My dream is to change body image and self-esteem in women for the better.
Through photography and pinup paintings, I help women see how gorgeous they are. I’ve interviewed several past clients about how my process of doing pinup portraits has impacted their lives and how they see themselves. The following interview with a client turned dear friend is part of a series I’m working on for a book about changing body image and self-esteem for the better.
Linh is our focus today. She’s one of the most beautiful women I’ve met and it’s been a blessing to show her just how stunning she is. I am still floored that she trusted me to help her heal from a trauma no woman should have to face. She is love and light in this world and I am so proud that she fought to regain her sensuality and self.
Here is my interview with Lihn about how the pinup portrait helped her build a more positive body image.
Iman: Before you met me, what did you see when you looked at yourself in the mirror?
Linh : A girl that never fit in. I wasn’t tall. I wasn’t blonde. I wasn’t the “All American Girl”… And I felt slightly damaged.
Iman: What life experiences affected how you saw yourself and body image?
Linh : I was in foster care. I was abused by my family growing up. I was told I was never pretty enough and that I was never smart enough (among other things). Then in college, I managed to find some confidence only to have that taken away right after I graduated, when I was raped. That took everything away from me.
Iman: What did you like when you saw your reflection or photos of yourself?
Linh : Nothing. I always found a flaw in all the photos I was in. I liked having my picture taken with friends. It felt safe to have my photos taken with other people because I was able to surround myself with beautiful people.
Iman: What parts of your body were you self-conscious about/worried about/insecure about?
Linh : My big head, I have an eye bigger than the other. My arms. My mid-section.
Iman: How did the things you were worried about affect your self-esteem?
Linh : It affected with how I acted towards people. I used humor as my wall to let people in and to not let people hurt me. I had the “you cant hurt me if I make fun of myself” idea. (Insert fart joke.)
Iman: On a scale of 1-10 (10 being awesome) where did your self-esteem fall?
Linh : 2 on a good day.
Iman: Please describe if your self-esteem and body image affected other aspects of your life?
Linh : I didn’t love myself enough to surround myself with good people. I dated people that were considered “hot” and hung out with “beautiful” club girls, but in the end they never got to know me.
Iman: What made you want to work with me?
Linh : I started to find some sort of identity in the Rockabilly scene. I thought that the perfect achievement to being an All American girl would to become a pinup. I was also on a path of healing. I’d found good friends. I’d started dating a good guy. I was volunteering with a Rape Crisis group. I was in therapy. I was fixing everything broken inside of me. I just needed to fix the outside. So, I googled you! Your photos of gorgeous everyday women turned into pinup Betties got me hooked! Then I noticed your Inner Beauty Project and knew that with your help, I could come full circle and finally be ok with myself.
Iman: Were you nervous? If so, what were you worried about?
Linh : I was really nervous. I was convinced that no matter what my big head and flaws would stand out.
Iman: How did you feel when you met me?
Linh : I felt like I’d met an old friend and a sister. We talked for HOURS! And shared so much.
Iman: How did you feel while choosing your outfits and getting your hair and makeup done?
Linh : I couldn’t stop grinning when I walked into your walk-in closet of vintage clothes! I wanted to try on everything! And with your hair and make up team…oh gosh, I would NEVER have self esteem problems ever again if I could have your help every day.
Iman: What thoughts went through your mind the first time you saw your reflection as a pinup?
Linh : I didn’t recognize myself. In a good way. I could see past the girl that was hurt and hiding behind other people. I never thought I could look like a healthy and happy woman.
Iman: The first time you saw a photo of yourself in the back of the camera?
Linh : I giggled and asked to look at all the photos because I wasn’t convinced that was me in the camera.
Iman: Did you feel a change come over your self-esteem and body image during the photo shoot?
Linh : I felt safe. Safe to laugh, relax and have fun. I was safe to be in my own skin without being judged by other people. Most importantly, I felt safe to say “I am beautiful” and not have that taken away.
Iman: How did you feel when you left the studio?
Linh : I was sad to leave the studio because I had made new friends. I was also sad to have to give the clothes back!
Iman: Did anyone else comment on a change in your self-esteem?
Linh : I don’t think anyone noticed my change, but I noticed it. I walked a little taller and smiled more.
Iman: Was it wonderful or difficult seeing yourself at your premiere?
Linh : It was both. I couldn’t wait to see the photos myself and I was nervous because I had brought my fiancé with me too. Because I was nervous I made a lot of jokes, but I couldn’t stop smiling either.
Iman: After your premiere on a scale of 1-10 (10 being awesome) where was your self-esteem?
Linh : Nine.
Iman: How has the experience of doing pinup photos impacted your self-esteem and body image in a lasting way?
Linh : I can see that I’m pretty in a different way and that “different” is ok. Pinups come in all shapes and sizes. When I’m having a bad self-esteem day, I get to look back at the photos and say that I’m just being silly because I AM a knockout. As a pinup, I can claim my sexuality and my sensuality as a strength. I’ve transformed them from weakness to strength.
Iman: What do you see when you look in the mirror today?
Linh : I see Linh. I see someone that WAS damaged. But with my inner scars fully healed, I can safely apply a coat of red lipstick, a strand of pearl necklace, and heels: I can conquer the world.
Iman: What advice would you give someone who is questioning their body image and self-worth?
Linh : There will never be anyone else out there that can walk your walk and tell your stories better then you. Own it. Claim it. Scream it. Embrace it.
Iman: On a scale of 1-10 (10 being awesome) where is your self-esteem today?
Linh : Seven.
Iman: Think back on your photos. Which were your favorites and why?
Linh : Can I say all of them? Haha ok…The black and white one with the fur hat. Every time I see that pic I think, “That woman has great stories to tell and I want to hear them.” And for favorite photos, there’s a tie between the cherries and the one of me laying down with my eyes closed.
What are your own struggles with body image and self-esteem?
We all have stories we tell ourselves to keep us worried about our body image. Be brave. Share in the comments for get back some amazing support.
Iman Woods is an American artist who specializes in pin-up photography. Through a unique and therapeutic process, she’s spent over a decade in perfecting, Iman helps women undo the damage from a negative self-image and unrealistic beauty industry expectations. She helps women embrace their own style of beauty and see themselves in a new light. You can find her on her website, ImanWoods[dot]com.
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