Self-love is hard, especially as a woman. There’s a voice in our heads that’s conditioned by society to ask us questions like, Are you small enough? Are you curvy enough? Are you proportionate enough? How’s your skin? What can your body offer the men of this world? And here’s a fun fact: When your husband walks out on you, all of a sudden, that voice in your head gets a lot louder.
At the beginning of 2020, I signed up for a year-long influencer program for Bethany Quinn Studios; Bethany is an Indy-based photographer who exclusively shoots black-and-white boudoir. Her mission is to empower the modern woman through her photography and let me tell you, she does the damn thing. She is a true master of her craft, both in the stunning images she creates and the transformative experience that she provides. So, needless to say, I was ecstatic to join her influencer program – now, I just had to wait until June for my first photoshoot.
As we all know, by the time June 2020 arrived, the world had gone to hell. I, along with everyone else, got used to expecting the unexpected. One thing I was not prepared for, however, was getting a text (yes, a text) from my husband saying that he wasn’t happy, so he was leaving.
Out of the blue. While I was out for the day. Six days after our wedding anniversary. A text.
That voice I mentioned earlier? Suddenly she was armed with an updated questionnaire: What did you do wrong? Did you say something? Is it because you’re not as attractive as you were when you first met? Or maybe you’re just not capable of romantic love?
This all happened just a couple of weeks before my first shoot, and let me tell you, the idea of being photographed did NOT sound fun at that moment. My enthusiasm for the entire program had drastically diminished. It took a lot of pep talks and deep breathing exercises to get me out the door and into the studio. I showed up feeling defeated, lost, and vulnerable – PERFECT for being photographed naked. But hey, the theme of the first shoot was Dark and Moody – so at least I had that going for me!
Bethany and I have known each other for a while, so I made sure to loop her in before I arrived. The moment I walked in, she embraced me in the warmest hug. She took the time to talk to me before we began the shooting process, and she ensured me that we could take breaks whenever I needed.
I had never done any kind of modeling before, so I was already a bit nervous when I signed up for the program. And although I was confident in who I am as a person, I lacked confidence in my physical appearance. Yet there I was: newly single, hemorrhaging confidence, sitting with my tits out in front of a lens. Here we go.
Bethany guided me through poses effortlessly. She would squeal with delight when we would nail a shot, causing my confidence to rise a tiny bit more with every exclamation. As we moved through the shoot, I felt like I could breathe a little easier. I was doing it, and I was doing it well.
The most shocking part of the process, however, was when I viewed the photos. I fully expected the sense of euphoria to wear off, resulting in an all-out cringefest while I picked apart every imperfection I could find on my body. Much to my surprise…I loved them.
When I looked at the photos, I saw myself differently. I saw a woman who was not defined by her brokenness. She was a woman picking up her broken pieces and putting herself back together however she saw fit, answering to no one. She was liberated.
And that was just the first photoshoot.
The year-long program became a transformative experience. It allowed me to explore my emotions in ways I never expected – both in and out of the studio.
To fulfill my duties as an “influencer,” I had to share some of my photos on social media. After agonizing over the perfect way to present my photos, it hit me: I could use these photos to share my story.
For every post, I would choose a photo and recall the emotion or revelation it invoked. I would share my thoughts, give insight into my healing process, or encourage anyone who might have been going through their own struggles. Sometimes, I would simply share my newfound appreciation of my body. I would point out my belly folds, my slightly askew bra, my stretch marks — and I would celebrate how, for the first time, I loved all of it. I shared the raw, vulnerable me.
Many people – especially women – reached out to share their own experiences with me. Some had gone through breakups or divorces, some were struggling with body dysmorphia, and some just wanted to tell me that they felt inspired by my posts. My goal was to offer hope, and I was elated when I realized I was doing just that. Honestly, that made all the chaos worthwhile.
I decided to love myself by investing in myself, and months later, that investment became a source of healing and transformation that I then extended to others. So please, learn from my experience – never wait for permission to love yourself. Share your stories to offer encouragement.
And never underestimate the power of a good boudoir shoot.
Britnee King (she/her/hers) serves as the Communications & Marketing Manager at The Cabaret. Born and raised in Indy, she’s worked exclusively in the nonprofit sector since graduating from IU in 2014. In addition to working at Indy’s swankiest performance venue, she’s also a freelance graphic designer, photographer, conservation nerd, and Scotch enthusiast. Follow her on Instagram at @britnee.king.