First, can you tell us about how you two met, your backgrounds, and how you came together?
Giovonni and I met at a networking night for Plexus, Northeast Ohio's LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce. We chatted all night and it was an instant attraction. We went on our first date a few days later. It was on that date that we realized that we had both been selected as one of Cleveland Magazine's Most Interesting People, Giovonni for her advocacy work as a transgender veteran and myself as a body positive influencer and queer model. Gio runs his own non-profit for transgender youth called META Center Inc and he also helped to open the country's first transgender specific clinic at a VA Hospital. He is pretty much amazing.
I run the plus size fashion and lifestyle blog, Ready to Stare which just celebrated its seven-year anniversary. We quickly realized that we matched each other in passion, drive and desire to create social change. We do not take it lightly that we represent visibility for a number of marginalized groups.
How long have you been together?
We met in October 2017 and we got engaged in August 2018 at the Philadelphia Trans Wellness Conference. Our wedding date is September 22, 2019!
What made you decide to do a couple's boudoir session?
We wanted to do a couple's boudoir shoot to show not only our vulnerability but also our deep love for each other. I have done a few boudoir shoots by myself in the past and they definitely don't compare to doing a couple's shoot. There's something very vulnerable about having the person who knows you intimately be there with you. There's nowhere to hide but I had my safe person there, so it felt comfortable to be more vulnerable. For Gio, he is very self conscious about his chest after having surgery and still not loving it enough. I expected Gio to keep his shirt on the whole shoot and when he took it off early on in the shoot, it inspired me to face my own insecurities more.
Although we had the idea to do a couples boudoir session at some point during our engagement, this particular session came from a call for models from photographer Amber Patrick. I did my first boudoir shoot with her, so I thought working with her again for a couples shoot would be awesome. She specifically said she was looking for couples that didn't fit what you usually see in couples boudoir (i.e. white, cis, straight, thin).
How did you pick your wardrobe for the session?
Since it was around Valentine's Day, I knew I wanted to shoot something red — the color of confidence! I had the Curvy Couture Lace Tulip Push Up Bra and Panty in mind because the color is so vibrant. It wasn't until after the shoot that I realized I actually wore that same set in black on my first solo boudoir shoot. I had the thigh highs because I know that's one of the items that is hardest to find in plus sizes and I wanted to show a style that worked for me. I told Gio to pick something that would match red and he chose Nike red boxer briefs. You can always find him in head-to-toe Nike, and even for boudoir, that did not change! For the second look, I had brought probably 20 options. I have A LOT of cute plus size lingerie and there were a number of directions I wanted to go. Ultimately, I decided to do the Charley set from Elomi paired with an oversized sweater. I liked the way the feminine details of the set contrasted with the oversized sweater. Gio wore a blue button down and black boxers. We felt like the vibe was "I can't wait to get you home."
Can you educate our readers on hiring a body positive boudoir photographer?
This shoot inspired me to write about the importance of finding a body positive boudoir photographer. First and foremost, a body positive boudoir photographer should showcase diverse bodies on their social media and portfolio. You need to be comfortable knowing that they are going to celebrate you body as it is rather than trying to hide or minimize your body. I think it's important to ask questions like "can I look at my photos during the session?" and "do I get final review?" A body positive boudoir will realize that showing a body that exists outside the beauty norm is very vulnerable and do what they can to ensure your comfort.
What else would you like to tell us?
Words by Alysse Dalessandro, interviewed by Amber Marlow. Photos by Amber Patrick.