Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Francesca's photos - 'Oh my god, that's me?'

This is the second part of a series about Francesca's boudoir photography experience. To read Part 1, click here or scroll down.

When Francesca, 44, went to view her photos from her Enamour shoot, she felt like a movie star at a screening.

"I was giggling and nervous about what I was going to see," she said, "but there were so many great shots to choose from. Some of them put a huge smile on my face. I had never, ever felt that way about myself. I was mesmerized, thinking -oh my god, that's me?"

The shoot itself had been a treat, mostly because co-owners Gina and Sylvi made her so feel so comfortable.

"It was a blast! I was the center of attention and Gina and Sylvi put me totally at ease. We laughed a lot." Francesca continued, "I'm not a model, but they selected poses that were very natural and easy for me to do. I felt like I was this magnificent beauty."

Now that Francesca has seen the pictures (some of her favorites are shown here ) she can't wait to hang them on her wall at home.

"The photos captured a part of me that I don't see in myself - confident and beautiful. Now, when I look at them they'll be a reminder."

She's also excited for her husband to see the pics. "He always tells me that I'm beautiful, but when I feel that way.... I can't wait!"

Maybe there's a side of you that's itching to be explored. Enamour packages start at $450. For more information- or just for fun - visit their website at www.enamourphotography.com.
Enamour's Gina Sanders & Sylvi Davidson

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Picture this: the hot model in the glossy photo is YOU

Look through your photo albums or files. Do you like the way you look? How many of your pictures portray you at your best - as radiant, confident, sexy and gorgeous?

Not many I bet. In fact, I bet you're hardly in many of them, because we women are often the ones taking the pictures of everybody else.

Yeah, the kids look cute and the scenery is beautiful. But don't we deserve to have some pictures of ourselves where we aren't squinting into the wind, serving up birthday cake, or wearing a clown costume?
 Francesca relaxes as Sylvi applies her make up.

We're surrounded with images of beautiful, sultry women like Jenifer Aniston, Christina Hendricks, and Halle Berry. But even for those lovely actresses, flattering photographs take effort. They've been professionally made up, lit, posed, and retouched.

Here on the North Shore, you can get some of that star treatment for yourself.  Sylvi Davidson and Gina Sanders of Enamour Photography in Highland Park are devoted to bringing out the inner and outer beauty of regular chicks like us and capturing it on film. Women of all ages, sizes and stages come to them for an intimate photo session designed to showcase and celebrate their unique beauty.

I had the opportunity to join them as they prepped Francesca, a 44 year-old wife and mom, for her Enamour experience.

Francesca was hesitant about doing what's known as a "boudoir photography" session at first, but she's had a tough year. Work, parenting and helping a family member through an illness had left her exhausted and stressed out.

"I'd like to do something special and intimate for myself," she said, "To remind me of who I am."

Francesca was a bit nervous about posing provocatively. "I'm worried that I might look or feel silly," she said. "But I know Gina and Sylvi will make me feel comfortable."

Gina tests the lighting for the shoot.
That's for sure.  Gina, Enamour's photographer, and creative director/make-up artist Sylvi are incredibly nurturing, positive and passionate about their work. Their goal for a shoot is to create a safe haven where their client can relax and celebrate herself.

"We make our client the center of attention - and she loves it," said Sylvi.

"We help her see all the little parts of herself that are beautiful," added Gina. "Women on the North Shore are very critical of their appearance. Here, they are lifted up, not put down."

The experience can be powerful and transforming. Many women, when they first see their portfolio and how sensuous and plain hot they look, burst into tears.

 "They've never seen themselves this way before," said Sylvi. "This is girl therapy."

Francesca was hopeful she'd feel the same way. "I feel like I look good," she said, "but I'm not that confident. I'd like to push the boundaries today. I  hope to discover something deeper about my inner self. And, I'd like to have fun!"

I didn't stay for the shoot itself, but the lead-up was nothing but fun. Sylvi applied gorgeous, dramatic make-up to Francesca, and she and Gina helped Francesca select a variety of sexy (but tasteful) outfits to pose in. While some Enamour clients do choose to pose in the nude, that wasn't Francesca's plan. Her shoot was going to be in the style of old Hollywood glamour.

"I hope I look fabulous," she said, beginning to get excited. "I'd like to have a couple nice pieces to share with my daughter one day, to show her you can be beautiful inside and out at any age."

Of course, Francesca's husband is looking forward to seeing the photographs too. Check back in a few days to see the results of Francesca's shoot as we share some of her favorite shots here.

For more information about Enamour, visit their website at www.enamourphotography.com.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Late Life Lesbians. Let's Discuss.

It has been a hot topic all over the airwaves lately - on Oprah, the Today Show, and The View. Women who had traditional marriages and families are leaving their husbands for other women.  
Cynthia Nixon and Christine Marinoni

Okay, I admit it, this is a trend I'm curious about. I'm married, I'm a mom, I've always been attracted to men and I'm hot for my husband. Is there something about middle age that's going to make me start playing for the other team?

Sex and the City actress Cynthia Nixon spent 15 years with the father of her two children before falling in love with education activist Christine Marinoni in her late thirties. Had Nixon always been a lesbian? She says no.
"It wasn't something in me that was waiting to come out. It was like, this person is undeniable. How can I let this person walk by?"
Meredith Baxter, who played the liberal mom from the hit 80's TV show "Family Ties," was married three times and had five children. It wasn't until she was in her mid-fifties that she realized that she preferred being with women. She spoke with Matt Lauer about the experience on the Today Show.
"I am a lesbian, and it was a later-in-life recognition," Baxter said. I got involved with someone I never expected to get involved with, and it was that kind of awakening.  I never fought it because it was like, oh, I understand why I had the issues I had early in life. I had a great deal of difficulty connecting with men in relationships.”
While Elisabeth Hasselbeck of The View thinks women turn to other women in middle age because "all the older men are going for younger women, leaving the older women with no one" (click here to see her make her case to astonished co-host Joy Behar) I highly doubt desperation for companionship is the motive.

According to Shayna Goldstein, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, who specializes in LGBT issues at the Family Institute of Northwestern University,  women who leave their marriages for other women tend to follow two paths. The first group of women, like Cynthia Nixon, feel they happened to fall in love with a person who happens to be female. Their romantic feelings are specific to an individual and they don't necessarily identify themselves as lesbian.

The second group of women have known they were attracted to other women for a long time, but never gave themselves permission to act on those feelings. It isn't until later in life - when they'd developed more self-awareness and confidence - that they were able to admit and act upon their true desires.

When writing about this topic for an upcoming issue of Make it Better Magazine, I interviewed Maureen Watson, a dynamic gallery owner and former business executive who lives with her female partner of eight years in Florida. Maureen, 62, has been married twice - spending a total of 25 years with her two husbands. When she was younger, she liked men and had satisfying physical relationships with them, but in between marriages, she also had "flings" with women.

"When I wasn't with a man, I was with a woman," she told me.

But Maureen was brought up in a strict Catholic household and in her community it was inconceivable that a woman be with another woman. So, despite having had female encounters, it wasn't until she was 48 and divorced for the second time that Maureen allowed herself to fall in love and have a real, committed relationship with a woman. She she decided to tell the people close to her about her relationship.

"I realized, I'm older now, so who the hell cares what people say? And society had become more accepting," she said. Her conservative parents certainly had.

"My mother simply said, 'that's nice dear, you always did think differently, now what should we have for lunch?'"

Since then, Maureen has only been with women and has no intention of dating men - "Relationships with women are just much more interesting!" - but coming out as a lesbian has been a gradual process that even talking to me for this interview is a part of.

"It's an evolution of finding out who you are," she said. She thinks sexuality falls along a bell curve. "Some of us are probably born gay and some of us are born hetero, but the rest of us fall someplace in between. It's hard to label yourself."

Labels about women's sexual orientation may becoming a thing of the past anyway. There's a new concept emerging called "sexual fluidity." In her book, Sexual Fluidity: Understanding Women's Love and Desire, psychologist Lisa Diamond presents a study of women who have had relationships with both men and women over time, but don't fit into any fixed definition of gay, straight, or bi-sexual.

Would love to hear your thoughts on this one, girls!