Thursday, June 9, 2016

F*** your beauty standards, I am beautiful and I know it!

I spent many years hating my body and wishing I looked like someone else. Growing up, the images I saw of what's "sexy" were tall, thin women with long hair. Mostly white women, at that time, but there was an emergence of more diverse races being featured in advertising and articles, such as People Magazine's Sexiest Man Alive and Most Beautiful Woman. It's only been in the last ten years or so that we've seen a push for featuring a variety of body types. Dove stands out to me as one of the first companies to use varying heights, body types, and races in one advertisement - and actually show the bodies of women who typically were not seen as fitting society's definitely of sexy. It was encouraging to see, and I'm happy that more companies and retailers have followed suit. 

Because of mainstream media becoming more inclusive, advocacy for body positivity and resources for self-acceptance have blossomed, some seemingly overnight. It's a beautiful thing to see so many people standing together and encouraging one another to embrace who they are and love their bodies unconditionally. So often, it seems, we are able to love others and see beauty in them that we aren't able to see in ourselves. People may say, "I wish you could see what I see" as a way of encouraging us to see how beautiful we truly are. All too often, we are our own worst critics.

Three years ago, I would never have been comfortable shooting boudoir. I would have loved the idea of it, but would likely have said something like, "after I lost more weight" or "maybe in a couple of years" and I would never have done it. I certainly wouldn't have entertained the idea of modeling for a boudoir shoot for my images to be used for marketing. It's amazing how confidence and belief in oneself - and an amazing support system - can truly change your perception. 

I started modeling for fun in college, stopped for a few years, then picked it back up in the last year when I was living on the west coast. I don't do it for income, I work a full-time job like most late 20-somethings. Part of my work is with women who have experienced significant abuse (physical, sexual, emotional, verbal, financial...any and all types) and struggle to rebuild after such traumas. It's work that I'm passionate about because I spent 4 years in an abusive relationship and can empathize with how much trauma can impact your life. It's taken me time to see myself as beautiful and not hear his words in my head, criticizing constantly. The body positivity movement on Instagram sparked something in me. When I looked in the mirror, I would see every flaw or perceived imperfection. But online, I saw women boldly daring the world to dispute their beauty, proudly standing up and saying "F*** your beauty standards, I am beautiful and I know it!" Tess Holliday made covers of magazines as Milk's (modeling agency) first signed plus-size model. Her brand uses the hashtag #effyourbeautystandards and spurned even more discussion and promotion of body positivity. 

I began posting my "outfit of the day" on Instagram and using hashtags I'd seen on other plus-size fashion bloggers' and models' pages. Even on days where I didn't feel 100% about my look, I would post. I made my own rule, two pictures only and I could pick the best of the two and that was it. I could filter for lighting but not to fix imperfections. I wanted to be authentic and show that I could embrace myself without enhancing or altering the image - or taking 100 pictures to get the perfect one. From this, I received requests to work (for free) with a couple of local photographers who were wanting to build their portfolios. My first boudoir shoot, I was extremely nervous. I bought new lingerie and wasn't sure how it or I would photograph. The end result was disappointing - my nerves were evident, my face wasn't relaxed, I didn't look comfortable. And I hadn't been. That's the difference when working with a photographer who is professional and can create an environment that is fun and allows you to relax. 

From my first exchange with Luigi I was not
only comfortable, but his talent for photography and his enthusiasm for his work made me excited to shoot with him. I looked through his pictures on Facebook, Instagram, and his website. Everything I saw, I loved. His clients rave about him - and now I do too! I picked out some new lingerie before my shoot, including a black two piece set that I loved but wasn't sure I could pull off. It ended up being one of my favorite looks and one of the pictures that received the most feedback and encouraging responses. It is one of the most empowering images I've ever seen of myself. Luigi is amazingly talented; his attention to detail, lighting, positioning, everything he does is to showcase you. I could not have asked for a better experience than the one I had with Capitol Bombshell and Luigi Crespo Photography. Not to mention, huge kudos to JKW Beauty for ultra glam hair and makeup!

My point is this: don't wait for the "right" time, right now is the right time. You are unique and beautiful in this moment. Embrace your individuality, give yourself the same grace that you give others - more even. Beauty is not one style or body or height or weight or race; beauty is what we choose it to be. You are beautiful because you are you - truly one of a kind. Book your very own sexy session now!


Whitney Byrd,