On July 10, 2014, I did something crazy.
It all started first semester when I wasn’t paying attention to my Intro to Psychology course as usual (shoutout to Corinne), because I was on the trinity of social media: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. And I don’t know how I came across this girl at all, but I am so incredibly grateful that I did. Stefania Ferrario, a young model from Australia with an…interesting look: not only does she have a bleached and shaved head, but she was this boudoir model who looked like she actually ate Buffalo Wild Wings, and cheese fries, and Chipotle, and everything normal, non-model girls eat. I was addicted to her. I followed her on everything, and with every picture she posted, I was more and more inspired. But I had all this inspiration, and no outlet.
I was at work earlier this summer, scrolling through Twitter, and Cosmopolitan magazine posted an interesting article by this girl, Elena Cleaves called “Why I Did a Sexy Lingerie Shoot for My Instagram,” and besides being completely captured by her incredible writing, I was inspired by her article. She had this idea to do a Victoria’s Secret themed photoshoot to overcome her body insecurities, and I thought it was an incredible idea. There was one thing, though: she wasn’t even that “fat.” While she doesn’t, or didn’t, believe it, she had a really good body. Sure, she was bigger than the average bikini model, but who isn’t? I wanted to copy her idea, but target a different audience: actual fat girls. The kind of girls with stretch marks and fat rolls that they are so good at hiding. The kind of girls who don’t even have a glorified plus size body–you know, the ones with huge boobs, an ass 2 Chainz would dedicate a rap to, and a wide, but flat stomach. The kind of girls who look like me. I wanted to inspire myself.
Well, anyone who knows anything about photography, or lives within a 35 mile radius of Mundelein, knows the great Abby Nierman. Not only did I have the pleasure of going to high school with this super cool, super hipster, super human, but I also got to co-edit the yearbook with her. Yea, I was that close to the legend. But anyway, I had no debate figuring out who I wanted to do this photoshoot. I needed someone who knew how to make this professional and beautiful, because we all know there is a fine line between porn and boudoir, and I was definitely not trying to pursue the former.
Finding good lingerie was one hell of a mission. Starbucks in hand, I picked up my cousin, cleverly quoted the great Regina George with a “get in loser, we’re going shopping,” and began my mission of finding “fat girl lingerie.” NINE HOURS LATER I walked out of a sketchy, back alley, lingerie store, smushed between a tattoo parlor and some obscure businesses, with one outfit. One. The next couple weeks I diligently searched every store you could think of from thrift shops to high-end lingerie boutiques, and I finally collected a couple outfits.
I knew this was going to be difficult, but I really underestimated it. I learned that most full figure lingerie has to be custom ordered online, because most stores only carry cute lingerie for girls smaller than a C cup–D if you’re lucky. Other requirements include having a waist and hips of a 10 year old girl. And when you finally find lingerie for a plus size DDD body, its un-padded, un-patterned, un-flattering bras and granny panties. It’s like the industry is discouraging fat girls from being sexy.
The days leading up to my shoot I teeter tottered between being super excited, and super super nervous. While I am pretty comfortable in my skin, I can’t lie and say that I have not felt insecure when I’m swimsuit shopping, borrowing friends’ clothes, or when I’m with a guy I really like. I guess that was part of the reason I did this shoot, too. I wanted to fight the occasional, but strong sense of insecurity I felt about my body. The only way to do that was to face the insecurity head on. I needed to do something that scared the hell out of me for it to actually change me. I needed to do this for me.
The day of the shoot, I woke up way too early for someone who got basically an hour and a half of sleep the night before. I needed my hair and makeup to be ***flawless because this shoot was not something I could redo if I didn’t like it. But once I got in front of the camera, I felt like I had done this a million times before. I felt so in love with myself–like more than usual. And with every peak at the shots Abby got, I was so excited to keep going. We had so much fun that we shot for 4 hours without even realizing it. It was so liberating.
So of course after shooting for 4 hours, I didn’t expect to get all the pictures back the next day, so Abby has been sending me pictures as she goes through them. When she sent the first few photos, I actually started to tear up (in the Minneapolis airport, mind you). I was stunned that the girl in the incredibly beautiful and sexy photos was the same girl I saw in the mirror. I was so proud of myself, and I wanted to show everyone this amazing thing that I did.
I came out of this experience with a number of lessons learned; however, one was particularly difficult, but it was the most important. When I first decided I was going to do this shoot, I told my three best friends first. I was beyond excited, and I thought they would be too, but to my disappointment, they were anything but. This was something I was so passionate about, and the fact that I didn’t have their support broke me. While all my other friends that I told were ecstatic and incredibly supportive, the lack of support I received from my closest friends was so much more painful than I can even explain in words. These were the girls I was planning to update on every outfit I bought, every idea I had, every step of the way, and I couldn’t do that because every time I did, I was met with incredible skepticism. I know they were only looking out for me and my reputation, but it really hurt me that all these people supported me with flying colors, and the most important people in my life didn’t.
But this was something I had to do for myself, and despite what even my closest friends thought, I trusted my decision in doing it, and I definitely don’t regret that decision. After I posted the pictures on my instagram, I immediately received so many messages from girls and guys alike telling me how what I did really changed how they felt about themselves. I was overwhelmed with all the supportive comments and shoutouts from people I haven’t talked to in years and from complete strangers. It reminded me that this shoot was part of something much greater than just me in my underwear. Trusting myself to follow through with this scandalously absurd idea was the one of the best decisions I have ever made. #NoRagrets
NOTE: If you share this article on Facebook, please do not tag me. Please do not share any of my photos without running it past me first.
To see photos from my shoot, check out the Instagram account @sexyfitsall_
- Abby Nierman
Facebook: Abby Nierman Photography
- Elena Cleaves