Yes, you do deserve to celebrate yourself

I recently interviewed some of my clients to ask them about what led them to do a boudoir session. Among other questions, I asked, “Was there anything that almost stopped you from wanting to celebrate yourself this way?” One client said she worried that getting professional photos done of herself would make her feel like she was being vain. It almost stopped her from doing her session.

At first, her reaction really surprised me. I’ve heard a number of reasons people have that keep them from celebrating themselves with boudoir photography, but I hadn’t heard that one before. I mentioned it to another client, who she confirmed that indeed, on some level she felt the same way.

vanity is hollow; boudoir is anything but hollow.

Suddenly I flashed back to something I did a number of years ago, something that had made me feel similarly worried about being vain. Now all those feelings came rushing back.

I have always hated how my teeth look. I had braces when I was a kid, which I guess fixed an overbite but didn’t stop my teeth from eventually getting a gap right in the middle like my dad. Worse, my teeth are yellow. No amount of brushing or strips or whatever has ever gotten them even remotely white. I love to laugh and smile, and in fact that’s how I got my name in the first place. (If you don’t know the story, that’s for another time, but it’s not the name I was born with.) But show me a photo of myself smiling, and oof.

So a while back, after hemming and hawing for a long time, I decided to get my teeth professionally whitened. That procedure does not come cheap, and on my nonprofit arts salary…. But I had a bigger reluctance. Did it say something negative about me that this was how I was choosing to spend my money? I did it — and instantly regretted it. After the procedure I broke down crying because I felt like I really was vain for doing it. To make matters worse, the process wasn’t even that effective on me.

Now all these years later, I have such a different attitude about it. Doing boudoir photos for my clients and helping them love themselves more has helped me, too. I now realize that I deserve to feel good about myself as well. And if that means I want to have white (or at least white-ish) teeth, that’s a choice I deserve to make. Of course, doing boudoir also means that I can learn to love my body just the way it is, but both things can exist at the same time. As for the gap, well, I just rewatched The Matrix this weekend, and Laurence Fishburne has that gap, too, and he’s really fucking cool. So I can live with the gap.

Screenshot of Laurence Fishburne in The Matrix (1999)
He’s so not vain, he probably doesn’t think this post is about him. And he’s right.

What this all really comes down to is that boudoir is a place not only free of judgement, it’s a place of celebration and exploration. It’s the antithesis of vanity, because vanity is hollow. Boudoir is anything but hollow; it’s filled with everything you bring to it. Your dreams, your vulnerability, your sense of self.

It’s difficult to push aside worries about what other people might think. But that too is what boudoir is all about: you’ve made the healthy choice to prioritize your values over any restrictions someone else may try to put on you. When people talk about boudoir as a source of empowerment, that’s what it means to me. But it’s not a place where it happens to you; it’s a place where you make it happen for yourself. That, to me, is the real empowerment.

I would also say that every time someone does a boudoir session, it moves the needle toward a more inclusive definition of what is beautiful. We challenge societal norms and expectations around beauty and desirability. We redefine the concept of “beauty” with every shot. So it’s more than the antithesis of vanity; you’re actually doing the world a favor by celebrating yourself.

Ultimately, it’s about what you want to create; no one else’s opinion matters. If you want to celebrate yourself with boudoir photos, let me know what you have in mind, and let’s make it happen. You deserve it.