Mimi is a proud Latina writer and beauty junkie, always looking for her next female empowerment story to tell. Her work has been published in Thought Catalog, Your Tango, Rawly Bold, Guddi and Read Unwritten. She also has a beauty and lifestyle blog called Life With Mims and has collaborated in projects with NYX Cosmetics, OPI and Pandora.
Photographer Anais Benoudiz was shooting for brands like Estée Lauder and Tommy Hilfiger when she realized she wanted to focus on making women feel empowered and encourage them to cherish their natural beauty. Now the Los Angeles-based creative is most famous for her boudoir shoots showcasing women’s bodies without heavy retouching.
We spoke to Benoudiz about how she makes she makes her clients feel comfortable shooting in lingerie, what makes boudoir photos look classy versus trashy, and why her clients cry (with joy) when they see the photos she took of them.
What made you change your career path from working with well-known fashion and beauty brands to focusing mostly on boudoir photography?
Anais Benoudiz: I actually started as a boudoir photographer many years ago, right after I got divorced and after that, I started getting into fashion and beauty. I moved to New York City and started working for advertising companies, beauty brands, and agencies and I left boudoir behind.
From the idea stage through to execution, it’s a fun process to do a campaign or a photoshoot. However, when I was shooting a professional model, who’s already beautiful, it still included a lot of retouching and a lot of production, and I felt like I wasn’t selling a real woman. The beauty standards were completely off and I felt like it wasn’t okay. I wanted to shoot real beauty and that’s why I decided to go back to boudoir and specialize in beauty photography. When I do beauty photography for brands I try to stay away from heavy retouching because my brand is more real and natural. Going back to boudoir was going back to what I loved the most, photographing real women and making them feel empowered.
What is boudoir photography for you?
For me it’s making women feel empowered through art, so they can understand and see how beautiful they are through the eyes of another person. People have these bad misconceptions that boudoir is like a p*rno type of thing, but it’s not the case, it’s just about women and make them feel beautiful and empowered. Sometimes a woman needs validation, not from others, but through pictures taken by somebody else. She can actually see who she really is. It’s something very classy and stylish, even if it implies nudes, but it’s doesn’t have to be full nudity to show her beauty. It can be regular beauty portraits and still show that side.
How do you mark the line between something sexy and elegant and something that can be interpreted as erotic pictures or p*rnography?
In my style, I don’t do full nudes, I leave something for the imagination. I think that helps, not showing full nudity. Also, the way a woman dresses make a difference. The posing is important too! There are some poses that are too much out there and you see things you don’t want to see, so it’s better to choose poses that are tasteful. I help you with the sexy posing, and we make something that looks elegant, cool, and tasteful. Lastly, I think the attitude makes a difference! The expression in the face can make the difference between something looking too sexy or like p*rn. I believe all these elements make the difference between something classy and something completely sexual.
What do you think is the most empowering thing about doing a boudoir photo shoot with Anais Benoudiz?
I’m not going to lie, women get very nervous before. That’s because they don’t know what to expect and they’re insecure wondering if they’re going to look good or if they are going to look fat, etc. However the day of the photoshoot, they’re more relaxed. I try to set up the mood with some music and have a fun time. We laugh a lot during our shoots, that’s a good icebreaker and then they get comfortable. After the shoot, they get so excited, they are like “oh my God I’ve never felt so free” “I’ve never felt so beautiful” and when I show them how they look with the poses it gives them even more confidence. Two weeks after, when I’ve edited and retouched the photos and they come to see the pictures, 90 percent of them cry. It’s just incredible! They understand that they’re really beautiful and that’s the most empowering a woman can feel. When you feel beautiful, you feel unstoppable.
Do you think boudoir photography has evolved through time?
Yes! Back in the day, it was something you did for your boyfriend, your significant other, your spouse, or as a wedding gift, you were always doing it for somebody, now I’m trying to go more towards “you’re doing it for yourself” and encourage women to do it for themselves. When they come, they share their experiences, for example, “I just got a divorce and I want to feel better about myself”, “I just lost somebody and I want to do it for myself.” Nowadays we’re feeling more empowered and it’s amazing!
What’s would you say to women that want to do a boudoir-style photoshoot but are scared since not everyone is open about women owning their sexuality?
The first thing I would say is to do it! You’re going to be surprised about what you can do. The second thing is do it with a photographer you will feel comfortable with. I know there are a lot of photographers that are starting out or a lot of creepy photographers that do it for the wrong reasons, so do your research and do it with somebody that not only has experience but somebody you have chemistry with.