“You cannot pose yourself into looking sexy. You can feel yourself into being sexy.” – Rachel Watson.
In this episode, Clare Sente and Rachel Watson talk about their work and specifically how Rachel’s work with her boudoir photography is about empowering women to feel great about themselves. It will resonate with us if we allow ourselves to be seen, feel pretty, and be the center of attention. Rachel emphasizes the importance of embracing pleasure because it brings transformation within. Tune in to this episode to hear more about boudoir photography.
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S2 E10: Empowering Women Through Boudoir Photography
We are wanting to talk about some fun things in our careers and jobs working with clients and how that energizes us. I asked Rachel if she would be willing to talk about a boudoir photography session she had with a client whom we both know. It turned out so wonderful and she agreed. I have a fun scenario in that I got to work with a couple that I’ve been working with and we tried something new. That sounds interesting. You have to stay tuned here with us. That’s what we’re going to talk about in Episode 10, what you do in your career and how important that is.
We’re in season 2 but I know we’ve talked about it in season 1. Your professional life and personal life are all blended. That’s our episode for now. Let’s dive in. Rachel, tell us about what’s been happening. I don’t think the audience knows perhaps. Have we talked about that you got your studio? They may be following you already on Instagram but if they don’t, maybe they don’t know. Tell us what’s new.
I spent several years being a photographer and twelve and a half of those desperately wishing I had my professional studio and I made it happen. It’s happened. It’s real. With it, some interesting thoughts about what it is I want from my career. I’m a believer. I used to hate when business mentors would tell me, “You have to niche,” which I’m aware Americans don’t pronounce like that.
I used to hate it because niching felt like turning away money. I was so worried about money that I couldn’t do it. The big business lesson is when you follow your heart and what sets your soul on fire, that’s where the magic happens. My heart is leading me to focus on boudoir photography. I had an amazing session with a mutual friend of ours that was so fun. What do you want to know?
I will be your interviewer. You had 2022 and I got to see not the actual opening but your 40 over 40. From there, I could tell that you have this talent of bringing out the essence of who someone is and then the stories that you would tell me as we walked along in that gallery. I was like, “You should turn this into an audio thing or a slide show where someone gets to see the photographs and then your voice talking about what you learned or what was part of the setup of each of these photos.” I found it fascinating. You still haven’t done that yet, have you?
I have not.
What I am interested in is you already have the skillset to have someone feel comfortable and be seen. Most women don’t feel super comfortable in front of a camera. It’s not something that they are comfortable at all.
99.9% of women hate it.
You’re asking them to pose sexy in front of the camera, perhaps have less clothing on and then all of the things like the voices in their head start. How does it start when someone says, “I’d like to?” Our girlfriend said that her husband’s been asking anytime you guys take your regular photographs, “Are you going to take some sexy pictures for me?” I was like, “Some of this, yes, it’d be nice as a present but it’s also a gift you give yourself.” How does it start when someone’s like, “I want to do this but I’m nervous?” How does it work, Rachel? What’s the first step?
The first step is that little heart pull, the little burning desire that says, “I would like to do that.” The next step is probably permission. I work hard to make sure that everybody knows that they have my permission and I’m not saying they need it. They don’t need my permission but there’s something in us that looks like, “Am I allowed to do this?” A big part of my messaging is, “Yes, you’re allowed.” We come up with so many reasons why we couldn’t be allowed like, “I’m too old. I’m too fat. I’m too wrinkly. My tummy sags. My bingo wings wobble.” I could ream off a mountain of lists, letting everybody know, “Maybe your tummy does look different or your skin is softer but you’re still allowed.”
You’re still allowed to feel pretty and be seen. Years from now, you’ll be like, “I wish I did do that.”
That message resonates with people. That is a huge part of what I talk about. The people that I work with generally are a little bit older. They’re not in their early twenties. They’re not teenagers. They’ve got a bit of life experience behind them. Probably my average customer is around about 40-ish. It ranges wildly within that. At 40, you know that you thought you were ugly at 20 and 40, you’re like, “I was hot. I wish I’d known.” You’ve got that foresight to be like, “When I’m 60, I’m going to think I was hot when I was 40.” They’ve got that.
What you said about making people feel comfortable has always been a running joke that people get naked for me. When I was photographing maternity pictures, the woman would end up naked half the time or in newborn pictures, the dad would end up with his top off. People take their clothes off around me. For me, it’s not about asking somebody to pose sexy. What I have to do is help them to feel sexy. You cannot pose yourself as looking sexy. You can feel yourself being sexy. That was something that I did with our mutual friend. Should we call her M and be very mysterious?You cannot pose yourself as looking sexy. You can feel yourself being sexy. Click To Tweet
Yeah, I love that.
M has done a lot of work herself on embodiment and stuff. She was a great student for it but you don’t have to be. One of the things that I did was I posed her to a certain extent and then she got her hand resting on her thigh. I was like, “This is about how you feel now. I want you to take your finger, lightly stroke the edge of your thigh and be present in that feeling. Does it feel nice? Do you want to do it firmer? Do you want to scratch or tickle? What feels nice? Do it. None of us are going to know how you feel. This is just for you. Be present with that feeling.” Honestly, the transformation that came over her when she did that, she suddenly looked incredible.
Your camera was right there to take the shot.
It didn’t look incredible because she had sucked her tummy in. It looked incredible because she was glowing with that effervescent vibe of awesomeness.
I know it’s true because my body is softening and opening to that. That resonates so much with me. It may make me cry. Partners will talk about their partners in scenarios. It’s not always that they’re doing something sexy per se like, “Here I am, lover. Come on over.” They’re doing something and they’re being themselves. There’s that connection where it’s like, “Her hair was hanging down. She was busy with something. I looked over and melted. I looked at her and she was so gorgeous.” That’s not what society tells us because then they can’t sell us anything if you look good in it. No. You have to get the right bra, pantyhose or Spanx to be that way and you don’t.
I could run on that subject. I remember being in my mid-twenties owning and using cellulite cream. I’m looking at my toddler and my toddler has dimples on their thigh. I was like, “Why am I buying this effing cream for myself?” It was £25 as well. It wasn’t even a cheap cream.
She was lightly stroking her thigh with her finger and got in touch with a sensual feeling that felt good and your camera was there to capture the shot.
It’s so good. I was mean to her because I knew she could take it. I am a bit of a pusher. The question is, “How do you want to feel?” Generally, for a boudoir, sexy is sometimes powerful and sometimes it’s soft or femme. How do you want to feel?
Powerful or, “I am the femme fatale,” or whatever is the energy of that.
It’s your expression. Quite often, my client will give me a safe or sanitized version of that. I’ll be like, “Okay, but what if?” I give them a little push. I am a little bit of a pusher because feeling a little bit uncomfortable and then conquering that is magic. The little push that I gave to M was I sat her in front of the mirror. I’ve got a big gold framed mirror that’s freestanding on the floor. Instantly, she did what most women in front of mirrors do and looked everywhere but herself. Her eyes were all over the place. She was looking over there and at her feet.Conquering discomfort is magic. Click To Tweet
I was like, “You’ve had your hair and makeup professionally done. You’re wearing this gorgeous little black teddy with a lace edge. Look how gorgeous you are. I want you to see how beautiful you are.” She looked at herself and I took a couple of photos of her looking at herself. When I pulled them up on the computer later, I wept. The love on her face, as she looked at herself, was awesome. I’m tearing up because it was so good.
That’s why we know we love what we do because it makes us cry to see our clients see themselves the way we see them. That’s the way it works because it’s so important that women feel that. To get in touch, not the self-loathing but the self-loving and embracing. Everything we do for everyone else, our children, loved ones and friends, we’re so good at caring for them and then so mean to ourselves.
What’s that saying, “If a friend spoke to you the way that you spoke to yourself, you would ditch that friend.” You’d be like, “You’re mean. Go away.” We do it ourselves so often and don’t catch it.
That inner critic is so critical to us. What was that like coming home to your family at the end of the day? “This is my job. This is what I get to do. I get to empower women one at a time.” We should have asked too, what was her day like or her next day like of feeling that?
The next day, she bought herself some red lipstick for the very first time in her life. She sent me a picture of a little selfie and she looked hot.
It’s about this upper limit that we naturally have. It came from early childhood experiences and conditioning. It doesn’t typically break open like an egg. Crack it open and then you got so much more space. It does get bigger through experiences of feeling safe and being able to do that. I felt that in my coaching program a couple of years ago of pushing those boundaries ever so slightly and realizing I’m safe or like what I’ve said numerous times years ago with the lover that opened me up.
I had these limits of, “I had one orgasm, good. Let’s focus on you. I’m done here. Too much focus on me, I’m comfortable with it.” The repetition of, “It’s okay. It’s safe. You’re not selfish to do this. Why don’t you try what it’s like to feel more pleasure?” M can be like, “What does it feel like to have some red lipstick, be seen and walk around even if it’s in your home?”
We talked about that with Naomi when she came in a couple of episodes ago. It’s not about seeing your limits and blowing them wide open. It’s about those little nudges and steps, a toe out of your comfort line, a foot out or a leg out. You don’t just smash out. That’s going to be scary and frightening. If a boudoir shoot is too much for you and you’re not getting that heart call to do it, maybe there’s something else. Maybe it’s a dance class. Maybe it’s photos but in a beautiful ballgown.
I’m not saying this is the one right way to stretch yourself because it’s not right for everybody but it happens a little nudge at a time and it’s beautiful when it happens. I go home, which you had asked me and I distracted you. Funnily enough, I feel like I might have said this before. We’re starting to repeat ourselves. While I’m shooting, I get such a satisfied feeling. I said to M, “I feel like I’ve had good sex. I’m satisfied. That was so good.”
Pleasure can come from many different things. I want to spread that. We don’t have to feel ashamed to find and embrace pleasure and the feeling of pleasure. That’s healthy. It’s good. It bathes us in great anti-stress hormones and anti-aging hormones. It’s life-giving hormones if we can get into allowing ourselves to feel that.
We talked about brake pedals and gas pedals. That is a day for me of pretty much foot on the gas, doing things that nourish me, nurture me and make me feel like I’ve not been dealing with admin. It’s been a great day. Instantly, I’m more relaxed, open, receptive, loving and ready to be loved when I’ve had such a fulfilling day. I want to turn the tables, Mrs. Sente. We’re back on you.
Look at you. You’ve hit your upper limit. We can’t do a whole episode going, “You’re gorgeous and perfect. I love you. You shine.” You’re already like, “No. Come on. Enough about me. It’s your turn.”
I want to hear the story. You sent me a little bit of voice notes because we do love a voice note, you and I. Clare got the update way before I did when Facebook Messenger updated. It used to be a one-minute cap. You got your update removed and you were sending me these ten-minute voice notes. I was so jealous. I know I can do it back.
There’s a six-hour difference so I love how I can wake up, not the first thing I do but I look and then listen. I’m like, “I love hearing Rachel’s voice over my phone.” I have this low voice from my morning voice that I send her something back again. They’ve known each other for a long time. I’ll try and keep things less specific. I want to keep it more general but I will be very talking about specifics in terms of what I think was so fun about this.
It’s still newer for me to work with a couple. I have so much more experience of working with a man to move his sexual energy around through breathwork and visualization and woman through empowerment. The couple part is a little tricky because usually, one person is more motivated than the other to work on the marriage and the sexual part of their marriage or their intimacy. I’m happy that it wasn’t online. It was face-to-face. They would drive and periodically come to my office. We’d spend a couple of hours doing some different breathing and massage techniques that I would teach them.
We got to this point where it’s funny because I feel like it was my thing, full disclosure. I was like, “I don’t know if I can help them anymore. I feel like we come to this roadblock.” Can I help her? Absolutely. We have so much in line with this. She’s my ideal person to work with but I feel like, “Am I getting through for both of them?” We took a break for a month and then she came back.
She’s like, “I want to talk to you. You’re trying to avoid us.” I’m like, “Yeah.” She’s like, “Can you work with us to find smaller, more frequent ways to connect? I get that you’ve taught us how to do certain massage techniques and meditate more. I get it that I need more work with the meditation and that’s something that won’t be changing overnight but can you give us small things?”
I love when your clients tell you what they need and then you’re like, “Yes, I can do that.” I’m thinking of some of these things and then she, out of the blue, a week later said, “What about coming to our house and taking a look at the environment? We have the same mat that you have. Maybe you could show us some stuff here. We are in our environment.”
Remember Rachel, you and I talked about how to build a sex room. I tell you that I have this secret fantasy that I and my one other girlfriend, Maria, who’s a fantastic interior designer, made. I wrote to her right away and I’m like, “See this series. You and I, let’s go and build some sex rooms for some people in Chicago. We don’t need a Netflix series. Let’s go do it.”
I felt like Melanie Rose when I ring the doorbell and walk in. I’m looking around at their lovely place and they have children. That’s the whole issue. What was interesting, what lit me up and why I voice noted you was that luckily, their children were at the grandma’s house for the whole weekend so they had a lot of time. That was part of what they were looking for.
You could see that the children’s toys and such were all on the first floor. When we went up to the second floor, I loved their bedroom because it didn’t have a TV in it. It had some nice straight soft colors, a nice low bed and then some room, if we were going to put anything for the future. That’s where the mat was. I went into their bathroom and I saw all these mirrors that came with the house they said, to begin with. Some potty builders are at the house before them looking at themselves. They had this big tub. I was like, “I’m getting in this tub to sit.” There’s no water. I have my clothes on.
Everyone had their clothes on the whole time that I was there. I sat in the tub and I was sitting there going, “How often do you guys ever use this tub?” They look at each other like, “No. We just bathe the kids.” I’m like, “We got to clear these baby toys and these toys. They’re going to go in a nice little bucket that goes somewhere else except for bath time.” I love their answer. I go, “About how often do you bathe your children?” They looked at each other and were like, “We can’t answer that. You might turn us in.” I go, “We wipe them down with some baby wipe?”
It’s good for the immune systems to let them get a bit dirty. It’s good for them.
I asked them, “Could you guys get in this tub and sit and see?” Maybe they’d been in once years ago. I had them sit in there. I’m like, “Could you imagine this is a prelude?” I know they don’t have a lot of time. Rachel, when you sent your kids to your mom’s house, it’s a rarity. It’s not like this is something you get to do as parents with young children very often. I’m like, “Couldn’t you either start the morning?” They tend to feel like they have more time in the morning before the kids wake up. They both wake up early.
On a weekend, you could do that and then move to the bedroom. You’re all nice and clean for the whole playground of your body. You can get dirty all over again. A couple of the things that we did that were fun that they appreciated was that we did practice. Usually, in most couples I have been talking to, one person can visualize and meditate more easily and one is in their head more. We practice trying to move that sexual energy around.
One of the things that I did that I learned from somewhere else reading was a play where the actors were supposed to be lovey-dovey with each other like it was Romeo and Juliet. They didn’t find each other repulsive but there’s no sexual chemistry. The director’s like, “There’s no sexual chemistry. You guys are going to have to work on this.” He had them go run for five minutes outside or do something that got their heart rate up with their scripts, go stand somewhere and then practice their lines. They had to do that a few times. They came back and were like, “What a game changer.” When your heart rate is up and you’ve got some adrenaline going, there’s a different energy thing that you bring to your relationship.
I said, “Before we do some of these things, I want to practice with you. I’d rather get you in the pretend pseudo mood of what you would be like if your heart rate was up because you’re hot for each other.” One jumped on the exercise bike. I ran up and down the stairs and around the bottom floor with the husband and we kept doing laps. After about five minutes of jumping jacks and after our heart rates were all up, I’m like, “You’re going to sit next to each other and practice moving that energy around.” I wasn’t sure because sometimes I have to close my eyes to channel some meditations and I didn’t want to be staring at them.
We practiced a few things and I kept thinking, “Your bed’s so low. Sometimes, would you want to try laying on your back with your legs up on the bed? You are laying. Your bed’s up here. Pretend that instead of sitting on a couch, you are laying on the floor and your calves are touching where your butt would be touching the couch. That’s how it was for their bed. The whole idea is if you’ve been married and you know someone for so long, you have to think of some new things that put you in a different frame of mind, that your brain goes, ‘We haven’t done this before.’ All of a sudden, some more dopamine gets released. When you’re bonding, the oxytocin gets released.”
We talked about responsive desire versus spontaneous which we don’t talk enough about. We spend some time having both of them talk about what are some things that hit their brake pedals and then they could talk out loud sitting in their home. Children’s toys. You don’t help with the laundry and things like that but even just work stresses. Later on, it was the best note. When I left, it was a couple of hours and I didn’t know what I did but it was the best note. She’s like, “What you’re teaching us is life-changing. You need to know that.” I was like, “I love my job. It’s so good.” Nothing gets fixed overnight but maybe we need some new little new tips and things to try to bond together. I talked a lot. What’s your brain thinking?
I love it so much. I can imagine that you’re doing that. You’ve been in my home with me, which is so lovely. You’re so good at what you do. There is something about you that is earnest or you don’t carry any shame about the belief that you have in this beautiful gift that you offer people. It is a permission thing. I have permission to ask these questions and do these things because you’ve said, “This is okay. You can ask these questions and do these things. That’s fine.” That guidance is so beautiful to offer to people. I love that you’re doing that. We need to get you in the Netflix show. That needs to happen. Is there something you would love to do more of? Is it in people’s houses like that?
That would be nice. It couldn’t be a sustainable thing. It would have to be more of a higher-end thing that you help. There’s a lot that someone can do first of all to do some prior work but then it’s like, “Can you come around with a fresh eye?” I would ask my girlfriend Maria to come to my office and be like, “I’ve been here for 12 years and I’m going to be here for another 10 years. What would you do if I was going to do a little renovation?” I don’t have the skillset. That’s not the use of my best time of, “I’d put in a little loveseat here, instead of these two chairs. How about that?” You got to work with your gifts.
What I wanted to make sure of is when I was telling you the voice note of all of this, you said back, “Yes, that reminds me.” I said, “It was so nice to see their bedroom with no children’s toys. ‘Can you have that boundary? The rest of the house, the kids can have but no toys in mommy and daddy’s bedroom. It doesn’t work that way.'” That’s a fair boundary. No one can argue with that. A kid could cry but it’s like saying, “Sorry. You can cry about it but we’re not going to let you eat dessert first.”
No toys in mom and dad’s bedroom. You were saying even your bedroom, tell me about some of the things that you were making some changes. These are the things that people forget but they’re little subtle breaks for your brake pedal that stop you from creating this more atmosphere where your body’s more open and you want to be loved.
In our environment episode, I made a promise to the audience and you, Clare, that I was going to buy because I hate my bedside drawers. They used to be black veneer and brown. I painted them and covered them but I didn’t do a very good job. They were from the kid’s bedroom that I repurposed not very nice and I hate them. They sit right beside my bed. I had made a promise that I would get a new bedside drawer and they arrived. I’m so happy about that and we did a nice big deep clean.
You also talked about the desk, remember?
The desk is gone. We got it during COVID for Stephen to work from home but he doesn’t work at that desk anymore. It became this place to put shit. It’s a dumping ground. If you’ve got a chair or people who’ve got an exercise bag, laundry gets put on it every day. Everything that you’re like, “I don’t want to deal with that now,” is dumped on that desk. It was getting ridiculous. Elizabeth hangs out in there, takes in snacks and leaves her wrappers on it. It’s horrible. The desk is gone so the room has more room in it and around it. It does feel like there’s so much more of an airflow as well as an energy flow. There’s so much room. That’s nice and it makes a difference.
I was thinking about my bedroom when you were talking there. In our early marriage, we didn’t have very much sex. There was a year where we maybe had sex twice a year. It was bad. Stephen was very mentally unwell. I was very mentally unwell. Our bedroom was a horrible place to be. I would be ashamed for anybody to see how bad it was. Clean laundry, dirty laundry, dirty dishes and rubbish wrappers. I would take a bottle of Pepsi to bed every night. Those half-empty bottles of Pepsi are everywhere and it’s gross. I’m talking about plates of food there for a week, not a day.
I was barely showered and never mind being on top of my housework. I think about that like, “No wonder.” It’s a little bit of a chicken and egg situation but what a horrible environment we created around us that matched our environment inside of us. Those two feed each other and it’s so nice. When I tidied my bedroom, I feel my energy shift. It’s so nice.
I was talking to psychologists and we were both saying this. A lot of people think that your beliefs inform your actions so in therapy, you can change your thoughts and that will change your actions. What’s true is that your actions change your thoughts. If you don’t feel sexy going to your bedroom, you can’t think your way out of that. You have to do something. Sometimes that’s tidying your bedroom, changing your sheets, buying new bedside drawers, and hanging a beautiful picture on the wall.Your actions change your thoughts. Click To Tweet
Covering up the TV with a cloth or a sarong so that it’s non-techy sensual textures or things that invite you. Our senses create our sensuality and you can’t go from 0 to 100. Some of the things are like, “What smells good in my room? What looks good? What is there to touch and feel that is going to all be pleasing to my senses?”
You and I are so lucky that our actions during the day are informing our beliefs in that real space of empowerment, love, trust, and expansion. How lucky are we that we get to do that?
We don’t have a boss or a husband or whatever situation that is beating us down. We’re always in more of a fight or flight. That is so true. It’s very good that you are pointing that out. It can be the small changes. We’ve learned about our whole existence through resonance like watching other women because we were in more community. You can learn in a bad way or in a good way.
Part of it is in everything you’re doing, your daughter and sons are learning. We need to keep creating an atmosphere where we talk about these things because it’s so hard in a world that wants you to buy things, feel insecure, think that you are so less than and you only need to buy things to get yourself up to the level. That’s not the only answer and it’s a depressing way. There are ways through community and women to love, take care of each other, and be open and vulnerable like what you shared.
I don’t think there are a lot of people who would be willing to say that on a show. “We had dishes for a week. We didn’t have sex for almost a whole year.” Yet that isn’t so uncommon. It’s so easy to be overwhelmed by life. We think something’s wrong with us when we look at Instagram and think, “Everyone else has their act together but me.” No. Let’s get a few women’s circles together and get you to hear what your friends or people that you think are so up here on a pedestal saying the same things and then you start realizing, “No, it’s not just me. It’s a system-wide thing that’s working hard against us.”
It’s choosing those safe people to share with as well because unfortunately, women can be some of the fiercest upholders of these horrible standards, especially when they found it serves them in some way. Don’t believe everything a random woman tells you about how often she has sex or how many times she does this. It’s like teenagers in the bathrooms at school all profess not to be virgins anymore. They are all virgins. All swear blind, they’re not. Choose safe people. You’re not alone. This is why we share with you because we want you to know that.
You are great the way you are. It is daily. It usually isn’t easy to be connected to our body, choose pleasure and choose ourselves over everyone else. Those are things you need to get some help with, like some community support. That’s one of the reasons we love our show. We get to have an excuse to see each other and talk.
This is our date night. That’s what this is. You’re here for the ride. I’m going to do something that I have never done before. We talked about our job experiences so I’m going to say that you can have a boudoir shoot with me and some coaching with Clare. We would love to be part of your lives in that way. That’s not why we do this show. We know we’re not fishing for business but also we’re here for you. You can be anywhere in the world to work with Clare. You can do Zoom coaching. I can fly. I love a bit of travel. I’ll go wherever you are. We would be thrilled to get to do more of what we love and share it with you. I am working on a very special retreat that I will share with you.
That’s pretty exciting. You don’t have to fly. It could be a lovely retreat where women are going to select a VIP group of women. There are pictures involved, not a boudoir.
It could be.
There we go. Stay tuned. We’re teasing you.
We started with a tease and we’re ending with a tease. Thank you for reading. It was lovely to share this time with you. Clare, I love you.
I love you too, Rachel. See you next time.