Boss Up with Bevin Your dream life is at the end of your comfort zone

2014-10-27

Why I Posed Nude for Diva Magazine

This past July I received an email from Sophy Holland asking me if I would be interested in posing nude for Diva Magazine’s Body Issue. I know Diva—it’s an international lesbian magazine based in the UK. I loved their Body Issue last year. I immediately checked out Sophy’s website and found an incredible portfolio of sumptuous photos for many world-class publications. It was kind of scary to say yes to something like this. Sophy was very enthusiastic of my work with body liberation and I trusted my intuition, which gave Sophy a thumbs-up.

15447725338_31a39d7308_zOn set with Omyra. All backstage photos by Madison Shields.

I know first-hand the power of seeing real women’s nude bodies and transforming people’s perceptions of themselves… it’s one of the most significant ways I was able to begin to unlearn my own body self-hatred. (I talk more about this in my interview that went along with the photo shoot.) I wanted to take this step politically, and personally I needed to make an amends to myself.

Five years ago I had just turned 30 and my friend Molly was launching her boudoir photography business Fat Bottom Photography. She offered to shoot me and several other folks during a day-long marathon of lingerie and nude photos. I learned a lot about posing nude from that experience, both in front of the camera and Molly’s detailed pre-shoot instructions. The most memorable advice was to hydrate, get plenty of sleep and not wear a bra before you get shot nude because it’ll leave marks on your skin.

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When the proofs came in Molly sent me the gallery and I looked at it a couple of times. But I never got around to telling her which photos I wanted to have retouched and I just let it sit in my gmail drafts for years. An embarrassing amount of years, until I just accepted that I didn’t have it in me to select nude photos of myself and deleted the draft.

I can’t really explain why I never went for those photos. They were gorgeous! Molly is an incredible photographer and I have many treasured portraits she’s taken on other occasions, but there was something about the vulnerability of seeing my naked body like that. I can stare in the mirror and like what I see, I can wear lingerie on stage and post those photos on my blog. But naked? Too tender.

15013670633_b3de0f127b_zMake-up artist Shirley for W3ll People doing her magic on Sam, a super talented celebrity cake decorator.

With the Diva Magazine shoot, I knew it would be different. Saying yes and showing up meant Sophy got to do what she wanted (subject to my personal comfort with what type of nudity I consented to). It meant I couldn’t stall the release of the photos. It meant distribution. And in some ways that felt scarier than having private boudoir photos of myself, but it also meant making a choice to make a difference in someone else’s life.

Going into it I was a bit nervous. Usually I can bring a buddy along for shoots but not this time. Since it was nude, it was a closed set. And, with twelve on-camera subjects, make-up, hair, photo assistants, catering and a few other folks it was already full. Sophy made sure to tell me I would know one of the other on-camera subjects, Robin.

The Diva shoot was way more glamorous than I imagined it would be. I’ve modeled a handful of times and it’s usually kind of uncomfortable and a bit ad hoc. I love being in front of the camera, though, so I’m totally up for discomfort for the sake of art.

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This was modeling in style! My call time was 8:30AM at Pier 59 studios, a professional photography studio with a gorgeous row of make-up mirrors and chairs, a gorgeous zen garden and a juice and coffee bar. I was among the first to arrive and had so much fun digging into the delicious catering brunch while Keiko began the three and a half hour project of making my hair “Priscilla Presley meets Dolly Parton.” And Shirley (Shirley Pinkson for her amazing make-up brand W3ll People) doing my make-up was so soothing. (Sometimes I think of getting my make-up done as a form of body work because I find it so relaxing.)

Sophy was incredible. She showed me photos of inspiration for my individual shoot and hair. She checked in with me about what I was going to wear and checked in about how I was feeling leading up to the big moment in front of the camera. She worked to make me feel super comfortable, supported and valuable. I know this was in the context of a very professional photo shoot, but in a more bedroom context, these are also characteristics of a good top. I’m just saying.

15447928677_7b9d36dcb9_zThe only behind the scenes photo Sophy sent us of herself, here she is overlooking Carly’s look. Sophy is the stunner standing with the perfect long blow-out. Carly has all the bombshell red lipstick.

They played music over the sound system for each individual shoot and Sophy was the first to play All About That Bass for me. I didn’t realize it was a size positive pop anthem until after the shoot and it has been forever endeared for the association with a special day.

15013094284_31de553106_zMy finished hair and make-up selfie in progress with Shirley and Keiko.

My individual shoot took almost no time to complete—given all that hair and make-up it was less than two songs and a few “Move your foot a little to the right” and then we were done. Most of the rest of the time waiting for the big group shot I hung out and got to know the other models. A DJ, a triathelete, dancers, my pal Ashley Kolodner of Gay Face 1st Class, one of the stars of VH1’s R&B Divas, and more. Each of us has an interview in the feature article with their nude photo.

The group shot was really fun to do, and I tried to make my facial features as interesting as possible. It was kind of awkward, since we were all half naked hanging around in poses, but we were cracking jokes and getting to know each other.

15447868227_d79ef1d462_bI actually think my hair has never looked better than it did after all this hard work by Keiko!

The final results are gorgeous, I am absolutely in love with the shot that Sophy chose for my feature. I was interested to note it features prominently my stomach rolls and my stomach is an area of my body that is still complex for me. But it’s a testament to the power of a good photographer to be able to help you see a part of your body in a new way.*

The article that goes along with the cover story (teaser here) is each person in the shoot talking about their body and how they became at home in it. Though most of the bodies are normatively shaped, almost everyone has a story about how it was a struggle to love it. I also really appreciate Rosebud’s story of coming home in their trans* body from a place of wishing it was masculine or anything other than what it was.

15447783748_eb3b00286f_zYou should check out Monifah’s album, it’s wonderful.

I still feel a little bummed I never got those photos of myself from that Fat Bottom Boudoir shoot— all bodies change and I’ll literally never have the same body I had when I was 30. I’m so thrilled with what Sophy did and am really proud of myself for making that personal amends, being afraid and doing the photo shoot anyway. Now I have a gorgeous record of where I was in my body and about my body at 35. And I know it’s never too late to keep moving forward in the journey to loving and being comfortable with your body.

The Diva Magazine is available for digital download for $5.99, on newstands now (check your international newsstand since it’s a UK-based international magazine), and you can order a print copy to be delivered to your door. The stories in the feature article are incredibly inspirational and empowering—I hope you’ll get a copy!

15447360949_494e5d44f9_zHere’s a teaser screencap of my picture but you’ll have to get the magazine to see the whole thing!

*My photographer friend Sophie Spinelle does this with her Shameless Photography Pin-up clients. I really want to get together with Sophie Spinelle and Sophy Holland sometime.

2009-04-19

Femme Lounge Wear

My Femme “aha” moments still happen, almost ten years after coming out as Femme. Just in the last 6 months I’ve discovered the lasting effects of revamping my lounge wear.

I’m a draglesque performer who has a huge stash of lingerie, but mostly really fancy stuff for stage use only.


Example of stage use lingerie from the Femme Mafia Masquerade in Atlanta. I like to have my Femmeceeing gigs to contain a “lingerie course” whenever possible.

I’ve never had a partner who cared for it. More than one long-term partner said to me “I prefer you naked”, which broke my High Femme heart. All I ever wanted was to be that vixen who comes walking into the room wearing a surprise frilly something or other*. Of course, it was a nice sentiment and helped my fat girl ego to have lovers who loved my body without accouterments, but I am still a fan of frill and accessory. I’d like to think that my ideal mate would like me equally naked and in lingerie just as they liked me equally in and out of make-up.

Last summer I started discovering the magic of vintage lingerie and wearing it as outerwear. Once Deb started selling stuff for Re/Dress (before the brick and mortar store opened) I had a hook-up for vintage lingerie. Here’s me last summer wearing a swiss dot nightie and a miniskirt.


I can’t wait for the weather to be warmer so that I can start wearing that again on the regular.

My friend Molly used to tell me all the time when I complained about doing housework, that she did it while wearing lingerie. It always seemed so weird to me. First of all, I like to be supported when I am walking around, which generally meant a bra, and I had so long associated t-shirts with “comfy” that it didn’t occur to me that anything else qualified.


Whenever I catch Molly randomly on skype, I am treated to lingerie. That’s her enormous cat.

I decided to start challenging the notion that I had to save my lingerie for occasional and brief visits from suitors** and wear it around the house for my own benefit. Now, I’m not really talking about crotchless nothings or underwear that wiggles down as soon as you walk two steps, I’m taking cute camisoles with a little bit of support in them (Target $15.99), vintage lingerie, frilly robes and the like. I have to say, it’s totally revolutionized how I feel at home.

The robes they made in the sixties look like they wouldn’t make any difference, but they’re totally warm because they don’t breathe at all. Probably flame proof, too.


This is a “live from the Femme Slumber Party” picture of Rachael and me while I was on gaycation at her house for the Masquerade. That’s her “Don’t fuck with me” face.

Rachael’s partner Steph, the Gay Dr. Phil and Purveyor of all Things Down Home Texas Wisdom told me I looked like her grandmother in the sixties. I took that as a compliment.

The best part, though, is that I feel totally glamorous and cute, even when I’m just sitting around in my house. Probably one of the greatest things I picked up at this year’s fat girl flea market was this long grey dressing gown that has a plunging v-neck (killer, yet supported cleavage) and is floor length. It’s also super soft. Leah told me it looked like I was going to receive royalty, not just make up my guest bed for her.

For a girl who loves dress up, dressing up in loungewear is really fun. Like putting on a full face of make-up and doing up my hair even when I’m in a foul mood, wearing fancy loungewear makes a huge difference for me.

If you’re a t-shirt and sweats at home femme, more power to you. But if you love getting dressed up, don’t wait for a partner to okay it for you. Do it for yourself.

*Though, to be fair, I do this on stage so it’s not really that big of a deal. And it matters more to me that I do it as a political act than as an occasional treat for a paramour.
**I enjoy the feel of me in lingerie against a butch in a ribbed white undershirt better than pretty much anything.

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