Do you remember what you were doing in the summer of 2009? Me? I was almost 34 years old, I had two kids, and I was finally waking up to the toxicity of the relationship I was in. This 7-year relationship had consumed me and left me feeling empty, unloveable, and unattractive. But that summer, I mustered the courage from deep inside a place this relationship had not yet destroyed, and I left my first toxic girlfriend on July 20th, 2009. And yes, only the *first toxic girlfriend* unfortunately, there were more to follow after. I have a type. Somehow red flags have historically been hard for your girl to read.

I spent the rest of the summer, autumn, winter, and most of the next spring tending to my wounds. Slowly but surely, I started learning how to be me again, how to feel some of that innate confidence that lies deep within the core of who I am. 

The following May, Mother’s Day loomed on the calendar, but I was single, which meant that there was no adult spouse to help my boys celebrate their mamma. Ethan was only ten-years-old, and Ty was seven-years-old. As sweet as my sons are, they weren’t able to plan ahead, go to the store or do any of the things a second parent could do to help make this holiday feel special. And after the past year, I really needed to feel special. 

So, I decided to celebrate myself. After everything I had been through, I deserved to feel good. Being a mother was an enormous part of me, and being a nurse enveloped almost everything that was left. But there was still this part that was pure woman. A deep femininity that wanted to be expressed and seen. I desperately wanted to feel acknowledged and celebrated. I had spent the better part of the previous decade in a relationship that made me feel the opposite of seen, beautiful, and valued.

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I made a choice that I would tap into that part of me. To honor that feminine energy of mine, I would get photos done. I deserved some glamour in my life.  I asked around and, through a friend’s recommendation, found a photographer. The price tag felt steep to my single mom’s budget, but I convinced myself that I was worth it. Because I was and I am. Back then, I didn’t really “do” social media like I do now. I wasn’t performing or auditioning. There was no specific “reason” to have these photos, but I wanted them. And that part of me, she needed them.

I committed myself to the whole experience. I was going to have a Capital P, Photoshoot! Before the day of the shoot, I made a list of “looks,” a shot list just like a professional modeling session. I had notes like “toothpaste commercial” and “dramatic diva.” It felt silly and fun and inspiring all at once. I sent it to the photographer so he was prepared for all of this Christina energy!

The day of the event came, and I’m almost certain I packed up my entire closet to take with me. I wanted to be creatively free with every LEWK I was going to serve. Between every set, I even adjusted my makeup to match the vibe I was going for. 

Although I was still heartbroken over my ex, I tapped into my playful, joyful core, and I pretended that I was a model or a famous artist, singer, or actress; I let my dramatic side out. Remember, this was looooong before America’s Got Talent; at this point in my life, the ember of hope that I would someday be on a national stage had died with my nineteen-year-old dreams of being a singer. I truly felt like I was playing dress-up for a life that would never be mine.

At the end of the session and post-editing, I had ten final images that I liked. This one was my favorite.

My favorite from my 2009 photoshoot. Photo by Alex White Photography

I loved the colors, my energy, and what this image represented to me. This was the “Me” under the scrubs and responsibilities.

After I got it, I decided to post it on my Facebook page. Then I chickened out, and I took it down. Then I put it back up. And back down because I felt dumb for wanting these images. I was trying to Smize like Tyra, but I was not Tyra Banks. I was just Christina Wells—mom and Nurse from Pasa-get-down-dena, Texas. 

Moms don’t have photoshoots. 

Nurses can’t be glamorous. 

Wrong. 🛑 

I knew this negative voice in my head was wrong. It wasn’t my voice; it was the voice of someone I left almost a year before.

I put my foot down. I told myself that I looked good and I deserved to celebrate that. I posted my picture. And you know what? People gave me such sweet comments. Maybe even some of you reading this now saw this pic when it was new. I felt so touched at the kind words and genuine compliments. My Mother’s Day was complete. 


I am a bigger woman (fat 😉), maybe not the traditional societal beauty ideal, but I feel beautiful inside. And over the years, I have learned that I can feel it outside too. I am allowed to feel beautiful no matter my body size. I feel that beauty radiate from a core of hope and confidence that has always lived within me. I love to be in front of a camera. I love to be “seen.”

For years I thought that because I was fat, I couldn’t be beautiful. I wasn’t worthy enough to be fully seen. People told me I had “a pretty face,” and I took that to heart completely.  From those pics in 2009 all the way up to a few years ago, you would never see my whole body in a photo. That was purposeful.

I was recently asked to sing the song “I’m Here” from the musical The Color Purple. The song is a rare moment when the character Celie stands up for her self-worth in the face of yet another emotional disappointment. The lyrics take you on a journey as she reminds herself and everyone around her that she has love in her life and that she has value.  At the end of the song, she says, “I’m beautiful,” in an act of quiet defiance. When I sing this song, and I say I’m beautiful, what I am thinking is that MY WHOLE SELF IS BEAUTIFUL. I emote that I am the right size to be beautiful. It makes me cry every single time I sing it because it took me so long to understand that. 

I want you to know that I don’t blindly love myself. It took years to understand the woman that I am. I had to find a way to know why I struggle to love my size. I had to discover that the only way I can truly accept myself is by seeing and loving all the parts of me. My good parts and my dark, challenging parts deserve my love. It has been a very hard-won journey, but I feel really proud of how far I have come. I still have further to go, and that’s okay. 

So if you find yourself needing to feel seen or you want to celebrate yourself on a Tuesday afternoon. 

I want you to do it!

If you want to do something that you consider frivolous or vain, like taking glamour shots of yourself in your bedroom with a feather boa, this is your sign to do it!! 

Honor yourself in whatever way allows you to feel celebrated. Trust me, a little celebration of you can go a long way. 

If you want to see the other images, they are all on my Patreon! Click here to check them out. 

Much love – Christina