I pulled into the dingy parking lot of an industrial building on the outskirts of Boston.
"This is it?" my mother asked, looking at me skeptically. I knew where her concern was coming from. The building was somewhat isolated, maybe even sketchy. But soon, if all went as planned, I would be taking off my clothes and posing nude for a photographer...who I had met on Craigslist.
"This is it," I replied, trying to sound confident. Internally, I was very thankful that I had confided in my mom about my plan—she had insisted on coming with to make sure I was safe.
I parked the car and walked in, not knowing that in that old industrial building, wearing nothing but my pearls, I would have one of the most transformative experiences of my life.
Growing up, I was overweight, bookish, and very self-conscious. I was always known more for my academic achievements than for my enviable figure. As a plus-size woman, the idea of drawing attention to my body was something I never thought I would do by choice.
But sometime during college, I started working out. Not to lose weight, but to see my body as strong. Now, just before my wedding, that strength I felt had made me the most confident I had ever been. I wanted to capture that essence, and I thought nude pictures would be the right way. I'd recently started hearing about boudoir photography, where wives take sexy photos for their husbands as wedding gifts. So I set out to do it.
After trolling the creative gigs section for weeks, I saw the ad I had been waiting for: Figure models wanted, for trade. The photographer would be experimenting with new lighting techniques, and in return for posing, I would receive edited copies of the images and maintain all the rights. I sent an email, and after a quick reply from the photographer, we set a date and signed a contract.
When I stepped out from behind a partition in the studio, I was wearing just a sarong and a pearl set that my husband had bought me. I blushed, thinking about how silly it was to wear anything at all. Moments later I would be naked, my body studied through a camera lens.
My first pose–on a stool, with my knees folded into my body–was a classic setup, and exactly what I was hoping for. I wanted simple, beautiful photographs.
Over the course of the three-hour session, I did a bunch of poses: sitting, standing, and lying down. In some, I covered my breasts. In others, I turned away from the camera. But my favorite images from the sessions ended up being full frontal nudes, where I was hiding nothing. As the morning progressed I went from "I can't believe I'm doing this" to "Damn, I feel beautiful."
That confidence showed in the photos. When I first saw them, cliché as it may sound, they took my breath away. Seeing myself through the photographer's eyes reinforced what I already knew: that every single body is perfect and beautiful in its individual way.
I do not look like a model in the photos–I have stomach rolls and wide-spread breasts, but I look gorgeous. It affirmed the fact that confidence is the sexiest attribute.
My husband was thrilled when he opened the photo album that I made for him, but now, years later, I've decided he can't possibly love the photos as much as I do.
When he looks at the pictures he sees his pretty wife. But when I look at them, I see an entire transformation: a shy girl ashamed of her body who grew into to a brave, confident woman.
Follow Marie Claire on Facebook for the latest celeb news, beauty tips, fascinating reads, livestream video, and more.
Kelly Burch is a freelance writer and editor living in New Hampshire. She shares stories of addiction, mental illness and anything else that catches her interest.
Hollywood's Next A-List
You may not recognize all of them...yet. But these 22 individuals have delivered some of the most triumphant on-screen performances in recent memory.
By Neha Prakash
The Ambition Issue
A celebration of striving for success in whatever's most important to you.
By Marie Claire Editors
I Quit My Job as a CEO to Become an Intern
In an excerpt from her memoir, Alisha Fernandez Miranda takes a one-year break from her role as CEO at a consulting firm to try out the jobs she's always dreamed of doing.
By Alisha Fernandez Miranda
37 Stress-Relieving Gifts That Will Put Anyone at Ease
The pandemic burnout is real.
By Rachel Epstein
Senator Klobuchar: "Early Detection Saves Lives. It Saved Mine"
Senator and breast cancer survivor Amy Klobuchar is encouraging women not to put off preventative care any longer.
By Senator Amy Klobuchar
I'm an Egg Donor. Why Was It So Difficult for Me to Tell People That?
Much like abortion, surrogacy, and IVF, becoming an egg donor was a reproductive choice that felt unfit for society’s standards of womanhood.
By Lauryn Chamberlain
The 20 Best Probiotics to Keep Your Gut in Check
Gut health = wealth.
By Julia Marzovilla
Simone Biles Is Out of the Team Final at the Tokyo Olympics
She withdrew from the event due to a medical issue, according to USA Gymnastics.
By Rachel Epstein
The Truth About Thigh Gaps
We're going to need you to stop right there.
By Kenny Thapoung
3 Women On What It’s Like Living With An “Invisible” Condition
Despite having no outward signs, they can be brutal on the body and the mind. Here’s how each woman deals with having illnesses others often don’t understand.
By Emily Shiffer
The High Price of Living With Chronic Pain
Three women open up about how their conditions impact their bodies—and their wallets.
By Alice Oglethorpe