Real Women of Rochester | Meet Lisa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Real Women of Rochester | 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 (

Cindy |

Cindy |

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



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)



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.



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!).



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]

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.


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.

Real Women of Rochester | Keri

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Real Women of Rochester | Katrina's Shoot Reveal

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


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

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



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


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


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


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

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


Announcing: Real Women of Rochester

Being a boudoir photographer provides me with a unique insight into women's lives. I'm equal parts photographer, psychologist, big-sister-playing-dress-up, and a new found friend. There's something about taking off the daily armor of clothing that breaks down the walls we put up between ourselves and the outside world. What's left is beautiful, honest and most of all - real. Over the years, I've had candid conversations with the many women I've had the privilege of photographing. I let them do most of the talking. These women have experienced many things: the raw beauty and pain of motherhood, infertility, miscarriages and adoption. Some found love after hope was forfeited, or have spent their life feeling overweight or underweight. Some have endured domestic and sexual abuse. The most consistent and disheartening part of these conversations was that at one point, every single woman felt isolated and alone through these struggles. I realized so many women share this common sentiment in navigating through the journey of womanhood. The women’s ages, ethnicity and backgrounds varied but every woman felt isolated, or worse. Some felt harsh judgement or shame about what she was going through. Many felt like their negative experiences were their fault, and that it was a reflection of their lack of womanliness and it affected their sense of sensuality, and self-worth. Many felt that they were less of a woman because of what they had been through.

Hearing so many beautiful, inspiring and courageous women express such similar sentiments felt like a call to action. Reflecting back on these conversations, I realized that not only was it cathartic for these women to feel heard without judgment, it was also an incredible learning experience for me. I felt like I was gaining lessons in womanhood. So many women go through the same things, and I didn’t realize how prevalent and common many of these experiences are. It lead me to believe that other women could benefit from these stories as well.

Not really knowing how to start - I put out a non-model casting call on Facebook for a boudoir shoot in which I would have permission to use the images on my blog, and asked if they would be willing to share a story of their journey through womanhood to go along with it. I hoped I would get a few volunteers. I ended up with 55 responses in 12 hours. The number of incredible stories I received absolutely amazed me. I remember thinking “Wow.... women have been waiting for this”. And that's when Real Women of Rochester was born.

Included in the first chapter of this project are six women ranging from ages 24 to 45 with different careers, upbringings, ethnicities and personalities. Each woman has a compelling story that they were willing to share for the benefit of other women. In the coming months I will be sharing with you the the stories of the women I photographed in hopes of creating a new kind of sisterhood in Rochester. You will see a headshot of each woman as they look on a regular day (sidenote: I dislike the term “Before” shot because it implies there were things that needed to be fixed). You'll get to hear why they wanted to be a part of this project, what their journey through womanhood has brought them, how they felt right before, during and after their boudoir shoot with me, and finally their photo-reveal reactions will be paired with their favorite images.

So, whats the best part? YOU - the women of Rochester get to help shape the direction of this project. The future is unwritten. Your feedback, ideas and comments will shape this project's trajectory! My goal is to discover what's possible when we gather our hearts, minds and bodies as a collective force.  Let's find and celebrate our beauty and strength, and empower ourselves to empower those around us. This is a project by women, for women. Remember ladies, we are never alone.



The Comment section below is open -click to leave your comments! I'm looking forward to your feedback :)

Boudoir Testimonial: Anniversary Gift



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

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

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

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






Yuliana Yurkevich | Insurance Agency Owner

Yuliana Yurkevich, Insurance Agency Owner

Yuliana Yurkevich, Insurance Agency Owner

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

 Hannah McCarthy

 Hannah McCarthy

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


Boudoir Testimonial: "You deserve it."

Below is a testimonial from one of our incredible boudoir clients. Not only did she allow us to share images from her shoot on our blog and website, but she was kind enough to share her experience with us in her own words.... thanks, Ellyn!

"I was definitely nervous to make the call to book the shoot, but by the time I got off the phone with Whitney, I was feeling more excited than nervous. The nervousness did come back, however, when I went to go meet Natalie for my pre-shoot consult--I asked myself, "Why am I doing this? I don't deserve it!" But Natalie immediately put me at ease. After meeting her, I told my husband, "I want us to be friends!" The shoot ended up being an amazing experience. Watching Chrissy do my hair and makeup was like watching myself be photoshopped in real life--so surreal! I definitely found myself feeling more confident as the shoot went on, and by the end of it I didn't want to leave! All the women involved create a fantastically warm and comfortable environment. It's easy to talk yourself of out this luxurious experience: "I don't deserve it, I haven't worked hard enough, I'm not thin enough, I'm not pretty enough..." I think EVERY woman who has done a shoot like this has had those thoughts go through her head--which is exactly why every woman should do it! Take the opportunity to see yourself as your loved ones see you--strong and beautiful."

Hair & Makeup by:  Special Occasion Hair Design  Manicure by:  sunless 2 go

Hair & Makeup by: Special Occasion Hair Design Manicure by: sunless 2 go

Hair & Makeup by:  Special Occasion Hair Design  Manicure by:  sunless 2 go

Hair & Makeup by: Special Occasion Hair Design Manicure by: sunless 2 go

International Woman's Day

Rochester Boudoir Photographer

Today is International Woman's Day. While I frequently find these seemingly random holidays to be little more than a newsfeed annoyance, I actually love the idea behind this one: "political and social awareness of the struggles of women worldwide are brought out and examined in a hopeful manner." (from the wikipedia link, above).

The hopeful examination women's struggles is a big part of the reason I built my boudoir studio. It's not just about celebrating our beauty, femininity, or getting to play dress up for a couple of hours (don't get me wrong, these are also fun and important). I always ask my ladies why they they chose to book a shoot, and I am usually very humbled by their answers. Some women are doing it to reclaim a sexiness they feel they've lost after having a few children. Others are celebrating a divorce, breakup, or exit from a toxic situation. The best is when women have simply chosen to take some time for themselves to feel good. There is so much power in that - choosing to feel good. We've created a safe, welcoming and comfortable environment for women to be able to express their femininity, honor the struggles they've overcome, and steel themselves against the struggles to come. Or simply put, to feel good. We get to celebrate Woman's Day every day, and for that I am incredibly thankful.