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Growth in Boudoir Photography

For 2021, I choose three words that I want to guide my focus for this year…. INCLUSION, CREATION, & INNOVATION. I am working through updating the website, social media, and throughout the business to be more accessible, more inclusive, address any other concerns, and update the imagery too. There’s a lot going on behind the scenes, and I wanted to share some growth and history with you.

I was brought up in a family with a verbally and emotionally abusive mother. My father died when I was thirteen. They had brought me up in a cultish religion where only they (the religion) had the answers,  and everyone else was wrong. Changing your views was considered sinful and wrong… even when new information from many verified sources disproved that view/value. Hating yourself and putting your needs/boundaries last was considered the highest good. Many lies were fed to me through this religion, and any negative things about the religion or respected leader were hidden. Guilt, shame, and fear were the motivations to do “the right thing” as they defined it… and most of the religion’s values were either racist, misogynistic, homophobic, ableist, etc… and a lot of times a deadly cocktail of some of or all them. Add to this my struggles with undiagnosed ADHD (until summer 2020) and never feeling like enough or feeling like too much.

Fast forward to high school where I started questioning a lot of the misogynistic practices in my high school. Then to college and after,  getting married, and having kids. Throughout my life, I never thought of myself as hot, sexy, or even beautiful. I thought of myself as cute, silly, quirky, and very awkward. When I started photography in the family business through weddings, I kept seeing again and again how only women who looked a certain way were in the movies, tv, magazines, models, advertising, etc. And that the view of a women’s beauty and her worth was only if she met this impossible criteria. I photographed my first boudoir shoots in 2010 and connected the dots… that all women are beautiful and should feel that way.

So when the mellBella Photography  brand started in January 2011, our mission was to “remind women they are more beautiful than they think they are. Specializing in women’s photography to honor these Bella Beauties and the men they love.” WOW! Thankfully, we’ve done A LOT of growing since then. That mission was problematic… exclusive in several ways. We had a very narrow view of boudoir photography and what it was back then.  Coming into boudoir photography as wedding photographers, we narrowed our focus to only brides either getting married or as gifts for wives to get their husbands.  BUT that excluded  LGBTQIA+ persons… it excluded any other gender… it excluded people who weren’t married… it excluded people who didn’t have a partner… and it made it only about a gift for someone else.  And on top of all that, we had very little diversity in our clients.

Me circa 2011 early on in the mellBella Photography life

 

How did/do I change it? It came/comes through putting in the hard work personally and through the business…. education and communication. Being open to changes to learning… not being afraid of being wrong… apologizing and taking the steps to correct the problems…and changing the goal to not only became a better photographer but also a better human. To create a welcoming, safe place, and fabulous experience for our clients.  And to always be learning, admit wrong doing, when you mess up–make up for it as best as you can, and to put love and kindness above all else.  I have invested in education through The Boudoir University  I’m  over halfway through their foundational program called The 7 Pillar Program: The Course for Photographers Who Give A Damn. “The pillars are designed to confront blind spots, outdated belief systems, and biases that we all have when it comes to the human experience. In order for us to become more empathetic and thus, more empowering, we need to open ourselves up to understanding experiences from different intersections.” Boudoir Photography is truly so much more than “pretty pictures” or just a “photo or tw0.”

Image of Mell Bell by Christine Hamrick Photography

So, what is the mellBella Photography mission/goals now?!? I don’t have a formal mission statement right now that is wrapped up nicely in one sentence… but here’s what I value:

  • EVERY BODY is beautiful. EVERY SINGLE BODY is freaking gorgeous simply because it exists.
  • Boudoir Photography isn’t just for females… it’s for ALL genders.
  • For my clients to see themselves with loving eyes instead of hypercritical ones.
  • Celebrating YOUR version of beautiful, sexy, happy, strong, silly, sensual, etc.
  • Confirmation, Detoxification, Communication, Exhilaration, Declaration, and Affirmation of YOU
  • Creating a Safe Space of respect, trust, peace, vulnerability, emotions, and comfort combined with fun and laughter.
  • An experience that puts back into someone…reminding them to value themselves… appreciate their bodies… AND yes, even CELEBRATE.

Here’s just a small sample of the portraits I’ve been doing. I dedicate to my unforgettable clients, my friends, and family who support me and my work:

 

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What is Boudoir Photography?

woman in cream sweater sitting on egg chair with feet propped up

What is Boudoir Photography to me? For starters, I’ll tell you what it’s not.

Boudoir Photography is NOT:

  • just photos in underwear.
  • for women only.
  • lewd, obscene, vulgar, or gross.
  • demeaning or shameful.
  • perfection or what you think the perfect body should look like.
  • only for people who are a very specific size, shape, age, gender, ethnicity, height, weight, ability, etc.
  • just for the bedroom.

close up of woman with long black hair in a blue teddy and pearl necklace sitting in a rattan egg chair

To me, Boudoir Photography is so much more than just a photoshoot. I photographed my first boudoir clients in 2010. As I’ve photographed hundreds of people over the years, my definition of boudoir photography has grown as I’ve grown as a photographer, artist, and person.

blonde woman in batman tank and panties stretching on yellow couch in front of window

Boudoir Photography :

  • is an experience for ALL HUMANS who want to encounter and embrace their version of BEAUTIFUL.
  • is INCLUSIVE and RESPECTFUL.
  • is feminine, masculine, and/or androgynous.
  • is a GIFT for someone special… YOU ARE THE SOMEONE SPECIAL.
  • is for YOUR BODY exactly as it is right now.
  • is shame free and body positive.
  • is an investment.
  • is a way for you to SEE your SELF, your BEAUTY,  your ARTFUL BODY through another person’s eyes.
  • appreciates the human body in its many versions.
  • can be a LIFE-CHANGING experience.
  • can be clothed, in underwear/lingerie, implied nudity, or nude.
  • can be glammed up and blinged out.
  • can be cozy and subtle.
  • can be silly and smiley.
  • can be sultry, sensuous, or sexy.
  • can be a gift for your partner, but it can be just for you.
  • can reveal something you never considered before now.
  • is fun!!!

 

2020 End of the Updates and Events

2020 End of the Year Events and Updates

Our Community Care Event is going on through Saturday, December 12th. Here’s how to enter to help the community and enter for a chance to WIN prizes from Local Small Businesses.

Step 1- Donate $10 or more to one or all of the organizations listed below:
Lowcountry Food Bank⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Fresh Future Farm⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
YWCA Greater Charleston⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Community Resource Center Summerville  and North Charleston (Cash app tag $NCCRC)⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Step 2- Email us at info@mellbella.com with the screenshot with your donation. We’ll reply with how many entries you have in the contest. You have until Saturday, Dec 12th at 11:59pm to enter. More details on the blog
Miss Rockabillaque 2020 contest

Even though Rockabillaque 2020 was cancelled. The 2020 Miss Rockabillaque Pin-Up Contest happening as part of this year’s CODfather Christmas Celebration on Saturday, December 19th. The Pin-Up Contest will be a Holiday/Winter theme. Register to compete in the 2020 Pin-Up Contest here: https://www.rockabillaque.com/contests   As usual, we are sponsoring the Pin-Up Contest, AND the winner will receive a FREE pinup photography session with us including hair/makeup styling and access to the mellBella Closet. ($400 value).

The event will also include live rockabilly music, over 20 vendors, a giant Christmas tree, falling snow, Santa, kids activities, a bonfire, and more!! The Pin-Up Contest will be at 3pm on the Outdoor Stage at the restaurant. Miss Rockabillaque 2019, Ashley Kramer will be crowning the 2020 winner!

AND finally, we’re making some fine adjustments and planning for 2021, and we want to hear from you… what you want to see, hear, experience AND as always sooooo much more! Be sure to keep checking the blog and our social media for what’s coming next. Have a Happy Holidays, stay healthy, wear your mask, and look out for each other!

MBCommunityCare

Community Care Event

It’s the time of year … time for our last big fundraiser/giveaway/drawing event of 2020. Community Care is about showing care and support for our neighbors, small businesses, and our local community.

We have chosen the organizations listed below as part of this event. Each organization has been working in the community for several years to do things like fighting racism, empowering women, helping those struggling with food insecurity and/living in a food desert, and so much more.

Please donate and show your support to:

(Your donations will reach both the Community Resource Centers faster through Cash app with the tag: $NCCRC)


Here’s how to enter:

  • Donate $10 or more to one of the organizations listed above. For every $10 donated, you will receive 1 entry into the giveaway.
  • Just email a screenshot of your donation to info@mellbella.com to enter the contest.  All donations must be made from 10/23/2020-12/12/2020 to be included in the contest.
  • Additional ways to enter the contest will be announced on mellBella’s social media accounts between 10/23/2020-12/12/2020. Be sure to LIKE or FOLLOW us on: Facebook, Instagram, and/or Google Business.
  • Additional prizes will be introduced on mellBella’s social media accounts listed above.
  • Winners will be notified by 12/14/2020.

ALL prizes are from local small businesses. The more donations we raise, the more prizes will be released. Here’s just the start of the prizes available:

  • FREE Boudoir Photography Session including professional hair/makeup styling from mellBella Photography ($400 value)
  • $100 Gift Basket from Mamasita’s Cloth Diaper Service. Perfect for if you’re expecting or if you want to give as a gift for new mothers and fathers. Mamasita's Cloth Diaper Service Gift Basket
  • 45 mins visit to the Salt Room at Under the Stars Massage Therapy.  Unlike table salt, pure mineral salt is naturally moisturizing and brings many benefits to our lungs, skin, and bodily health.
  • Massage from Under the Stars Massage Therapy Their signature massage is designed to improve circulation, relieve muscle tension, and reduce stress.
Caring for the community is all year long, but maybe we can do a little extra right now. We all know that this year has been filled with extra difficulty, but joy can also be a form of resistance and hope for making the world a better place. Not just for a few but for everyone.

#MBCommunityCare

christopher robin quote

Transitions and Changes

2020…what a year!!! I don’t think any of us could have imagined what this year would look like.  I think we’ve all become familiar with having to figure out new ways of working, schooling, living, and dealing with everything in our daily lives.

Today, I want to share with you a big transition in mellBella Photography. About 10 years ago, Wanda and I dreamed, planned, and officially founded the mellBella Brand. We were two best friends with big ideas and tenacious attitudes to create a one-of-a-kind, empowering photography experience.

mell bell and wanda are up to something
Each year we would imagine and create new ways to elevate the mellBella Experience. Our families have grown together and even at times vacationed together. Wanda was at the births of both my children, and I (Mell) helped photograph two of Wanda’s daughter’s weddings. Also all of Wanda’s daughters have helped out at mellBella through the years too, especially Cecilee (Wanda’s eldest daughter).

Since 2012, Cecilee has worn many different hats as a part of the mellBella team. She started helping us with our boudoir marathons, and her assignments grew from there. You may have met her as the Welcome Committee when you arrived at our studio. Or maybe it was at one of the many wedding shows/Rockabillaque. Or in your actual photo shoot when she helped out with posing and photography.

Mell Bell, Cecilee, and Wanda

But things at mellBella are changing and adapting like we do every year. This year, we have the biggest change yet. The pandemic has hit our industry hard causing a difficult yet necessary shift among our mellBella team. Therefore, with lots of love, friendship, and support, we want to announce that Wanda and Cecilee are now small business owners. They have launched a new business, like none other, in the Charleston area. Introducing Mamasita’s Cloth Diaper Service.

mamasita's cloth diaper service
It is their goal to make cloth diapering an easy eco-friendly experience.  They even offer cloth wipes, diaper balm, wipe solution, and more. Let me just say that as one of their first clients,  I LOVE my products and so does my little one. Seriously, the diaper balm and wipes solution smell soooooo good. Be sure to check them out at: mamasitasclothdiaperservice.com

Please show your love and support to Wanda and Cecilee and their business. And if you or someone you know is having a baby/thinking about cloth diapering, please share their website, Facebook, or Instagram. They even offer classes on cloth diapering or you can check them out at the  Sea Island Farmer’s Market.

Wanda and Cecilee-I love you both so much, and I look forward to seeing your business grow. Thank you for all the time, the hard work, the behind the scenes, your friendship, support, and everything inbetween!  Our friendship is not something that comes along every day, and it’s not something that’s going away.

mellBella Photography isn’t going anywhere either. Things may be changing, but we’re adaptable. You can still expect  a one-of-a-kind, empowering photography experience. That’s one thing that will never change. And in true mellBella fashion, I want to share some of my favorite mellBella moments with Wanda over the years.

Wear your off the shoulder sweater

One Image Wednesday- Off the Shoulder Sweater

This One Image Wednesday — Grab that off the shoulder sweater and SHOW OFF those shoulders! OR take a sweater that is a few sizes too big for a similar look. Neutral colors like gray are great, but don’t be afraid of a pop of color. Plus, you’ll be so comfy too. Just wear it.

Wear THAT Dress

One Image Wednesday- THAT Dress

Happy Wednesday! It’s always a struggle to figure out what to wear for your photo shoot. But what about that dress you love?!? It doesn’t have to be a ballgown, but it could be. It doesn’t have to be your wedding dress, but it COULD be. It could even be that dress you wore on your first date, your anniversary, or your birthday. OR maybe it’s just your favorite dress that you wear to the beach. Don’t think I CAN’T WEAR THAT! Bring it to your mellBella session to see that dress in a whole new way.

with love from Mell and Wanda

2020 New Year

Mell Bell and Wanda the photographers and founders of mellBella Photography

Happy New Year from mellBella! It’s 2020. It’s a new year and with that it means there fresh excitement for change, hope, and love. For growing, dreaming and achieving, building a better world filled with justice and love, making positive connections, for surviving and getting through, gratitude, and as always kindess.

We don’t know what all this new year holds. Some people say 2020 is the year of clear vision…haha. But we have some ideas and dreams that we look forward to bringing to you this year.

Our motto for this year is timeless advice:

“If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else!” RuPaul

Thank you for your trust, your support, and just being yourself. To 2020!

News Flash Friday- April 2019

mellbella legs

Summer Boudoir Marathon

Announcing the one the ONLY mellBella Summer Boudoir Marathon will take place on Saturday, June 8, 2019. Mark your calendars now and make your plans to book your session before they run out.

When will it be announced?

We will be giving away 1 session to our June 8th Boudoir Marathon. Details and how to enter for your chance to win will be announced on our Facebook Page on April 8th. You will have until TAX DAY April 15th to enter, and the winner will be announced by April 18th.

bridal boudoir by mellBella

Wedding Festivals Fall 2019

Our next scheduled wedding show is on Sunday, September 8th at the Charleston Area Convention Center. So, if you or your friend is getting married, bring the whole crew to our booth. We ALWAYS have something extra special at our booth ONLY available for those who attend. As always, Ladies ONLY!

mellBella Fun Facts

mellbella laughter

What’s new in 2019 at mellBella…

  • We’ve added a new album and some gorgeous wall portraits for you to proudly display some of your photos in your home.
  • We’ve renovated the studio and added new sets/furniture. There’s always something new at mellBella. Next up, we will be updating our website too!  
  • Mell Bell and Wanda and dreaming up something special for this fall. Stay tuned for details!
mell bell and wanda News flash friday faces

News Flash Friday- October 2018

mellbella trick or treat 2018

Halloween Costume Contest

What are you going to be for Halloween?  Be sure to enter our online Halloween Costume Contest. You could win a FREE boudoir or pinup session with us or some other fantastic prizes. The rules are simple, and all ladies 21 years old and up are eligible to enter.

1. Post a photo of yourself in your costume on Facebook or Instagram now through October 31st
2. Tag mellBella in your post on Facebook- mellBella Boudoir & PinUp Photography or Instagram – mellBella
3. Add the hashtag #mellbellatrickortreat2018
4. There are 3 categories and prizes: Overall (wins the FREE session), Scariest, and Sexiest (have other awesome prizes)

We’ll announce the winner after Halloween! Can’t wait to see what you come up with.

Miss Rockabillaque 2018

Rockabillaque 2018

Are you ready? It’s almost time for the 6th annual Rockabillaque at Park Circle in North Charleston from 11am-6pm on November 10th. Bring your friends, and come check out the vintage car and bike shows, live music, or enter one of the contests: Pinup, Tattoo, Beard & Mustache, and more. mellBella is proudly sponsoring the Pinup Contest again, and this year, we’ll be judging it too! So grab your pearls, wear your best pinup look, and rock on down to Park Circle. We’ll also have a booth there to check out our pinup photography too.

C4W NEW Conference 2018

Center for Women NEW Conference

C4WNEW is the Center for Women’s 2-day event on November 15 & 16th bringing inspiring fresh ideas, relevant and useful knowledge, and innovative thinking to curious and ambitious women in South Carolina. This event will ignite professional growth, personal transformation, and economic development. mellBella will be there as part of their ME TIME Marketplace with specials ONLY available for those attending. AND you can still purchase the She’s My Hero Calendar at this event.

Get your tickets at: Center for Women

mellBella Gives Back

mellBella Fun Fact

Looking to give back? Some of our favorite local non profits/charities to support are:

  • One Eighty Place ends and prevents homelessness one person at a time, one family at a time.
  • Florence Crittenton Programs of SC provide education, counseling services, medical care, social support, and a safe haven for at-risk,  pregnant and parenting young women in need.
  • People Against Rape (PAR) is a sexual advocacy program offering free support and services for survivors of sexual assault.
  • YWCA Greater Charleston is dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all.

We’ll be posting some more about them and their Christmas Wish Lists coming soon!