Most of my dance moms don't realize that I started out as a boudoir photographer. I loved making women feel beautiful, but I often felt like I was fighting an uphill battle against their own minds and what they world tells us we should look like. Even though I now shoot young dancers, I think my experience with adult insecurities helped me understand a bit of what my dancers face every day.
One of my first clients was the mother of a two year old. She’d gotten pregnant right after getting married, and she felt that her husband had only ever seen her body pregnant or post-baby, and she really wanted to give him some sexy photos of her. I was thrilled to help.
On the day of her shoot, she looked amazing. Gorgeous hair and makeup, beautiful olive skin that we super pale people fantasize about having. Beautiful curves and slim legs. As we were starting the shoot, I asked if she had told anyone she was doing a boudoir photography session. She said she had only told her sister, who was younger, with no children, and a size two.
“She said I was too fat to have pictures taken in my underwear.” I was appalled. This woman was nowhere near fat! I was busy envying her small waist, and her sister had just told her she was fat! I felt sad for her. Then I got mad.
I got mad because this is what we do. We hold ourselves and our friends and even strangers to a ridiculous standard and criticize in the name of “honesty.” Honestly, this woman had a beautiful face. Honestly, she had gorgeous black eyes and glossy hair and straight white teeth. Honestly, she was young and healthy and her body had given life to her son. Honestly, her sister can bite me.
So I photographed this woman from angles and using props that disguised the (slight) tummy she was self-conscious about. Right out of the camera, with no Photoshop plastic surgery, her pictures were amazing. She looked like a goddess. I had seen it as soon as I met her, but her sister saw her as a frumpy mom and refused to see the gorgeous, sexy woman she actually was.
This is how I look at the world. My problem isn’t trying hard to find something beautiful in a person’s appearance. My problem is that I want to tell strangers on the street that they’re stunning. I want to tell the woman next to me in line at the bank that she has gorgeous hair or cute shoes or beautiful eyes. I don’t, usually, because people find that creepy, but it’s there.
So next time you have the opportunity to criticize someone’s appearance, don’t take it. Find the thing that makes them beautiful and comment about that. Tell them that what you envy about them. Honestly, why would you do anything else?