A New Life: Dazzling Dana at Nine19 Photography Studio- Raleigh NC- Nine19 Photography
Dana contacted me to do her boudoir session but little did I know that this amazing and brave woman would have the impact on me and my business that she has had. I requested that she share her story through a guest blog, so that other women in the position that she was in would know that they weren’t alone, and she quickly agreed! So please enjoy Dana’s inspiring story of escaping who she was told she was and finding her true self!
If you would have told me 3 years ago that I would be where I am today—guest blogging about a super-sexy boudoir photoshoot that rocked my world for the better— I think I would have laughed you out of the room.
See, three years ago I was a staunchly faithful, Mormon woman living in the heart of Utah—a place the locals call, “Happy Valley”. For anyone unfamiliar with Mormonism, it’s a shortened term for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or LDS Church.
When most people think of Mormonism, they think of TV shows about polygamy, like “Big Love,” “Sister Wives,” or “Three Wives, One Husband”. Polygamy is practiced in sects that branched off of the original Mormon Church, but luckily for me it wasn’t practiced in the “mainstream Mormon” world I grew up in.
There were and still are, however, equally strong themes of Patriarchy and sexism… so strong that I think most Mormon women aren’t aware just how thick it is. I know I didn’t, until I miraculously found my way out of the church last year. While I now have differing views and beliefs, I don’t intend to drag Mormonism through the mud too badly with this post, as so many of my close family and friends are still Mormon and I sincerely hope they read this someday.
I’m sharing all of this to firmly say that Mormon women are taught to shrink, and I wish with all my heart they could only see it. Because, if they saw how beautiful, strong, and capable they are, they might feel as empowered as I do today.
As a Mormon, I was not raised to be strong, confident, independent, or—heaven forbid—sensual. I was taught that sex was always lustful and evil *unless* it was for procreative purposes, or to foster intimacy between husband and wife… which should then lead to procreation. :) Any flavor of sexuality is strictly reserved for a man and woman who are married… and even then, if there was an ice cream flavor more basic than vanilla, Mormon sexuality would probably be it. Sex isn’t for enjoyment. It’s for making more Mormon babies.
I was taught, however, to keep up appearances—and that means makeup, hair, nails, clothes, etc. Even practicing Mormons, men and women alike, will admit that the implicit message behind your squeaky-clean appearance is: The better you present yourself and your belongings, the clearer you reflect to your fellow Mormons your devotion to your faith, and that God is blessing you for it. So, dress to the nines for church—but make sure every part of you that might be “distracting” is covered up; dress fashionably—but don’t look too expensive or else people will think you skipped out on tithing this month; get your lash extensions and microblading done—but let your roots grow out a bit more so people know you’re being frugal and low-maintenance.
With all of this patriarchy and hyper-focus on [avoiding] sexuality (except for my beauty regimine), I was handed a deeply laid track of shame about my womanly form. I was taught that my body was inherently wicked and was to be hidden, until it was time to be desirable for my husband—soon after which, I was to turn it back off. My body was either a temptation for the men around me, or a vessel for bearing children. Nothing else.
As my path began to deviate from Mormonism, it’s like a massive weight was being stripped off my shoulders with each step I took. I started to realize that my face didn’t need makeup to be acceptable or beautiful. I saw that my curves are perfect—even if they were more curvaceous than I wanted them to be. It dawned on me that my body is incredible in so many ways other than just sexually and that it should be celebrated. The fact is, I never felt like a woman until I let go of my patriarchal religious beliefs and saw my femininity as truly divine.
When I met Kim, I was only beginning on my path of self-acceptance. She made this seemingly vulnerable task of a photoshoot so incredibly easy and stress-free, as she walked me through and helped me shed more layers of my uber-patriarchal conditioning.
I’m so grateful to Kim and for the incredible gift she has given me with this shoot— a way to document and celebrate the moment in my life when I saw myself as a beautiful woman, for the first time ever.
Thank you Kim! <3