The 2019 Secret Project

There are so many things I could say about this project. My gratitude goes out to each and every person that participated in the project-all the models that put themselves out there for all to see, to David for being a continued phenomenal (and handsome) guest photographer, to Althea’s Fine Lingerie for fitting the models and to Schumann Studio Creative for the amazing prints. But the impact and importance of this project is really summed up by a message that I received the morning after the project reveal party.

As an artist, you put work out there and hope that it resonates, inspires, makes a difference. You are vulnerable, hoping it sends someone strength. This is the type of message that keeps me going, fills me with humility and inspires me to do more, keep growing, keep seeing beauty in everyone (as if I could stop). Thank you, K. You will thrive indeed. And all of us are rooting for you. ❤️❤️❤️


“I wasn’t able to attend your event last night but I just flipped through the images you shared and I couldn’t help myself from wanting to send a message and thanking you for your honest and thoughtful inclusion of people from diverse backgrounds in your projects. I know this is something you work at and I have seen the progress through the years. In a post-Trump world, I have tried to be more conscious of what business and people I support. I believe you take your mission of inclusion and diversity (in ALL the ways) very seriously and that it means something to you. I am proud to support your business and you! And as if it needs to be said – the images are gorgeous and powerful.

On a personal level, I have come in for two sessions with you in the past. The first time, you were still in your first marriage and the second time you had went through your divorce. I was struck by the transformation and growth I saw in you and inspired by it. I had no that idea that several years later I would spend all of 2019 unexpectedly fighting for my marriage and going through some of the most painful and heartbreaking experiences I can imagine. Being in your FB group and watching you be strong, vulnerable, confident, and sincere has given me so much hope that whenever I find the end of this struggle – whether it result in divorce or a saved marriage – I will be ok and I can and will thrive. So thank you for being open about your story and experiences – in case you weren’t sure, they have impact and have helped me.

Sending all my best and with sincere gratitude.”

xoxo

Melissa

The Woman Behind the Lace

One of the most important factors in a successful boudoir shoot is your choice of wardrobe.  You don’t want digging straps, gaping cups, or any other uncomfortable thing happening with your underwear.  But most importantly, you want to feel irresistibly sexy.  A great lingerie set can transform your entire mindset, a huge benefit going into a boudoir shoot. 

This is where Althea’s Fine Lingerie comes in.  All Studio M shoots include a wardrobe consultation with Althea.  She has an absolute GIFT for fitting women with lingerie that flatters their body types and fits their budgets.  This is what Althea has to say about working with Studio M!

“I have an admiration for the way Melissa has built her business: on her own terms. Like Melissa, I believe that every woman is beautiful – and that every woman should have beautiful bras, panties and lingerie that fits and helps her look her best. It’s about helping someone feel confident, secure and sexy.  That’s why the two of us work together so well.”  

It isn’t a secret to anyone who has talked to me that I absolutely love Althea, but here are a few things you might not know:

Althea opened her shop in 2014, after developing a love for luxurious fabrics and fine tailoring details, which began when she was a young woman. 

Althea of Althea’s Fine Lingerie

“I have always been a curvy girl. I started sewing my own clothes in about 1972, in 7th grade, because I already had a figure that didn’t quite fit the shape of the clothes sold in the stores.”

Here is what a couple of Studio M Clients have had to say about their fittings with Althea:

“I am starting this by saying I have never been “properly” fit for lingerie.  Like most women, I have gone to Victoria’s Secret and gotten measured for their bras, which put me at a 34D (I have lost a considerable amount of weight in my life and breastfed my son for almost 2 years, no way am I a D cup…)  I stopped in Althea’s because Melissa (from Studio M Boudoir Photography) was hosting an event and I was in the area.  Althea was so warm and welcoming I decided to try on a few pieces.  She measured me at a full B cup and for the first time I actually had a bra that fit me correctly.  She taught me about the band and adjusted the straps for me.  I ended up walking out with the sexiest lingerie set I’ve ever owned!  I am so thankful for Althea’s expertise and professionalism, I have recommended her to all my friends and will definitely be shopping there again!”

“When I first visited Althea’s Fine Lingerie I didn’t know what to expect.  I must admit, I was slightly intimidated by Althea’s presence.  She was sitting at her sewing machine and she had a very no nonsense look on her face.  However, as Althea and I began to work together and explore my options, I realized that my initial impression was ALL WRONG! Althea is warm, friendly, direct, and over the top HILARIOUS!  She turns what could be considered an uncomfortable situation in to a party! She is very knowledgeable about the lingerie that she sells as well as what will look good on you according to your body type.  She and I laughed and laughed and before I knew it, I wanted to buy everything in her store! I spent more money with her than I have ever spent on lingerie, but you know what…IT WAS WORTH IT.  After my fitting and purchase she and I chatted a while.  I had been feeling a little down a few days prior to visiting her, after I left her store, I felt GREAT! Oh…and my photo shoot was PHENOMENAL! I just want to say “Thank you Althea…I hope I’ve done your fine lingerie justice!”

Take a trip to downtown Milwaukee and visit Althea-you will laugh, possibly have some wine and chocolate, and leave with the sexiest lingerie you have ever owned.  <3  

Practice What You Preach

At least once every couple of years, I schedule a boudoir shoot for myself to stay in touch with how my clients feel. It is easy to get complacent behind the camera and to tell everyone how easy it is to “just do it.”

As someone who is either in jeans and a tee shirt or gym clothes 99% of the time, I always love the preparation leading up to a boudoir shoot. Trying on glamorous lingerie, getting pampered with a mani/pedi, the anticipation of a bikini wax (especially if you’ve never had one), and the gloriousness of having your hair and makeup done for you – Natalie and Amy are absolute wizards.

Then comes the vulnerability of asking someone to see the beauty in you. It takes real courage to put yourself out there and submit yourself to the process. I appreciate this every single time I am the one being photographed, and I don’t take this responsibility lightly.

Then the butterflies start when it’s time to be photographed. They slowly dissipate and all of a sudden you are feeling insanely sexy and confident, like you could do anything. This time was no different.

Of course, everyone wants to know-who photographs a boudoir photographer? I have had the pleasure of being photographed the last few times by my boyfriend, David. Isn’t he handsome?

He used to teach photography, so he has some serious chops and knows his way around the camera. It was so much fun to approach this as a couple – looking at poses, deciding what I was going to wear, the shoot itself, and of course, sitting down to look at the pictures together after the shoot. I learn something every single time we do this-the benefit of being in the position fo the client, the benefit of another artist’s perspective, the benefit of the male perspective, and the reminder of how sore you are the day after a boudoir shoot. Arching your back for a couple hours is hard work!! This time, I also learned how much I love the burlesque look. I don’t think I’ve ever felt sexier.

Almost a week later, and I am still feeling the post shoot high, and am already looking forward to our next collaboration. Here are some of my faves from the shoot (I smile every time I look at them):

xoxo

-Melissa

Secret Project: Featured Shoot-an Evolution

I choose Miss H for the project because her story resonates with so many of us-the ladies of the lost an found club. We get lost somewhere in a marriage that isn’t right for us, and find ourselves in a place of glorious rediscovery. A boudoir shoot is definitely a rite of passage for the newly divorced – so freeing, reaffirming, confidence building, and exciting. Not to mention celebratory. Here is what she had to say about participating in the project:

“I believe in Studio M’s mission- that all women and all people are beautiful and important in their own ways, no matter what! I stumbled upon the Babes Group at such an important time for me and it was exactly what I needed. 

The past couple years have been evolutionary for me. Last year I got out of a bad situation and got divorced and now am growing to be the happiest person I know, for my son and I. I’ve lost 40 pounds so far and am feeling energetic, positive and carefree. And my confidence is shining so bright that other people are noticing. I’m coming to realize that it’s ok for me to be happy for myself- and I know this “new Me” would shine brightly as a model for Studio M!”

Shining bright, indeed-that smile is stunning as are all of her images.

Secret Project: Featured Shoot!

I loved working with Miss M, and I chose her because I see her story over and over again. We do a shoot, motivated somewhat by a partner. Choosing wardrobe based on what we think they might like, etc. We get a taste of the experience, and crave more, emboldened by the process. Then we come back for ourselves. Confident, liberated, ready to push ourselves more. She absolutely glowed during her shoot and I had a hard time narrowing my favorites for her blog post!! This is what she had to say about her shoot:

“I’m so grateful to have had the chance to work with Melissa. She is so amazing! I decided to do this shoot because I felt like I wanted to do something for myself and get out of my comfort zone. Melissa helped me to see my beauty and sexiness that I usually overlook since I tend to be very critical of myself. I feel this photo shoot was a great teaching moment to help me remember to see the best in myself no matter how I may be feeling. This is an experience I will never forget and I’m already looking forward to having another shoot with Melissa sometime!”

A Reclamation

When I first met Melissa a couple of years ago, I was so nervous about our photoshoot. I had recently come out as genderfluid, nonbinary, and pansexual. If you don’t know what those words mean, that’s okay! The quick version is that I am neither a man nor a woman, but that my gender tends to change depending on how I’m feeling. This means that I am transgender because I’m not the gender I was assigned at birth. I operate outside of the gender binary of male and female, hence being nonbinary. As far as being pansexual? I’m not lusting after your cast iron – I just think everyone is attractive, regardless of their gender. 

When the day of our shoot came, I wasn’t sure if it was something I still wanted to do. After all, it’s so often a marker of femininity and that wasn’t always how I wanted to feel. I hadn’t been close to naked in front of anyone but my husband at that point in… gosh, a decade. Add in the intricacies of being disabled and at that point unable to work and, well, my self-esteem was pretty shot.

Without knowing about all the complex pieces of my journey, Melissa helped me feel comfortable and at home. 

I went from experiencing a large amount of gender dysphoria to starting to accept and love the feminine sides of my body while still holding space for uncomfortable feelings. Even on my most masculine days, I saw my body in a new light. I started to appreciate what I, as a sex educator, shared with others – how you can be yourself even within certain bodily constraints. Check out my work on chronicsex.org.

Naturally, when she asked me to be a part of her new project, I jumped at the chance. What I didn’t know when I said yes was just how much I was going to need this time with her to explore and enjoy myself.

Within about two months of our scheduled shoot date, my husband and partner of nearly 13 years told me he wanted a divorce.

There are many pieces to why that happened, but my gender identity and sexuality were major factors. After being out for three years with ample space for conversation and learning, he still couldn’t figure out how he felt about the new me.

By the time Melissa and I got to talking more about what we’d like to do with the shoot, she asked if I wanted to play with gender expression to see myself as I am. Knowing that me living my truth helped end my relationship somehow gave me more power to display who I truly am.

Instead of being timid and shy, I walked into our shoot incredibly confident and ready to reclaim my body and my life as my own. I was armed with my best Tyra Banks smize, some sexy outfits, and a hell of a lot of sass.

I’ve received a lot of compliments on the few sneak peaks I’ve shared with partners and friends. Even more, a ton of people noticed the change in my confidence level. Over the past month, I’ve gone from being timid about discussing gender at work or in more public spaces to speaking my truth more.

For the first time in ages, I’m getting looks at the gym and grocery store. Instead of being annoyed by them, I’m embracing them because I finally get it. Being able to see what others see when they look at me has been life changing. 

Regardless of where I fit on the gender spectrum, I know how I look – fucking hot. 

Secret Project Update: Featured Model

I love when I can make people feel comfortable with themselves when they walk into my studio.  I am so passionate about body positivity, and when I see that in someone, it makes me feel alive, like my purpose is being fulfilled.  

Ruth is a powerhouse of a woman with whom it was a privilege to work. She was already on fire when she arrived, despite the feelings of anxiety she wrestled with the day before. After having lost over 100 pounds, she was ready not only to accept, but to show off the body she had worked hard to reclaim.

Before we got started, Ruth showed me a pair of lacy red panties that her husband had bought for her years before they were married. She really wanted to feature these, especially since her photos would be a surprise to share with him. How awesome is that?

What followed was a 2-hour show of fierce strength and beauty. She hardly needed any direction and at one point I was sure my camera was going to light on fire. The pride and confidence in her eyes was truly stunning.  

Here is what she said about why she wanted to be a part of the 2019 Secret Project:

“My name is Ruth and I’m a 35year old Puerto Rican living here in Milwaukee for 7 years now. A mom of 3, I use to be a nurse in PR but here I’m mom, exterior painter, tutor for my homeschooling kids and whatever it takes to be the person they need me to be and that makes me happy.

I’ve been struggling with my weight for many years and a year and a half ago I ended up with a surgery on my knee that left me with a mark half of the size of my leg due to a fracture, and after that I gained even more. At 301lbs my doctor said that if I can’t get down to the 180 pound goal they set for me, I can’t have the second surgery needed.  So, I decided to have a gastric sleeve surgery last November for me, for my kids for my health.

This month I reached my first goal of weighing below 200 pounds, which means loosing a little bit over 100 pounds!!! My body is changing a lot and is very hard to love it the way it looks now, to hide that excess skin, but I know this is the right way and one day everything will be in the right place.

I want to model for StudioM because I want to celebrate that no matter how your body change you still have to celebrate and see the beauty in the most perfect imperfections created. I feel I still can be pretty and sexy and sweet no matter how much skin I can see.”

As with all of my clients, the photo reveal came shortly after we finished the shoot.

Before we began the slideshow, however, I had my assistant prepare to take a video of her reaction to seeing herself on screen. The results were priceless.

Take a peek at the video and just try not to get excited with her 😍

A Beautiful Mama

I have had the honor of photographing this beautiful mama five times.  Three boudoir shoots (one of them bridal), one couples shoot with her new hubs, and now this maternity boudoir shoot.  This shoot was also part of my 2019 secret project.  I wanted to include a maternity shoot this time, because I feel like it is so important to celebrate bodies of all shapes and sizes, including the glowing figure of the expectant mama. 

I think EVERYONE that has a baby needs to capture this amazing time-when your body is literally growing another human being.  She also bravely ventured into the bathtub and it.was.glorious.  

Secret Project Update: Featured model

Miss L is the first of my 21 models for the secret project!!!  If you haven’t heard what the secret project is, check it out here

I chose L because she working every day to empower women to get in touch with their sexuality by working at the Tool Shed. If you have not been there you should definitely check it out-it is a place where people of all genders and sexual orientations can explore their sexuality in a positive environment and be treated with respect by a friendly and knowledgeable staff!! All of those things are my jam. L also runs classes and discussion groups about Polyamory, including a book discussion about The Ethical Slut: A Practical Guide to Polyamory, Open Relationships & Other Adventures.

L’s amazingness does not stop there, though. She is also a burlesque dancer with the Brew City Bombshells! I absolutely LOVE the body positivity in burlesque and the confidence of the dancers is completely captivating. They have a show coming up in early August so definitely check them out as well!!!

Now for L’s beautiful photos: