Real Women of Rochester | Erin Julian

Erin Julian | Age: 39 | Marketing Maven | @erinleighjulian

Q: Tell us about your journey through womanhood.

A: It's a journey, right? It is hard and fun and ongoing. There are days when I think I have it all figured out and then... well, that will teach me to think I have it all figured out. 

In January 2017, I had to have a hysterectomy. It changes how I saw myself as a woman and how I felt. I had a period of time when I felt that I was less than. It was hard to shake, especially when my body felt so different.  

These photos are proof that I am not less than. I am still the same woman. How powerful is that?

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

A: We all experience things so differently. It is hard to imagine how one woman's experience would feel to her, as it did to me. All we can do is support each other and hope for the best.

Q: What surprised you most about your photography experience?

A: It was so easy and exhilarating. In the moment, I was so wrapped up in the little details. It is hard to imagine how it will look when you are positioning your body in a particular way. Then, Natalie shows you the shot on her camera, and you are like, "Oh, that is why I just did that." It is so neat to see it all come together. 

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

A: I feel glamorous. I sometimes forget it is even me.

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

A: That is bullshit. It just is. We are all beautiful. There is no "maybe when." The time is now. Capture your best self today.

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

A: We need to support each other and build each other up. It makes all the difference in the world. I have so many strong, fierce, powerful women in my life. I have so much gratitude for all of them. They have helped shape me and continue to do so. What a gift. We just need to do that for each other, everyday.

Q: What are your thoughts on beauty?

A: Beauty starts on the inside and with self-love. It's not easy, it's work; however, it is the best work you can ever do.

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

A: I hope that the world we are creating today is a place that offers hope, joy, love, and opportunity. As far as advice goes, I would offer this: always stand up for yourself!

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

A: It gets better.

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

A: Spend less time on doubt and worry; it gets you no where. Spend more time on the things that give you joy.

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

A: When you struggle with self-worth, it can make others take you for granted. That was a hard work environment to be in and it wasn't until I was no longer there that I realized that I was doing great work and added value.  

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

A: The first time Natalie photographed me, I felt more empowered than I ever have. I saw myself that way that many others had and I just never believed it or felt it. It was an incredible day that will stay with me forever. 

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Q: When do you feel the most beautiful?

A: Right after I get out of the shower. It is just me, in the purest form. I love when I get to put on a fancy dress (and that doesn't suck), but I love the simplicity too.

Q: What do you love about being a woman?

A: Everything!

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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 | Ryan Shear

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Ryan Shear  | Age: 35  | Professional Fundraiser

Q: Tell us about your journey through womanhood

A: Let’s begin with the fact that my name is Ryan. I have spent my entire life correcting people who make the assumption that I am a male until they meet me in person. I can see how some girls may get upset and grow to resent the name or her parents for giving her the name. Not me. I love my name. I embrace my name. I rock my name. Who made the decision that the name Ryan had to be limited to a boy? My parents certainly did not (actually, my older sister made the final choice) and I’m thankful for that. So, that’s where my journey began – as soon as I was born! The rest of my journey through womanhood, similar to many others, has been a rollercoaster of emotions; a constant battle with myself trying to figure out who I am. I struggled with body image for several years. I never saw myself the way others did. I was, of course, my own worst critic. I had low self-esteem and it took many years for me to come to terms with it. When I became old enough to date I found myself in back-to-back relationships that were all severely unhealthy. Couple this with low self-esteem and you have yourself a recipe for disaster. I endured years of emotional (and some physical) abuse and convinced myself that this was totally normal. This is love, right? As I was trying to figure myself out I would lose what little of “me” I had and find myself molding to whatever it was that this guy needed or wanted me to be. You would think that after the first relationship like this that I would have learned a lesson, right? I finally came to my senses when I was about 26. I spent 10 years in this never-ending cycle. Thanks goodness for a supportive family and many years of therapy. It would be very easy to look back on all of this and be angry, but I would not be the woman I am today if that were the case. I truly believe that every opportunity is a learning opportunity. If I can use my past to help better another girl or woman’s future, then you best believe that I will. I am so glad that I found the strength within to walk away. Now, instead of following, I lead. I speak my mind. I stand my ground. I am woman, hear me roar!    

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

A: I’ll defer to the late, great Janis Joplin – “Don't compromise yourself. You are all you've got.

Q: What surprised you most about your photography experience?

A: I was surprised at how comfortable and natural it felt. There I was stripping down in front of a (then) complete stranger to be photographed. Had I completely lost my mind? Well, if I had, I’m glad I did! Natalie has an amazing ability to get people to let their guard down. If I was being hard on myself because a little bit of fat was oozing out here and there, she first assured me that I was being crazy and then made me laugh in a way that enabled her to capture incredible photos. Wow – do I really look like that? Awesome. The experience was a huge boost of confidence.

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

A: Damn, girl! But seriously, I feel sexy and beautiful. I clean up well. 

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

A: Don’t be silly. We are all beautiful in our own ways. You will look back on these photos and be so glad that you took the time to do it. The experience alone instills confidence in a way that words just cannot describe. Do it. Do it now.   

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

A: You are not alone. Stop thinking that the weight of the world is on your shoulders. Ask for and accept help from others. 

Q: What are your thoughts on beauty?

A: Beauty comes from within – confidence, strength and a great sense of humor are beautiful. 

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

A: Don’t rush things and take time for yourself. If you still don’t know what you want to be when you grow up, that’s okay. I’m 35, a new mom and I’m still figuring it out, but you know what - I'm happy, I’m loved and that’s all that matters.  

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

A: You look great. You just got your driver’s license and you need to be having fun. You don’t need a boyfriend – you have plenty of time in life for that – you do you. 

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

A: Be kind. Be kind to yourself and be kind to others. Stop obsessing over your outer appearance and stop allowing others to make you feel poorly for who you are. Confidence is beautiful and will take you far in life. Additionally, speak your mind. Choose your words wisely and make your words count.

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

A: I brought a tiny human into this world. Okay, so my husband helped, but I worked HARD. It still amazes me that our bodies are capable of everything that goes along with childbirth. I have a very, very low tolerance for pain and was terrified of labor and delivery. Fortunately, my body did its thing, I needed very little intervention and after one hour of pushing the hardest I have ever pushed in my life, my son arrived, which was a very surreal moment for me. I did it. My husband was beyond impressed with how well I tolerated the pain. About two weeks later I found out that he was trembling the entire time I was pushing! He was a rock for me, but it was kind of cute to hear him say that he was scared.  

Q: When do you feel the most beautiful?

A: My past self would tell my present self that I am crazy for how I am about to answer this question, but I truly feel beautiful after working out. A handful of years ago I started working out with a personal trainer. She helped me discover a physical strength that I never would have imagined. My confidence level skyrocketed as I found something that I really enjoy.  

Q: What do you love about being a woman?

A: I am grateful to be a woman right here and right now. Our world still has work to do toward gender equality, but right now, it’s pretty cool to be a woman. I appreciate that we are emotional creatures who are able to sympathize with the pain of others or cry because we are laughing so hard. Our bodies can create and sustain another human life and then produce the nourishment needed for that baby to grow. That is pretty damn incredible. I love that I can vote, drive a car, dress how I choose…anything…I can do anything I want and I can be whatever I want to be – and that’s amazing.

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Real Women of Rochester - Tiffany

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Q: Tell us about your journey through womanhood

A: Wow! What a question! I guess that would have to start with what that means to me.  My whole life, I have been surrounded by strong women. My mother, my grandmother, my aunts and cousins have all shown strength emotionally and physically. To me a being a woman is, finding that strength within you to be yourself--to live freely. It is to be graceful with each challenge you face but with tenacity and confidence. It is to not cower in the shadow of a man.

 My journey starts with college. After many years of partying, and fulfilling my biology degree requirements I was left thinking what every twenty-something thinks, "What am I doing with my life? Is it even meaningful?" I had goals of being a doctor, and OB/GYN. I wanted to deliver babies and inform women about their sexual health. My passion was deep, but it was also clouded. After many attempts at standardized tests, denied applications and hours of shadow experience I had to throw in the towel. It's hard letting go, I wandered this earth pretty aimlessly. That time even though I had no career goals; I had goals of becoming the woman I have always envisioned myself, just without the job. It took work, to find my confidence, my drive, and myself. But like a strong woman, I pulled through. To be honest, I still have no clue what I am going to do for the rest of my life but that is OK. I will figure it out, or most likely it will appear in my life kicking and screaming.

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

A: To all the women worried about what they are "supposed" to be doing for the rest of their life:  Are you kind to yourself? Are you taking the best care of yourself? Do you leave conversations without doubt or feeling like you had to pretend to be someone? STOP with the smoke screen. Because the more we live authentically ourselves, the more we will be open to what we are actually supposed to do. And I am a firm believer in if we all do something we love, this world will be better off for it. Let your calling actually CALL you.

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

A: I love it! I love that even though I was lost at that point in time, I was still figuring out who I am. It is a time marker, it reminds me all that happened and all that is still left to be. 

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

A: Do you genuinely think that? Because even without seeing you, I know you are beautiful. Be kind to yourself, being you is what this world needs. Photographs are reminders of that. Let the world see how amazing you are. 

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

A: It's ok to be lost. It is ok to not have every detail of your life figured out. Don't rush the process, but also don't wait for things to happen to you. 

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

A: Oh, girl! Men are not everything, you are everything and more. 

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

A: Don't take change for granted. You are all witnesses to a lot of changes happening, politically. Don't forget all the people that have had to fight for equality before you. Do not take anything for granted. 

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

A: Not knowing what my career is. I still don't, but my heart is open. I'm currently work for lululemon, and it has been such a great company to work for. Many people I work with say this company has helped them find what they are good at. So at work I take every opportunity to talk to interesting people, to do things i never would have done before. My hope is by putting myself out there and making myself uncomfortable, I will eventually find my dream career. Secretly, I would love to own a donut shop. But let's be honest, not many of them would make it into the case ;)

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

A: Realizing my value, realizing my inner strength and my possibility. It wasn't one experience but a collection of many. A year ago my husband Andrew got matched to a program in Long Island. Let me preface, I knew no one and had no job prospects. The only thing I knew about Long Island were the Hamptons, the horrible traffic and the ice coffee was good. Being in this new situation I made a conscious decision to just put myself out there and see what happens. I set low expectations but high standards. I definitely gained self-love, learned what I am good at and became inspired. I spoke up more, did things I never would have done, talked to random strangers. I think the moment you decide to step outside your fear, is the moment you give yourself a little more out of life. 

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Q: When do you feel the most beautiful?

A: Working out, because somehow my inner strength (my self-confidence, my lack of doubt, my fearlessness) is matched by my outer strength. It is pretty euphoric. 

Q: What do you love about being a woman?

A: Everything, my body, my mind, and my soul. The fact that I get to dress the way I want. That I get to make love to my husband. I can be a mother someday and have a special connection with another human. My strength, we are so much stronger than men. 

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Real Women of Rochester | Natasha Scrivens

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Natasha Scrivens  | Age: 36  |  Profession: Pharmacist

Q: Tell us about your journey through womanhood

When most teenage girls where worried about if the cute boy would be in their English class or what clothes to wear and how to do their makeup for school, I was faced with an entirely different problem in my early teens.  I remember laying in the back seat of the mini-van while my mom sped down the road to get me to the ER.  The doctor had called her moments earlier, my blood sugar was so high it was unreadable on their machines.  She was told I had to be admitted to the hospital ASAP. As I laid in the back of the car crying, it took too much energy to keep my eyes open - all I wanted to do was sleep.  What did this mean?  What was happening to me?  Was I going to die?  All questions that went through my head. I knew I was sick, I knew I didn't feel well.  While my friends where chasing boys that summer, I was in a hospital room learning how to test my blood sugar, draw up insulin and give myself shots to stay alive.  In many ways being diagnosed as a type 1 diabetic has molded me into the woman I am now.

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I come from a family of immigrants.  I grew up listening to languages that most people do not recognize.  I have two grandmothers (and grandfathers ) who immigrated here as young adults.  Although both came from different countries, both left everything they knew for a better life.  Both women were/are strong willed and determine.  l carry on their determination.  I would not let diabetes hold me back in what I wanted to accomplish.  I've heard so many times I could not succeed in the path I was walking.  I would not listen.  Like my grandparents I knew anything was possible with a little hard work.

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

Hang on, things will get better.

Q: What surprised you most about your photography experience?

I was surprised by how comfortable Natalie made me feel.  I am one that likes to be covered up, so the thought of being in my bra and underwear and having my pictures taken was horrifying. Natalie's personality put me right to rest.  We ended up laughing through the shoot.  

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

I feel beautiful, strong, and sexy.  I also feel like passing them out to to all my classmates in middle school and high school that used to make fun of me.  

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

You are beautiful!  Everyone is different, our differences make us beautiful. 

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Q: What are your thoughts on beauty?

Beauty can come in many forms.  You don't have to be blonde, blue eyes, and 90 lbs to be beautiful.  Beauty comes from the inside and how you hold yourself.  You can be beautiful in jeans and a sweatshirt or a gorgeous wedding gown.  

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

My hopes for the next generation of women is to hold high-power positions. Yes there are a lot of women already in high-power positions, but if you look at the top companies in the US they are mostly run by men.  There is no reason why a women shouldn't be running these companies.  My advice would be pull your shoulders back, chin up and get what you deserve.  You know you are capable of it, attack it! You deserve it.

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

It's okay to fail, and you are beautiful.  You will find someone one day, that loves you and puts up with all your short comings.  And listen to your parents, hard work when you are young will pay off when you are older.

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

Nothing is easy.  If being successful was easy we would all do it.  Hard work and determination is the only way you will succeed.  Find something you love, make goals and work towards them.  You may fail, it may take you longer to reach them, but the feeling you get when you meet your goals is the most fantastic feeling in the world.

Q: When do you feel / have you felt most beautiful?

On my wedding day.  Or on date nights when I see my husband smile as he introduces me to his friends or co-workers.  

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Q: What do you love about being a woman?

The opportunity it has given me.  I can be the powerful woman at work that has the answers to your questions. I can be the competitive women that makes bets with you and does everything I can do to win.  And I can be the woman that walks into the room who turns heads. Strong, fierce and beautiful.  :)  

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Valentine's Day Inspired Boudoir Shoot!

Hand-lettered valentines, tulle, lipstick and kisses... what's not to love?! Enjoy this bright and fun little Valentine's Day inspired styled shoot that we put together for you :)

ROSE: STACY K FLORAL | HAND-LETTERED VALENTINE: SUGAR & TYPE

ROSE: STACY K FLORAL | HAND-LETTERED VALENTINE: SUGAR & TYPE

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HAND-LETTERED VALENTINE: SUGAR & TYPE

HAND-LETTERED VALENTINE: SUGAR & TYPE

SHOUT-OUTS TO OUR INCREDIBLE TEAM:

Model: Gina Mattice
Hair & Makeup: Special Occasion Hair Design
Nails: Sunless2Go
Rose: Stacy K Floral
Valentines: Sugar & Type
Video: Julia Hart Productions
Photography: Natalie SinisgallI Photography

VIDEO BY: JULIA HART PRODUCTIONS

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

10 Reasons NOT To Do A Boudoir Shoot

Hello ladies! I've complied a list of the top 10 reasons (i.e. excuses!) I hear from women about why they will not / should not / or cannot do a boudoir shoot...

1. I need to lose weight first. This is the most common excuse we hear for why someone won't book a boudoir shoot. I have an entire blog post devoted to this concern, but here's the heart of it: your shoot is about so much more than just the shape of your body. It's my job to make you comfortable so I can capture your genuine laugh, the sparkle in your eyes, and all the other quirks that make you "YOU". Besides, expert posing, lighting, lens choice, wardrobe, and image composition will having you looking slimmer than you have ever thought possible! You are not defined by your size, so don't let it keep you from feeling good about the incredible woman you are.

2. I'm not young enough for that. The more years you've lived, the more you have to celebrate! I have photographed women of all ages, and quite a few of my all-time-favorite shoots have fallen into the 50+ age bracket. There is a certain sensuality and confidence that comes only with age, and even though you may not be as toned or taut as you once were - it honestly couldn't matter less. I will guide you through wardrobe selection and posing that will highlight your best assets and capture that firey spunk that has only gotten stronger with age!

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3. I shouldn't spend the money on myself. Think of it as an investment in your self-confidence. I especially hear a lot of moms feeling guilty for spending time and money on themselves instead of their kids. I'm a big believer that you can't pour from an empty cup, and that it's important for kids to have a mom that is comfortable in her own skin and loves and accepts her body. Wouldn't you want your kids to be able to love and accept their bodies without self-criticism and doubt? An investment in yourself IS an investment in your family. Not only that, but these portraits will likely be one of the only things you purchase this year that actually appreciate in value over time.

4. I don't have anything sexy to wear. Well, not wearing anything is certainly an option :) But seriously - a boudoir shoot is not about shopping or reinventing yourself into who you think you "should" be. While it can be a fun excuse to buy some new bras or panties, my favorite way to photograph a woman is in her favorite everyday outfit. Even if we deconstruct it a bit (think: your favorite leather jacket with just a bra underneath), your photos should reflect exactly who you are, and part of who you are is what you like to wear and feel comfortable in.

5. I don't do lingerie. Who said you need lingerie? As I mentioned above, the best outfits are those that are true to your identity. If lingerie isn't your thing - let's figure out what your version of "sexy" is. Maybe it's your man's oversized dress shirt and tie on your womanly figure - or maybe it's his Bills jersey. You really can't go wrong with the basics - a white cami or a black dress can be as sexy as thigh highs any day.

6. I don't want my pictures on the internet. We take your privacy very seriously, and only post images with 100% consent of our clients. We understand that doing a boudoir shoot is an incredibly personal endeavor, and you are in complete control of where your images exist after your shoot.

7. I don't have anyone to give it to /  my spouse wouldn't approve. While some women do book a shoot to give as a gift to their partner, every woman agrees after doing the shoot that it was actually a gift to herself. Our studio is a safe, comfortable judgement-free zone in which you will have the opportunity to feel beautiful and valued. This shoot is really only about one person - YOU.

8. I'm just not "sexy". Not a single woman comes into my studio knowing how to "look sexy" for their boudoir shoot. This will be the most guided experience of your life. It's not your job to know how to pose; it's my job to know how to coach you. All the women you see in our gallery are regular gals, they are not models, and they are not any different than you. If you bring me your authentic self and a few of your favorite items of clothing, I will show you how sexy you already are.

9. I have NO idea how to do my own hair and makeup. We count ourselves lucky to work with Special Occasion Hair Design on every single boudoir shoot we do. We believe having professional hair and makeup is an integral component of your shoot, which is why it is included in your session fee. Chrissy comes to our studio and will spend the first hour of your shoot styling your hair and makeup to best accentuate your features and reflect your personal style.

10. [ENTER YOUR OWN PERSONAL HANG-UP HERE]. Your fear and self-doubt can come up with endless reasons for you to not do anything outside your comfort zone. It's a biological response to anything we deem "scary". It's up to you to choose if you're going to be more loyal to your fears, or to yourself. If you'd like to learn more about doing a boudoir shoot, check out our website and give us a call. We'd love to help show your inner rockstar :)

Real Women of Rochester | Cindy's Photo Reveal

Last week Cindy shared the story of her life's journey with us, and why she wanted to be a part of the project. This week, we have her images accompanied by her thoughts during every step of the process, as well as what her images mean to her!

IN HER HEAD BEFORE THE SHOOT: I try not to have expectations so that when I go into things it’s neither good nor bad. It just is what it is. I can never know what’s going to happen, so I don’t want to have an expectation. It helps me from getting nervous or anxious, I just take it for what it is. That's been my outlook since I was 20 and went to study abroad in Scotland by myself. That prepared me for many things in life. I was completely on my own. As soon as you think things will go badly, it usually will go badly. And if you think it will go well, then you might be disappointed. Before my shoot I knew I had prepared the best I could, and therefore I felt ready for whatever it would be.

IN HER HEAD, DURING THE BOUDOIR SHOOT: How fun it was! It was exciting and freeing and I felt very comfortable during the shoot. I didn’t know what it would be like, but like I said I felt very prepared. I knew what clothing and jewelry I was going to wear, and I loved all the new things I brought - I had everything I needed. I never would’ve picked out the blue set, but the woman at Victoria's Secret (Charlie, in the Greece mall!) picked it out. And she was right. I love it! I have to write her a thank you card.

HER THOUGHTS ON HER BOUDOIR PHOTOS: It’s so hard not to compare yourself to other people, especially with bathing suit season upon us. But I look at these images and I think to myself, 'why haven’t you worn a bikini? Why haven’t you ever invested in that? You look good!' I wonder what my hesitations were – looking back now, I don’t get it. It really does make me feel very good about my body and that it’s a strong, healthy body. This body has had two kids. It makes me feel good, ya know? I’d never had my hair and makeup done so that in and of itself was great. I’ve always done spa stuff as a form of self care. I get massages every month, facials, pedicures, manicures. I consider that maintenance, and I consider that health; taking care of myself physically. This was exciting for me, because now I think maybe I will get my hair and makeup done more, and maybe I will do some more photography in the future. It opened up a whole other arena of feeling good about myself! Same with the shopping component - I had never purchased nice underwear before this. I'd always buy the exact same underwear. I thought - 'Why bother? No one sees it'. Now I see the value. Why wouldn’t you wear something pretty underneath your clothes? The whole process was so fun for me. Going into the shoot I was hoping to see myself as beautiful – and that was absolutely met. I love the proportions of my body. I love my legs, and my neck too. Sometimes I don’t realize how confident I am or how I can present myself. I forget my own strength.

PARTING THOUGHTS: I wanted to be a part of a community of women who celebrate and empower each other. It is so in line with what I do for a living as a wellness coach. I help people identify a wellness plan for their life. I love working with people in their 30s, because so many things happen in your life at that time; getting married, having kids, buying a home. We have such a healthcare issue and a savings issue in this country. If you’re not saving and you’re not taking care of yourself, you’re going to be in dire need when you’re in your 60s, and you’re not going to be able to live the lifestyle you dreamed of. If you don't have your health, all of your money will go to wellness and medical expenses. So my purpose is to educate people early enough in their life to make those changes. I help them create a plan based on their goals, and I serve as their accountability manager to help them get to where they want to be. I didn't find my purpose until later in life, but all of the information I have gathered in my twenty years of education and knowledge - including my business degree, my massage therapy degree, and me being a researcher into wellness prepared me for this- my ultimate path in life.

I would highly recommend women do this for themselves because I think stepping outside of yourself, and to be able to see yourself from another person’s perspective is a great way to change your own belief system about yourself. You rarely get to see yourself through another person’s eyes. I think this is a glimpse of that in a safe, comfortable, positive way. You get to see yourself in a different light; in a way that you never will again in your life. It’s a much more intimate experience than just having a head shot done.

And for the record, here's the head shot she originally called me for to promote her wellness business, which we did during her boudoir shoot as well ;)

Real Women of Rochester | Cindy

Cindy has many wonderful qualities, but one that really stood out to me upon meeting her is that she's very present. Authentic. She's standing in front of you, meeting you right back, and there's no where else she'd rather be. She's an incredible listener, gives the best hugs, stands tall, and for lack of a better term - really has her sh*t together :) I've enjoyed getting to know Cindy immensely, I hope you all do as well...

Cindy - 40, Residence: Rochester. Wellness Advocate, Corporate Convert and Energetic Entrepreneur (cindysessentials.com)

Cindy | Cindysessentials.com

Cindy | Cindysessentials.com

HER WHY: My life changed completely about four and a half years ago when I went to a home class to learn about Essential Oils. At that point in my life I was working as a Human Resources Consultant. My commute was about an hour each way and just like most people I was juggling working, being a mom, wife and had lost a piece of who I was.

My initial focus for going to the class was to learn more natural ways to help my daughter who had asthma. I am also a Licensed Massage Therapist, so natural wellness has always been my passion. Little did I know that getting a membership that night would not only transform our family’s physical health, but also allow me to tune in to and follow my life’s purpose.

Fast forward 4 years and I am looking for head shots for my business, but kind of knew that Natalie also did boudoir photos. I had cut my safety net of consulting two years earlier and hopped on the entrepreneur roller coaster. When I talked with Amy, she told me Natalie doesn't focus on headshots, but she does do boudoir and that I could add on a headshot to that type of shoot if I was interested. My friend had done boudoir photos, and it was a very special experience for her. It had always been in the back of my head, (and my husbands after I mentioned it to him) and I decided that I might as well do it!

It was my way of telling myself it was okay, because I was getting headshots out of it, but ultimately it was a 40th birthday gift to myself and I knew it would be a pretty awesome Father’s Day gift!

HER THOUGHTS ON BEAUTY: I am beautiful at forty. I wouldn’t have been able to say that earlier in my life. I was known as the nice one, smart one, athletic one, but not the beautiful one. Funny how other people’s perception starts to work inside you. For the past forty years, I identified with those characteristics and didn’t really think about beauty. I didn’t wear a lot of dresses or makeup or ever buy frilly underwear and very feminine clothing. It just didn’t feel right. This past year I started a program called Dressing Your Truth with Carol Tuttle and I started to recognize that what I wore really did have a lot to say about who I am. Prior to the class, I would wear black, white, grey and navy blue. After recognizing which type I really was inside, those colors and styles actually were presenting a false picture of me. I am a Type 3. My words are Active, Reactive, Textured, Angular, Rich, Substantial, Dynamic and Swift. Interestingly enough, on the color palate, black, white, grey and navy are absent! I started shopping differently, trying new clothing and I felt so much better.

My idea of beauty is to know who you are and take care of yourself. Beauty is understanding your strengths and realizing your potential, in all areas of life. Beauty is being healthy. It takes time and effort to peel away all the layers of what society, your family, and your friends think of as beautiful. When I was younger, I thought I had to fit into a mold or prove something. I now realize, I am me, I am perfect and the more me I become, the more beautiful I am! When you take care of yourself, your outside is going to reflect it. People tend to radiate a certain glow when they are healthy. That is what I want to teach people.

WHAT IS SHE NERVOUS ABOUT: Being exposed. I do not wear bikinis, I rarely wear shorts. I own one pair. I don’t wear sports bras without a shirt - my stomach is never exposed. I tend to cover up. I don’t know why, I don’t think I have an awful body. I've just never thought the world needed to see it? Being exposed, in particular, is very vulnerable. I knew once it’s out there, it’s out there. Deep down I think there is also that little voice in the back of your head that says, “What will other people think?” I want to break free from that thinking all together so I decided to go for it!

HER MISSION: I saw the other women who are on the website and I was so impressed with their strength. I want to be part of a community of women who celebrate and empower each other. I think it’s very special to have your picture taken by a professional photographer first off and then even more evocative when you have on less clothes than you normally wear. I loved working with Natalie because she is an artist and for that small moment, I was her canvas. It’s very empowering. There are so many things that degrade women in our society and tell them not to be beautiful, not to express themselves fully and that shouldn’t be the case.

I want other women to see it as that, and want them to feel empowered to do it themselves. By me revealing myself, I hopefully give others that strength. I think the line from Maryanne Williamson’s poem, Our Deepest Fear sums it up pretty well, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” I want us all to recognize the power we have inside.

PARTING WORDS: I mentioned earlier that in the beginning I felt like I needed an excuse to book the session, I did it to get some headshots and as a Father’s Day gift. I now know that wasn’t the case. I wanted this experience for me. To have this experience and give it to myself is not something that most women allow themselves. It’s unfortunate because a lot of us (me included) would only book a session as a gift to their partner. What you don't realize is that once you get here, the experience is really yours. And that's a magical gift. The resulting outcome (a book) may end up being theirs, but it’s also yours. It’s a great gift to yourself and I think you realize that during and after your shoot.

 

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 | Erin

Erin is one of the strongest, warmest,  get-shit-done kind of women I've ever had the pleasure to meet. Her laugh is infectious, and I am so glad she has come into my life. She spent a great deal of her adult life helping others, and was eager to be a part of this project.

Erin - 37, Residence: Rochester, Product Associate

HER WHY: I have found that often women don't support other women, and to me that is one of the biggest mistakes that we can make. It's not a competition, we all can be winners. Whenever there is an opportunity to elevate women and who they are as their true selves, not what someone else makes them to be, that is a home run. That's what makes me so excited about this project. I think that when you take the time to reach out and connect other women and you're empowering other women, you're also doing something for yourself. There's a gift in that.

HER THOUGHTS ON BEAUTY: I'm not a hair-and-makeup girl. So to be able to be that, even for that brief moment of time, was a lot of fun for me. Do I look like that everyday at my desk? Absolutely not! However, I saw myself in a way that I know other people do, and to be able to see that and appreciate it in a way I don't think I ever had before was a big deal. Whether I'm wearing a sexy nighty or a dress, I think that's irrelevant. It was the actual experience in itself and how that allowed me to view myself in a more positive light.

WHAT IS SHE NERVOUS ABOUT: In my head I had this image of what it had to be; garter belts and corsets. I was nervous because of that feeling of not knowing what you don't know. And then that slowly eroded over time as I learned more and became more comfortable with the process, and sat down with Natalie. And then I was like, “this is a piece of cake." It was just the fear of the unknown and that I would not be able to be authentic to who I was.

HER MISSION: I'm beyond 10 pounds overweight. Although I jokingly refer to myself as a plus-size model (I haven't modeled anywhere!) but I am comfortable in my own skin. I feel like being able to participate in this experience makes you aware of your body in ways you never were before, definitely in a positive light and not a negative. I can go to the pages of Vogue and I'm not going to see someone who looks like Erin Julian. But now I will have a book where I can see myself in a way that is both beautiful but also something I am incredibly proud of. Why wouldn't you want to do that for yourself?

PARTING WORDS: I don't know exactly why it's so hard for women to feel like they're “enough." I could give you a laundry list but I don't think it's adequate. I'm definitely someone who has struggled with my weight my whole life. I weighed 85 pounds when I graduated high school, and I thought I was overweight. Frankly, how f*cked up is that? I never grew up in a household where I felt like I was inadequate or not pretty or not the right size. I have loving, amazing, super generous parents that never made me doubt that. But I do think there's something in the outside world where we're often compared to people, where it's a competition. It doesn't matter if it's men or women, it just breeds an unhealthy atmosphere. It's like, “I'm not tall enough.” Well guess what? You're 4'10”, you're never going to be tall. Then it's “my hair would look so much better if it was blow-dried straight today."You say all those little things to yourself and it may not even be one particular outside influence, I think we're just inundated. Sometimes it's well-meaning friends. I have definitely experienced it in the corporate world also. I think it's epidemic - maybe that's a strong word, but I do. 

How To Buy Thigh Highs

WIDE LACE TOP - STAY-UPS, PAIRED WITH DECORATIVE GARTER BELT

WIDE LACE TOP - STAY-UPS, PAIRED WITH DECORATIVE GARTER BELT

A lot of women prepping for their boudoir shoots tell me they have never worn thigh highs. I should mention that it's by no means mandatory to bring these to your shoot if you don't find thigh highs to be your particular brand of sexy. They are however very popular, and many women do choose to purchase a pair for their shoot. It's all fun and games until you realize exactly how many options there are... here's a little guide to your legs' new best friends!

1. TYPE (Stay Up vs. Traditional). This is the most important thing to know when in the market for thigh highs! Any given pair is either of the "stay up" variety which means that it has a silicone band inside the top to keep it up, OR they are the traditional plastic-free variety that require a garter belt.

STAY UPS (most popular)

VICTORIA'S SECRET -  STAY UP THIGH HIGHS

VICTORIA'S SECRET -  STAY UP THIGH HIGHS

PROS: These are a great option if you don't want to wear or purchase a garter belt, it's one stop shopping! They also tend to be more useful in "real life" scenarios due to the fact that garter belts can't be worn under tight dresses without showing. They are also much more popular in our modern day hosiery market so you will likely have many more styles to choose from, including different patterns, colors and designs. Eighty percent of my clients bring these into my studio. The nice part, is that even though you don't need one, you can still wear a garter belt for photo purposes!

CONS: This is a big one - they tend to create a bulge. Think: muffin top for your thigh. While we can definitely work around this through a combination of posing, styling, and retouching, if you're self-conscious about your legs looking chubby, you're probably not going to feel very confident in these.

 


TRADITIONAL

GERBE Traditional non-stay up thigh highs, with backseam and cuban heel

GERBE Traditional non-stay up thigh highs, with backseam and cuban heel

PROS: You can completely avoid the leg "muffin-top" bulge, as these do not squeeze your thighs at all!  Garter belts oftentimes prove to be a more secure method of keeping your hose up than the sticky plastic you'll find in modern stay ups, especially depending on the quality (cheaper pairs tend to fall down more frequently).

CONS: They tend to be a little harder to find and with considerably fewer options. The options, however, are usually classic and beautiful (backseam is a hallmark of classic thigh highs, pictured left). You MUST wear a garter belt in order to keep them up, which can limit your clothing options (no tight dresses for you!).

 

 

2. PRICE: There are several different brands to fit every style and budget! Here are a few of the most popular....

High end ($50+): For the woman who wants to wear thigh highs on the regular, you truly get what you pay for when it comes to hosiery. These are snag, rip, and tear resistant, and are incredibly luxurious to the touch. It's best to never grace your legs with these sumptuous silks if don't want to pony up $50 or more, because speaking from experience, it's very hard to go back.

  • Wolford
  • Maison Close

Mid level ($15-30): These are great brands to try out in the $15-30 range because you'll get the quality you want for semi-regular wear without the price tag you can expect from higher end brands. You'll find plenty of different styles and designs to choose from.


Low end ($8-15): Here's a great place to start if you have never worn thigh highs before and suspect you will never wear them again after your shoot. You can find these brands online and in stores like Marshall's, or at most department stores at the mall. These will definitely last the duration of your shoot and likely for a few more wears if you end up deciding you like them (or you start getting requests from your partner...).

  • Hue
  • Berkshire

 


3. FIT:  It's really important your thigh highs fit properly, so make sure to read the sizing chart provided with whichever brand you are purchasing. If you are between two sizes, try them on or just purchase both - you can always return the ones that don't fit. Too small and your legs will look like sausages in too small a casing (!), too big and they will fall down, driving you insane in the process.

4. COLOR & STYLE: For my boudoir shoots, I really recommend black or nude. Red and white tend to look costumey, so unless you've got your heart set on either, I'd opt for black or whatever nude is for your skin tone. The other styling elements are up to you! Scalloped lace tops are very popular (shown below), you can also find satin top bands if lace is not your thing. I am a fan of both sheer and fishnet materials (sheer on left, fishnet on the right). The other most common styling option you'll see is "backseam" (featured in the Gerbe package above) and is exactly what it sounds like - a seam running up the back of the stocking. It's a very vintage sexy look that will go well with most any outfit - especially something classic (think black dress or bra and panty set with pearls!).

LEFT: NUDE SCALLOPED LACE TOPRIGHT: BLACK SCALLOPED LACE TOP FISHNETS. BOTH BY FREDERICK'S OF HOLLYWOOD (www.fredericks.com)

LEFT: NUDE SCALLOPED LACE TOPRIGHT: BLACK SCALLOPED LACE TOP FISHNETS. BOTH BY FREDERICK'S OF HOLLYWOOD (www.fredericks.com)

Now you have all the facts! So go forth and find the perfect pair(s) for you! I even have a few emergency back up pairs at my studio - but if you do decide to buy some for your shoot, I'd like you to buy a pair you feel comfortable in and will wear again, If only in the bedroom ;)

[EDITOR'S NOTE: I purchased 3 pairs while researching for this blog post... #workplacehazards]

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.

Why You Shouldn't Lose 10 lbs Before Your Boudoir Shoot

Hi ladies! This is one I hear frequently - so I want to take this opportunity to set your minds at ease. You do not need to lose 10 (20, 30, ANY) lbs. in order to do a boudoir shoot. And here's why...

1. This shoot is not about the size of your body. A boudoir shoot has so much more to do with who you are than what your body looks like. It's a celebration of your femininity, inner-strength and self-love, which is not limited by the shape or size of your body. It's my job as your photographer to create a comfortable and fun environment in which you can be yourself and let your inner personality shine through. EVERY woman with every body can do a boudoir shoot and look and feel beautiful.

2. It will not really make a difference in your photos. The reality is that posing, lens choice, lighting, camera angles, (did I mention posing?!) and wardrobe will have SO much more impact on your photographs than a few lbs here or there will. I PROMISE. It your photographer's job to flatter your body, whatever shape or size it is, it's not up to you to make your body perfect for your photographer.

Mahan-Boudoir-285.jpg

3. You're punishing yourself. I think a lot of women use extra pounds as an excuse to not embrace and love themselves. They feel like because their bodies do not look how they think they should (which is a whole separate conversation...), that they are not worth treating themselves well. They are not worth loving. What if you never lose the weight? Does that mean you never deserve to feel beautiful? We've got to stop assigning so much value to the number on the scale and start caring for ourselves and each other the way we are right now.

4. You are perfect as you are. I truly believe every woman is perfect exactly how they are today. We are a product of our experiences in life, and your body has gotten you to wherever you are. Think of the incredible things your body does for you every day. You can kiss your loved ones with your lips, hug your children with your arms, prepare nourishing meals with your hands, walk anywhere on your legs. Whether you're a wife, a girlfriend, a mom, a sister, a daughter, a friend, an executive, stay at home mom, or just a general bad-ass lady - embrace yourself as a whole. "Imperfections" and all. Our differences are what makes us all beautiful, and it's time you celebrate yourself exactly as you are. You are ready and you are worth it.

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's Shoot Reveal

In case you missed it, here's a link to last week's post on Keri and why she wanted to be one of our RWOR ladies (for the record, in my head I pronounce this "RAWR!"). Today's post details what Keri had to say about the entire experience of her shoot, and what her photos mean to her!

IN HER HEAD BEFORE THE SHOOT: "When I initially called Natalie I was like 'HOLY SHIT. HOLY SHIT. HOLY SHIT'. I saw her ad about 6 times before I called. I showed up to my shoot early because I thought I'd chicken out if I didn't leave my house. When I arrived at the studio I was in a vulnerable state of mind. It's a risk to be taking a lot of clothing off! But from the moment I walked in, the energy was great – they made me feel safe and comfortable. The only anxiety I held onto was knowing that these images would be out somewhere in the world, and I didn't want to disappoint Natalie and her hopes for the project.

IN HER HEAD, DURING THE BOUDOIR SHOOT: It’s like theater. You’re creating a personae. With hair and makeup, false eyes lashes and wardrobe suggestions, we took me to this next level. The makeup wasn't scary or strange, I just looked like the best version of me. The scariest part was the very beginning. I put on the first outfit in the changing room and thought – 'OK....... I’ve got to walk out at some point!' Once we started shooting, it became fun.Natalie would turn the camera around to show me the shots – and I knew it wasn't BS when she told me I looked great. I looked and felt glamorous and beautiful.

HER THOUGHTS ON HER BOUDOIR PHOTOS: I look like I've got my shit together. I look like a boss. It makes me feel powerful. The woman in (this photo, below) is in control of what she's doing, and she knows who she is. It makes me proud. It's the best me. Maybe this is how other people perceive me [editor's note: it's how I perceive Keri!].

When I see these photos it's not “I'm not this”… it's “I AM this”. They make me think about what I am, not what I'm not. It's affirming to think that it's not a fluke.... I looked at 120 pictures, and I liked 90 of them. That's crazy amount of photos where I thought “wow – I look awesome”.

My favorite photos are not when I'm wearing anything crazy or even lingerie, but when I'm in my husband's shirt. This section is my favorite because I love my face and my eyes especially. I feel like this is the most authentic to how I might actually be, when I'm hanging out or goofing around with my husband.

I like that I had a full choice in what I brought, it was all things I actually wear. They didn't dress me in someone else's clothes and tell me what to wear, I picked things I felt good in. In some ways, this type of shoot is subscribing to what society is asking of us, but we also have the choice and I empowered myself by choosing what I think I look best in. This whole process brought out the best me – it wasn't changing what I looked like – It just accentuated my best parts. I also love the simplicity in the images - there are no props. The focus is completely on me, I look very much like 'me'- and I look pretty damn good. I feel proud of my body.

PARTING THOUGHTS: Doing this shoot helped to make me start noticing my attributes, not my flaws. I’ve always struggled with my weight. I would always look in the mirror and nitpick the stupidest things that no one would ever pay attention to. After going through this whole process, I've been able to stop being so critical. I love my eyes, and I can notice them more now. I've started to pull back from so much hate speech towards myself. While I initially wanted to do a boudoir shoot as a gift for my husband, it ended up as a gift for myself. I didn’t even feel this beautiful on my wedding day. I left feeling like I’m a bad ass. It was a natural high. Every women deserves to have a moment where they feel like a complete rock star.

I've struggled with infertility, I can't have children. I've put my body through a lot trying to conceive – hormones and steroids. I've had ectopic pregnancies. You start to think that you are not worthwhile, because your body can't do something that you see so many other women being able to do. It is nice to see value you in myself again. Seeing my body as something to be proud of, instead of something that's frustrating or disappointing. Being infertile 100% feels like my fault. My husband gets upset with me when I say that, but I feel like it's because my eggs are past expiration. It's heartbreaking to expose yourself to that entire process, trying to do everything that you can, and have it not work out. You feel like your body is letting you down, and it's easy to feel less feminine when something very tied to your womanhood isn't working. It's powerful for me to see my body in a beautiful way, and that even though I can't have a child and that my extra pounds are still there, my body is still worthwhile. When I look at these photos I feel like I own my body, instead of being ashamed or disappointed by it. My body is mine, and I am proud of it." - Keri

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.