Team NSP's Thoughts on Beauty, Womanhood and Boudoir

Happy #WomanCrushWednesday! Recently, each of the NSP ladies did their own boudoir sessions and wanted to expand on their personal experiences. We work so closely with the women who choose to do photoshoots (of any kind, but especially boudoir) at our studio, who trust us to make them look and feel their absolute best. It was humbling, nerve-wracking and SO much fun to have the tables turned. Each of us answered some of the questions that we pose to the women who participate in our Real Women of Rochester Series:

Natalie Sinisgalli-Kettavong | Age: 34 | Owner and Operator

Shot by Whitney Warne of  Ivory House Photography  at Natalie sinisgalli Photography Studio

Shot by Whitney Warne of Ivory House Photography at Natalie sinisgalli Photography Studio

“I'm Natalie - the one who started this business 12 years ago (straight out of college, in my parents’ basement) and I run it to this day. I am one of the primary photographers, our team leader, CEO and I ensure every move we make here at NSP has the end result of empowering women, supporting our local community, and capturing life's most important moments for our cherished clients.”

Q: What message would you like to share with other women?

A: You are beautiful, and you are enough. As a boudoir photographer I have had the opportunity to photograph so many women - and let me tell you, every one of them has insecurities. Even the model-esque women you see at the gym or grocery store and think "if I looked like her, my life would be perfect". She has the same insecurities, and is probably looking at you thinking "if I had her [hair or butt or nose or insert anything here]” that she too would be happier. We need to spend our time and energy lifting each other up - as friends, as co-workers, contemporaries and sisters. I don't mean to minimize the impact of a healthy and positive self image in any way (it's what we promote every day at the studio!) - it's vital to our well-being - but frankly, we have many miles of ground to make up as a gender when it comes to social issues such as the wage gap, reproductive health, political representation and many more. We have more opportunity than any women before us, and yet I see us holding ourselves back. I also see change happening, and feel that the pen of history is in our hands more than ever. We can't keep focusing on what we wished we looked like and depriving ourselves of experiences because we don't feel like we're enough. It's draining our energy, our bank accounts, and our precious time on this earth. Ladies, we have work to do, and our lives depend on it.

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Q: What are your thoughts on beauty?

A: Beauty is confidence. It's diversity. It's a feeling, a vibe, an energy. It's not an endpoint, nor is it stagnant. There is beauty in everyone. 

Q: What do you love about being a woman?

A: Wow, this is a hard question (I realize I wrote these - thank you/I'm sorry to the women that have been answering them before me LOL). I love sisterhood more than any other part of being a woman... There is a feeling I get when a group of women get together - like anything is possible. I am lucky to have SO many incredible females in my life - role models, mentors, friends, teammates, and above all my mom. I truly believe there in no limit to what we can create and achieve together. 

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Q: What would you share with a woman who doesn't think she is beautiful enough to be photographed?

A: Try me ;)  ----- But seriously. I have seen everything. You cannot show me something I haven't seen and photographed before. I see wrinkles, rolls, stretch marks on hips, butts, breasts, arms and stomachs. Scars from surgery, abuse and self-mutilation. Post-baby bellies, pre-baby bellies. Cellulite. Every kind of hair on every part of your body. Dry skin. Acne. Bumpy noses. Over-plucked eyebrows. Stumpy fingers. Tattoos from when you were 18. Blackheads. Rosacea. Spider veins and bruises. Tan lines, double chins, upper arm fat, neck creases... Did I forget anything? And none of it matters. Not even a little bit... None of it defines you. You are so much more than the sum of your perceived shortcomings. You have SO much to offer the world, and I promise you the people that love you find you beautiful. I believe being photographed is an opportunity to see yourself as those who love you see you, which is why I treat every photo shoot as if it's the most important shoot in the world. Because to you on that day, it is.

Molly Hannon | Age: 26 | Studio Manager & Client Care

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“I’m Molly :) I am most-likely the first person you will speak with when you call or email the studio :) I do all of the scheduling, ordering, administrative duties, social media, and assist clients when they are selecting their photos. I am here for any type of support you need, whether it be offering my opinion on a photo you’re unsure about or giving you a hug and cheering you on when you arrive for your shoot!”

Q: What message would you like to share with other women?

A: None of our paths are linear. If you had asked me five years ago where I would be today, it 100% would not be where I am at this current moment, and I think its silly for anyone to think that they have the ability to know that about themselves at any stage of life. For a long time, I measured success with so much finality. Get your degree, find a good job, a partner, a house, etc. etc. Not that those aren’t great goals or things to have in life, but I have found that success and happiness can be so many things other than the big “checklist items” - learning a new skill, standing up for what you believe in, helping a friend… Simply getting out of bed some days can be deemed a success! I’ve been burned, I've failed, doubted myself… But I’ve also been given so much opportunity, and have had many hands pulling me back up onto my feet. Its so important to remember that the pendulum always swings back in the other direction at some point. You can always start over. You can have more than one passion. You can always adjust your sails and change your course.

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Q: What are your thoughts on beauty?

A: The way I try to think about beauty is this: When your best friend, sister, mother (even a stranger in some cases!) says something negative about their appearance, your knee-jerk reaction is to correct them or even scold them. “You’re beautiful! Stop it! That dress looks great on you!” Partly because that is your honest opinion of them. However, its also partly due to the fact that you see them as the AMAZING person that has helped you through hard times in your own life. You’ve experienced their strength, how funny they are, how good they make you feel. Rarely do we think or speak to ourselves in the same way. And I think that needs to change. Its extremely difficult to manage our inner-dialogue and negative self-talk, but it is possible! Its a muscle just like any other, so you have to exercise it. Get to it, ladies!!

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Q: What do you love about being a woman?

A: Women are magic. The things our bodies and minds can do is truly amazing. We have faced so much adversity - its hard not to feel like we’re all part of something bigger; a sisterhood. I love that we can be soft and strong at the same time, that we can give life, that we can come together and lift each other up. We are adaptable and wear many different hats on most days.

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Q: What would you share with a woman who doesn't think she is beautiful enough to be photographed?

A: Everyone deserves to be seen, and having photos of ourselves is so important - especially for our loved ones. We all have hangups and insecurities, but 9.9/10 we are the ONLY ones who see that when we look at photos of ourselves. Whenever I’m working with a client, I’m truly blown away by the beauty each one of them possesses, and its never for the same reason. Maybe its the story in their eyes, or the stretch marks (I call them tiger stripes) they’ve earned over the years from motherhood and just LIFE. We are all beautiful and deserve to be valued and cherished.

Alyssa DeWitt | Age: 33 | Digital Image Specialist

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“I’m Alyssa, the Post-Production Manager here at NSP. I process all of the images after each shoot and I design all of our clients’ albums and printed products. I love being able to tailor each shoot for our individual clients, and see every project to the end. I’ve been with NSP for 5 years now, and I love being part of this bad-ass team of ladies!”

Q: What message would you like to share with other women?

A: Women are beautiful, strong, powerful, and so much more. But being a woman is also difficult. Even though it sometimes feels like I'm not pretty enough or not good enough (or whatever negative thought process goes on in my head on any particular day), I have to remind myself that I'm amazing the way I am. I try to think of all the things I love about myself, and what others love about me, and it really lifts me up. We are capable of so much. We need to surround ourselves with others who believe in us and see us for the badasses we are. It's important to own who you are, and be yourself to the fullest extent, no apologies given.

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Q: What are your thoughts on beauty?

A: Beauty is so many things. I don't fall into the normal vision of beauty that we see over and over again in society, in advertising, and in the media. I don't shave my body hair and I tend not to follow beauty trends, believe in "fixing" my "flaws", or slowing down my aging process; I feel my best when I'm not worrying about how others perceive me. I think beauty is more about what we put out into the community, how we make others feel about themselves, and whether we bring positivity into the room. Vulnerability and love makes us beautiful. Being 100% ourselves makes us beautiful.

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Q: What do you love about being a woman?

A: I love my body, my softness, my honesty, and my ability to love deeply.

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Q: What would you share with a woman who doesn't think she is beautiful enough to be photographed?

A: There is no such thing. If you are alive -- if you take up space in this world -- you deserve to be photographed. Photography is one thing I cherish more than most things; photographs of my parents, my husband, and my friends and family bring me so much joy and love. If you don't think you deserve to be photographed, ask yourself why. There must be negativity surrounding photography for you, and you need to kick that to the curb. Get rid of those negative thoughts, those people who aren't lifting you up, and give yourself the gift of self-love. Be photographed. It feels AMAZING to see yourself through someone else's loving eye.

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Real Women of Rochester | Lisa Ostrander

 

Lisa Ostrander   |  Age: 50  |  Profession: Pharmaceutical sales specialist

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Q: Tell us about your journey through womanhood

A: How much space do I have (lol) - my journey through womanhood has evolved. As a young girl I had a very clear vision of my life and what I wanted it to be. I wanted children, a husband, and  a successful career. I was not always sure I would have any of that. I have been a late bloomer throughout my journey. I went back to school at 32, started my amazing career in pharmaceuticals at 33, was married at 40, and had my daughter at almost 41. Prior to going back to college I had doubt that I was ever going to accomplish much in my life. The truth is that I did not feel I had a clear identity of who I was anymore. It had been mixed up in the relationships I was in, and those had been my focus. However, I had a desire in my heart to accomplish as much as I could. I am not really sure where I found the courage to go through the obstacles it took for me to finish school and break into a very difficult industry - but I did, and I persevered. I refused to give up and every door that slammed in my face made me more determined to keep going. That time in my life showed me that I had one quality that would carry me through my life above all else: courage. 

Q: What would you say to another woman who may be going through something you've been through?

A: I have had a lot of experiences that have molded me into who I am today. I sometimes feel I could really write a book! For anyone going through any difficulties whether it is self-doubt or a career move and or cancer, which I was diagnosed with last May, the single best thing that helped me was having someone who would listen. We all go through seasons in life where we hit rough patches and speaking to someone who will simply be there to listen allows you to sort out your thoughts and be able to dig within yourself for the answers. And while it's helpful to have a listening crew, ultimately the momentum and action to create change has to come from within ourselves. 

Q: What surprised you most about your photography experience?

A: How comfortable I was. I felt confident and relaxed. Natalie did an amazing job of putting me at ease. 

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Q: How do you feel when you look at your favorite photo of yourself from your shoot?

A: Proud. Not because of my appearance, but because the image captured who I am today. It captured my true essence and that is what I wanted to portray.

Q: What would you share with a woman who doesn't think she is beautiful enough to be photographed?

A: First, this question makes me sad. I see many women struggle with self-esteem and it’s not an easy society we live in with so much emphasis on appearance which is a real thing, but I would share with women my favorite quote which is to "walk in faith and not fear". Beauty has such a spectrum . I teach my daughter that when she is around people to pretend everyone has a spacesuit on ...if you could not see their appearance- would that person still mean the same to you and would you want them in your life. Our exterior is only here while we are here. Our soul and the legacy we leave behind is what will shine on, and we all have something to share. 

Q: What message would you like to share with other women?

A: It is never to late to chase your dreams and impact others lives. Do not let others discourage you from achieving what you desire, and have the courage to follow through. Also surround yourself with like minded people who will elevate you. 

Q: What are your thoughts on beauty?

A: This is a tough question. I am the only daughter in my family and as a young girl growing up, my father put a lot of emphasis on my appearance. As an adult looking back now and as a mom I know he did not do it to be harmful and that he was proud of me - but a lot of that commentary really stayed in my brain for a long time. For many years I felt that the value I brought was based on my appearance, and so I worked really hard at looking good. It was not until I was much older and began to get recognized for my achievements in my career that I was able to separate myself from that thought process . I do still work hard at taking care of myself and the truth is that there will always be that young teenage girl inside me remembering those comments, however the difference is that my appearance does not define me. It is just one part of the big puzzle that makes me who I have become .

Q: What are your hopes for the next generation of women? What advice would you give to them?

A: To have courage. To not allow fear to hold you back from following the journey that was meant for you. Leap in, and take a chance - when you do amazing things will happen. I know this to be true because they happened to me!

Q: What would you say to your sixteen year old self?

A: I would tell my 16 year old self that your gonna have a rough journey and you will be tested in many different ways, and just when you think you may not be able to overcome a challenge you have to dig deeper - because you will overcome it. Don’t let fear stop you. It is going to hard and you will want to give up but don’t do it, and most importantly remember to live in the moment. 

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Q: What empowering message would you like to share with young women today?

A: Be prepared for every opportunity that comes your way and go for it. It was brought to you for a reason and you never know where it will take you. 

Q: What's the biggest hurdle you've overcome career-wise as a woman?

A: If I am being transparent it would be appearance. Unfortunately we still live in a society that judges you very quickly on how you look and so I have had to show both men and women that I deserve to be where I am. 

Q: What's the most empowering experience you've had as a woman?

A: My most empowering experience has been speaking at the Angelo del Toro Hispanic youth leadership program in Albany. I was able to share with this amazing group of future leaders the importance of melanoma education. Being of Hispanic descent I always felt that I was "safe" - that melanoma would not occur in me, but it did and I'm lucky to be alive. Having these future leaders resonate with my journey and understand that they should advocate for their own health was so important to me. Cancers from melanoma have increased over the last 30 years and it all starts with education. When you are aware then you are prepared! One person dies every hour of every day from melanoma and Hispanics and African Americans typically get staged higher when diagnosed because they have missed the signs. I am absolutely moved to action to continue to help educate and continue to spread the message of awareness. Don't forget- it all starts with a skin check!

Q: When do you feel the most beautiful?

A: I feel the most beautiful on a Saturday morning with a great cup of Spanish coffee and reading the newspaper . 

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Q: What do you love about being a woman?

A: I love the possibilities that are still out there for women to make an impact in our community and in the lives of others. 

Real Women of Rochester | Lisa's Shoot Reveal

In case you missed the first part of this two-part story, read our "Meet Lisa" post first, and then enjoy the grande finale of her story and finished images below! :) I've also included some great resources at the bottom - both an organization that helped Lisa and her son through their struggles with his addiction, as well as a video of Lisa presenting her story to a committee of NYS Senators in hopes to reform our government's policies that provide help for those fighting addiction.

IN HER HEAD BEFORE THE SHOOT

"While I was nervous to call originally, when I came in the studio, Natalie made me feel completely right at home. All the nerves went out the door. I was just excited.

IN HER HEAD, DURING THE BOUDOIR SHOOT

Honestly. I felt great. You feel glamorous, you feel good inside, good outside. I can’t say enough. And then when you’re showing me the pictures, I’m like ‘Wow! Let’s keep going!” I can’t explain the feeling. I felt so good. She made me feel so good! Like no one else has made me feel before, other than my husband.

HER THOUGHTS ON HER BOUDOIR PHOTOS

I love this picture. It makes me feel proud. Empowered. I can’t explain it, I don’t want to say delicate, but It’s very soft. I want to come across as soft but tough. Feminine.

I love how sexy this photo is! I wouldn’t describe myself as sexy but that’s a sexy picture!

My husband loves this photo – it's on his desk. He says I look beautiful, confident, loving, approachable. Honestly, he loves them all, and so do I.  Sometimes I’ll be doing book-work at the desk and I’ll look at it and go “wow, that was so much fun! I wanna do it again!”. I love revisiting my images for a confidence boost. It was a such a great experience, honestly, it was! I tell everybody about it.

PARTING THOUGHTS

Never underestimate what you can do. Never tell yourself you can’t. Always tell yourself you can, and do it to the best of your ability. No matter if it’s a crisis, a new job, difficulties within your family, a health issue. Just never say you can’t do something - because you really can.  Growing up I was always very shy and quiet, I hid behind my mother. As I got older and I started to experience difficult things, and I found the fight in me. I've put myself in uncomfortable positions to overcome my fear. Even though I was scared out of my wits sometimes, there were things I had to do. So I just told myself I could do them – and then I did. For example recently, I had to talk on a heroin and opiate forum, and I had senators in front of me who wanted me to share my story in a nutshell. I was scared but I thought, I’m doing this. I need to do this for other people. There was not enough help when we went through this, and it was an incredibly difficult time. Even now, there’s people that need help and they still can’t find it. And that needs to change.

Since I've started sharing my story, I’ve gotten messages from people I haven’t spoken to in years and they’ve told me that they are struggling. They ask for advice, and I offer my experiences. I never want to tell you what to do with your child but I want people to know what I did, and hopefully they can benefit from what I've been through.

I take every day as it comes. I can’t look at the whole picture because I get nervous, anxious. None of that is good. So, today is today, what do I have on my plate today? I’m going to deal with it, and tomorrow is another day. That’s how I look at things. It’s good to prepare for the future, but I have to look at each day is it comes. Like today, when I came here for my interview, I didn’t want to be nervous, so I just showed up and did it.

I did this boudoir shoot for my husband thinking only of him , but I realized after I did the shoot it was something I needed for myself as well. I spent so much time working to survive,  raising my two sons which always came first and dealing with one that was an addict - I forgot about myself. In these images I saw something in me I never saw before, a very strong, tough woman. I’m so thankful that Natalie brought that out of me during our shoot, so glad we've become friends through this new journey, it’s been a wonderful experience I'll never forget!"  - Lisa

Resources:
The group that helped her son: www.teenchallengeusa.com              
The video of Lisa speaking to Senators about her experience, lobbying for more resources to be allocated to addiction support:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ECzhxzkL0no&feature=em-share_video_user > Lisa starts at 1:39:40

Real Women of Rochester | Meet Lisa

NOTE FROM NAT: The moment I met Lisa, I was thrilled she had booked a shoot with me. Not only is she a clearly well-put together and beautiful on the outside, but I immediately sensed a depth and quiet resolve about her. She opens with an incredible smile and a strong hug - and quickly warms into a great conversation. I started Real Women Of Rochester well after her shoot was completed, but as soon as I started thinking of women I'd like to feature - Lisa was on my short list. Not only was her life story compelling, but she had such an earnest desire to share it for the benefit of others. So without further ado, I'd like you to meet Lisa....

Lisa Thompson, 51, Hair Salon Owner & Stylist: Studio Valencia Hair Design

HER WHY:  "I decided to make the call and do a shoot for my husband's birthday. He’s always so encouraging and inspiring to me, I decided I wanted to do something nice for him. After my shoot, Natalie asked me if I'd like to be a part of her Real Women project.  I said yes, because I want to help and encourage anyone who’s going through a really tough time - for me it was my son's drug abuse. If I can help somebody stay strong to get through the storm, even if it’s just a sentence or a few words to give them hope. There are so many resources out there that can help, but back when I went through this, you just didn’t talk about it. That needs to change.

HER THOUGHTS ON BEAUTY: I think beauty comes from the heart, it radiates through. “Beautiful” has many definitions - it’s not just a physical thing. There is inner beauty in so many people. I truly think beauty is within. As a hairstylist , it makes me feel good to know that I’m there to make my clients  feel good in many ways. By my conversations with them, I hope that I make them feel beautiful for who they are, not just what they look like.  I like to bring out what I see in them - to encourage them to see how beautiful they really are when they’re not feeling good about themselves or going through a tough time.  I have so much compassion for people, especially people who are going through hard times that they can’t control. If I can even just say two words to make them feel better, I have accomplished my mission.  We’re all here for a purpose, and my purpose is to make people feel good within. That’s what I gotta do.

WHAT IS SHE NERVOUS ABOUT: I’ve never had very good self-esteem, even though people think I do. I’m very hard on myself. I try my best but deep inside I think we all have an inner critic.  I searched the web, I saw Natalie’s name. I clicked on it and this great website came up with gorgeous  pictures. I’m like “this is what I wanna do.” I thought about it, and thought about it - the unknown is very scary. It took me a couple weeks to call!

HER MISSION: Drug addiction is a big issue we're dealing with this in this day and age, and at the time I was going through it, very few people were talking about it. My son was a functioning addict for ten years. He had a great job and worked hard, you’d never know he was abusing drugs, but I did. It started with pain pills that I found in his room. Towards the end he was doing heroin and crack.  He’d try to get clean on his own, I’d see a difference, and then I wouldn’t hear from him for days.  It’s a terrible pattern. You have to remind yourself, their behaviors are not your child, that’s the drugs. I know a lot of parents feel they have to save their child by giving them money or what they need when they abuse drugs because they feel they are helping them, and just maybe they will stop.  No, you must let them feel what they’ve done to themselves as hard as it is - if you don’t you’re just helping them stay on drugs. There is a fine line between enabling and supporting. As a parent we always want to support our child, take away the pain and make it all better. But if they’ve chosen this road, they need to feel the consequences with no support. It’s a gamble. It’s up to that child  to say, ‘I hit rock bottom. I can’t do this, I hate my life and what I’ve done to myself, I miss my family.’

It was a difficult journey. I got divorced after 16 years of marriage, my ex became addicted to pain pills under a physician’s watch, and everything went downhill from there,  I became a single mom. My son started abusing pain pills and other drugs after my divorce, it was a very emotional time for me. At one point I kicked him out of my house because of his behavior, I had my rules and he rebelled. I had to look out for his younger brother. I worked 2 jobs which I loved, and it helped me financially because I didn’t get child support due to my ex not working.  I worked at United Airlines, would get up at 3 in the morning and work the morning shift. My job duties included ticket counter, gates, de-icing the airplanes and loading them with luggage and mail - whatever my job was that day. I worked till 10:30am, would eat and get changed and then go the the salon until 7pm at night. I took every day as it came.

A turning point in my life was when I reconnected with a childhood friend, who is now my husband. He became the key to rebuilding my life. He pushed me to open my business, and he was so uplifting.  I was unhappy at the salon where I was, and he told me “I know you can do this” when I was doubting myself. I was 40 when I started my business, and I thought at that age that I couldn’t do it.  My business has been going strong for ten years now. Me and my stylists are a family for each other, and my clients call it Cheers! We’ve all been doing hair for 30+ years.

After years of struggling, my son went to a year and a half faith-based program. Now, he has been clean for 4 years. The one month of treatment that is often offered isn’t going to solve the problem, and neither is 6 months. People don’t realize that once you get out of rehab, you’re not cured. You have to reprogram your mind and your habits. Lots of people relapse, and you have to stay strong through that. He surrounded himself with good people. He’s very driven, he’s like his mother!  I’m grateful for that because I want both my sons to be independent - and they are.  He says he doesn’t have any desire to do any drugs which is a miracle. He’s been on the Dean’s list three years in a row. He has formed a support group at school and revisits his rehab not to far from his college and speaks to other men  going through addiction.

PARTING WORDS: There are two keys I always live by; I have very strong Christian faith, and so the first is Philippians 4:13 which says ‘I can do all things through Christ’. Also, my parents always said ‘You can do anything you put your mind to’. Those two keys really stuck with me so when I looked at something I thought I couldn’t do, I would focus on those two phrases. I did it."

Thanks Lisa for so bravely and honestly sharing your story - we can't wait to see your boudoir images next week! :)  - Natalie

Real Women of Rochester | Erin's Shoot Reveal

In true RWOR fashion, today we are sharing the photos from Erin's shoot and her thoughts on them! Previously you got to meet Erin and hear about why she wanted to be a part of our Real Woman of Rochester project. This is one of my favorite posts yet.... Erin really hit the nail on the head of what boudoir is all about and why we all need to appreciate ourselves and eachother as we are. 

IN HER HEAD BEFORE THE SHOOT: When I made the initial call I was terrified. I was like, “oh my gosh do I really want to do this?”. All that self-doubt. Will they even want to photograph me? I had the studio page open in my web browser for days before I even made the initial call because I just kept waffling back and forth. The day of the shoot I remember coming up the elevator thinking, “Oh crap!”. But then all of that just started to fade. I spent so much time preparing for the shoot, and I felt really well-prepared. The style guide I was given and the consultation with Natalie, helped me to feel prepared. Being able to get your hair and makeup done, which is something I don't do (I don't wear makeup to work, just special occasions)-- and I certainly don't do my hair -- that was such a special treat in itself.

IN HER HEAD, DURING THE BOUDOIR SHOOT: I just let it all go and took direction from Natalie. I knew that I was in very capable hands and I felt safe. It was really fun and what I loved the most was that no matter where we were, no matter what the backgrounds were, they were complimentary to who I was and they spoke to my style and who I am. Even after the brief consultation I feel like Natalie was able to really pick up on the spirit of who I am. So to be able to see that throughout the process of that morning just made me more excited as we were going through. 

HER THOUGHTS ON HER BOUDOIR PHOTOS: I sat down to a slideshow set to music, and I just sat there and cried. My reaction was, “Wow - I'm really pretty!”. And I thought, “gosh- other people, including my (now ex-) boyfriend in fact view me that way every day, and why don't I?”. And that's what that moment was about. It was like, “you're alright, Erin”. Having that moment, it was just amazing.

Knowing that it's me in these photos, I'm still in awe of that. Hindsight is everything, the whole shoot looks so candid and lovely. But what I love about it is that it IS me. It's overweight Erin, which is totally okay, but I don't see any of that. I just see someone who is very comfortable in this amazing moment. I will unabashedly show my pictures to anyone who is interested. I love the app Natalie made for my phone because when I'm out I can be like, “Want to see my boudoir photos? Just stand by!”. It's so fun to see some people's responses. Some people think Erin Julian would never do something like this. But everyone says, “Oh my gosh, I think these pictures are amazing! I should totally do that!”. And I tell them, of course, that they should!

PARTING THOUGHTS: A big part of the reason this was such a great experience is because of the images that I have to reflect back on and look at with a sense of pride. This is who I am. I like to share that message with folks around me, and as a result a lot of my friends have booked shoots with Natalie. Ultimately, my friends booked shoots because of how my shoot made me feel. That was more important to me (and to them) than the actual resulting photos. I think everybody should have an experience where they are proud and excited about who they are, and feel gorgeous, because we all are. This embodied all of that for me. To think that a year later I still have that feeling... it still excites me! I still want to tell people about it and encourage them to do it so they can have that experience – I think that's huge.

I originally booked the shoot as a gift to my boyfriend. I never thought a boudoir shoot was something you would do for yourself, until I did mine. After having the experience myself, I thought, “why didn't I do this sooner? Why didn't you do this for yourself?”. It's such an empowering experience. And I never could have imagined that it would be until I was in it. Gosh, if someone reads this and thinks to themselves, “I should do this for me, and not for somebody else” then that's a win, because it's an experience we should all have.

I feel like if my participation in this project can have a positive impact on someone, whether they decide do a boudoir photo shoot or something else for themselves, then that's worth everything. I am not ashamed of these pictures, there is nothing scandalous about them. That is part of this project. We have to objectify women less and realize that we are human beings, these are our bodies, and we are beautiful. If this project can do that, then it's a win. I would put all my energy in that. There is power in that. We should all be proud of who we are.

Real Women of Rochester | Nikki's Shoot Reveal

IN HER HEAD BEFORE THE SHOOT: I was excited,  but still wondered if I had the right outfits. I fretted over what to bring for a week and a half! Natalie gave me some ideas and I was able to look at some of her other pictures, and when I got back home I was like, “okay, is this going to work?”. That’s why I brought so much stuff to my shoot!

IN HER HEAD, DURING THE BOUDOIR SHOOT: Natalie made it really easy. She put the bra, the panties, the shoes together from what I brought. She immediately knew what she wanted to work with, and I agreed. As for the makeup and hair - I had never been made up like that in my life, so it was great! Chrissy was really nice, too. It just made me feel even more beautiful and put me in the mood to have fun (the mimosa’s helped too!). I felt very comfortable during the entire process, and I felt even sexier as the shoot progressed.  Natalie gave me direction on where to look, how to look, what to do with my hands.  Some of the poses are hard to keep your balance for, I almost fell on my face! But Natalie showed me shots on the back of the camera and I thought, “these are looking good, I pulled it off!” I absolutely loved it.

HER THOUGHTS ON HER BOUDOIR PHOTOS: Natalie asked me to describe the woman (me) I saw in this photo…. I said ‘Wow, first of all, she’s beautiful. She’s rocking it. And she looks really confident and strong’. These photos reinforced the positive thoughts I’d had about myself. It was tough getting to that point. Growing up I always felt awkward and gawky and skinny and weird. My husband just makes me feel beautiful. He always gave me self-confidence. And I think, too, over the years, with having the kids, I felt better about myself. Now after the shoot, I feel even more empowered. Even more sexy. I tell everyone, ‘you know I’m a model now, don’t you? I’m a top model, now!’. My husband is worried I’m going to be impossible to live with now.

I really love my tattoo. There’s a woman in there - I’m the tree. And growing in the roots is my husband and my sons’ names because they’re my foundation -  they help me grow. Especially the boys, because of the difficulty I had to have them. They made me, they changed me. I’m a better person now. I am who I am because of them.

PARTING THOUGHTS: I have infertility issues- endometriosis. At 21 I was told I would never have children, and I felt devastated. Everybody is supposed to easily have kids and I wondered, ‘what’s wrong with me?!’. I felt alone and very isolated. The one thing that is supposed to be fun in marriage, the romance is totally gone from because here is the thermometer, here is the chart, let’s do this! The fertility process is so hard on your body, you pump you full of drugs- you go to the doctor constantly. I got pregnant a few times… and then I’d go in so they could check my levels. They’re supposed to be doubling if you’re pregnant. Then they call you one day at work, to tell you the numbers are going backwards, so you know you’re having a miscarriage. And you’re at work, like, ‘okay, thanks’. As you get older and you’ve been married for a while, there’s always that question, “When are you going to have kids?”. But you don’t want to share your problem with anyone. I never ask anyone who doesn’t have kids when they plan to have kids, because I know. It would hurt so bad if they’re trying. It’s just that question, it’s a stab in the heart.

I was told I couldn’t have children, but I did. It made me feel beautiful to have my kids. I want other women going through infertility issues to know not to give up. We knew, even if we couldn’t have kids biologically, that there was always adoption or fostering. Someway, somehow, I was going to make it happen. There’s always hope. You have to believe in yourself, build a good friend base, have someone to talk to and share with. I come from a household and family of strong females. If you get us together, watch out! That strength was instilled in me. Us young women in our family were taught that you don’t really NEED a man - do for yourself, have for yourself. If you have a man, that’s great. But don’t ever lose yourself.

Real Woman of Rochester - Nikki

When you first meet Nikki you sense a quiet confidence about her. Within 1 minute of knowing her, you know her laugh and smile can fill an entire room. For me, one of the most striking things about her is the beautiful relationship she has with her husband and sons- evidenced not only by how lovingly she speaks of them, but by her tattoos commemorating their love (but I'll save those details for the photo reveal next week!). She's the "Queen Bee" and she puts it - "even the cats are male!". It's obvious the love for the queen is well-earned and reciprocal, and her journey of gaining self-confidence is firmly rooted in her family.

Nikki - 43, Residence: Rochester, Co-Owner / Office Manager at Unified Electric

HER WHY: "I've always been interested in doing something like this. I'm in my early 40s, and I feel more comfortable in my skin than I've ever been – more so than I did in high school and in my 20s. People always told me I was too skinny, and I believed them. Friends and people at school would call me “Ethiopian” and “anorexic”. It really hurt, I always felt bad about myself. Now at 40 I feel much less pressure to look a certain way than I did back then. I've had space to grow, and between having kids and being with my husband, I feel more confident in myself.

HER THOUGHTS ON BEAUTY: Everyone always said that when I got older, I'd put on weight - but it didn't happen. It was always as if everyone was just waiting for me to get fat. When I became a mom, it changed both my body and how I felt about it. I was now a mother and a nurturer. Motherhood also physically allowed me to gain weight. I was 27 when I became pregnant with our first son, and at that time I weighed 86 lbs. I was able to gain 50 lbs – I enjoyed it! It made me feel better, even though I did end up losing all of it after I had him.

I think "sexy” comes from confidence. It’s all about being comfortable in yourself, and feeling good. My husband makes me feel sexy. Even though we've been together 20 years (and known each other for 26), he makes me feel sexy. He still looks at me like I’m the most beautiful person in the world. He’s supportive of everything I do, he's my rock.

WHAT IS SHE NERVOUS ABOUT: I have a baby pooch, but that's about it. I'm really just excited. I can't wait to see these sexy pictures of myself! When I first head about it I had no idea what exactly you do or don't wear! But I went to the website and I liked what I saw, and now I am just so excited. My husband said I'm going to be impossible to live with after this!

HER MISSION: I think people might hold back on commenting on someone being overweight because it's not socially acceptable to do so, but people freely will put it out there if they think you're too thin. It made me hate myself and hate my body when I was younger. I thought my arms were too skinny, so I wouldn't wear anything besides long sleeve shirts. I always felt like my boobs were too small because people said they were “egg-shell” sized. If someone calls you "anorexic", there's no good response. I would tell people “I eat all the time, I just can't gain any weight”. The response was always “oh, boo hoo... you're too skinny, must be hard”. But it was hard. I want to try to help other women who have been told they are too-thin, or too anything really. It can be hard and frustrating at time, but all you can do is healthy and happy and comfortable in who you are.

PARTING WORDS: I’m excited, and my husband is excited for me. I hope to just have fun, and end up with some sexy images of myself to give to my husband!"

Woman Crush Wednesday | Elaina Fiammi

I don't always get the pleasure of meeting my boudoir client's husbands, but since Elaina attends basically every event we have at the studio and we've since became friends - I've gotten to meet the happy recipient of Elaina's boudoir album and her partner in life. Dion is an incredibly caring and kind husband, and he jumped at the opportunity to be able to share their love story on our blog.

"Elaina and I met at work eight years ago, and I instantly knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. When we were planning our wedding, photography was extremely important to us. So important, in fact, that we actually spent our initial wedding budget on it alone. (Oops!) So when Elaina told me that as part of my wedding gift she was giving me a set of boudoir photos, my initial reaction was naturally “we’re spending more money on photos?!” She meant to keep her gift to me a surprise, but she was just so excited about the shoot that she had to tell me all about it.

On our wedding day, I had been waiting for my groomsmen to get ready practically all day. Our limo was scheduled to arrive at 3PM, and the tuxedo bags were still hanging from the closest door at 2PM. Right before we left, I opened her gift. The pictures were stunning and flawless. I got lost in the book and suddenly my friends were waiting on me. My best man had to force me to put the book down and remind me that the limo was waiting to take us to the wedding. He filmed the whole process and the ensuing video was rather hilarious. In the end, the gift was almost as much for her as it was for me. She loved how beautiful it made her feel, loved the comfortable process, and absolutely loved working with Natalie.

I will admit that this was extremely difficult to write. Not for the lack of words, but quite the opposite. How do I quickly encompass all love I have for my beautiful wife? Time and time again, I started… and no matter how I twisted the words or told the story, I always came to the same conclusion. I love my wife utterly and completely. She makes me laugh more than anyone I know. She gives me purpose and fills my life with hopes for the future and dreams to be shared. She makes me a better man. I call my wife my angel because, in so many ways, she saved my life from what it might have been without her." - Dion Robinson

[NOTE: Elaina approved her boudoir images for my website at an earlier date! This post was a surprise for her, her images being public was not :) ]

Real Women of Rochester | Keri

Hi ladies - I'd like to introduce you to our next Real Woman of Rochester: Keri! Following our RWOR format, today you will learn about Keri in her pre-shoot interview - her thoughts on womanhood, beauty, the project, and why she wanted to be involved. Next week we will share her resulting boudoir photos, and her reaction to them!

NOTE FROM NATALIE: Keri is one of the most caring, nurturing, honest, insightful and intelligent women I've met. Based on these traits, I was not surprised to find out that she is a teacher, and that she loves what she does. I have no doubt that she is a phenomenal educator. She has a unique ability to distill things down to their very core - cutting through all the nonsense. Not only that, she's incredibly quick and sharp with wit and humor, making her funny as heck. I am honored that she has decided to share her insights and experiences as a woman with us, I am sure they will hit close to home for many other women out there!

Keri: Age 39 |  Residence: Rochester, NY | Occupation: Teacher

HER WHY: "I was attracted to this this project because you were looking for women of different body types. A lot of women have a preconceived notion that you have to be a certain body type, I have to look like a model in order to do this, to feel beautiful enough to do this, or for someone to want to see these photos. I'm very atypical in the model world – my body is not what someone would think of as a model's body – and I wanted to break that stereo type. I’m not a size two, and I can still feel really beautiful, and my photos still have value and that I have value.

HER THOUGHTS ON BEAUTY: I would never say some of the horrible things I've said to myself to anyone else I know. Why is it OK to say that to ourselves? We've been taught to do that to ourselves. Women as a whole are so critical. We are our own magnifying mirror - and sometimes women try to make themselves feel better by cutting other women down. I don't think men do that. They don't criticize other men's bodies.

A lot of our physical appearance is controlled by genetics, and there are few things you can do about that. As Kumbaya as it sounds, you have to learn to love who you are. You get back from the world what you project into it – and if you're constantly concerned about how you look, people will pick up on that. I think doing a shoot like this can give you the confidence to say – Ok, I'm not perfect. But I'm pretty darn good - and just go with it. We're always our own worst critic.

WHAT IS SHE NERVOUS ABOUT: I've seen boudoir shoots in the past, and they’ve seemed trashy to me. I’m a teacher, and someday, I hope to be a mother - I don’t want questionable images of me out there. I agreed to do a shoot because Natalie's boudoir photos are artful and tasteful, and none of them are pornographic - in every level of disrobe. The other component is that I am also afraid of the way I look. It’s like bathing suit shopping - who wants to be in hardly any clothing, fully lit and look in the mirror? I know how to dress for my body, but how do you 'undress' for your body?

Part of me is excited by sharing my pictures, I hope other women will look at them and say “Wow – that's beautiful!” or “Wow – I could do that!”. Part of me is scared to be rejected. I'm not a size two. I hope people will see beauty and not criticize me.

HER MISSION: I want to do this shoot to be an example of a woman who isn't what we hold up as the quintessential ideal of beauty. - someone who isn't perfect; someone who is flawed.; someone has been told she wasn't pretty because she's too [ fill in the blank ]. I want to do it for those women. You don't have to be perfect to be beautiful. I want to empower other women. I don't want women to think they have to look like models to feel beautiful.

PARTING THOUGHTS: This shoot is forcing me out of my comfort zone. In real life I'm REALLY shy. Being in a social setting where I don't know anyone is terrifying to me. The idea of coming here to taking my clothes off for essentially a stranger, is also very scary. This studio feels like a brave space though, where you can be brave. I am going to be brave.

 

Real Women of Rochester | Kelly’s Shoot Reveal

In case you missed it, here's a link to last week's post on Kelly and why she chose to be a RWOR. Now, here's what she had to say about the experience of her shoot, and what she plans to do with her photos.

IN HER HEAD BEFORE THE SHOOT: "I need a drink! Haha... I was excited! I wish I had lost a little weight before it, but I'm not shy. I wasn't concerned about anyone seeing me during my shoot. I overpacked, so I felt prepared and relaxed. Everyone at Natalie's studio is lovely, plus there was wine....

IN HER HEAD, DURING THE BOUDOIR SHOOT: I'm such a plain-jane, I like to see a different side of me sometimes. I was nervous to get my makeup done, my family doesn't even recognize me when I wear makeup. I love how it turned out though, and the false eyelashes were fun. There was one shot that was crazy.... I was up against the wall, my hip hurt. I was like 'hurry up Nat'! She's super sweet though, so it was easy. The shoot was exactly what I expected, plus some additional furniture moving. Natalie moves a lot of furniture during her shoots!

HER THOUGHTS ON HER BOUDOIR PHOTOS: They show a side of me I'm not used to seeing. When you go through life it's chaotic and busy, and I'm a plain-jane kinda gal. I think especially at 41, it can be hard to look at yourself and see something sexy. It was awesome to see that. It's funny, my husband always tells me I ooze sex-appeal, but I don't feel like that at all. It's nice to see what he sees.

"If I had to describe that woman, I'd say she looks confident and hot. She's also rocking some awesome shoes." - Kelly on her left photo

"If I had to describe that woman, I'd say she looks confident and hot. She's also rocking some awesome shoes." - Kelly on her left photo

 PARTING THOUGHTS: This shoot was exactly what I wanted it to be, I feel like it was a success. You see so many photos of women that have chosen not to be rebuilt – and it's wonderful for those women to share those images, it is very empowering for them. However, when young women diagnosed with breast cancer see only that depiction of a breast cancer survivor, it can be scary for them. I like that these images can show those women another option. I'm looking forward to posting these images on my Fight Club of Rochester facebook page for survivors and fighters, so they can see a happy and sexy survivor.

Doing a boudoir shoot is definitely something I would recommend for anyone, especially someone who's been through cancer. I know a young woman who is a survivor, and she's always very nervous about dating and what potential partners may think of her body. I think doing a boudoir shoot is an opportunity to see yourself in a different way. Having scars across your chest does not define your sexuality.

I think back to how I felt about my body at different times in my life. When I was young I was unhealthily thin, but I thought I looked fat. The thought of taking my clothes off in the locker room was absolutely mortifying. Then after having a baby, I hated the way my breasts looked - I was very insecure about them. Now after having cancer, I look back and realize I should have been happy with what I had. No woman is ever happy with who they are, and that's gotta change. So now, I look at my body and say 'This is what you have, be happy with it. Get your head out of your *ss and enjoy it".  - Kelly

Anyone who knows and loves Kelly would not have found this post complete without the closing swear :) Kelly - thank you for your honesty, your humor, and the awesome work you're doing with Fight Club of Rochester. That's it for this week Real Women of Rochester, come see us again next week!

Real Women of Rochester | Kelly

Kelly: 41 | Residence: Pittsford |  President of Fight Club of Rochester, Inc.

Kelly's personality is the first thing you notice about her. It literally precedes her by about 10 feet, hits you in the face with energy, fills the entire room you're in and then some. I remember meeting Kelly about a year before she applied to be a part of this project, at the annual Gilda's Club of Rochester Bachelor's Auction, and thinking immediately that I would photograph her some day. Or at least that I wanted to :) When she applied and told me about the work she was doing through Fight Club of Rochester and her mission of helping breast cancer survivors like herself feel beautiful again, I knew our meeting was more than chance.

HER WHY - I’m a different person than I was 6 years ago. When I got cancer, I went through chemo, lost my hair, had my breasts removed, had my hair grow back (with a little bit of grey), rebuilt my breasts twice and until recently was on the estrogen regulator Tamoxifen (imagine PMS times 100, daily). But when you have cancer, it is sometimes your job to make others feel better. I found that by not letting cancer define me in a negative way, I was able to take better care of myself. I tried to find the good in every situation, so other people could see it positively through me. I have experienced some great positives. I loved when my hair grew back in beautiful curls, and now I have bigger boobs and don’t have to wear a bra. I’ve made wonderful friends and started the Fight Club of Rochester, a non-profit organization that raises money for organizations who support cancer research and people living with cancer in the Rochester, New York area.

There is a photo going around the internet of breast cancer survivors with their shirts off. None of them are re-built. These are strong and courageous woman willing to put themselves out there. I want to offer a different perspective. I chose to rebuild my breasts. They are fake boobs, with fake nipples, but I was 34 when I lost them, and still wanted that part of my life and body back. I want to show people that you can be yourself again after cancer.

HER THOUGHTS ON BEAUTY & BREASTS: Perhaps at a certain age there is no need to care about having boobs anymore, but I was 34 and still wanted to rock a bikini. I’ve rebuilt mine twice, initially after my mastectomy in 2010 and then again in 2014. The first doctor I went to didn’t give me a lot of options and I hated the way he reconstructed my nipples. He didn’t hire a real tattoo artist, and I wasn’t a huge fan of the shape. As I started to do more outreach, I was spending a lot of time talking to women about how they could feel whole again. At the same time, I didn’t like what I had going on under my own shirt. I went in for a consult with a new doctor, simply to discuss my nipples, but after that discussion, I decided to have them completely redone. Now, I’m really pleased with the result – my bust looks more natural under clothing, and I feel much more like myself. 

WHAT SHE'S NERVOUS ABOUT: I don't have any anxieties about doing a shoot. I like the idea of people reading about my story, I think this will be fun. I don’t frequently have any specific reason to be sexy. I've been with my husband for almost 14 years, and he thinks I'm sexy without me really having to try.  I recently turned 41. I’ve always had the mindset and sense of humor of an 18 year old, but I've definitely changed since I hit 40. I've always loved going dancing, but now I just want sit at home and drink wine in my pjs. This will be a fun opportunity to feel sexy again.

HER MISSION - It’s really easy to find the bad and scary side of cancer if your only resource is the internet. Before I was diagnosed, I had the perception that breast cancer was always a torturous process and very few survived. I didn't have much information to go on. But every time I would make it through a benchmark in the treatment process, I would think, “That wasn’t that terrible. High five to me.”  I have found that talking to someone with an upbeat attitude makes it easier for you to have an upbeat attitude yourself. I love when someone reaches out to me to talk about the process. I can take their sadness and help them knock it off the table. We say “Ok, this is now your part-time job. It’s a shitty part-time job. And you’re going to do it, and get it done with. These are the steps and the resources you need to rock this out."

PARTING WORDS: Reach out. Ask questions. In any situation, what you don’t know is the scariest part.

 

Real Women of Rochester | Shadi's Shoot Reveal

Hello Real Women of Rochester followers! Last week you got to meet Shadi and hear why she was so excited to be a part of our project. We interviewed her after her shoot when she came in to see her images for the first time. Here's what she had to say about the experience of her shoot, and what her images mean to her...

IN HER HEAD, BEFORE THE BOUDOIR SHOOT:

“I was excited, I knew it was going to be such a fun day. I got to let my real self – a side of me that doesn’t get to be shown often enough – come all out in the studio… shamelessly. It was such a welcoming environment to flaunt your womanhood. I can’t do that at work, or at the grocery store. I can do it at the salsa club, but I don’t want to be inviting to the wrong kind of attention – it can easily be judged or misunderstood, and I don’t think that’s fair. I’m intelligent, I’m deep, I have substance to me, and I’ve worked hard. I’m a credible person. I feel like society tells us you lose credibility when you exhibit your womanliness, and that’s not fair.

I think women can frequently be more judgmental of (other) women than men are. A lot of women buy into what our role as women “should” be according to our male-dominated society. We have to overcome multiple layers of restraint as a gender to unleash ourselves and each other. I think we need to build more avenues in which we can be comfortable and real. Natalie's studio was really that venue for me. I loved the feeling like myself during the entire experience.

IN HER HEAD, DURING THE BOUDOIR SHOOT:

I was so excited. I was like, ‘Let’s just let it all loose!’ I’m comfortable with this side of me, I just don’t get to enjoy it very often. It was fun having Natalie to facilitate the entire experience because we talked, we laughed, we shared the afternoon together. It was better to share this side of me with another person. Being a woman is art. Your body is part of your art form, and it is more beautiful when it’s shared. It’s like a painting or a great poem - speaking that poem theatrically or sharing that painting is valuable and should be admired. It can be a cause for inspiration and growth.

HER THOUGHTS ON HER BOUDOIR PHOTOS:

The woman I see in my images is really happy. She’s free, comfortable, relaxed. She has a lot to look forward to. She’s confident, strong, non-judgmental of herself. She’s prepared for the world. She’s shameless.

The shoot makes me feel like I have it in me to openly show this side of myself more without reservation or doubt. It’s definitely boosted my confidence in publicly displaying all aspects of myself and feeling really good about it. It makes me care even less about what people have to say about what a woman can and can’t do. Just the way I walk, or talk or stare you straight in the face - I have more confidence in doing things the way I want to.

PARTING THOUGHTS:

To publicly, shamelessly show my womanhood was a challenge at first. My career goal is to be a high school administrator. I found myself thinking about how students and other administrators would react. Now, I don’t care what anyone thinks. If you’re not going to hire me for these pictures, I don’t want to work for you anyway. I want to work for people who believe in equality for men and women and who are not going to judge me based on my true self expression. I’m so passionate and supportive of the arts, and this is an art form for me; this is a statement that I stand by. I’m not turning this off for anything - this is my victory lap. I’m coming home to myself, and I can't get lost anymore. Bring it on world."

Real Women of Rochester | Shadi

Hi ladies - I'd like to introduce you to our next Real Woman of Rochester: Shadi! Following our RWOR format, today you will learn about Shadi via her pre-shoot interview - her thoughts on womanhood, beauty, the project, and why she wanted to be involved.

Shadi: - Age 35 | Residence: Rochester | Education: Law Degree, and currently pursing an Administration Degree at U of R with a passion for Arts Integration in the classroom | Occupation: Teacher

Shadi and I met at a salsa night at Lovin' Cup, her smile and personality cut through the loud music with ease. I knew right away that this woman had a story to tell. We didn't talk about the weather or the music. We talked about being a woman, and what it meant to own that. She told me that she wanted to help inspire and empower women to love themselves – that it doesn't matter how old you are, whether you're married, have kids, that it's all about self love. She was one of the women that directly inspired me to start this project, so when she volunteered to be a part of it – I was elated.

HER WHY: Growing up as an Iranian-American, having a Middle Eastern background and parents that are conservative when it came to social conduct, how one expresses themselves and interacts with the opposite sex, my sister and I were limited in those areas by strict rules. My sister was the one who would find a way out of the rules while I was the one always trying to please my parents. I would look at her like, “Oh, I don’t have the guts to do that!” There’s always been a creative and very expressive side of me that remained dormant in the midst of following all the rules.

As we got older, my family didn’t talk about sex. We didn’t talk about dating. It was assumed that you didn’t do anything sexy. My parents placed the highest value in education, so my focus remained on academics. In the process, true womanhood and my creative side were not nurtured. Learning how to date was difficult. I ended up in unhealthy relationships and eventually realized at the core of it was not loving myself, and not being taught how to love myself entirely.

I knew I was intelligent, but I didn't know how to make healthy choices while dating. It was hard work and took a lot of self-reflection. I found that in terms of self-love and creating healthy relationships, the outside mirrors the inside. I'm finally in a really good place on the inside and I want it to vividly show on the outside.

HER THOUGHTS ON BEAUTY: I’ve had guys say, 'you’re gorgeous', 'you’re beautiful,' but I've never really internalized that. This boudoir shoot is an opportunity for me to do so. Until you feel it and you believe it, once you see it for yourself, it doesn’t matter what anyone else tells you. I want to see it and say, “Yes. That’s art. That’s beautiful.”

WHAT IS SHE NERVOUS ABOUT? I’m afraid of not being myself. I don’t want this experience to be theatrical; I want it to be authentic and genuine. I’m not entirely sure what authentic looks like, but I know what it feels like and I want my photos to capture that authentic feeling from the inside.

HER MISSION: I think that embracing female sexuality, being 100% confident in yourself and not feeling ashamed of any parts of our body is true womanhood. I think that today's society and messages from my upbringing, very much say that’s a bad thing. The media says our bodies are for sex, and are used to compete against one another, but I’d like to change that definition – I think that it’s wrong. I think our bodies are works of art and we should be proud of them. They’re ours. I would like to validate and experience my art by having it portrayed through a beautiful lens.

My friend was an amateur photographer and for my 30th birthday she took pictures of me. I don’t think it meant what it means to me right now. It was like, “Oh, look at me, I’m 30 and I look good.” Now it’s much more about being as complete as a person inside and valuing myself. I don’t need anyone to validate me. I want to celebrate the inside on the outside.

PARTING WORDS: The power of collaboration with people who really love you and can mirror self-love is incredible. That’s why I’m a teacher now – I do that for my high school world history students. I moved from criminal and juvenile law because teaching is more preventative: and at that point meeting me my clients were already in a really difficult situation, so I wanted to go back to teaching because I thought I could make a positive difference in students lives. I’ve had so many people in my life that have shown me great compassion and kindness to me to help me get to the point of self love in my life, I wanted to help others on their journey to getting there too.

I feel like when you accept yourself and accept your own mistakes, when you can forgive yourself and bounce back, then you can forgive others for their mistakes and not take them personally. Not everything is a personal attack; you’re not a victim anymore. I’ve made peace with all my flaws and mistakes and I’m okay talking about them. To share them with someone else can bring peace to people to know that they’re not alone. To overcome those things, trust issues especially for me, to learn that there are good people, to get closer to people, to form healthy relationships, all of that has made me who I am and I’m proud of it. I want the lens to see me as someone who has truly overcome and represent my victory lap in being a confident, expressive woman.

Thanks, Shadi! Alright, Rochester - stay tuned for the reveal of her boudoir shoot next Wednesday...

Real Women of Rochester | Katrina's Shoot Reveal

So here's the part you've all been waiting for - the photos! Last week you got to meet Katrina and hear why she was so excited to be a part of our project. We then interviewed her after her shoot when she came in see her images for the first time. Here's what she had to say about the shoot itself, and what her images mean to her...

IN HER HEAD, BEFORE THE BOUDOIR SHOOT:

“The night before the shoot, I was super terrified and stressed. I spent about 4 hrs putting things together, shopping for new clothes,  working and reworking outfits. I felt like nothing I had was fully put together. And then minute I walked in - it was completely fine. Funnily enough, the mimosa really helped me calm down. Natalie started sifting through my clothing and I was immediately whisked away to get ready. Knowing you’re in the hands of professionals eases the anxiety a lot.

After hair and makeup, I felt like a model. You know when you’re a little girl and you dream about going to a castle and getting dressed up like a princess and shown around? Doing this shoot was a lot like that! I got to be dressed up and pampered. I felt like I was exactly what I needed to be.”

rochester-boudoir-photos

IN HER HEAD, DURING THE BOUDOIR SHOOT:

“I felt like I was exactly what Natalie wanted in a model - like she didn’t want to be photographing anything or anyone else. I think when you get semi-naked or sexy in front of people there is a desire to be accepted. You’re putting yourself out there to be seen. It felt great to come here, be sexy, and feel immediately safe, appreciated and special. It was nice to feel like Natalie was really getting something from what I was giving.”

HER THOUGHTS ON HER BOUDOIR PHOTOS:

“That woman is sexy, confident, she’s have a blast doing whatever she’s doing and she feels like the most beautiful person in the world.  I don’t look at myself in the mirror and see that regularly. It’s still hard for me to look at these photos and see them as being myself.” 

boudoir-pictures-rochester

I love the blanket images. They feel really luxurious. I’m not wearing anything, so nothing can fit wrong. The images look really cozy and I look comfortable in my own skin. It doesn’t uncover or accent anything that I don’t like about myself. Nothing that I’m wearing is making a statement - it’s just me there.

PARTING THOUGHTS:

“People hate models because their world always looks so perfect and everything is beautiful for them. But I kind of get it now. In these images, everything is perfect, I’m the princess and this is my happy place. We don’t go through our lives living in our happy place, so it’s amazing to see it represented here. I feel like I can go to my happy place when I see these pictures. I think that if I look at these photos enough, I’ll start to think believe I can do this on my own. It’s an example of a way I can be. It’s something you want to be when you look at models, but it’s something I want to be when I see it in myself.

The point of these photos is not to tell the story of my life. It’s partially my life and partially the parts I feel like representing. I’m celebrating what’s good. We’re multifaceted people. I really believe in empowering women to be all the different parts of themselves. As a female who’s had to overcome sexual assault, I wanted to embrace my femininity and encourage other women to do so.” - Katrina

 

Real Women of Rochester | Katrina

Hello Real Women of Rochester followers! I'm excited to present to you Katrina, our very first RWOR. She was the first person to respond to my post, and the first lady to get herself into our studio for her interview, and the first shoot! Today we are sharing her pre-shoot interview -  her thoughts on womanhood, beauty, the project, and why she wanted to be involved. Katrina, I can't thank you enough for your honest and candid reflections, and am SO glad to have you be a part of this project. So without further adieu, meet Katrina....

Katrina - Age 24, Residence: Rochester, Development Associate |  Masters of Music Performance and Literature

Katrina walked into the studio after a long day at work sporting a huge grin. You would have thought she’d won the lotto. But no - she was just that excited to be a part of our Real Women of Rochester project. Katrina is a recent graduate, with a masters degree in  music performance. When she’s not at work, she runs, cooks, and performs on the weekends with her adorable violinist boyfriend.

HER WHY: I was in a relationship for four years that wore me down and made me feel like I had nothing to offer. Once I was out of that relationship, I was able to see myself clearly. I look back at photos taken during that time period and I think - wow, I was beautiful, but I didn’t realize it because I thought so little of myself. I look different now: I’ve gained weight and I’m a few years older.  Years from now I want to look back at this time and place and say, “Yes, I was beautiful.” I want to believe that about myself now, and I need some help crafting that perspective. I hope that this boudoir shoot will help me with this.”

WHAT IS SHE NERVOUS ABOUT? I  feel like maybe I might not have anything to give - that perhaps all the women I’ve seen on your website just showed up ready to be photographed. I consider myself a confident person but I feel pretty lost in this world of boudoir photography. I’m really looking forward to letting Natalie and her team work their magic.


HER THOUGHTS ON BEAUTY: A few months ago I realized I was walking around sucking in my stomach all day. When I finally exhaled, I felt like I hadn’t taken a deep breath in forever. I want everyone to be able to take a deep breath, regardless of whether they feel thin enough or pretty enough. I want to be part of a movement that encourages everyone to be comfortable in their bodies.

HER MISSION: I am a survivor of rape. It took me over a year to realize what had happened to me, and more than two years after that to stop accepting blame for it. (That second part is still a daily battle.) I became inspired to run the Chicago Marathon to raise money for women in African countries who are often assaulted on their multi-mile journey to collect clean water, and in order to really make an impact in my fundraising, I shared my story. I wore a sign on my back during a half marathon in Rochester that said, “Today I run for survivors of rape like me.” I put my story on Facebook and in my alma mater’s newspaper, and that’s how everyone found out what had happened. My family and friends found out via Facebook, because that’s how I needed to tell my story. Telling other people what had happened was one way to remind myself that what happened to me was real, is not my fault, and that what someone did to my body without my consent does not total the sum of the person that I am.

PARTING WORDS: My body belongs to me and only me. Making the decision to do a boudoir shoot is one of many ways that I have chosen to own my body and to continue making empowered decisions around that ownership. I hope that by sharing my story, I can inspire other people to feel ownership of their bodies as well.  

Stay tuned for the reveal of her boudoir shoot next Wednesday...

Boudoir Testimonial: Anniversary Gift

IMAGE & QUOTE POSTED WITH PERMISSION FROM CLIENT

IMAGE & QUOTE POSTED WITH PERMISSION FROM CLIENT

"My experience on the shoot itself was amazing. I had so much fun and it was so much more than I expected it to be. Natalie made me feel absolutely beautiful. I can't put a price on the value of my book- It’s one of the best gifts I was able to give my husband. He was in complete shock and could not believe I did this for him. He said it was amazing, and that he was so proud of me! Everyone at the studio is so fun-loving and sweet. They really made me feel so welcome and made this such a fun photo shoot. I will never forget my experience!"  - Boudoir Client

It's such a treat when clients allow us to share a few images and the love notes they write to us after their shoot! I love that her husband was proud of her for doing this - knowing it was out of her comfort zone. I am proud of her too! Hair & Makeup on this shoot (and every boudoir shoot we do!) is by the ever-talented Special Occasion Hair Design.    - Natalie

Frances Cabrera | V.P. and Mom-To-Be

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Frances greeted me with a sweet voice and the most contagious laugh I’ve ever heard – I sensed immediately how pleasant and kind she is just through the phone. Rising to Vice President by the age of 28, Frances is a corporate queen at Barclays in Manhattan, doing environmental and risk work for the company: “ I’ve been at Barclays for four years. I started doing environmental sustainability for the company and have now expanded into looking at all sorts of risks within our corporate real estate portfolio. It’s been a fun and satisfying challenge navigating the corporate world in the company.”
Frances met Natalie while she was studying at RIT: “We did yearbook together, which is actually how we met,” she said. “At RIT I studied environmental technology and environmental management. I grew up in Southern Virginia – Virginia Beach – and in my seventeen-year-old rebellious state, I wanted to get away and be on my own, so I went to RIT. The snow was worth it – I really liked my program. I’d come back to my dorm room covered in mud after my field biology classes. It was fun to get my hands dirty.”
Natalie shot Frances and her now-husband’s engagement photo shoot after the pair had moved to Brooklyn to start their post-grad life. “My husband Joe moved to Brooklyn after graduation while I stayed in Rochester finishing my master’s degree. I followed after I got my degree. Those first few years in Brooklyn were an awesome adventure. We learned to navigate the city as a team. We did our engagement session in one of our favorite areas – Brooklyn’s Dumbo – it was much more abandoned at the time and its cobblestone streets mostly empty. Now it’s built up and filled with tourists, but it’s cool to have memories of what the area once was through the photos. The photos don’t just capture that special time in our life; they also show the progression of the neighborhood. I’m not one to enjoy having my picture taken, but looking back, I’m so glad I did it.”
Not long after Frances and Joe’s engagement shoot, Natalie shot their wedding in Puerto Rico – Frances’ parents lived there before moving to Virginia, so it was only fitting to get married on the beautiful island. “My family is from the San Juan area. It’s lovely there,” Frances explained. Natalie remembers, "it was incredible to see Frances and her family in their natural element, and then to see Joe's family so welcomed and become such a part of their world. All of this set in one of the most beautiful landscapes I've ever seen. It was truly a celebration of lives and families coming together as one. I also got to salsa dance with her dad, which pretty much made my life." she laughed.
Now, Frances and Joe are expecting their first child. After years of corporate living, Frances is looking forward to spending time being a mother, especially with her company standing behind her through it: “Barclay’s has been more than supportive. I’m excited to leave and be with the baby, but I’m also excited to see where else my work takes me once I'm ready to go back.”
This interview was conducted by our Marketing/Communications intern, Hannah McCarthy, a rising sophomore at Elon University in North Carolina.
ENGAGEMENT PHOTOS AT DUMBO IN BROOKLYN - NATALIE SINISGALLI PHOTOGRAPHY

ENGAGEMENT PHOTOS AT DUMBO IN BROOKLYN - NATALIE SINISGALLI PHOTOGRAPHY

WEDDING PHOTOS IN OLD SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO

WEDDING PHOTOS IN OLD SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO

MATERNITY & FAMILY SHOOT IN AUBURN, NY - NATALIE SINISGALLI PHOTOGRAPHY

MATERNITY & FAMILY SHOOT IN AUBURN, NY - NATALIE SINISGALLI PHOTOGRAPHY

Katie Carey | Rochester Ceramicist

Katie Carey (katiecareyceramics.com)

Katie Carey (katiecareyceramics.com)

A note from Natalie: Katie is one of those incredible humans that once you meet, you just want to be around all the time. Her laugh is infectious and her outlook on life always unique, interesting and entertaining. Her contemporary ceramic work is very much like Katie herself - a bright spot in your day. Check out her website to see her modern, well-designed and at times hilarious work for your home and life.

Photos by: Natalie Sinisgalli

Photos by: Natalie Sinisgalli

And now! Enjoy this interview with the artist herself, courtesy of our intern Hannah McCarthy.

Natalie and I pulled into an industrial part of the city full of brick buildings with uniform windows lining each sturdy wall. Katie Carey, a local ceramist and good friend of Natalie and Whitney's, came outside to lead us up to her studio. The spacious room with plenty of gorgeous sunshine poured in between the dusty, sun-faded window panes. In preparation for my interview with Katie, I perused her website, a beautifully curated collection of her ceramic works. From mugs to “adult chia pets,” as Katie so accurately deemed them, Katie has brought her business motto to fruition: her pieces are well crafted, functional, and made to enhance the home experience.
In the back of her studio sat all of her equipment while pieces of her work lined one of the walls. With a setup this professional, you’d think this career part of her lifelong plan, but it was quite the opposite: “After I graduated from college, a friend and I wanted to do something before our new professional lives. We decided to go live on a farm through WOOF (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms). This farm had artist studios for pottery, weaving, and woodworking. I was introduced to pottery there. I completely fell in love. I loved the little pottery shards that were around, the different glazes and the way you use your hands. It’s been addicting.”
      Several years later, Katie’s hands are still covered in clay. Her passion got her started, but her dedication and stubbornness have kept her going: “It’s kind of a difficult skill to get at first but I was really determined. It’s interesting to see the progress - In past jobs, I couldn’t really measure my progress. Output was more mental and their were no permanent objects. With ceramics, I have a progression from when I started years ago and it’s captured forever in time. I can see so clearly that I’m getting better at something or that I learned something. It memorializes a piece of time.”
      Opening her own studio was a huge leap of faith for Katie, but her journey to get to that point was what prepared her: “ This has been the first year that I’ve had my own space and equipment. In the past, I've done residencies where I was part of a group so I had their support. You have to be a little crazy and say, “I’m just gonna make it work.”
      What’s next for Katie on this incredible journey? "Ideally I'd like to be more integrated into a community, whether it be through teaching, outreach programs, or administration.  I think being in the studio alone for a lot of hours is not sustainable for me. It's glamorous in theory but artists' solitude is not something I strive for. "Maybe I’ll become a soul singer," she teased with a laugh.
This interview was conducted by our new Marketing/Communications intern, Hannah McCarthy, a rising sophomore at Elon University in North Carolina.

Yuliana Yurkevich | Insurance Agency Owner

Yuliana Yurkevich, Insurance Agency Owner

Yuliana Yurkevich, Insurance Agency Owner

Walking into her office, Yuli greeted us with a smile and an enthusiastic wave as she finished one of her many phone calls of the morning. Every minute counts when you’re a #girlboss, right? Showing her hospitable Eastern European roots, she kissed us on the cheek and welcomed us in. It was the first time I had met Yuli, and from the mere 45 seconds I had been in her presence, I could already see why Natalie and Whitney spoke so highly of her. From her posture to her demeanor, Yuli exuded love and gratitude - one of the first things she told us was, “I feel very blessed.” Perhaps the most amazing thing about her was the delicate and unmatched balance between confidence and humility. Being both grounded and successful will do that to you, I guess, along with an inspiring family of role models and their unwavering support.
      With $80 in their pockets, Yuli’s parents moved from Ukraine to the United States in search of the American Dream. Yuli was just 14 years old and in the midst of a pivotal time in a girl’s self-discovery. “It was tough, being a teenager and trying to adapt and blend in, and be normal I guess,” she told us. “I think the biggest dream that I had was probably to become someone. And not necessarily to chase “The Dream,” to make lots of money, but to become a strong woman - to become somebody who can learn and teach and just kind of evolve and continue growing,” she said. It’s 20 years later and she’s done just that. Yuli began working for Allstate as an employee, but after 8 years of hard work, dreaming and planning, she took the leap to start her own agency and landed with both feet firmly planted in the ground.
      “I’m still like, oh my god, I am a business owner, I have employees, and I’m shocked…in a good way. But I still shoot to get a bigger office, or to get more employees to show what I can bring and what I can do so we can be together and be positive and creative.”
      From the minute we stepped in Yuli’s office, the environment was clearly one of teamwork and support. “Issues, problems or happiness, we all face it together,” Yuli said, noting that she and her employees spend more time together than they do with their own families.  A small bulletin board sat near Yuli’s desk: the office vision board. Each employee had a section of it to place snippets of magazines, quotes, or photos. “It’s where we have the little things we want and it’s like, keep looking, we’re gonna get there, wherever it is. We’re a team.”
      Yuli sent us along on our day with swag bags full of pens and water bottles, huge smiles on our faces, and perhaps the most inspiring parting words of all time: “I think if you just keep dreaming, eventually those dreams come true. Keep going for it. Every day is a new challenge and you just gotta grab it and go with it.”

 Hannah McCarthy

 Hannah McCarthy

This interview was conducted by our new Marketing/Communications intern, Hannah McCarthy, a rising sophomore at Elon University in North Carolina.