Hate your body? Try a near-nude photoshoot. It’s energising.
Photo taken by Judith Belle
Sometimes it’s You versus Your Body and when you’re squeezing into an ivory white corset while a photographer looks on, the war is REAL.
Boudoir shoot: a fancy way to say you’re taking your kit off for borderline-pornographic photos – sexy AF and arty to boot. But as someone defined as “curvy” I was a bundle of knots, anxiety-eating my way through Cadbury’s entire summer stock before my shoot. There was no strong arming here – I paid to have this happen to me – but after years of gossip mags circling flawless celebs’ leg shadows in red and labelling them “CELLULITE!!!” the message crawling out of my subconscious was that thick girls don’t show skin. They cover up. Wear dark colours. Try flattering flares.
But here I was, peeling off my cunningly layered clothes, my well-designed dresses and my clever cardigans to stand, PRETTY MUCH NAKED, in front of a stranger – and pay her a few thousand Rand to photograph me in my knickers.
I’d spent months researching plus-size boudoir shoots before D-Day and hunted down some “rubenesque” lingerie shops too. What underwear looked good on a cushy stomach? What angles worked for thick thighs? How to look sexy when I was arguably “squishy”, not sculpted like the photos plastered online?
In the end, lingerie shopping was an adventure: a friend hoisted me into complicated corsets that rearranged my internal organs and slammed my breasts together to make aggressively sexy cleavage, while a shop assistant bleated about my “lovely curves”. I walked away with an expensive collection of corsets, baby dolls, scalloped bras and feeling that yes, even I, with my chipolata digits and polony legs, could look good in a whisper of fabric.
My Instagram feed was soon packed with curvy accounts and I screenshotted a portfolio of beautiful photos I hoped would inspire my photographer. And you know what, seeing sexy, bold, big-stomached woman in their undies every day in my Instagram feed started to make me really believe that thick girls can show skin, can be beautiful, can be sexy without covering up, without hiding, without trying their damndest to look thin.
It took a boudoir shoot to realise that my talk of fat positivity was delusional because I treated my body like an afterthought and certainly didn’t parade it – or show skin – even when I was 10kgs lighter and drinking my weight in Malibu at Oppie Koppie.
Plus size model Lesego Legobane, known as Thick Leeyonce, said on Instagram in response fat-shaming comment by TV presenter K Noami: “I don’t think you walk out of your house in shorts with anxiety because you know at least 10 people are going to body shame and ask why you’re dressed like that. I will never stop preaching about the importance of body positivity and representation until fat women, ‘ugly’ women have the same freedom as mainstream women.”
That day, when I took my top, pants and inhibitions off, I finally understood the freedom of showing off your body. The photos made me feel like a goddess and I walked away feeling sensual, provocative, risque and goddamn voluptuous. After thirty years of bitter rivalry, my body and I called a truce that day.