That One Time I Did an Outdoor Boudoir Photoshoot

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Let’s get real. Not every dream we have is the flashing neon lights “it” dream. A lot of our dreams are small and demure. They’re exciting and responsible for spontaneous half smiles, but ultimately, they’re easy to forget and ignore. Well cupcakes, guess who’s here to tell you to knock that crap off and pay attention to your small dreams by broadcasting the fulfillment of one of her own?

Here’s three badass little words for you: outdoor boudoir photoshoot.

I’ve wanted to do a boudoir shoot for as long as I can remember. It’s one of those things that I never really talked about though because it felt a little dangerous. I had so many questions swirling around this baby dream. Am I brave enough to do this? Am I confident enough – in myself, my body, my ability to let go and have fun in front of another person wielding a friggin camera? Will this feel safe and empowering to me as a woman? Am I allowed to playfully express my sexuality like this? As a Christian? As an unmarried woman? As a former missionary? Am I really about to celebrate and own my sexuality?

The answer to every single one of these questions was a robust, wild woman HELL YES.

So when my friend, photographer, and fellow girl boss Tiffany found out I was flying home to Pennsylvania for a month, she wrote me and said she’d love to shoot me for Hiya Tootsie! on location in Philly at Graffiti Pier. I’m the one who let slip that it’d be killer to do a same day boudoir shoot. I was joking. Sort of. I definitely didn’t expect her to freak out and tell me how much she’d been wanting to do an outdoor boudoir shoot and that I and this location were PERFECT. My heart actually started racing throughout our conversation. Was I really going to say yes to this? IS THIS OK?? OMG. YES. Yes? YESSSS!

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We met at my girl Yvonne’s apartment in south Philly. I’d been primping all morning while Yiv took her then 6 month old daughter Zoe to a doctor’s appointment. When Tiff showed up, we were both so excited, she literally picked me up off the ground to hug me! After I finished the primp, we ate some of Yvonne’s homemade chili, sat in the kitchen and talked sex, marriage, men, and flaunting these pictures as a wedding gift to my one-day hus, gave the baby the boob, and upon leaving the apartment, waited for Yvonne’s husband to save the day because we locked the keys in the car with all our stuff in it. After a 20 minute drive and a call to the train station to reschedule Tiff’s ride home, we made it.

There we were, three grown ass women lugging photography equipment, a suitcase full of lingerie, jewelry, shoes, and props, purses, a guitar, and a baby through the dirt, weeds, and Philly grit to get to the back of the Pier where we thought I’d be safe to prance around in my sexy skivvies, hidden from the public eye. That idea got squashed real quick when we saw a group of middle school boys running around with cans of spray paint clutched in their hands.

I am all kinds of not about the getting-undressed-in-front-of-minors life, so I finally walked up to them, told them we were doing a photoshoot and needed this part of the Pier to ourselves, and politely/adult authoritatively asked them to find another spot to graffiti. They totally did, but their surprise guest appearance wasn’t our last throughout the shoot. Apparently lots of people like to take a leisurely stroll to the very back of the Pier. This didn’t add to my nerves at all.

Initially, I was annoyed. I think the annoyance was a smooth cover for actually feeling pretty dang vulnerable, so after some good-natured reminding from the girls about how fun this whole thing was despite the bumps (and that Yvonne would take the position as our modesty enforcer and heave a full-sized bed sheet at me the moment she spotted someone coming), I let my nerves subside and decided to roll with it, own it, and let loose in one fell swoop of badass, empowered, dream-fulfilling ladyhood.

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I got more and more confident as the shoot went on and realized at one point that I was actually strutting around the gravel and graffiti. All of my questions and what ifs subsided. Short of rolling around on the ground and running the risk of getting stuck with a dirty hypodermic needle, please trust, mama went to werk. Tiff kept looking at her camera preview, throwing her head back, laughing, and making “GUHHHH!!!!!” “OH MY UHHHHH!!!!” “WHAT THE YESSSSS!!” remarks.

Lemme tell you, when you’re half naked in front of a camera and your photographer is having a meltdown over how effing fabulous you look, it’s a confidence booster that far outshines whatever those hypodermic needles had left in them.

I felt amazing.

I didn’t even come to the shoot prepared with all my extra special under things I have back home in Cali because I didn’t know we were doing this shoot when I left! As per usual, I took this as a challenge to rock rather than an obstacle to whine about and turned “every day” underwear, casual kimonos, and blinged out heels into bombastic bombshell babe attire. Creativity and artistic expression are high values of mine, so turning the what-I-have-on-hand into sexy rock & roll just added to the dream-fulfilling experience.

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Now, as much as I’d love to show off the whole shoot and despite the undeniable girl power vibe and fabulous T&A to behold, I’m not about the semi nude internet life or about ruining surprises for my foreva dude. So instead I chose the five tamest photos we snapped that I’m comfortable with everyone from my boyfriend to my dad to old bosses and perfect strangers seeing. Basically, if it resembles swimwear or a coverup, you get to lear. Hooray! If it showcases mini pushed up fun bags or how much my booty building routine is paying off, I guess you’ll have to marry me or be my photographer, mom, or ride or die besties to get a peek.

The point is that we all have areas of our hearts that hold small, precious dreams that require just as much courage to see through as the big guns. This is a beautiful thing. 

It’s ok to be nervous and unsure of yourself at first. You’re human. A dream is a dream and baby, there will always be the breath-holding moment before the leap. It’s also ok to make up your own mind about it, take the empowered leap, and celebrate your journey.

I practically had to murder my sexuality in order to survive the kind of secondary trauma-filled work I had committed myself to before I started blogging professionally. That road was all kinds of awful. There have been so many private, empowering choices I’ve made over the course of the last 2.5 years to revive this core piece of me that led up to my decision to do this shoot – most significantly, the thriving power of play.

This boudoir shoot was not just something to do for the hell of it. This was about celebrating the very core and creation of me as a whole-hearted, playful, empowered woman. This was not just about the excitement of giving a gift to my dude one day or about having the privilege to write about encouraging all of you to lean into your small dreams. This was about giving a gift to myself and leaning into living on my own watch. This was about courage, vulnerability, artistic expression, play, femininity, celebration, and the honoring of dreams.

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I learned through this shoot that when I feel safe and empowered, when I am cheered on, and when my creative heart is invited to color outside the lines, I am playful, confident, bold and full of laughter, ideas, and mischief. I am myself – unedited, unafraid, and unhindered. If that’s not rock & roll, I don’t know what is, kittens.

Honor your small dreams. They are worth your time and attention. They will tell you secrets about yourself that you can only learn through their fulfillment. You’ll have to be brave. You get to be brave. You get to let down your wild woman hair, have fun, and keep the dream momentum alive as you chase down your big dreams.

Graffiti-laced boudoir was my way of tapping into the limitless beauty of the dream arena. What’s yours? Get crystal clear on those small dreams that are so easy to slough off and put feet to them. You will grow, excel in understanding the patterns behind what lights you up, and ultimately, be a better woman because of it. Each and every one of your dreams is stunning and necessary – even and maybe especially when those dreams revolve around semi-public displays of lacey hot pink badassery.

Images from: Tiffany Fulmer


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