Sometimes You Just Need To Go Through Some Shit...| Wisconsin Boudoir | Duende Boudoir

Amanda is a special person to me. Over the years we’ve bonded through our mutual love of lingerie and she’s probably just as obsessed with vintage clothes as I am, always scoping out the best deals in the coolest places.

I’ve photographed her a few times but never really feel like I truly capture her raw essence. It remains elusive but someday I’ll get it! Either way, the images always turn out gorgeous so I must be doing something right.

One thing I really love about working with Amanda is that she trusts and encourages me to create whatever I want with her as the subject. Last year she wore only a veil in the sunlight and the year before that she was one of my first boudoir clients. This time around we went with this awesome brightly dyed vintage girdle set with a sheer tulle skirt on the top (because why the hell not) and then her own Lonely lingerie set paired with one of my kimonos. Perfection!

When I asked her to do a write up for me I knew I was going to get a story because I had seen, through social media and photographing her, the weight changes throughout the years but I had no idea the personal struggle that went behind it and how far back it went. I feel like a lot of us can see ourselves in this story and relate to temporarily losing our way when it comes to relationships and the struggle to stay true to ourselves above all else.

And without further ado, Amanda’s words-

“When asked to write about my journey through weight loss, body image, and self love, I chuckled to myself and thought, “Shit, where do I begin?” I honestly can’t remember the first time I felt ashamed of my body but if I had to guess, I’d say about 8 years old. That in itself is troubling to say the least. I knew that I was bigger than most of my classmates but it honestly never bothered me until the teasing started. Looking back it’s clear how the downward spiral of self criticism began: we usually are comfortable until someone else makes us question our image and self worth.

Creating an identity and having a sense of style was a struggle for many, many years, which I can laugh about now. In fifth grade my favorite shirt was a thin cotton tie dye poncho that I wore constantly. I was a “tom boy” for years and remember refusing to wear a bra to the point where my mother would check me before I left for school. I was an early bloomer and just wasn’t having it. Floppy boobs or bust, baby. Puberty was just a vapid ole bitch in general. I was terrified of shaving and had hairy armpits for a while until one of my friends moms said something to me.

My parents were always very gentle about the way they handled concerns about me, which I will always appreciate. Around the end of elementary school they started taking me to a dietitian. I knew that they were just trying to help me but I was so embarrassed whenever we went to the clinic and prayed that we wouldn’t run into anyone that we knew. I never even told any of my friends about it and eventually buried it so far in my memories that it didn't resurface until a few years ago. Toward the end of middle school depression set in and I’ve never felt so alone in my entire life. I tried explaining my feelings to my friends and they just didn’t understand why I was sad.

At my largest I was a size 18/20, weighted 230lbs, and was incredibly depressed. I became convinced that I would probably have heart problems, develop diabetes, and would never find love if something didn't change. I started working out at a small fitness center and felt good about my path until a friends dad approached me one day and offered his advice on building muscle vs. burning fat. I’m sure he meant well but again, the stomach cramp of embarrassment set in and my workouts became less frequent because of it. I struggled with yo-yo dieting into my college years until I eventually managed to maintain 160lbs. In 2013 I contracted a parasitic infection called, cryptosporidium, which was part of an outbreak in the Midwest linked to contaminated lettuce. I lost about 15 or 20lbs in two weeks and it was the sickest I’ve been in my entire life. My diet changed quite a bit after that and I became more active in attempts to slowly heal myself.

Just as I was starting to feel healthy and got accustomed to a smaller self, I met a guy. At first I thought his sense of humor was just strange and that teasing was his shtick, but as the words became more hurtful and specific to me, my arms, my belly, my stretch marks, my legs…the voice of denial faded and the truth set in. “You can just get plastic surgery to fix that.” “You shouldn’t wear shorts. You just don’t have the legs for it.” His words cut me deeper than any childhood dickweed. When things finally ended I fell into a deep depression of guilt, constantly asking myself how I had let that happen to me. Why didn’t I leave early on? Why didn’t I stand up for myself? The answer is fear and it is a powerful motivator.

I desperately needed to regain my independence and sense of empowerment. I caught wind that Massive Attack would be playing a festival in San Francisco so I bought myself a ticket and went on a weekend trip by myself. My family thought I was crazy but it was one of the best things I ever could’ve done for myself. I felt like a new person when I got home and decided to cut my bust length hair to my chin, got bangs, and a tattoo. It comforted me in a way I can’t describe.

It took a long time to build up the courage to open myself up to someone after that. The first guy I saw was super fit and always had been. He knew about my journey but just couldn’t relate and that’s okay, but the first time he saw me naked he said, “When is the next session with your personal trainer?” and my heart sank. Really dude? Needless to say that didn’t last long and I didn’t date for a while. The next guy shared a similar story to me and also lost a lot of weight. It was so relieving to meet someone that I didn’t have to explain anything to, because he had been through it too. But over time it became clear that we were very different and that gas lighting had been happening for a while.

When things ended at the beginning of the year it was obvious that the things I was “overreacting” about were true. I felt betrayed, miserable, and enraged. I soon realized that those feelings were unsustainable and that I should transform that negative energy into something better. I was interested in boxing for a while and decided to take a class with a friend. She bailed out at the last minute and I almost did too, but then I realized that it would be good to do something for myself and by myself. The feeling after that first class was so intoxicatingly empowering that I’ve been hooked ever since. Nothing has ever made me feel more strong and confident in my entire life. I made a promise to myself from that day that I would put myself and my happiness first before anyone else. Live a bit more, take more chances, and embrace change. I dyed my hair, got new glasses, met a new dude, and finally feel like everything has fallen into place. Going to the gym regularly has been great for my stress, anxiety, and confidence. It’s kind of funny how things came full circle from dreading gym class to missing the gym when I’m sick or reschedule a workout. Everyone’s journey with health is different and sometimes it just takes a while to figure out what your body needs.

Losing a substantial amount of weight is often glamorized to the point where all we really talk about are the physical changes, when it is really a long, hard, and emotionally draining process. I still worry about moving out of the way for people and exaggerate the amount of space to give them. I have stretch marks and extra skin, especially around my belly. The most frustrating part is that I’m strong now and have hard abs underneath, but no matter now many crunches I do that extra skin has nowhere to go. I’ve considered surgery and felt guilty/vain about it for the longest time. When I talked to my boyfriend about it recently, he told me that I should do whatever makes me happy. What a great dude, eh?

Looking back to the awkward chubby girl with Cheeto stained fingers, I still wouldn’t change a thing because I wouldn’t be the same person. Sometimes you just need to go through some shit in order to become the person you were meant to be.”

Embrace What Makes You Different | Wisconsin Boudoir | Duende Boudoir

I have known Samantha ever since that first day in kindergarten when we looked at one another and just decided to be friends. She always seemed so strong and confident to me so it was a shock to read her story. I never knew that she struggled back then, and that's just it- we ALL struggle with body image issues, some of us are just better at hiding it. The stories women are telling me are all so different...and yet so similar. I guess the moral of these is to be kind to one another, and to teach your children to be kind, because this world is hard enough without body shaming added to the mix. 

Samantha came in for a session this summer and wanted to shoot both inside and out. I think the images turned out wonderfully! 

Here are her words and a few of her images-

Growing up, I had what felt like a very healthy relationship with my body. I have always had a more “athletic” shape, and I loved what I could make it do, I loved seeing the limits I could push with it. My family always praised my good looks and athleticism, and I believed them.

As with many young women, my insecurities started along with the arrival of middle school, and it's hyper-critical nature. I started questioning my athletic legs, my muscular calves and thighs in particular, that I had earned from years of hard work ice skating and playing softball. Why did I have such large “manly” legs when many girls my age (and the models of the early 2000’s) had sticks that sprouted out of their back? Why couldn't I comfortably wear those short shorts without my thighs rubbing together in pain? Why couldn't the new trend of knee high boots zip up over my legs? I started to wonder if maybe my “manly” legs weren't so awesome after all. And so my self doubt sprouted it's first seed.

Middle school through it's trials and tribulations brought on another challenge in my life. I was diagnosed with psoriasis, a common autoimmune disorder that manifests as patches of dry, scaly skin on various parts of your body. Mine had reared its ugly head on my lovely calves that I had grown to be insecure about, with a couple patches on my arms. My classmates and friends would question the areas, pointing and turning up their noses, not wanting to come near me. It took me years to get over some of the hurtful things people said during that time.

After finding out there was no cure for my illness, I decided to embrace what made me different. I decided to flaunt the areas that had previously been points of negativity and disappointment; I was now showing off my powerful legs and booty instead of trying to hide them. I decided to accept myself, and that I feel like was the best thing I could've done from that young age. I had started dating a young man (who I married! Because you don't let the kind of people who lift you up leave your life!) Who encouraged me to leave my comfort zone and who supported me. Who PRAISED me for my “manly” legs, whose shape made him run wild. He told me I was beautiful, and I believed him. And after I heard it from those around me, I started telling it to myself, believing myself.

And though I still have trouble with myself now and again (hello pregnancy), I feel whole, I feel beautiful and empowered because of the support I have been shown from my partner, my friends, and my family.

 

Hating Yourself is Tiresome | Wisconsin Boudoir | Duende Boudoir

 

Alicia, the amazing woman behind Buxom Boudoir, and I recently got together to do something that we do for other people all the time but don't really do for ourselves...get neekid(ish) and have our own self-love experience! We each took turns posing and photographing out in nature one afternoon and I must say it was SO MUCH FUN! I can't wait to do it again! 

I asked Alicia to share a little bit about her experience with her body and how it's changed over the years so you can get a glimpse into the amazing person she is. It's easy for me to sit here and type about how important it is to love yourself along your journey but it's so much more powerful to hear other women talk about their struggles and how they are working to overcome them.

So without further ado here is what she had to say-

"My relationship with my body was strained for a very long time. When I hit puberty, I started gaining weight in my midsection, and a big belly and thighs just became a part of who I was. Even if I lost weight, the belly remained. I also have acne, body hair, cellulite, stretchmarks, and other “imperfections” that I hated for a long time. I was not kind to myself for many years, and all it took was a glance at my nude body in the mirror to start crying. I hated having my photos taken, I never believed people when they complimented me, and I never changed in front of other people because I was so insecure.

Then about two years ago, I started to actively change my mentality. I was exhausted from self-loathing. Hating yourself is tiresome, and I was over it. Around this time, I decided to start shooting boudoir under the impression that I would be helping other women feel better about themselves. What I didn’t realize is that it would have a positive effect on my self-image, as well. I started learning about body positivity, reading articles, wearing clothes that forced me outside my comfort and spending more time naked in my home. (It might sound silly, but sleeping nude and just being in solely my skin helped me have a better appreciation for my body.)

I’ve still got a long ways to go in regards to loving myself, but I’ve already changed a lot for the better. When people compliment me, I say “thank you.” I do not chastise them. I wear what I feel comfortable in, so if that’s short shorts and tops that reveal my shoulders when it’s ungodly hot out, so be it. I do not put any effort into hating my acne, stretchmarks or cellulite. I don’t love them, but I will not exhaust myself by hating them. I accept them. If I’m having a bad day and feeling garbage about my body, I give myself the day to feel that way. Then the next day, I practice a lot of self-love and remind myself that I am worthy of love and happiness no matter what I look like. I don’t weigh myself anymore. I take care of my body and mind as best I can on a daily basis rather than treating it like a project I’ll get to when I have the time.

If you had told me two years ago that I would wander in the woods half naked, I would have called you crazy. But I did it. I laid in a river wearing just a white robe, and it was one of the most powerful things I’ve ever done. This body and I have come a long way, and we have a long way to go, but for once, I’m not afraid of the journey. I’m excited for it."

Here is what I captured that day of Alicia! 

And if you want to see MY session you can check out Alicia's blog HERE! 

Find Your Fire | Wisconsin Boudoir | Duende Boudoir

I talk a lot about how a boudoir session isn't just a boudoir session if it's done right. How it can really change you if you open up to the experience and let yourself be vulnerable for me.

I talk a lot of what might seem like 'fluff' to some people.

But the truth is that it's just that...true. 

This is Holly. And these are her words. 

"All people have their story, whether it’s full of rainbows and butterflies, or tears and dark, sleepless nights. How they choose to write the next chapter in that book is up to them. I was one of those individuals whose story is filled with a lot of dark and stormy nights. I have been through a lot of trials and tribulations in my 33 years of life that utterly crumbled me and knocked me to my knees. For many years, I chose to bottle the hurt and emotions to formulate a person I no longer knew when looking in the mirror. Battling weight issues, eating disorders, and verbal abuse for years forever changed who I was. I looked in the mirror to see someone who was ugly, fat (regardless of the number on the scale), not good enough, scarred, and a shell of her former self; essentially an empty body. I was extremely unhappy and kept thinking “there has to be more to life than this.”  I decided the only way that I am going to defeat the battle I face in my own head, is stand up to it head on; forcing myself into a position that would typically break me. A boudoir session. 

The thought of being in lingerie in front of someone I never met was completely nerve racking.  I don’t like being in a swimsuit, let alone lingerie. When it comes to bed time wear, I am a gym shorts and tank top kind of girl! Nothing sexy, nothing fancy, nothing to make me feel beautiful and something that blankets my skin. Security….safety. That was my go to.  I wouldn’t have to worry about the dimples or cellulite showing that I thought haunted my body.

The day finally came for my boudoir session. I was nervous, but locked it deep down inside. I forged forward telling myself that this was for ME and ME alone. As I reached the location and shut my car off, I took a deep breath to calm myself. It was then Paige met me, for the first time, outside with open arms. I felt like I knew her for years and this instantly calmed my nerves. She felt like the friend I haven’t seen in years and we picked up right where we left off. As I began my transformation into a boudoir babe, I couldn’t help but see the beauty that was lying beneath the negative exterior that I had painted on myself. I smiled.  This couldn’t be real.

As the photo session began and progressed, I started to feel the fire that I had been longing for for so many years. The fire I once had that had been covered from years of debris, negative comments, and harsh thoughts. At that point, I had completely let go. I was ME for the first time in years.  When the session was done, it felt like a dream come true. I waited in anticipation to see the final product. 

The day had come… to see the final product. As we were scrolling through the pictures that I had deemed impossible to be me, it occurred to me; the one thought I NEVER thought I’d say. I am a beautiful person…inside and out. For some this is a simple statement. For me, it was life changing. The boudoir session that I had set out to do to break me out of my comfort zone, to flood myself with positivity, in hopes of breathing life into the person I once was, had happened successfully. What this did for me, no one can put a price on it. I never felt more beautiful, empowered, and most importantly, at home in my skin in 20+ years. A thank you could never be sufficient enough gratitude for what this has done to me, mentally and physically.  Something so simple as a boudoir session completely wiped away years of personal opinions of myself. I feel as though I am a brand new person who can look in the mirror and say “I AM pretty, I am NOT fat, and I AM good enough.” 

Thank you for the bottom of my heart. Thank you for helping me find that fire again. And thank you for breathing life back into me."

Thank you Holly for coming into my life and sharing your soul with me. Until next time babe! 

 

You Are Safe With Me | Wisconsin Boudoir | Duende Boudoir

I want to talk about how important it is to me that my clients feel safe when we are working together.

Boudoir, for the most part, is a deeply personal experience. You are baring your soul and your body and tapping into parts of yourself that you probably rarely let see the light. It's a little uncomfortable but it should be because you're growing. 

All of these things are wonderful and powerful and can sometimes be the catalyst for changing your entire life. Imagine if you actually started to believe that you are beautiful and sensual and important and can do anything that you set your mind to! It happens. Self-reverence opens many doors. 

BUT none of these things can happen if you don't feel at ease, if you don't feel secure enough to let your guard down, if you don't feel like you're in a safe space.

You will ALWAYS be in a safe space with me, physically AND mentally. 

If you decide to book an outdoor boudoir session, which people are starting to request with more frequency, your photo shoot will take place on my family's private property. (Unless, on the rare occasion, you have an amazing spot or idea of your own that won't get us arrested!) No strangers are going to be walking by as you frolic naked in the woods. It'll be just you, me, and the bugs. And while it's not the most glamorous place to get dolled up, my parents' house is ours to use to get ready in. (They won't be home!)

You probably don't think of the privacy factor when you're daydreaming about your own epic outdoor boudoir photo shoot experience but shooting PRIVATELY outside is something that most boudoir photographers don't have the luxury of offering. I feel very fortunate to be able to give this to my clients, especially since shooting outside with Mother Nature was how I started my photography journey.

You should feel safe with me emotionally as well. 

Girrrrrlll let me tell you....

Whatever mental hangups you have about yourself I've either experienced in the past or continue to experience. I've dealt with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, dissociation, self-loathing so bad I couldn't look in a mirror, and, only recently the journey to self-love and I'm here to tell you that you will not be judged by me.

I'm not going to be thinking about your stretch marks (we all have them, it means you've grown silly!), your cottage cheese butt (please tell me I'm not the only one with this!), or your two different sized breasts. I don't care about those things. I'm not going to be picking you apart like you're some sort of weird specimen or something that needs improving (you probably do this enough to yourself every day). 

What I will be doing is looking at you with kind eyes, coaxing you to really let your inner self out, and making sure that you point your damn toes. 

A body is just a shell to me- some are bigger or smaller, some are shorter or taller, some are lighter or darker, some are lumpy-er or more toned but NONE OF THE FEATURES OF YOUR BODY DETERMINE YOUR WORTH. I'm looking deeper, I'm looking for the soul. And you should too.

I'm starting to realize that this is why people come to me- they want to feel seen for more than what they look like on the outside.

I will pose you so effortlessly that you don't even realize you're posing most of the time. You'll be focusing on the way the wind caresses your cheek, the feeling of the dewy grass meeting your body as you lay down, the noise of the pine needles crunching underneath your feet, the mosquitoes eating you alive, the stick prodding you in the back...you get the picture! And yes, you will look good. I'll make sure you tighten the stomach muscles, pop that booty, lift the chin...and breathe.

I want you to know that you can feel safe with me, you can trust me, and that together we are going to hopefully open that door to realizing just how amazing you truly are.

But don't just take my word for it. Here's what someone recently had to say about their experience-

"I was unsure how I would feel getting photos, feeling unsure and vulnerable about how they would turn out. As soon as I arrived, I felt so comfortable. Starting with hair and makeup, I was feeling my best self after just that! Letting myself do this and allowing myself to be my most free and best self in front of the camera turned out to be one of the best and most liberating experiences I've had! Paige is so professional, and she makes you feel like you're the most beautiful person she's ever seen in front of the camera. I've never seen anyone with so much patience! Awkward ladies out there- this girl is for you! Would highly recommend a photo shoot with Paige!! Do it for your awesome self." -Samantha

  Yup. Awkward girls unite!

Anywho...

Here's an outdoor photo shoot that took place on my family's land this past summer. Looking at these, I am instantly transported back. I can smell the wildflowers, I can hear the big bumblebees, I can feel that warm early morning breeze.... take me back! 

We got a little creative and stuck wildflowers in one of the sheer bodysuits from the boudoir closet. We only had about 10 minutes to capture this look but what we got is stunning! Carley really blends right in with the beauty of nature!

Enjoy!

Wardrobe- Duende Boudoir Closet

Hair and Makeup- Elle Allen Hair & Makeup

To book your own outdoor shoot this summer- Click THIS!