plus size boudoir
photo: Cheyenne Gil

To be fat and to be sexy aren’t mutually exclusive terms, but if you told me that a year ago, I wouldn’t have believed you.

It’s not that I couldn’t see other plus-size women’s appeal — I just couldn’t see my own. 

In an effort to change the way I thought about and looked at myself, I began snapping a selfie a day and committed to it for one whole year. I spent 365 days pushing myself outside my comfort zone; I went outside without sleeves, and even posed in my first two-piece bathing suit. And while I felt more content with myself, I still didn’t feel "sexy." So I decided to finish out the year with one last challenge: A boudoir shoot that couldn’t hide one lump, bump, or roll. 

And it was nothing like I had expected.

Firstly, who you work with absolutely matters. As a woman treading in uncharted waters, I wanted a photographer who understood my goals. Through research and recommendations, I found the immensely talented Cheyenne Gil.

Gil prides herself on shooting in a raw and real way. Women aren’t retouched in the editing process (save for some skin smoothing to get the lighting just right).

“I had always had a poor self image,” Gil confessed. “My mother, who is gorgeous, always saw herself as fat, and I am factually ­larger than my mom, so I always thought that meant I must be awful. But after spending years hating myself, I set out on a mission to love myself.”

And her journey led her to helping women do the same through photography. Gil's “Body Love Tribe” photoshoots put women of all shapes and sizes into a body-positive space that makes them feel unapologetically fierce.

She began by sending me a packet of dos and don’ts, which included everything from making sure I didn’t starve myself in “preparation” to making sure I chose outfits that made me feel good — even if they're not conventionally sexy.

body love tribe
photo: Cheyenne Gil

If you aren’t comfortable in corsets or thigh-highs, don’t squeeze yourself into them. For the photos to come out well, you have to be at ease, which is something I admittedly struggled with in the beginning. I had about three mini meltdowns in the dressing room trying on bras and bralettes as it sunk in that these would result in actual photographs of my half-naked ass.

But once I got there, Gil made it her mission to make me comfortable. While Gill did my hair, my makeup (by Anna Sky Beauty) was done to perfection, and both were meticulously mindful about keeping my personal style intact.

selfie
photo: Lauren Gordon

After getting dolled up, I was sent to change into my first outfit — a long-sleeve shirt and Wonder Woman panties. I came out from behind the partition practically shaking, but Gil kept her cool and didn’t indulge any of my nervous fretting.

plus size boudior
photo: Cheyenne Gil

She instructed me on how to pose, and with each shutter of the camera, I became a little more confident.

photo shoot
photo: Cheyenne Gill

But when the hard part of taking my shirt off came, I lost my confidence. I tugged at the bra and shifted the panties to cover as much of me as possible. After some serious coaxing, I gave the new outfit a proper try.

boudior
photo: Cheyenne Gil

With eyes closed and lips parted, I felt myself getting more comfortable with the positions, and Gil’s constant enthusiasm kept me grounded.

Boudior
photo: Cheyenne Gill

And before I knew it, I was suddenly lost in the fantasy of myself — something I never fully indulged in before.

boudior
photo: Cheyenne Gil

When Gil showed me sneak peeks of my shots, I didn’t see my round tummy, my flabby arms, or my cellulite. I saw Lauren through someone else’s eyes. I saw a woman who, despite being big, was elegant, demure, and dare I say — even a bit sexy.

boudior
photo: Cheyenne Gil

“It’s important to get the fuck over yourself,” Gil shared, and I knew exactly what she meant. Feeling sexy requires you to let go, to have fun, and to not get caught up in seeking out and condemning every flaw.

photo
photo: Cheyenne Gil

And furthermore, it only takes one person to confirm your sexiness: YOURSELF.

boudior
photo: Cheyenne Gil

My whole life, I thought sexiness was a status bestowed upon you by others — something that had to be universally decided for it to be true.

boudoir
photo: Cheyenne Gil

The boudoir shoot didn’t MAKE my body appealing — it showcased what was there all along. All I had to do was get over myself enough to see it.

i heart my body.
photo: Cheyenne Gil