I am literally shaking with excitement while I am hovering over the publish button. When I get emails from our clients offering to write a blog post, I say HELL YES and post them proudly! I can’t wait for you to read about Stephanie’s 3 year journey of massive growth, self love, and confidence.
WE ARE ABOUT TO GET REALLY NAKED UP IN HERE. FASTEN YOUR SEAT BELTS.
For the longest time, when I thought of boudoir photography, I thought of beautiful women, with perfect bodies in varying degrees of undress, exuding a level of sensuality that would make Aphrodite herself blush. And for the longest time, I also gaffed at the idea that that woman in the frame could ever be me. Because let’s face it, getting naked on such a platform is an intimidating, anxiety-spurring prospect for most women. “Maybe in a few years when my body is where I want it to be,” I would tell myself. “Perhaps one day, when my flaws aren’t as… flawed.”
The headspace I am in today would tell that girl, “Hey, fuck that, go for it.” Over the last three years prior to booking my session with Alex, I experienced a series of events that spurred massive growth and really changed the way I saw the world… and myself. My husband got orders for recruiting duty, a three year detail that would mean another move. No biggie right? Except that I had JUST started nursing school. I made the decision to stay where I was and finish my education, while he went and did what he did what he had to do. It was that decision that put wheels in motion. Apart from what it meant for my relationship, this was a decision for me to put myself first. It was me allowing myself to make my goals and aspirations in life a priority.
That was the fall of 2015. I put myself through nursing school and graduated without ever taking a dime out in student loans by working (and yes, it almost killed me). I passed my boards. I landed a job starting in the Emergency Department in the summer of 2017. And today, I am beginning my BSN, because there is no rest for the wicked. And as we round the corner into a new year, I think about all the things I held down in the last three years. I kept up a home, ran the books, took care of it all so that my spouse, who works 80-90 hour weeks, didn’t have to worry about it. If it broke, I fixed it. If shit hit the fan, I handled it. I did that. That’s fucking powerful. That’s a woman who deserves to be celebrated.
So, what better way to celebrate the fierce, independent monster that circumstance created than this? I booked a session with Alex. At our first phone conversation, we spoke for over an hour! Talking about all the reasons I was doing this, what I wanted to gain, and what I was nervous about. And it all can be summed up with in one sentence…. I had felt a pivotal change happen, and I wanted to celebrate that by taking the last of my insecurities and smashing them. This was not about surprising my husband, nor was it about anyone else, really. This was about me.
In the weeks that followed before shoot day, I stressed… hard. I spent hours obsessing over lingerie online. I wasn’t unhappy with my physique, but I wouldn’t necessarily say I was happy either. Over the last couple years I found weightlifting, had lost a good 30 lbs, and was thrilled with my progress. However, nobody tells you when you begin your nursing career that even on your days off you are dog-tired. I stopped lifting, lost muscle mass, and my beautiful definition went out the window much faster than it took to get it (nobody tells you how fast that happens, either). So, I was worried that I wouldn’t be happy with the end result of the shoot because I wasn’t my normal beastling self. I don’t want to tell you how many packages I returned in the mail…. the mailman probably thought I had a legit problem. But I was on a mission. I practiced “relaxing my face” in the mirror, just like Alex’s prep list suggested. I found all my good angles… not to worry, there were only a couple anyway, haha. I also had a mini-breakdown about the fact that even the faintest smile made my eyes super chinky (I’m Chinese, so I can say that y’all), and one eye was usually bigger than the other…. and if you know any type-A people, you know asymmetry just isn’t allowed in our lives. Girl, I was all up in my feels. Why did I do this? All this crap I’m insecure about was just getting worse. Then it happened. It was about 3 days before shoot day, and I just took a deep breath and told myself, “We’re gonna go, and roll with it, and she will guide you.”
Shoot day. It was just me and Astrid and Alex, but I swear I’ve never felt more comfortable in a room. They were like-minded women. They were empowered, just like me! They had insecurities, just like me! But most of all, they were warm and open and present in the moment, and made me feel like Gisele fucking Bundchen. As Astrid was glamming me out, she kept complimenting me. “Girl, your skin is so perfect. You have that hair that is going to look good no matter what you do to it, don’t you?” Let me tell you girls, compliments from guys are great, but when you get words like that from another woman the sister love is real. I almost cry just thinking about it, because we are so inclined to make everything in life a competition as women. But this wasn’t about edging out anyone else, it was about rejoicing in the individual, unique beauty we all bring into the world. When she handed me the mirror…. shiiiiiit, I could look like that?!?!
Time to get dressed. First look, second look, third… we made a plan. And the magic started. Pumping The Weeknd throughout the studio. And Alex…. oh Alex. If you have had a shoot already, you know this. But for those who haven’t yet, YOU HAVE NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT. All the chatter in my brain just went away, and we went to wooorkkk honeyyyy. Alex has a way of making you feel super comfortable, even when your tits are out. She shows you exactly what to do. She makes you laugh, she cheers you on. She made it all feel so natural, it was honestly one of the best days. Most of all, I walked away from my shoot day in awe of that woman. How hard she works for her clients. Our session ran over, but she didn’t seem to care. She just kept going, and I was like, “Damn, this girl is an animal.” When you see someone who works with such passion for what she does, you know as her client that there’s no way you’re walking away from this experience unhappy
Reveal day came, and we narrowed down the images together, and I swear I have never looked at myself on a screen before and felt like that. What I wanted out of this…. smashing those insecurities… I got it. I felt them in pieces on the floor around my feet as I watched Alex scroll through my photo reel. I felt truly beautiful. And what I love is that in those moments, it wasn’t like a “comparison” beautiful like you do sometimes when you look at photos of yourself and compare it to other ladies. It was a “hell yeah, that is ME” kind of feeling. It was self-love melting over me, which I haven’t felt very often in my life. As a girl growing up, I was one of only a handful of Asians in my entire high school. Prior to that, I was the only one save a boy named Austin…. we had the same haircut for a while (you know, the bowl one? yeah, you know). But all I wanted to be was blonde, with the pretty blue eyes. I just wanted to look like the all-American, girl-next-door. Fast forward to today, and that moment at the studio with Alex.
There was a whole new sense of appreciation for myself; my almond eyes, my coarse, dark hair, my Asian features. The dark, edgy tats. That’s who I am. I’m the dark, edgy girl. And I love her.
I’ve decided since my shoot that Alex is one of my favorite people. I’ve also decided to shoot with her again at some point, probably multiple times in the future. I will work all the overtime I have to to be able to give that to myself and remind myself that, no matter what stage of life you are in or what point you are at in your progression physically and mentally, you deserve to be celebrated. You deserve to document that stage. We all do. My boudoir session and Alex didn’t change me necessarily, but gave me validation that I am just as I was meant to be. I am so independent it hurts my relationships. I am moody and sometimes pessimistic and hard to deal with. I have a foul mouth and daddy issues. And yes, my eyes get chinky when I smile and are asymmetrical. You know what? It’s all good… cuz that’s me.