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  • Writer's pictureNicola Graham

Something to impress the grandkids with...

Updated: Jul 20, 2022

"In the religion of the insecure, I must be myself, respect my youth A different lover is not a sin, believe capital H-I-M (hey, hey, hey) I love my life, I love this record, and Mi amore vole fe, yah (same DNA)

I'm beautiful in my way 'cause God makes no mistakes I'm on the right track, baby, I was born this way Don't hide yourself in regret, just love yourself, and you're set I'm on the right track, baby, I was born this way"


Artist: Lady Gaga

Release: 2011


Monday 11th July 2022, I chose to enter the world of airport chaos, thank you Heathrow Terminal 4, and so set off on my journey to Thailand, it was during this flight I found myself both excited and apprehensive. Excited, as I was finally meeting up with my good friend Bhushan Bagadia (BB for short). We met 5 years ago whilst diving in the Maldives and have kept in touch since.


Covid restricted our ability to meet up until now, however, we finally found a week we both could make time for each other. I was also apprehensive too, why? Because, whilst I’ve been following and conversing with BB for years, he has spoken about shooting me (sounds painful), but I mean shooting me with his camera. You see, BB is a professional Photographer & Cinematographe. And not just any photographer, a world-class photographer who shoots for the Indian cricket team amongst other sports, this man shoots Bollywood stars and models and my favourite most of all, captures the most amazing shots underwater.

4 years ago, BB posted some stunning pictures of a woman that he shot in a boudoir scene. I had to ask him about it, and he explained it was a photoshoot for an Indian lady who had asked him to shoot for her as an anniversary present to her husband of 10 years. The pictures I saw were breath-taking. BB was able to truly capture this woman’s beauty, her life, body and marriage captured and enhanced in a simple picture of pure elegance.

It was this that inspired the conversations between us, and BB asked me to consider letting him shoot me. At the time, my inner imposter started to worry about how I would look and that I wasn’t good enough.


Over time, I started to think more about it, I’m turning 40 next March, and the past year has been quite a journey spiritually for me. I’m becoming more and more confident with myself and caring less for what others think, and more about what I think. One of my very own favourite quotes is:

“Screw what I’d tell my 20 year old self, I’m more interested in thinking what my 50-year-old self would tell me right now”.

And the truth is I know she’d tell me:

You are beautiful, you are strong, you are enough, you are young and vibrant, enjoy being in the moment, stop worrying so much and forget the past – Just breathe.


I work damn hard on my body, I keep fit, I eat well, I condition myself and I pay attention to my skin – maybe it is about time I embrace it and enjoy it. So, I picked up the phone and asked BB if he would shoot me, I was delighted when he agreed. We started to discuss how it would go and shared ideas and concepts. I knew just from these conversations it was going to be great, BB was very adamant from day one that this is about capturing me as myself, he refused my ideas about being anything but me, and wanted to capture my edgy, sporty, stronger sides within the pictures, tats and shaved hair all in.


Now I’m not going to deny that I became very focused on getting my body into amazing shape for this shoot, can you blame me? I’m about to reveal my whole body to the world … of course, I’m going to try to shape up as much as possible. But other than that, there was little prep or expectations as to what would happen during these days of shooting.


So, I rocked up to Bangkok and hugged my friend for the longest time, it was so amazing to see him, he was exactly as I remember, and whilst I hate to admit it, he has not aged one bit in 5 years (damn it). We covered so much within the first evening, catching up and I felt instant calm and comfort around him.

But soon after the catch-up, we got straight down to business, the first thing I did was run out of the bathroom and openly expose myself to BB. I needed to do this ‘just get it out of the way’. BB didn’t react in any way whatsoever (thank goodness he didn’t laugh or that would have been the end of the photoshoot).


So, make-up and hair done, body oil applied and out I came to try my hardest to sit seductively on the steps. Immediately I was taken back by just how focused, professional and ‘fun serious’ the shoots were. This was quickly followed by frustration at how wrong I seemed to get every pose. Did you know that if you bend your toe just slightly in a shoot, it stands out in pictures! Or if you scrunch your face just slightly it looks moody. Yep, that’s right, if anyone tells you modelling is ‘just turning up and posing for a picture they have never done it before

.

So, what did I learn:

You are standing there naked, bending your body in a way that is good for a shoot, but in real life looks like you’re trying to break yourself.

Toes pointed, bum out, hands soft, face soft, don’t bend forward, but be sure to move throughout the shot!

Yup … that’s right you have to hold positions but move to ‘feel the moment’ … and this is all whilst ensuring you are capturing the light on your face!


Photoshoots can start at the crack of dawn to get the right light, and end late into the night.

It's mentally exhausting, as you are constantly thinking about different poses, ensuring you are keeping variety in them, thinking about the light and where it is and how it falls on your face, perfecting a shot and trying not to be ‘samey’ with your expressions.

Every night I fell asleep reliving the shoots from that day, thinking about how I could improve them, and what I can do tomorrow to be better.

I thought I was physically pretty strong and flexible, nope … you need a serious level of flexibility and strength, whilst maintaining elegance and grace in order to provide the very finesse of positions, ensuring your toes and fingers are just right.


I spent an entire week rubbing oil into my skin, washing and changing for different shoots for a complete variety of images. I’ve had body paint applied to my body in all sorts of ways. I’ve been challenged physically and mentally in the jungle (yes, the spiders were huge), trying to hold onto tress covered in ants and laying down on jungle floors with who knows what under me.

I’ve balanced on the front of a long tail boat, with the kindest boatman trying his best to steer the boat whilst remaining discreet so as to not look at my naked body. I had sand in places I can't admit to, I’ve balanced on baths and walls hoping not to fall, crawled into bushes, been bitten to shreds and swallowed so much water, my blood vessel in my eye burst from the pressure.

My body ached every night from muscles being overused, my belly grumbled with neglect and my face had more makeup applied to it this week than it has had in the past 3 years combined. I also learnt that all this time, what I thought to be my sexy face … really doesn’t look that sexy at all, and in fact more like I’m in pain!


But ... what I also learnt is how to appreciate this profession even more than before, both models and photographers. BB worked SO HARD, whilst I’m powdering my nose, he was setting scenes adjusting the light and settings constantly. I admired how passionate he was towards each shoot, we couldn’t rush it and if the shot wasn’t there, he wouldn’t ‘just take it for the sake of it'. And whilst I now get to go home and rest, he’s copying cards, backing them up and then has the gruelling task of going through 6500 pictures to see which ones are worth keeping, and then editing them! This boudoir photography is a true art form, and I hadn’t appreciated that before now. We all are beautiful and in the right setting, with the right picture, and body position, you can truly capture someone's beauty just as our eyes see it in the most elegant and stylish way.

So aside from all the gruelling hard work, the more important question is, did I enjoy it?


The answer: I enjoyed it very much. BB was incredibly normalising about everything, I mean my mate of 5 years, has now seen every part of me and yet I felt as comfortable if not more being naked in front of him than healthcare providers. I felt sexy, there was a fizz in the air and chemistry between us, that can only be created in a photoshoot.

Nothing about this felt degrading, I felt empowered and womanly! I felt beautiful, admirable and respectable.

I didn’t tell anyone other than my Mum and my sons what I was doing because the truth is I wasn’t sure if I’d go through with it, I didn’t want that pressure, and I also was feeling some stigma around the impression it would give to others. I've mentioned before, that I have body dysmorphia, I've struggled with body identity my entire life, I see so many flaws in myself, and yet only beauty in other people. However, the moment I saw the first picture, just on camera without edits – I was blown away with pride! I look classy in every shot BB has taken, my body is a piece of art, and I couldn’t actually find fault in my own body for the first time.


I called my Mum in excitement and explained to her

"It's the first time I've truly looked at an image of me and thought: Wow I truly look beautiful”.

BB helped me create that 'Thank you BB for helping me see the beauty in myself.


On seeing the first picture, my attitude did a complete 180 and I was ready to share the images with my close friends and confess to the shoot. I was astonished by all the positive feedback I received from friends encouraging me, and with this all stigma removed. It encourages me to be ready to share them with the world.

"Amazing, really stunning" "Wow Nic that's a 20yr old body" "Wow that's a beautiful shot too, these are great! Nice Curves" "Holy Cow"

Will I do it again? I’m not sure where this goes from here, I need to go through the pictures, and BB is already encouraging me to consider doing more and creating a portfolio to make it more regular work for me, which was a compliment. Who knows where this leads, but what I do know is that I had a crazy emotional moving life experience, which has left me with some awesome pictures to impress my grandkids someday with how awesome and wild their Nana looked back in her day!


So, here is my big reveal! My moment in time experiencing a model’s life. Here is the work of a wonderful artist, BB, who was able to capture the very moment where I could finally admit that I too am beautiful:



There is nothing more rare, nor more beautiful, than a woman being unapologetically herself; comfortable in her perfect imperfection. To me, that is the true essence of beauty.” Dr Steve Maraboli

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