Honesty is the new sexy

Honesty is the new sexy

I am beautiful and I am sexy, not because of my appearances or presentations but my energy and honesty of being me!

Journey to Personal Power

Jean and I have worked together twice. According to her, the photography explorations we’ve done have played a major role in her coming into herself, as a powerful, sensual woman. Recently she agreed to have lunch with me, and tell me about it’s impact so that I could understand how these experiences have factored into her journey and transformation.

Jean tells me: Two years ago, I was thinking about having photos taken, and looked around for a photographer. When I saw your website, the layout, the fact that you did everything in b/w in a very classic way, I felt a connection.

Yet, I kept that website saved for 6 months before I got courage to call you, because I still wasn’t comfortable with myself, even though I at the time felt I’d come a long way and gone through much adversity. When I finally did contact you, I remember saying that I was finally starting to feel comfortable with who I was, that I had become a healthier person and felt stronger, emotionally, physically, but that I didn’t feel comfortable with the outer part of me. Like women in the testimonials on your website talked about, I also felt I wanted to celebrate who I had become.

After scheduling, I didn’t know what to do with myself. With family, I had never taken that much time to focus on me, and you were challenging me to think about what I might want to do, wear and what I wanted to project in the photos. I honestly had no idea what to do. Concentrating on me alone was a challenge. As the shoot date approached, I started doing things for myself, pedicure, massage, shopping, for just me, and it was very liberating. Other people noticed that I was happy, more giving from taking this time for myself. The day of photo shoot I was terrified. (Jean laughs).

I didn’t know what to expect, had no clue what the outcome was going to be. As women, we are bombarded with images of perfection, and many of us feel we have to live up to a certain standard. At the beginning of the shoot, I also felt I had to pose a certain way, look a certain way, to fit the image, but I knew I was constricting myself by falling into all those expectations and stereotypes rather than following my own. I started telling myself to let go. And as more time went by and I switched outfits, I began to feel more comfortable, even made suggestions and soon, I was feeling a lot better about myself. I still wasn’t sure what the outcome was going to be, but at the end of the photo shoot, I felt very relieved and liberated.

After the shoot I was emotionally exhausted, for some reason, but I felt freer. And then there was the anticipation about the resulting pictures. Telling myself that I didn’t have the benefit of retouching and tons of makeup and styling, I hoped that maybe there would be 5 – 6 shots out of almost 100 that I would like. After I saw the photos. (Jean starts to cry). I never thought I could look that good. I honestly didn’t. Looking at all the photos, I thought, It can’t be me, because I don’t look that good. Just seeing how beautiful they came out and knowing that it was all me, with no camera trickery or special lighting and makeup, it was very empowering. Even today, I look at the photos to remind myself that this is ME. Not anybody else’s expectations. Nobody can take this away from me.

It was a turning point in my life. I noticed that after that photo shoot, I felt a lot stronger, I was more accepting of myself, more accepting of other people, and I didn’t let other people’s perceptions bother me as much. I’ve shown quite a few people the photos. Because I am so amazed how well they turned out and that it really is me. They said they were inspired by me. By my courage to do it. By how well the photos came out. And because I was proud of who I am. Sharing the photos bolstered my confidence even more. I can help others realize that they are beautiful in their own way. This experience was really for me, because I needed to accept myself, and also, because I wanted to prove to myself that I was beautiful, that I do have a sense of myself, and I can come out of any adversity and learn from it. And when close to a milestone birthday, a lot of us reach that point where we want to do something for ourselves.

When my then husband took the photo album away, I got upset, but somehow I knew it wasn’t my fault. As women we often blame ourselves, but I knew it wasn’t something I’d done to spite him, but his own insecurity. And his reaction actually empowered me more, because, he was trying to take away the self awareness and strength I had found, but for me, just the experience of doing the photo session, of letting go and finding myself, was something he couldn’t take away. I think he realized he couldn’t stand in my way anymore. Having conformed to what everyone expected of me for so long, it went again the grain and upset the status quo for everyone around me when I did something for myself. That’s what’s we risk when we step into our truths. Luckily there was a lot of people around me who saw that I was coming into myself, that I was becoming a lot happier, and they continued to encourage me and drew strength from what I was going through. Those who felt I was disturbing their illusion or status quo I pulled back from. I realized that by conforming to others I was holding myself back. I think when we try to conform to others, we hold ourselves back, but then, we also blame others for holding us back, because we can’t find the strength within ourselves.I’m no longer going to hold back.

So yes, this sparked an exponential growth period for me. Instead of taking any set backs, crawling into a hole, I used it as another stepping stone, another challenge. I got the confidence to try things I probably wouldn’t have tried before. I actually got the courage to take a sensual dance class, again a chance to bring out further the sensuality I saw in my photos. And once I did that and saw the power I have as a woman, I thought about doing another photo shoot, to bring all that into play — the strength that I found, the power I have as women, and the inspiration I show to others. When I made the appointment of the second photo shoot, with the prior photo experience and new acceptance of my body, I was much more comfortable. I wanted to portray something more edgy, more raw and just have more fun with it now that I didn’t have the apprehension of what to expect. It was a lot easier to let go the second time. Again the photos came out absolutely incredible and if I could, I would post some all over the walls of my house. (Jean laughs). Don’t think I can do that. Not yet any way. I ask Jean about how this has affected her way of being a mother to her two boys of 9 and 12. It’s actually given me more drive, she says, and made me want to break out of that standard mold of what we think a mother should be. Both my boys saw my photos. They thought they looked really good. I wanted them to appreciate them for being beautiful photos and see that there was nothing bad about it.

These experiences have made me aware of how we constrict ourselves and everyone around us, so I try to encourage them to think outside the box and not take what people say for face value. I try to be open and honest with them, even around topics other parents wouldn’t touch. My 12 year old will ask me about girls, about drugs and sexuality, and just the fact that he’s comfortable coming to me without hesitation, tells me I’m doing the right thing. I am not constricting him in a box, everything is approachable. These photo experiences really has helped a great deal. Today, I notice myself asking why, more often than not. And again, this is going back to the very first photo shoot, why do we allow ourselves to be constricted. So just having that question, why? is a first step. Liberation is a process. I may not put all on the table, all the time, but I tend to push the envelope more than I used to in terms of being honest, trying new things, meeting new people, and just experiencing life in general. Where I wouldn’t have tried something before out of fear, I am now thinking more in terms of what can I learn from it, that I can take to another experience.

Because I have such high expectations of myself now, I will probably be a lot more picky in choosing my next partner. It would have to someone who’d be able to handle that kind of self awareness and power that I have now, someone who’s not trying to make me conform to their expectations of a woman. Since many men are intimidated by a strong woman it’s quite possibly that I’ll be living alone for quite a while, which is fine with me, because I know I can do it, with supportive friends around me. I doubt I will hold myself back again just to get into a relationship. I have been holding myself back way too long already. What’s next thing, cutting edge, adventure for you, I ask: To travel by myself, Jean says. I have actually been looking into travel tours that cater to single women. (She laughs heartily) I want to travel without the extra baggage so to speak! Jean has been generous enough to share some of the photos from each photo session we’ve done, so far. My sense is, we will be working together soon again.

Wasn’t about the corset

Dear Me,

It all began with a corset. It was a Christmas gift that my boyfriend, soon to be husband, surprised me with one afternoon. I went to the shop and picked out the fabric, cut and style with a bit of pressure since it is often difficult for me to make decisions in general, let alone my very first and only corset! I absolutely loved my gift and thought that it deserved to be photographed, and yes well, I need to be in this photograph as well! Me in my corset! An outgoing and bold thought for a 23 year old student.

I began doing my research on different photographers. There were many to choose from and all represented very different styles. Another decision point! I looked at one photographer who definitely had a thing for latex and erotic poses-not much left for the imagination but artistically done nonetheless. I contemplated with this for a while-who did I want to be in this photo-what story did I want to share? Meanwhile I began talking to different women about it and a good friend of mine said she saw a card of a photographer in Hayes Valley and grabbed it for me the next time she went. Lolo’s Boudoir was the name. I looked it up and was immediately awestruck by what I saw on the screen and at once inspired. The photographs were very much unlike what I had been looking at before. Even the other “boudoir” type photos seemed planned, a bit plain and only had pictures of “pretty sexy girls”.

Lolo’s website was different. There were women of all shapes, sizes and age. Her main studio is set with vintage furniture and welcomes all types of play. More importantly, the photos of the women conveyed emotions of all realms and really made me want to know see more and know more. Her photos are trying to share something-not just a pretty face, but a story and the real person behind the face. This fact was evident when four years later after first contacting Lone March, I was finally at a place in my life emotionally and financially where I could meet her face to face. She made it fairly clear that she did not want me to just “show up” the day of the shoot-it was about so much more than that.

I shared with Lone during our “consultation” that I was about to get married and graduate from school after so many years of desperately hard work. I felt, as she aptly put it, a bit “Bigger than Life” and very proud and confident. I had grown quite a bit from first speaking with Lone (four years earlier) and am glad that I waited so long for this moment and time to take my photos so she could capture my story and my personality. I did my “homework” as Lone requested and put a lot of thought into my shoot. I had chosen the photographer, but still, was there anything else I wanted to convey at this time? I knew that I didn’t want to be, “cute” the word is more annoying than anything. Only those who don’t really know me dare to call me “cute”. That is for little girls and I guess I wanted to be acknowledged as a woman. A confident, proud, sexy and sensual one at that. I have been through so much already at such a young age. I had seen more life and death than anyone should. I had been in horrific, abusive relationship at a most vulnerable time and I eventually found it in myself to leave and learn from that. I traveled the world playing soccer and I defied gender stereotypes when I set forth to become a firefighter in a very male-dominated profession. I went through a lot and I wanted my emotions on the inside to look dead into the camera and have it captured on the outside at that instant.

All this said, I decided to only do a photo shoot inside the boudoir and save my “outdoor” shoot for my next milestone! I treated myself to getting my makeup and hair done because I certainly have never really been able to do more with my hair than put it into a ponytail! I packed the night before and arrived with my suitcase full of lingerie and of course my corset! I have to admit I was a bit nervous and a tad stressed because my hair had taken forever and I was late! I did my best to leave it all at the door though. After a brief greeting, we were ready to begin-no time to waste!

Lone appropriately said, “What outfit is most daunting for you-we’ll start with that”. Well after a few seconds I quickly replied, “Definitely the corset!” and picked it up to show her. What a piece it was indeed and what a pain to get on! Just kidding, Lone had me laced up in no time and I dared not move too much. It was certainly restricting and a heck of a way to start. I threw on some more lipstick and went over to the mirror; Lone followed me with her camera. I stood there looking at myself for several moments; I barely recognized myself-hair, makeup and now this outrageous piece of lingerie that had me all tightly wound up.

Lone tried to encourage me to relax and feel where I was at that point and time. She reminded me why I was there and said things like, “how does it make you feel” and “what does it mean to you to be all wrapped up” and so forth. It was then that I remembered it wasn’t all about the corset, but was so thankful that it somehow brought me here. My first photos from that set have me looking wildly uncertain and at times a bit bold as I loosened up. Those photos came out beautiful but it was just the beginning. Each outfit change, I found myself getting more and more into it and found Lone trying to remind me it wasn’t necessarily about looking sexy, but just being myself. The photos she took were just spectacular.

I left several hours after I began, excited but a bit exhausted. I patiently waited to see the photos on print and meet with Lone again. A few weeks later I was back at the boudoir. Lone said the pictures came out very well and handed me a huge stack. Every picture was beautiful. Lone did it. She captured me. She captured a human being living life and not letting life get in the way. She captured some photos of me smiling and even I can see the twinkle in my eye, a mark of pure joy and compassion for all things that come into my life. A happy and proud woman. I felt very humbled when she even said she thought she had captured whom I was in those photos from getting to know me over a short period of time. I relived the shoot while going through the photographs, picking out my favorite ones. I felt so blessed and special that I had the opportunity to do this for myself. Forget about the so-called “insecurities”. No, Lone told me to forget about those when I looked at the photos for the first time. She said, “don’t look and think, oh I don’t like this and that”. That’s not what it is about.

This society is ruthless about image and it’s expectations of women. The women in the media are not real. The women that go to Lone are as real as it gets. That’s why when you see one of her photos you want to know more-you want to join in and play too. Lone is an amazing woman. Actually amazing is a poor description as she encompasses and lives her life the way I have wanted to for so long but never really knew or still really even know how. But in the short time I spent with I did learn that you need to love yourself, your body and your soul and trust it when it tries to take you somewhere you’re not quite sure you want to go. Obviously, this all began with the corset, but it sure did not have anything to do with the ending!