who needs some soul-snatching transformation? boudoir photographer lezandra mcginnis gets you there
If you think that boudoir photography is simply about taking sexy pics in barely there panties and pasties, think again. Boudoir and erotica photographer LeZandra McGinnis is down for making your time with her as personally transformational as you're open for. Pre-shoot, she spends time getting to know you, your desires, your intentions, so each shoot reflects parts of you that have been hidden, untapped, unexplored and, once you visually see this delicious authenticity, you can't unsee it... in the most life-changing way possible. In fact, she calls boudoir "therapy in action." A true force of nature with a psych background, she's expanded her boudoir business to include a sex education series (shibari, anyone?) for conversations, community and self-discovery that you might not find elsewhere. So, sure, hit her up for some sexy AF pics, but stay for the soul-igniting fun.
Check out our interview with the fire starter herself...
LeZandra McGinnis, LeZandra Photography
You said you were living an unfulfilled life and were afraid to stand out, how did you find the power to shift and ultimately now give women the very thing you were afraid of?
LeZandra McGinnis I think the biggest turning point was when I left my ex-husband. I was in a very emotionally abusive relationship from the time I was 13 to 26, and it was extremely unhealthy, extremely damaging. And I didn't realize just how much so until I left. And then during that process, becoming a single mom, learning how to navigate life on my own, by myself, and not only navigating it, but driving through it, that was the most empowering experience for me.
And then being able to share that with my clients and just going through the process of meeting them where they're at in their lives and allowing them to really take their own power back. That's been the, I think, biggest thing for me.
Because you were stepping out on your own and just navigating so much on your own, I'm just curious how you found that power within you. Did you have guidance or did you just take it one step at a time?
LeZandra McGinnis A lot of it was really just self-driven. I had a mentor that I'd worked with, but they were more like a therapist honestly. And they were more like my financial person. That helped me a lot in just giving me that encouragement, like hey, you've got this. You can do it on your own. But when it came to the actual stuff, I think a lot of it was really self-driven.
How has your motto ‘fuck what they think’ translated into your boudoir and erotica photography business and lingerie/toy offerings?
LeZandra McGinnis So, a lot of it is that when we go through life, we have these ideas of who we should be or who we think we should be. People will tell us who they think we should be. And that tends to weigh very heavily on us.
And for me, as I was a mother, as I was a wife, I was put in a lot of roles and had these expectations, very firm expectations, of this is what's expected of you. This is how you should dress. This is how you should act. This is how you should look. Don't ruffle any feathers. Don't speak too loudly. Don't rock the boat. It's better just to be quiet rather than create any kind of dissonance.
"When you're directly looking at yourself and you're directly confronting your body image issues, your sexual shame, you're able to take these things that have held you back previously and be able to really explore them and really celebrate them and take ownership of them and present it in a new light that's entirely on your terms." — LeZandra McGinnis
And for me, I've always been pretty outspoken. My mouth has always gotten me into trouble, throughout my whole life. And so, being a person that has always been outspoken and then having all of these different expectations placed on me became one of those experiences where you start to doubt yourself. You start to feel shame for who you are. You start to really criticize yourself on a very deep level. So, 'Fuck What They Think' is really saying, you don't owe anybody an explanation for anything. You are allowed to be yourself. You're allowed to live your life on your terms. You don't have to answer to anyone. And if people have judgments for how you do live, that's on them. It's not on you.
Your life is yours to live alone, and yours alone, and it's your responsibility to make yourself happy.
Yeah, and it seems like you're even approaching boudoir differently. You offer separate classes, you are really in there with your clients emotionally, is that part of 'Fuck What They Think,' or is that just who you are?
LeZandra McGinnis Absolutely. So one thing that we started doing at the studio is our monthly Let's Talk About Sex series. And each time we would meet, we'd have a different topic that we'd meet around. And just getting women together, I started to notice a very common thread of so many of us are struggling with very similar things, but we don't speak about it and we don't feel like we have support in it.
So by being able to not only connect with other people and the things we love, but to be able to expand on them and grow through them and use these experiences to really help us as people just become more whole, I loved it. So, the events that we've been doing with the workshops and stuff like that, they've been really good at providing greater accessibility for those who might not be able to come in to have a full boudoir session. They're still able to come to the studio and experience a lot of what we're here for. And that is to support people on their sexual journey and their path to self-discovery and self-love.
"Boudoir is therapy in action..." — LeZandra McGinnis
So, through these classes, they're able to come and take part and get to meet other people in the community that are like-minded and still be really supported. And I also love anything that involves communication, connection.
My background is psychology so being able to not just have the women come in, but their partners. And for their partners to be able to benefit from it, that has been huge, because a lot of times their partners… communication is not their strong suit. They might have their own struggles and so this is a place to allow them to have fun and explore and do things that are out of their own comfort zones to gather, but be very safe and supported through it.
What are some of the ways you use your sex coaching expertise with your boudoir clients?
LeZandra McGinnis So, I'm actually in training still for my sex coaching, but my background, I have my degree in psychology, started my photography business when I was in college, and after I graduated, went to full time with it. And I decided not to go back to school for my master's for sex therapy, just because I'm actually doing the fucking work that people would have years of going to therapy and trying to get to the same place and we can do that in one session. When you're directly looking at yourself and you're directly confronting your body image issues, your sexual shame, you're able to take these things that have held you back previously and be able to really explore them and really celebrate them and take ownership of them and present it in a new light that's entirely on your terms. And so, that's where I've found it's been very connecting. A lot of my clients are therapists themselves, actually. And so that's been really cool, because boudoir is therapy in action in my opinion.
You’ve said that your sessions are transformative – how does that manifest in your clients relationships, sex lives and mojo out in the world?
LeZandra McGinnis So, I think... I don't know. I'm still trying to figure out what we do that makes it super different. I think a lot of it is me. I don't know. We do so much one-on-one talking. During hair and makeup, they're sitting there for one to two hours and we're talking about whatever they want. This is their time.
And a lot of stuff comes up during that time. And I think these are conversations that they're itching to have, but just haven't had that permission to. So it's opening that door up and then as you're going through the session, I think power of perspective is a huge thing. Visually being able to see yourself in a different light. It's one thing to have all these mindfulness techniques and think about things and reframe them mentally. But when you're able to visually see yourself completely shifted and in a completely different depiction of any way you've ever seen yourself, it's really empowering.
Because you're able to see, wow, that thing that I was super obsessed about in front of the mirror? It looks great, actually. I'm not even mad at it. It's fucking awesome. Instead of looking at yourself and picking yourself apart, you're seeing the things that you've always looked at with a negative eye, but it's in a completely different light.
It's one that's loving, it's compassionate, it's caring, it's honoring your space.
During our sessions, I'm big on intentions. And everyone has a different intention. Everyone has a different reason for coming in. So, I do dive a bit deep to see, okay, why are you here? What are you going through? What are you working on? How can we help you in this path?
"Visually being able to see yourself in a different light. It's one thing to have all these mindfulness techniques and think about things and reframe them mentally. But when you're able to visually see yourself completely shifted and in a completely different depiction of any way you've ever seen yourself, it's really empowering." — LeZandra McGinnis
After sessions, I've noticed lately, a lot of my clients have been getting divorced, which I'm honestly here for, because it's like, yes, you're realizing shit, I have been very unhappy. I even had a couple recently, during their couples session, they broke down in tears together and it was a beautiful moment. And then after, they made the decision to separate and they were like, that experience helped us make this decision with love and not with anger. We were able to realize what we needed in a relationship and a partner was not what the other person was willing to provide. And sometimes, those are the hard questions you have to ask yourself. And so we do. We do dive deep. Before the couples session, we talked about their relationship dynamics, especially because I knew they were going through some stuff. But I need to know that as a photographer. I need to know what you guys are going through in life right now, so I can better tailor the session.
So those discussions and that personal exploration I think is really helpful for them. And then just taking that and running with it and just deciding you do have the chance to choose a different life for yourself. You do have the ability to look at yourself from a different perspective and realize, oh, maybe I want to change this. Maybe I want to focus more on this thing. Maybe I need to let this person go. Maybe I should not allow this influence in my life. Maybe those things they tell me all the time are really destructive and harmful. And maybe I need to sit with this new version of me.
So, that's really cool. It's super cool to see just those mental transitions that happen between before and after.
That's fascinating, because it’s literally taking pictures of someone in a sexy, vulnerable state, so to speak, so you would think it would be just like, ‘oh, I'm getting my picture taken today,’ when in fact it could be the most life-changing experience you gift for yourself.
LeZandra McGinnis Oh, yeah. Absolutely. And you don't even realize it, because a lot of times my clients are doing it as a gift or they feel that they're doing it for somebody because they can't justify spending that much money on themselves. So to be able to do it and be like, oh wow, this is actually great for me, I think that's really huge.
I love that you’re offering a shibari class — what do you hope clients will experience or take home from this?
LeZandra McGinnis So that's been really cool, because most of the people that have taken the class, with the exception maybe one or two, haven't had any experience with shibari. But for them, it's been the desire to learn something new, to try something different.
And if they can add something to their sexual toolkit, then it's another thing that they're able to do with their partner. So, that's been really cool, just being able to introduce people to something that they've maybe been curious about, but they never knew how to go about it and to do it in a pretty safe place. I really like that.
Yeah, I would think most people who haven’t done shibari might think, well, do I have to go to a sex dungeon to learn this? And then am I this new person who's going to get tied up and hung from the ceiling? And no, it’s not like that at all...
LeZandra McGinnis Yes, exactly. I think that's what's fun, too. Everyone, for the most part, people who've come in for the classes, know me in some capacity. So, they have that inherent trust, because we've worked together and we've worked together intimately. So being able to say, "Oh yeah, we're just going to LeZandra's to get tied up." It's cute, because they're so casual about it. But it is. I know that we created a place where they feel very safe to be able to do these things and it's a lot of fun. It's introducing fun into your sex life.
How do your boudoir sessions let people explore more of their curiosities, kinks or pleasures that might otherwise be “forbidden” or scary?
LeZandra McGinnis I think, one, just normalizing BDSM images helps take a lot of that stigma away, because they're seeing, oh wow, this person is into this. Maybe it's not this big, scary thing that I've always been told about it.
I think by having more representation around different people and different sexual spaces is important. Being able to see other bodies in sexualized ways — not to hyper-sexualize everybody, but everyone is sexual — and to be able to celebrate that, to be able to show that… representation is huge and it's really important. And if you don't ever see someone that looks like you doing things, you might never want to do those things or not feel like you have permission to or feel like you are able to do it comfortably.
So much of what you offer women seems to be in the form of liberation or freedom… how does your work help women break free from rules, norms, fears, etc.?
LeZandra McGinnis I think when we really own our sexuality, we're really owning a lot of vulnerable parts of ourselves. And as women, our whole lives are politicized and they're controlled. There's attempts at control. And so, to be able to take something that, a lot of times people put strict expectations on, and to be able to take ownership of it and take charge and it is yours. It's yours to own, it's yours to express however you wish to.
Being able to do that and express the most intimate parts of you, I think that's so fucking powerful, because when we're told, as women, you need to be modest, being able to question that, being able to say, "Well, what is modesty?" What one person finds modest, another person might find offensive.
And why is this idea of modesty even a thing? Why is this even a concept? Being able to take those things and make them your own, I think it's really powerful. Especially because most of our clients have had some kind of sexual trauma or some kind of sexual experiences that have made them really doubt themselves. Really doubt who they are or doubt their bodies or doubt whether or not what they did was okay. To be able to show them and give them the tools to be able to express that on their terms, I think is really powerful.
I've literally never heard it said this way, but I think that's kind of the question of the day, “Why is modesty even a concept for women?”
LeZandra McGinnis It's crazy. We don't expect modesty of men.
We don't tell men to cover up. Who does this shit?
If we were building a sex room, what are some off-the-radar accessories, toys or details that we should include?
LeZandra McGinnis Hardware, I would say. Hardware is amazing. You can get so much at your local hardware store. Just for access points and things like that. We have O-rings at the studio, which are so easy to find, and you can put those suckers anywhere. We have these metal O-rings that I've been able to drill into the bed and that creates a whole new dynamic to the bed. Just creates a whole level of fun. You can strap things to it. It's really fun to play with. I think access points and hardware are the biggest things, for sure.
You’ve said you’re constantly evolving your brand, what’s still on your bucket list?
LeZandra McGinnis I'm really looking more into education right now. I have always trained other photographers, but never really wanted to dive fully into it, just because I'm busy. I'm busy running a studio. But now that I'm getting older, I'm like, okay, I can slow down a little bit. I can pass the torch on. And as far as education goes, I've been really working to expand with erotica. I put out an erotica guide for photographers and that has been really well received, because it talks a lot about intention, building a sex-positive boudoir studio, creating an inclusive environment.
And then also, how do you even direct an erotica session? So, we go into that. So that's been really cool, just stepping more into the education space and working with photographers that are starting out and trying to explore and see where they fall along this space, because boudoir is a huge spectrum.
I think when you're dealing with sexuality, you're dealing with spectrums. And so, it's cool to see just how everyone takes it and makes it their own.
Interesting. So, can you talk a little bit about that? Just so I understand what the spectrums would be?
LeZandra McGinnis So I shoot boudoir and erotica. And boudoir sessions are typically more implied, as far as sexuality goes. There's definitely sexuality expressed. It's very celebrated, but it's not explicit. It's not the primary purpose. There may or may not be nudity in the boudoir session, whereas with an erotica session, you're most likely going to have some nudity.
I say my erotica sessions kick off where boudoir leaves behind or where boudoir stops. Because once we've crossed over to erotica territory, we're going for it. We're doing everything and there's no limits on what's expressed, what's not expressed. I do have consent things that everyone signs and we all talk about it beforehand. There's a lot more planning involved with the erotica sessions. If we have a couples session, they're like, "Well, what if we want to go further?"
Well, you can. And then it's an erotica session. And then we have an insertion fee, because I also have to clean up the studio.
I give them extra homework for the erotic session, because then we're really diving into your sexuality. And I want to know, okay, what are we going to be shooting for? Are there any specific poses you like or any things you really want to have celebrated during your session that we can bring into it? Things about your sex life that you really, really love that you want to have captured?
So, those are things that we'll capture during the erotica sessions, whereas the couples, we pull back a bit. We'll focus more on other aspects versus more of the, we're going all in.
Last question, your expertise is in igniting women’s sexual fire and sensual flow — how do you do that and how can we do that at home for ourselves?
LeZandra McGinnis The biggest thing I always tell my clients is mirror work. Sitting in front of a mirror and strip down and really move. And I'll do my own personal self-lap dance. I'm trying to arouse myself. And really setting that intention when I stand in front of a mirror and telling myself, okay, we're not picking ourselves apart. We're not focusing on those things that you cannot stand. We're not looking at jiggle. Focus on your eye contact… I will make it a point to tell myself, just seduce myself. Because during that, I start to understand, okay, what do I find sexy? Why do I find that sexy? And a lot of times, I'll get my journal out and I'll sit in front of a mirror and I'll move. And as I'm doing it, I always try to entice all five senses.
So, I'll get a delicious drink. I'll light some incense. I'll turn my lighting down. So, I have a really good-feeling environment that is just hitting all of my senses. And then I'm able to sit there and have that intention in my mind and move.
And then whenever something comes up, I don't hold onto those thoughts. I allow them to come and I observe them. I try not to judge myself with it. I'll write it down if I need to, but something like, oh, we should come back to this, then I'll add that to my list.
But I think that right there has been the biggest thing in helping me just be comfortable with my body. And then, once I got comfortable with my body, then I could actually view my body in a desirable light.
Have you experienced a boudoir shoot? How did it change you? 👇💋