The glamour photoshoot that shattered my self worth.
I opened the card and saw my husband looking at me with excitement and anticipation. When I read the words ‘Glamour Photoshoot’ my heart sank and I immediately felt an overwhelming feeling of disgust.
It had been 10 days since the birth of my second son Alfie and not the way I had planned to spend my 30th birthday. I had hoped for a nice sandy beach, cocktails in the sun and the company of my favourite girlfriends.
My body had other ideas, and instead, I was bloated and breastfeeding, every two hours — hardly the glamorous celebration I had hoped for.
The positive of course, was this beautiful little creature who I adored, a lunch with twelve of my favourite people and a handful of unexpected gifts.
I was really quite shocked that my considerate husband had thought it was a good idea to purchase me a voucher for a glamour photo shoot.
My body had changed SO much over the past four years, it no longer belonged to me, instead I had become a vessel for bearing and nurturing children.
The prospect of drinking champagne, taking my clothes off and posing for a stranger terrified me. I looked up at my husband who was grinning at me, clearly proud of his present, and I burst into tears. I knew he had nothing but the best intentions in buying me a gift that would hopefully get me to a place of self love and worth again, but I had no desire to see myself as a woman again, nor did I want anyone else to.
The day finally came, over a year later, I couldn’t put it off any longer. I kissed my children goodbye, gave my husband one last knowing glare, packed up my wardrobe and headed into the city.
What happened next actually surprised me. I filled out a form which was basically used to determine why I was there. I circled the NATURAL option, over glamour, sexy, corporate etc., and in the notes I added “mother of two young children, trying to accept my body again. Please, be kind.”
I was given champagne and macaroons, which I would never turn down. I was told that my hair colour was straight from the catwalk (huh?), and that it was ‘natural’ for them to put more makeup on me than usual as the camera needs it.
I actually felt great.
It had been a long time since I had given myself some attention and the women that were doing my hair and makeup were so positive, by the time I walked into the studio I felt like a goddess.
The photographer was warm and comforting. She told me she wouldn’t do anything I didn’t feel ok with, and that I looked amazing.
I had three ‘looks’, a kind of ‘casual Diana’, ‘partying Diana’, and ‘sensual Diana’, which she said would be for my husband. I corrected her and said, “no, actually the intent is it to be something i’m proud to look at”.
I went through a lot of different emotions during the shoot. I felt nervous, then excited, proud, then almost dirty and degraded. The sensual shoot should have been empowering, but it just wasn’t. It was anything but natural, with me laying across animal fur (I am vegetarian), and leaning forward with my breasts pointed to the camera.
Even as I remember it now, some two years later, I cringe.
“It will be worth it when I see the photos”, I kept telling myself. And so I did what she asked, smiled falsely and got through the hour.
As I was putting my robe back on and trying to scrape my dignity back up off the floor, I was relieved to hear that the editing of the photos had already begun.
I went to the changing room and snuck a look at myself in the mirror as I put my trusty jeans and knitted top back on. “Ummm..” I thought “that’s different”. I didn’t recognise myself, and I didn’t like what I saw. Still, I remained hopeful.
I met the photographer outside the ‘viewing room’. I almost felt a little dirty and shameful when I saw her. Similar to how one would feel after seeing a one night stand soon after.
She welcomed me in, we sat down at the computer and she pulled up the images from the shoot.
I was speechless. I was mortified. I was looking at someone else.
The photographer tried to engage me, “Ooh, that’s a cute one”, “haha, look how cheeky you look there!”, but I couldn’t give her anything. I just sat there and watched her scroll down the page hoping for at least one photograph that made me feel beautiful, or confident, or empowered, or.. anything positive at all.
It never came.
We reached the bottom of the screen and she almost hesitantly asked me what I thought. I looked at her with tears welling in my eyes and said softly “Why did you have to make me something i’m not?”. She looked ashamed and told me she was really sorry.
I left the studio that day feeling like an out of work prostitute. I did not feel like a beautiful woman who had lovingly given birth to two children. I didn’t feel like the woman that my husband fell in love with. I certainly didn’t feel like a glamorous or sexy version of myself. I just felt worthless.
It took a while to get over that day, a lot of positive affirmations from those around me, and from myself. I felt like a joke and never wanted to even consider feeling womanly or sexy again.
It would have been a month or two after that, I was having my usual quick shower in between vegemite toast and a library visit that I caught a glimpse of myself in the bathroom mirror. I had just put my bra on — not just any bra, but the bra I had purchased for my sexy glamour photoshoot. There was this incredible light coming in from the window next to me, and it made me stop.
What I saw was a beautiful woman, a woman who was standing tall, with all her imperfections. I saw myself the way I was so desperate to have captured that day at the studio. I went and grabbed my camera, looked at myself straight in the eyes and took the photo.
I took that photo for myself and have looked at it a number of times since that day. What a wonderful reminder of the beauty in being myself and being proud of the skin I am in, rather than try to be someone I am definitely not.