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 ( here is the link to Jasmines new line scroll down and check it out they really are 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.
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 8 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)
Lauren Henderson (founder of the Purple Wings Charity)
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.
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 heals and continued to walk over to Dan and Jasmine.
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.
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 is 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.
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!!
Here are some of the accounts from the girls that took part:
“I had an amazing day at the photoshoot!! It meant a lot to me to be able to meet other women who have been through what I had and to feel empowered and sexy again. I had no preparation for my ileostomy surgery, I was diagnosed and within two weeks I was in surgery with a perforated bowel so I went through a horrible time trying to come to terms with my new body. Doing something like this really helped me feel that I am not alone and there is absolutely nothing wrong with having a bag! And I am forever grateful to Jasmine for that. Plus it was super fun and we all looked hot!"
[Samantha Di Luca Cragg]
"At the beginning of the day, I felt very nervous about stripping off in front of a camera and having my photo taken. I'm naturally a very quiet and shy person so meeting the new people was quite daunting as well. After getting in front of the camera and taking my dressing gown off to reveal Jasmine’s beautiful lingerie, within a few minutes of Jasmine and Dan giving me some tips and making me feel comfortable, I was loving it! I didn’t want to put my clothes back on after I was finished! I can't wait for an opportunity to do it again, to be honest. Really grateful to Jasmine and Dan for the day, it was amazing! So pleased to meet all the other fabulous ladies there too. I think it was lovely for all of us to meet women in a similar situation and know that we’re not alone out there!"
"In aid of supporting my wonderful friend Jasmine Stacey with her Crowdfunder campaign, I purchased one of her lingerie sets from her new line. I was lucky enough to be selected to be a part of her campaign photoshoot. I was beyond excited as I couldn’t wait to see my friends, Jasmine and Rachel who I had previously met back in July 2017 at the Purple Wings Charity Ball. I knew I would be meeting other ostomates at the shoot and I couldn’t wait to hear their individual journeys. Of course, meeting these women on the day was completely inspiring, to hear that they have overcome so much I felt in awe of them. That little old me was amongst these incredible women. Anyone who knows me, know I have a thing for nice lingerie and Jasmines designs are stunning. I opted for the emerald set but I must say that the other sets in the new line have already been sold to me when I saw them on the other ladies! They rocked it! The whole day as actually quite overwhelming and I didn’t really realise until I got home that evening. I had listened to some amazing stories that had made me feel proud of every one of those ladies, especially Jasmine and all that she does to promote body confidence in women with ostomies. The whole day was like a dream. I never expected to be taking part in a lingerie shoot at any time in my life., let alone being a major organ down and going through a divorce. It’s been a rollercoaster of a year for me and were perhaps my battle has never really been accepting my ostomy. I’m very grateful for my little stoma aka Winnie, but it’s been the struggle of rebuilding my self-confidence from within. I have to tell myself on a regular basis that I do deserve to feel worthy, I do deserve to be happy and I should love my body...after all its been through so much and it still allows me to live my life better than my pre-ostomy days! I felt like I conquered a lot of mental battles that day. I finally felt empowered. I felt content with who I have become and its events like this that make you realise that life really is what you make it! So thank you, Jasmine, and thank you to Dan our amazing photographer and all the super hot fierce women that I got to admire all day! You girls...you've got it!"