What Beauty Looks Like

A couple of years ago, I was lucky enough to meet Tiffany Burke.  Tiffany is one of those people whose soul just shines, it shines right out of her body through her laughter and her big smile and her eyes.  From the moment I met her, I wanted to be friends.  I knew I wanted her in my life, and after the first day we met I sent her and the other woman who'd been with us a message saying that at the risk of coming off as a total weirdo, could we hang out and be buddies?  Luckily, they didn't think I was too strange and friendships bloomed.

Tiffany has a huge heart, and an absolutely amazing eye, which she uses to run her photography business, Tiffany Burke Photography.  In my opinion, she is one of the two best photographers in Bellingham (well, she lives in Tacoma now, but I still claim her for B'ham).  Tiffany specializes in different types of photography, she does newborns, family portraits, tons of weddings, and in the past few years has started doing a lot more boudoir sessions.

I think one of the reasons that her boudoir photos come out so amazing is because she has this sixth sense about people, and she draws out what's inside.  You see it in her wedding photos, her portraits, you see genuine, real smiles, laughs that come from deep inside. Another thing I love about Tiffany (seriously, when I saw my first photo from this shoot, I asked her to marry me.  LOVE.) is that she wants all women to be able to experience this, so her genius mind came up with Rock Your Body parties.  Five or six women get together for a day, drink, chat, and have mini-boudoir sessions.  It makes it affordable for people who can't do a full session, and is so much fun to boot.

I have wanted to do a boudoir session for a while.  But there were excuses.  It's too expensive.  I can't justify spending that amount on myself when there are other expenses.  And most of all, I'm too fat.  Maybe one day when I lose some weight.

In the last year, my life has been completely flipped upside down.  I have changed, and my opinion of myself and valuation of myself has changed as well.  When the opportunity came up in August, and I had just been handed pretty much the exact amount for the photo shoot from a wedding I photographed, I told the other ladies I was in.

Three days before the shoot, I panicked.  How could I justify spending the money on something that was truly only for myself?  How could I go through with it when I could potentially get that money back and spend it on something more responsible?

I posted in the group and told the women I was planning to spend the day with that I didn't think I could do it.  Hair, makeup, paying for the babysitter... if it was just the money I'd already given Tiffany, then maybe, but I was too worried.  And do you know what happened?  My friends, beautiful women, they held me up.  They told me that I was deserving of something for me.  They knew how much I had been looking forward to it.  They knew how incredibly difficult the last year (who are we kidding, the last several years) had been for me.  One offered to pay for my hair.  Another offered to watch the kids so I wouldn't have to pay a sitter.  The icing on the cake?  Another friend who wasn't even going offered to cover my makeup as long as I promised to go, let go, and have a good time.

Once again, generosity and friends with hearts as big as stars gave me a chance.

Tiffany promises a minimum number of images, edited, to do with as you please.  I nearly cried when she sent my photos and I had nearly double the number she'd promised.

These are just a few of my favorites.

This is what confidence looks like, what it looks like to be comfortable in your own skin after damn near 20 years of not feeling that way.  This is what self-worth looks like, found after being lost for so long you forgot it existed.

This is what single motherhood at 33 years old looks like.  Moments, simple moments of beauty, fleeting but worth remembering.  Knowing myself is how I am able to know my children and do my best for them.

This is what joy looks like, captured like magic in an image.  This is what it looks like to be free, to experience moments of letting go so completely that you feel like you're floating.  This is what it looks like when someone gives you that little push that reminds you that you don't need anyone's permission to experience unadulterated joy.

This is what sexy looks like.  This is what beckoning looks like.  This is what power looks like, when you let out power that you never even knew you had.

This is what peacefulness looks like, in those moments when I can capture it.  Life happens so fast, all around us, all the time.  This is what it looks like when I remember that sometimes I can let go.  

This is what smoldering looks like, even at 240 pounds.  This is what it looks like when you can let go of stereotypes and cultural stigma and shame and fall in love with yourself.  This is what it looks like to realize that there is so much more to it than flesh and blood and bones and fat.  

This is what life looks like when it's sweet.  This is hope.  This is looking out a window into the sunlight because tomorrow is another day, and it will be better than yesterday.

This is what it looks like when, for the first time in forever, I do something just for me.  This is honesty.  This is me, I see myself so clearly, I see strength and love, passion.  I see resolve.

This is what beauty looks like.  Yes, outward beauty, enhanced by hair and makeup and gorgeous natural light.  But this is what inner beauty looks like.  Comfort.  Peace.  Happiness.  Strength.  Love.  This transports me back to those moments of feeling so incredibly blessed to be where I was.  This is being told you are beautiful, inside and out, and believing it.  Finally, believing it.  

Lots of women I know who have done boudoir shoots have raved about how much of a game changer it was for them.  They saw themselves through someone else's eyes, and it changed everything.  It affected their relationships.  Their partners saw a difference in them.

For me, I didn't have quite that experience.  Because I have already done so much work this year looking at myself, giving myself my power back, gaining confidence.  However, these photos mean the world to me.  I see myself, so purely, so clearly.  It wasn't about the physical as much as about valuing myself enough to give myself a gift that I really wanted.  I've never had my hair or makeup done, not even for my wedding.  I have rarely had professional photos taken of me, and never by someone as talented as Tiffany.  Never just for me, and not for school or work or with one of my kids.  And it was so worth it.

Check out more of Tiffany's boudoir photos here.