Would I have to start planning outfits around the tattoo like I plan for weather?
I’ve loved pin-up style for as long as I can remember. The classic elegance, the soft, sultry curves and subtle glamour of the woman-next-door look have always appealed to me. But I never thought I could be a pinup.
Like so many women, I am great at finding all of the faults in my appearance: too much chunk, unwanted lines, bulging thighs, saggy under-chin, and breasts that more closely resemble lumpy flapjacks than voluptuous breasts.
All of my adult life I have been extra critical of how I look in photographs. Over the years I’ve had a number of sporadic portraits taken at JCPenney, Sears, and Kmart, mostly of my kids, but every once in a while with me too. After every single one, when I saw the proofs of myself, I felt embarrassed. But when I’d find them years later stuffed in a box, I would chastise myself for being so negative way back when.
Not only am I naturally self-critical, but after I had my first child at the age of 23, as a single mother, I wanted to protect my femininity and guard my character, so I downplayed my appearance.
Unfortunately, many women who give birth out of wedlock are often labeled as sluts. Our decision-making skills are questioned, our intelligence doubted, and moral character is considered to be less than that of women who give birth while they are married.
As a young single parent, I wanted nothing more than to become a better person in order to become a better provider for my daughter. I internalized the societal messages regarding single mothers and distanced myself from my sexuality. My child and my education became my primary focus and I earned both bachelors and master’s degrees before my daughter was 10 years old.
I’m 41 now and realize that all throughout my youth I never appreciated the physical beauty I when I had it. That knowledge is part of what led me to book my first pin-up photo-shoot with Roy Varga of Varga Photography when his tour came to the Seattle area. Knowing that I would only grow older with more wrinkles and grey hair, I decided to just take the plunge and schedule the session.
I’ve admired Roy Varga’s work since I first discovered it on Instagram. There is something special about his lighting and placement, as well as his ability to catch women at just the right moment. Every Varga portrait I’ve ever seen makes each woman look gorgeous and classy.
While I wear make-up when I go to work Monday through Friday, I am a T-shirt and jeans, plain-faced type of woman on the weekends. Comfort is essential to me. I’ve never been particularly glamorous by any stretch of the imagination. As a lower-income person, I’ve always felt that spending too much money in my appearance was a frivolity that I couldn’t afford.
Investing both the time and money in my appearance for this photo-shoot felt self-indulgent. But it also felt good.
As the date arrived, I was nervous about how it would go: Would I be the ugliest woman there? Would I make a fool of myself?
On the day of the actual photo-shoot, everything went much better than I imagined. The two make-up and hair artists on the scene were experienced and reassuring. Roy was kind and gentle. Plus he had his adorable pitbull pup named June Carter Cash there, which immediately put me at ease, as I love both cats and dogs.
My son was at his dad’s and my daughter was working, so I didn’t feel any mommy guilt for spending time away for my kids.
Roy coached me through the process like a true professional. He was calm and patient - which was exactly what I needed. I have no concept for how much time we spent taking photos -- as I was fully present in every moment -- making it seem like forever in a flash. For a busy, employed, single mother who has a pack of rescue animals at home, feeling like the star of the show was just plain fun!
I was quite pleased with the unedited images that I was able to bring home with me immediately after the session was complete.
Even though I am older and heavier than I ever have been, with the wrinkles and dimples to show for it, I will cherish these photos forever. They are classy and strong images of me -- exactly as I would hope for in my wildest fantasy.
I see why this is a thing that people do. It feels good to focus on yourself for a couple of hours and get all dolled up -- even if you are not going anywhere other than the photo-shoot.
Also, I learned that modeling is hard work. It was hot as hell and I was sweating like I could have ended the drought in California. I decided that if I ever became a model, I would have to take yoga because it’s not as easy as it looks to hold a pose. Modeling is real work and I give credit to all of those who do it professionally.
Doing my first pinup shoot at age 41 was worth it. Allowing myself to feel sensuous was a sign of comfort with who I am today, as I am. Feeling like a middle-aged glamour queen for a day is a wonderful thing.