking lots of water, connecting with my body through yoga stretches and meditation. Even before my appointment I began the journey of taking care of myself and slowly starting to become in tune with me.
I began to fall in love with the girl who stared back at me in the mirror. My reflection.
I was so content with my appointment the weeks coming up to “the day.” The week before I got an email with the packing list and a few more tips to keep calm and to be excited! My nerves began to kick in and I was so afraid. Was I really ready for someone to pick at all the things I hated about this body when I finally started to feel ok with it?
The day came and my bag was packed. It was quite a hike to Milwaukee from Middle of Nowhere, Wisconsin so I loaded my car and went on my way.
The entire drive I spent talking to myself through this. “You’re going to hear things that hurt. It’s normal. It’s ok. Hear them and work through it after.” I brought three outfits but wanted to test myself and my vulnerability by being completely nude for one of them. So afraid.
I got there and the first thing I saw was a welcome sign with my name on it. Such a little gesture but man it made me feel like, ok, you can do this girl. Open the door.
Krissy and Laura immediately greeted me with smiles and this infectious energy. Minutes later Jenna came out from washing her brushes and asked me to sit down. We went over my input on makeup and she walked me through every step. I don’t wear any, don’t know anything about it, and was so anxious about it. The whole time Jenna made me feel like a rockstar. She asked me personal questions and seemed genuinely interested in me, my life, my interests. It was like talking to a good friend. When she handed me the mirror, I about stopped breathing.
I had never felt so beautiful. That girl in the reflection was me. She highlighted all the things I loved about me. The makeup application didn’t change the way I looked, it enhanced all the things I overlooked every day.
Immediately after, Krissy asked to go over all the things I brought. I showed her and said I wanted to try a nude session but was pretty uneasy about it. So I said we’d see. She was so upbeat about what I brought and it made me excited about it too! Lingerie isn’t something I’ve ever worn in my life so I was dead nervous.
We first did the headshots which was nice to just start with some clothes on and get used to having a camera in my face.
Soooooo nervous but every step of the way she helped me. Posing, fixing what I was wearing, helping me know what to do with my face so I didn’t look so scared.
We went through the headshots quickly and she asked me to pick whatever outfit I wanted to wear first.
“And you want me to just...come out wearing it?!”
I’ve never in my life felt so vulnerable. Unguarded. Scared. The whole time she’s helping me remember to breathe.
“So pretty!” “I love it!” “You’re doing so good!” “Amazing! So beautiful!”
Constantly. She’s constantly saying the nicest things I’ve ever heard. Boosting my self esteem and i could tell she meant everything that she was saying. They weren’t just empty words coming out of her mouth. We were laughing and talking and I was really enjoying every moment of it. Even though I was barely wearing anything, I was completely comfortable.
We went through the outfits and were on the final one. I decided to go nude because I didn’t want to have regrets. And they made me so comfortable and at ease. Laura came and did that one and the whole time we are laughing, joking, and there was a point where I completely forgot I wasn’t wearing anything.
It was truly like I was with people I’ve known my entire life. They make you feel so incredible.
Along the way, they were showing me some of the photos and I don’t even know how to describe it. That babe was ME!
While Krissy was getting the photos in order we spent so much time laughing and talking and just having a super good time. I know I’ve already said this but these two women began as strangers but instantly became like friends.
Looking through my photos, I lost my breath. Tears again forming in my eyes. This girl I’ve spent so much time feeling miserable with... she’s me. And my goodness is she a sexy, incredible being. She’s strong and stunning and damn is she a total babe, I love her! It was three hours spent with these incredible beings and I felt so different after meeting them.
The positive energy radiating from the three of these women is second to none. Their empowerment and encouragement was nothing I’ve ever experienced in my life.
So much time preparing to hear someone picking at the things I was so self conscious of and not once did I hear it. Not once. I never felt judged about my stretch marks or the way my excess skin hangs. It’s like as women we expect it. We expect the negativity spoken against us and harsh words. I’m not sure why we allow this to be our norm but these women take that and tear it down.
Laura, Krissy, and Jenna have this remarkable way of helping you see yourself in a way you should have all along. They have this incredible way of making you feel like you are so beautiful, strong, and able. They make you feel like the woman you are: A sexy badass. They are exactly as they are online. It’s not some persona.. they’re real. They’re encouraging. They’re empowering. They’re everything we’ve all ever needed in our lives.
I spent my entire drive back reflecting on the past few years of my life. I barely recognized the girl who spent so much time wishing her body was different. The love and appreciation I felt for this vessel that takes me through life was so far out of this world that we were in a different galaxy. The photos didn’t make me feel like I was different than I am. They just helped me see myself through a lens of love.
The words in our language don’t exist to properly convey the way your life changes after your session.
My only regret is not booking sooner.
Make the appointment and truly know that anything anyone says about how much your life will change has nothing on how it actually feels. It’s so much greater than anyone can put into words.
You deserve the love you give to others and babe, go fall in love with the girl in the reflection. She’s waiting for you to see her again.