The day I truly felt sexy, confident and beautiful
It never ceases to amaze me how the universe continues to work in mysterious ways. Never in a million years would I have ever taken part in a lingerie photo shoot before my ostomy surgeries. I just did not have the confidence in myself or my body to bare all even before I got ill.
I remember in school a girl in my year won a modelling competition and began to have a career in modelling, As a very geeky, lanky, braces and glasses kind of gal I secretly dreamed in another life (and another body) that I would have loved to have at least one opportunity to take part in a photo shoot and experience being a model for a day. However, I resigned early on that this would never be my path and I quickly forgot about that dream.
Roll on 16 years, a rare illness, numerous operations and 2 stomas I finally achieved that dream a week before Christmas in 2017, when Jasmine Stacey founder of Jasmine Stacey Collection asked me to take part in a photo shoot with other awesome ostomates, modelling the lingerie we purchased from the crowdfunding campaign. Check out Jasmine’s new line which is really stunning!
When I was first asked initially I was really honoured but straight away self-doubt and fear crept in… should I be doing this? Are you good enough? Will you let Jasmine down? Instead of listening to the voice I said yes and thought I would go out of my comfort zone and experience this opportunity with both of my arms wide open.
And It Began
Jasmine was picking me up in Bournemouth about 6.00am ( a time of day I have not seen for years!) to drive to London. I was so worried I would sleep through my alarm I only had about an hour’s sleep. I went into the car and Jasmine gave me the biggest smile and I instantly felt at ease. We went to pick up Fiona (had a cheeky McDonalds breakfast) and on we went to our location Studio One in Peckham.
I loved how the building looked and inside the room was so white (I guess a photographer’s blank canvas) It was here we met Dan the photographer who was so lovely and friendly and Daniel the studio manager. Some of the girls had already arrived and we made our introductions. Jasmine was busy setting up the backdrop while Fiona helped and took some very Instagram on point pictures (included below) and I was on drinks duty (trying to pour an elegant cocktail rhubarb gin, champaign and lemon) Eventually all eight models had arrived and they were:
- Fiona Whenman (Blogs at Winnie and me)
- Samantha Di Luca Cragg blogs at Life in Pieces (also her mum came with her for support)
- Hayley Thomson
- Lauren Henderson (founder of the Purple Wings Charity)
- Rebecca Scaturro
- Emma Leonard
- Jo Anderson
- and myself
Jasmine asked who would like to go first and there was a big silence so I thought I would jump in and give it a go. I went over to the makeup artist and hairdresser who made me look beautiful. I never curl my hair so it was lovely trying this out and being pampered. It was during this quiet time the nerves really hit me and I felt a bit sick and the self-doubt started to creep in again. I didn’t want my belief system to affect or tarnish my experience so I got out my imaginary bat and battered that thought away very hard.
Thoughts While Getting Dressed
Once I was ready Jasmine pointed me to the changing room area and this was the first time I saw my underwear in person. It looked so beautiful and the material is fantastic. So I slipped off my clothes and I caught myself in the mirror staring at both bags and I thought to myself, “Can you do this?” I gave my head a wobble and started to put the underwear on. I suddenly felt very calm and centred putting the knickers and garter on first, then the stockings. I took my time with the process and it felt like a ritual. When I had finished I looked in the mirror and another voice spoke to me:
“Do you know what you are beautiful, sexy and you should be proud of how far you have come! Let’s go and own this!”
This voice was a very new voice for me and felt amazing. I suddenly smiled and all the worry, fear and self-doubt melted away. I found an inner confidence deep within that nobody could take away. I slipped on my heels and continued to walk over to Dan and Jasmine.
An Amazing Time and Feeling
The set was awesome and I felt amazing. Jasmine and Dan made me feel at ease. It took a while to get completely comfortable but after a few minutes I was suddenly loving it and I was moving position slightly on every click. When they showed me a few of my pictures I was honestly shocked at how good they were and gone was the awkward, geeky girl. I felt chuffed and to be honest when I found my rhythm I didn’t want it to end.
I put my dressing gown over my underwear and stayed like this until the group photo shoot at the end. One by one the girls got pampered then proceeded to do their photo shoot. They all looked relieved after they had done their shoot but there was something else in their eyes… a sense of empowerment, accomplishment and confidence. We all got to know each other that day and had a laugh. It was lovely listening to everybody’s story and how they got their ostomy, It was a very powerful feeling knowing that every woman in that room had an ostomy.
A Long but Satisfying Day
It was a long day but about 5.00pm we did our group photo shoot. Unfortunately, Lauren had to leave so she is not in the group pictures but she killed it with her shoot! It was then standing next to the other girls did I realise that I am actually quite short and was perched on one end. I felt so happy and confident a natural smile came out and a stance that looking back I can’t believe it was me. I glanced at us all and just felt overwhelmed by how far we have all come including Jasmine herself. It was a moment I will never forget and a confidence I will continue to work on.
We clapped at the end and thanked Jasmine and Dan for the day, hugged the girls and we started getting changed for our long journeys home. Jo very kindly gave me a lift to Paddington because I was going back to my parents in Wales. On the train I was exhausted but had a giggle thinking of the events from the day, still wearing my bra and stockings under my jeans.
Exhausted, but Grateful for This Once in a Lifetime Experience
I got to my parents at 11 pm extremely tired but so grateful for the day and this unique experience. I didn’t realise until that day that Jasmine Stacey’s underwear is not just to look sexy for our men but they are for US to feel confident and sexy. This was a pinnacle moment and for anybody else to love us fully we must first find confidence and love in our bodies ourselves.
I would just like to thank Jasmine for the opportunity, to Dan for taking amazing pictures, to Daniel the venue manager and for meeting all the awesome and inspiring girls who show that we ARE MORE THAN OUR BAGS!!
*Note: Read the full article on rocking2stomas.co.uk. It is being re-published here with permission from the author.
Rachel is a young lady with a Permanent End Illeostomy and ileal conduit (Urostomy). Her aim is to spread awareness of Urostomies, and to highlight that not all stomas are due to Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) or to do with poop, but wee wee also! Connect with her on: Blog, Twitter & Facebook.