Merry Christmas to Chelsea! | McGowan Images Blog


Merry Christmas to Chelsea!

My big Christmas present this year was my “Supermodel Experience” photo shoot with the Boudoir Divas in San Diego! The experience was magical and wonderful and life-affirming and empowering and all sorts of other words that might seem superfluous for a portrait session but are absolutely true. I’ve shared in this blog a couple pictures from that shoot that were taken in a dress because, well, I feel awesome in the dress. And I shared them HERE because they’re completely 100% tame. I shared more about my experience, including a “behind the scenes” video taken during my shoot, over at the Girls On Film blog, and I invite you to head over there if you’re interested. Rest assured, it’s not very racy at all… that’s just not my personal style. Everything is just as covered up as I’d be on the beach, and I’m very proud of the work Marissa did for me. I just didn’t want anyone to stumble upon half-bare Chelsea and be able to say they weren’t warned. πŸ˜‰

The Boudoir Divas studio in San Diego is really incredible. It’s 4,500 square feet of shooting space, working space, and meeting space. When I walked in the door at 10:25 a.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 7, I was terrified. I know that seems silly, since I do this for a living and I know that a good boudoir photographer can work wonders. But the thing is, I really struggle with my body image, and I just really REALLY wanted this to go fabulously. Luckily, the Divas started to make me feel like a rock star the second I walked in. We got a VIP parking spot, there was a sign inside the door welcoming me by name, and Deena the concierge met me at the door with a hug and a glass of champagne. Off to a good start, indeed. πŸ™‚

Mack dropped me off and gave me a kiss and told me not to be nervous, which is like telling a bird not to be skittish. I met with my hair and makeup artist, Peggy, and spent an hour and a half in her chair. When she was done, even though I was in workout gear from VS, I totally could have done the photoshoot right that second. Peggy is SO talented, and I felt like a million bucks. I headed back to the lounge and waited for my photographer to come in and fetch me.

I was blessed to be photographed by Marissa Boucher, one of the founders of the Boudoir Divas and a hero of mine. What she and her partner Kimberly have been able to accomplish, and their unwavering dedication to their Mission Statement is so inspiring to me. In fact, I need to share that mission statement here. It’s just too good:

Our God grants us beauty and love everyday.
He gives us the strength and wisdom to create a life that will benefit those around us and those he asks us to help and give to abundantly.
He gives us the resources and creativity to create a classy and romantic piece of art that ignites confidence and excitement in a wife.
Re-enforcing beauty in a woman and romance between a couple.
With praise and deep gratitude, we thank God everyday for the blessings He gives to us. We have nothing to fear because Christ sustains us.

As much as I could, I tried to relax, and talk to Marissa about my vision for the shoot. I felt like she understood me right away, and embraced what I was going for… I wanted to have fun, and feel powerful in my own skin, and capture a little bit of old school glamour. I wanted pictures that my husband could be proud to put on his night stand, but that I would also feel confident showing my friends and my mom, and my daughter and someday granddaughters. It wasn’t so much about “sexy” for me (although man, she accomplished that anyway!)… it was about feeling beautiful.

Over the next couple hours, with four outfits, on 5 sets, I felt like I worked WITH Marissa to create something amazing. I had an absolute blast… even if I never saw the pictures, I’d want to do it again just for the fun of it. Marissa was so encouraging and hilarious, and it truly felt like we’d been friends our whole lives.

A fun little aside… during outfit #2, Deena the concierge called into the studio that I had a delivery. I knew immediately that it was Mack spoiling me again. He’s so wonderful. He brought me gorgeous flowers and a box of Godiva chocolate covered strawberries. I’m such a lucky girl.

When the shoot was done and I was back in normal clothes, Mack picked me up and we went on a french fry run. We couldn’t go far, though, because the coolest part of the experience was yet to come. With the Boudoir Divas, you see your pictures the same day! An hour after my shoot, we were back in the lounge, and I was gripping Mack’s hand so hard. I was so nervous to see the results! I knew that no skin smoothing or other photoshop magic would have been run on them… just color tweaks and filters to match the artistic vibe Marissa was shooting for. I love that she approaches each set as an opportunity to make a piece of art, and I knew I could trust her… I just was nervous that I’d see the pictures and hate everything about myself.

Well, there was no reason to fear. From the very first one that popped up on the screen, I was in love. I felt great about my body, I loved my hair, I fell in love with my tattoos again. I was PROUD. Mack was sitting beside me, squeezing my knee and saying, “OH!”, “WOW!”, “MAN!” and other great wonderful things every woman should hear. Out of over 200 pictures, there are a handful that I don’t feel adore… but seriously? I’ll take those numbers. If I had come away from this with only 10 pictures that I loved, I would have been truly happy, but I got LOTS.

Really, I know this blog is long, but I could talk for three times as many paragraphs about what a joy this experience was. I struggled with feeling like it was vain to spend so much money on something to make me feel good about myself… because when I say it like that, it really does feel vain. And thenΒ  I was reminded of what I tell my clients every day: Feeling good about yourself is HEALTHY. To feel beautiful makes us stronger. It makes us happier, more attentive, more vibrant wives. It makes us better mothers, because we can teach our children about confidence, and finding the beauty in others and themselves. It makes me a better friend, because I don’t get mired in jealousy. It makes me a better photographer, because I’m reminded of the power of a good picture. This experience was worth so much more than I could ever pay for it, and I’ll be forever grateful to my husband for making this happen for me.

I know it seems a little silly for a boudoir photographer to recommend that people fly across the country and work with a DIFFERENT boudoir photographer, but seriously… if you want the experience of a lifetime, book your plane tickets immediately and go see The Boudoir Divas. These women are talented artists and incredible people, and the experience will change the way you see yourself. Cross my heart.

This review and more of my favorite pictures from my shoot, as well as the video that is my absolute favorite part, are all posted at my boudoir blog, Girls On Film. I’m so proud of them, and I wanted to share so that the women I photograph will take confidence knowing that I know where they’re coming from with their nerves. πŸ™‚ I’m hoping against hope that the frequently-anonymous meanies on the internet won’t rear their ugly heads for this, but I know it’s a possibility. Just try to remember… if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all!

Thank you SO much to all of you who were so encouraging and supportive to me on Facebook the day of the shoot, and the day I posted my “sneak peek”. I am so blessed to have so many people, both real-life friends and those of you I just know through this blog and social networking, that are so wonderful to us!

(For the interested, this green dress is from from PinupGirl Clothing. The gold heels are from Target. All images are copyrighted by, and I ask pretty pretty please that you respect me AND them by honoring this copyright.)

I can’t I can’t I can’t pick a favorite. I love these all so much. Every woman should get to feel this incredible at least once in her life!!


  1. KaylaS says:

    I can’t wait to go to the girls on film blog for more! You look just fantastic! You should feel great about them, really wonderful!

  2. Amber says:

    Foxy lady!!! You look absolutely gorgeous in all of them. I think my favorites are the last one posted and the one of you laying down. Awesome photos, can’t wait to get over to the Girls on Film blog!

  3. Mack says:

    I’m SO proud of you! You’re incredible and beautiful and MY WIFE. Pretty stoked about that combo!

  4. Danielle says:

    You look incredible! Definitely helped convince me to consider a shoot one day as well…confidence in a woman is stunning!! You rocked it, Chelsea!

  5. Mike says:


  6. MeaganB says:

    I know I’ve told you a MILLION times, but I am SO PROUD of you for doing this! You are a beautiful woman, inside and out, and I’m so happy you have some documented evidence of just how gorgeous you are to the world. You know I love them ALL, but the second to last one is my favorite of this set πŸ˜‰

  7. Nicole says:

    Geez Louise! You are beautiful!!! And you were are completely stocked up on Facebook profile pics for a while!

  8. Ambo says:

    You look absolutely amazing bestie!!!! I’m headed over to Girls on Film right now to check em all out and I know they will be stunning!!! I love that your beautiful soul is shining through with your natural beauty in these pictures!!

  9. Misty says:

    Amazingly incredibly gorgeously wonderful!!! SO happy you got to do this for yourself!!! <3

  10. Mari Thomas says:

    Whoah, sexy beast!!! Ow ow!!

  11. Tara says:

    You are gorgeous! I love the one of you laying down.

  12. Deana says:

    Absolutely BEAUTIFUL!

  13. Kandace says:

    Absolutely Beautiful! Love it!!!

  14. Megan says:

    Love your pictures!! You look amazing!

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