David recently graduated from Belmont University with a Bachelor of Science in Liberal Studies. He is pursuing an artist career and focusing on songwriting.
How would you describe your sound?
It’s soulful… soulful pop music. Right now my influences are John Legend, Amos Lee, Sam Cooke and Otis. A lot of people say “Oh man your voice sounds like Maroon 5, Adam Levine or Justin Timberlake.” So, I guess that’s hidden there as well.
Do you write your own music as well?
Yes, that’s a big part of what I kind of do down here.
What inspired you to start writing?
Well, I started writing when I was younger. I’d write just a ton of raps and then kind of found out I could sing around twenty. I started singing in bars and people were like “man, you’re pretty good!” So, I kept going and really festered out.
I realized this is just what I have to do. So, I did, and it just pursued me right back! That’s been a big lesson in life for me - do what pursues you, as a motto. Even if I try to stop right now, like, say I don’t want to write anymore, it’s going to pursue me, people are going to call me and want to write. I can’t let it go and that’s a good position to be in. I’m moving forwards not backwards. That motivates me I guess.
Yeah, is there anything you do to keep yourself motivated?
Nashville is a great city for an artist to stay motivated. Everywhere you go - everybody you know - is in music and you know that they’re doing it. You know that your neighbor is working on it right now and you feel like, okay, I gotta keep writing, gotta keep working hard. I also think to myself “you know, there’d be a million people who would love to be in the position I’m in right now” all that keeps me going.
Have you ever had doubts about pursuing music?
You kind of go through waves, where there’s one moment you think “there’s no way, I could never do this!” Then you go through little writer’s blocks or you feel like your voice isn’t good because you’re hearing other singers. You’re constantly comparing yourself and that’s when it can get really bad - you start to doubt why you’re here.
The thing that gets me through is a support team. I have friends who build me up, they pick me up. If I doubt myself and don’t want to play a show, they’ll book a show me in on it. They will force me to do what I came here to do. It’s been a big help.
Then I’ve turned around and helped those exact same people. I think a support group is necessary.
Is your family supportive of your career choice?
My mom and dad were kind of skeptical at first but, my sisters were always super supportive of it.
My mom still wants me to be safe and have a job that pays; she wants me to get a “suburb” lifestyle. It’s just not my goal.
My goal, THE GOAL, is to do what makes me happy. It takes work and you don’t realize that at first. You think you’re just going to come here, sing in front of somebody, and one day and they’ll say “that’s what we wanted!” You don’t realize that you have a long ladder to climb.
Where do you see yourself going in five or ten years?
I want to have a great brand that people recognize. It’s going to be David Duvall, which is what my dad’s last name was before he was adopted, so that’s like my blood last name. I’m working on that.
ROBIN Finding Value in Insecurities
From the Washington D.C suburbs in Maryland, Robin moved to Manhattan in 1983 to attend NYU’s dance department.
How did your dancing experience influence you?
Dancing got me involved in the theater and I began writing plays. I wrote a show that lead to a bra designer spotting me. He wrote to me and said he thought I was at least a 34DDD.
Were you hesitant to speak with him?
I could tell by the note he wrote me that he had experience in the intimate apparel industry. He was looking for a body to build upon. Just as he suspected, I was fit to a 34DDD. That was 17 years ago and it’s pretty much what I’ve been doing ever since. Any girl wearing a 34DDD bra is probably wearing one built on me.
Did your new career take you away from the theater?
No way! Any creative person in New York City is doing something else for money. I have continued to write and choreograph. Fit modeling is not a 9–5 type job; it allows me to do everything I love.
Did you know anything about bras before?
It was a huge learning experience. Back then I didn’t know they made bras above a DD. It was a revelation to feel an underwire actually lifting me up as opposed to strapping me painfully to my chest wall. The biggest thing I learned was that my large breasts were actually valuable and worth something. I stopped feeling like that little ninth grader hiding behind books trying to cover her breasts. I didn’t have to be ashamed of them anymore.
You felt ashamed of your breasts?
Absolutely! Look, I was in ballet from the age of six. I went to a very strict school. My teacher was from the royal ballet. He was a tough one. I admired him and looked up to him but he would say hurtful things. It’s a strange world. I loved the discipline and regulation of ballet. There is one way to do it; the rules are set and there is no room for interpretation as far as the placement of one’s body.
There is a point in ballet when you either make it or break it at about the age of 14, when the great blossoming happens. Puberty had done something to me and I felt very ashamed and guilty about having breasts. I don’t think that it affected my dancing but when he would make comments about my body, I felt that all of me was wrong. It gets into your head. I saw it as a character flaw and felt responsible.
Was high school difficult?
Oh my God, yes! High school was horrific. There was this old Roman Polanski movie based on the Thomas Hardy novel called Tess of the d’Urbervilles. There was a line in the movie that says: “she was a victim of her own provocative beauty.” That’s how I felt; that young girls with beautiful bodies were responsible for the actions of pedophile men. It took many years of self-evaluation to get over that shame.
What helped you through that?
I had a strong-willed mother and grandmother, they gave me a lot of support and promised life would be better after high school. It took a long time but when I was finally able to move to New York it began to happen.
New York, for me, was about reinvention. Once I got on my feet and found my way in theater I was able to express and reveal myself through different avenues without actually exposing myself. I suddenly saw the humor in these ridiculous things hanging off my chest wall. I could make fun of myself before anyone else had a chance to.
What do your breasts mean to you now?
At this point they are a huge part of who I am. They are a topic of my writing, my best friends. They are probably the most noteworthy thing about me—visually, that is. My personality is not all about my tits but they have influenced who I am. After all, I am a fit model.
What is the fit process like?
They call me in for an appointment and have me try on a prototype. I make comments about it. We play around with wires and components. If it’s itchy we change the fiber that it’s made from to make it more comfortable. I have input on all of that.
Do you feel pressure to maintain your measurements?
Yes, I feel some pressure. However, I have always been a physical person so activities that help me maintain my figure are something I enjoy doing. It’s not a problem to keep these things in my life.
What challenges do you face maintaining your bust?
Well, right now its middle-age. The things that happen to a middle-aged woman’s body are uncontrollable. My breasts are slightly fuller now. It does not show on the scale but I can tell they are filled out a bit. As far as them becoming soft, I feel freakishly lucky. I hit the jackpot genetically when it comes to my breasts. They are still spectacular, despite the random stretch mark. I rub cocoa butter on them every night and use a lot of sunscreen so the skin on my chest does not break down. I do a lot of pushups as well to help eliminate as much sagging as possible.
If you met your younger self, what would you say to her?
Keep a journal! Write about your body. Or do whatever creative thing you do that can express how you feel about it at the moment and how other people’s reactions influence your self-esteem. In the future, you can look on these works of art and acknowledge how far you’ve come since then. Examining your past—even if it was just last week—can propel you forward in amazing ways.
Proving that an underwear model can be more than one dimension, Chris is also a determined, award-winning author.
How old were you when you started modeling?
I was 22 when I walked in to an agency for the first time and booked my first job (a Cosmo editorial) the same day.
Was it awkward removing your clothes right away?
I’m certain that when I began modeling (in 2007), I thought twice about it, but once you’re involved with something for so long, it becomes like anything else; routine…you seem to become desensitized to certain elements of it, insecurities among them.
When you did think twice about it was that because of insecurities or other personal convictions?
I think perhaps a bit of both. I was born in Manhattan but I grew up in a small suburb in North Jersey. It was unusual for me to go from that setting to suddenly being on a rooftop in Chelsea in my underwear.
In terms of insecurities, I know I had them growing up, and I don’t know when the exact moment was that I made the conscious decision to forget about them, to not care what others thought about me. I know that I must have felt tied down in the sense that I knew in the back of my mind that I would never get anywhere, never accomplish anything, if I let my actions and confidence be controlled by how others perceived me, physically or otherwise. As such, I have marched to the beat of my own tune since elementary school.
Sounds like you were a pretty strong-willed kid.
Yeah, I think I’ve always carried a chip on my shoulder. I was born two months and two days premature and I was used to people (even my own parents) telling me I couldn’t do certain things, particularly physical things (like football or track, for instance). I carry that with me in everything I do.
What else motivates you?
When I was working as a journalist at the Star-Ledger in the evenings and modeling and acting during the day, time motivated me. I had to fit in as much as I could in the time I had because I had another job, another kind of life, and I was always rushing, so close to being one step behind.
To return to the “chip on the shoulder” mentality, I think what motivates me is proving people wrong, and also proving that anything is possible, if you work hard enough. Perhaps that kind of mentality stems also from my childhood, because my parents are both immigrants (Cuba and Poland), and they grew up with not many opportunities except for the opportunity to do great things, which I think everyone inherently has.
Was there a specific instance that pushed you to change their vision of you?
I’m not sure about a specific instance, but I think I became pretty tired early on of having to rely on things like an inhaler to breathe better or even glasses to see. I don’t know exactly what happened biologically, but I outgrew my sports asthma in elementary school, and when I began wearing contacts in junior high, I just felt like I could do anything I wanted, at least physically.
What does your family think of your success now?
I am very close with my parents, but I’m really not sure what exactly they think about my success. They certainly don’t dote on me—and I’m glad—because I’ve always wanted to prove something to them and everyone, which is what makes me stay hungry.
You mentioned becoming desensitized to modeling…is that a compromise you had to make? Was it more routine or realization?
Well I acknowledged it, so it was certainly a realization, but I also think that it came from the routine of doing it every week. You start to not put so much emphasis on shooting in your underwear once you do it with such frequency; I think that goes with everything. I think ABC was cognizant of that when they offered me a few shirtless and underwear-only under-5 (under-5 lines) roles on All My Children and One Life to Live. I don’t know many actors or actresses that would take so easily to being on national television in that kind of situation, at least with a few days notice.
Have you ever had a photoshoot with a fellow model who was uncomfortable with his/her body?
It is hard to tell but I have gotten that vibe before, and it makes everyone, from the photographer to the art director, uncomfortable.
Models sometimes have an unfair rap and are seen as just beautiful and one-dimensional. Have you ever had to prove to anyone that you’re not just a model?
I think I am proving that right now, regarding my first novel, Going Down. In that story—as well as in real life—I definitely experienced odd looks and confusion from multiple people, whether at the newspaper or at photoshoots and castings, when they learned of my dual professions and interests. I think that kind of Hellenistic ideal—physical beauty and mental beauty—is something that is somehow absent from our society, not that it isn’t there, just that we don’t really look for it anymore. I have always tried to reconcile this.
Can you tell us a bit more about your journalism background?
I worked in newspapers my whole life. I began writing for The Record, the second-largest newspaper in New Jersey, when I was in high school. While I was at Lehigh, I worked as a Sports Copy Editor at the San Francisco Chronicle, for three months in the summer. When I graduated from college and began modeling and acting during the day, I worked as a Sports Copy Editor and writer for The Star-Ledger. I didn’t have much of a social life for awhile…
You now have a food blog, Spooning In The City, that you write with your girlfriend. Obviously, you love food. Do you have to discipline yourself, or were you blessed with a good metabolism?
When I began modeling, I was very serious about my eating habits. Now, I laugh about it … I can’t explain it but I suppose my good fortune is genetic. My mom and dad joke that I was born without a gene that processes fat because I was born two months and two days premature. I think food is one of the most important things in life, and also one of the most underappreciated things in this culture. I take what I put in my body very seriously and I enjoy the sensual pleasures of food.
What does your girlfriend think about you modeling underwear?
I just asked her to get a specific answer and she laughed. She is not someone who gets jealous easily, and I think that certainly helps. Everything I do is for my writing anyway, and she understands that all of these experiences are enriching, no matter what they are, and so they are important to me.
You were recently awarded the the Academy of American Poets Prize and spoke during the ceremony at Lincoln Center. Tell us about that.
I started writing poetry before I wrote a word of fiction. In the second grade, actually, when my abuela died, I wrote a poem for her, so it is extremely rewarding for me to have my poetry acknowledged in this way and on this level so soon after receiving news of the book deal for my first novel, Going Down (Aignos Press, 2013).
If I may take a brief moment here to plug that (laughs), that would be great, too. It will arrive in bookstores and be available online in advance of the holiday season, probably by October or November. It’s a coming-of-age-story based on my own experiences in the fashion industry. One of the things that the protagonist (also named Chris) says toward the end of the novel really resonates in my own life, especially in regard to self-confidence: “‘The important thing is to always remember who you are … And never give any part of yourself to something other than that thing.’ … That is it, he knew. And it is everything.”
What would you say to other young men and women who are struggling with insecurities?
I really think insecurities are the worst thing we can have, and yet we all have them. They are inevitable, but what we can control is how we let them affect us. I was very conscious of them from an early age, and at the same time, I knew I couldn’t let myself be shackled by them. I think so many people in today’s world have this inferiority complex. I’m not saying to be arrogant or conceited or anything like that, but I think it is important to love yourself; all of you, especially the faults.
Also, a large part of confidence comes from self-realization. I never could truly synthesize all of the things I was doing—whether it was modeling, whether it was writing and editing for a newspaper, whether it was something else entirely—until I wrote it down, until I wrote it in. It is too easy to become disheartened over a job, social status, relationship, appearance … anything that contributes to a (mis)conception of self-worth. But I found what to other people might seem self-evident, or else hardly acknowledged: it is who you are, not what you do, that makes you fully-realized.
Watch Chris’ Academy of American Poets Prize acceptance speech, here.
"I would walk with my shoulders curved inward and wear baggy shirts all the time."
Where are you from?
I was actually born in Hoboken, New Jersey but I was raised in the Bronx, then moved to Greenpoint and spent my teenage years and early adulthood in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. I lived next door to my cousin. I was the oldest of all the grandkids in the family. The first one.
My family is Dominican and Puerto Rican. We’re very loud, fun, loving, and there are a lot of us! We are a big group. I have 13 aunts and uncles and they all have at least two or three children. So when we get together it’s a big ol’ gang.
Were you pretty happy growing up?
Well, yes, I was happy being surrounded by family. However, I developed really early. I was busty, very busty. I have a very small frame and small features and thought they were just too big. I always had back pain and struggled standing straight.
I remember playing volleyball when I was 12 years old and I jumped up to spike the ball but my bra strap broke from my heavy breasts! The coach took me to the nurse’s office and safety pinned my bra together.
What was dating life like?
Now, all the men I know love that Brazilian body. I always heard my brothers say if a woman does not have a derrière then she is not attractive. My sister did not have boobies but she did have the tushie and men liked her. I did not have a bootie. I thought oh, God forgot to give me extra there. I felt unbalanced with my big breasts. My first boyfriend, I dated for four years, and he really brought down my self-esteem. He would comment on my lacking backside and say “oh no, you need to have a bigger bootie!”
How did you deal with that?
I would walk with my shoulders curved inward and wear baggy shirts all the time. Then when I got in to my sophomore year I went to a new school and I decided to join theater. They were doing West Side Story and I was given the role of Maria. The music coach suggested that I start to dress more like Maria would have so that I could develop into her character. So the baggy ill-fitting clothes were taken over by more feminine ones. If my coach would catch me slouching, she would remind me to straighten up because Maria was confident. She even gave me some core strengthening exercises to help with posture and singing.
Did you continue singing?
Well, I was always singing. I’m very operatic. I was given a scholarship to go to college in Massachusetts. But my mother has trouble letting go of the umbilical cord and I was not allowed to accept. Instead I stayed home and graduated college with the typical business administration. I have a degree in finance and investment.
Did you ever leave the nest?
Yes! Finally I got married at 28. My husband is Colombian. We lived near my family for a while and then, in 2009, we moved to Florida. In my whole life, I have never lived on my own.
What’s it like making that move?
It’s happy and sad. I miss my family but I’m so proud of the family my husband and I have created. Although, after having two kids my breasts are back! I’d had a breast reduction after college because I just couldn’t bear the weight any more. I truly felt free after that! Now they’re big as ever and a lot more saggy.
How do you feel about your body now?
My husband is very vocal about what he likes. He loves breasts! When I first married him I was still pretty insecure about not being perfect. But he just embraces me, stretch marks and all. Little by little I became more comfortable and confident in my own skin. He has never made negative comments about me.
Tell me about your kids.
I had a miscarriage the first time I got pregnant. I got pregnant again and that’s when we had Ethan. He was born early though. I had eclampsia and went into labor at 32 weeks. I guess you could say I died. The doctor asked my husband to choose between me and our baby. My husband said “Sorry, but no! They are both going to live.” So I was four hours in the OR getting a C-section as well as blood transfusions. Ethan was born only weighing 3lbs 11oz. Because of my loss of oxygen, he suffers from cognitive delay. I was in a coma for four days.
Then, December of 2009, I found out I was pregnant again! Everyone was panicking and freaking out, but I had a great doctor and I knew the signs to look for, so I wasn’t as worried. This time around I had gestational diabetes. However, I was able to experience a happy, full pregnancy. I went the full forty weeks, my water broke, it all happened like it should. When my baby girl, Amalia, was born we found out she has downs syndrome. I said cut me up, tie me up, do what you need to do, but I should not have more kids. I guess destiny has a different plan.
Can you tell me what experiences you’ve had raising your kids?
Amalia is two and has already been through so much; eye surgery, heart surgery, and seven hours of therapy a week. She does not walk yet but she can crawl and she talks a lot! We all have our strengths. Hers is more verbal while she is weaker in physical abilities. Ethan goes to speech therapy because of his cognitive delay.
What are ways you instill confidence in your children?
Having a job, in a way, requires a person to take care of themselves. Being a stay at home mom was kind of hard for me at first. I’m not saying staying at home is not a job, but it’s easy to forget about yourself when you take care of others. It was important for me to stay out of the comfortable sweat pants and continue to take care of myself like I did before. I want my son to say “I remember my mom used to wear the red lipstick and mascara even around the house.”
Having a daughter with Down syndrome makes me want to give extra. I want her to know that she is beautiful. I am going to take her to the salon and get manicures with her because she needs to know she can embrace her femininity, too, even with her condition. I admit I cried when I found out about her having Down syndrome but, I know eventually those tears will be tears of joy. I am going to be so happy when she finally learns to walk and talk, and maybe she won’t go to college but she will go to school. And I’m going to help her reach as far as she can just like any other kid does.
I want Ethan to see this, too. To see that she is beautiful and we all have different forms. I really believe beauty comes from within and shines out.
With a fresh outlook on life at the age of (almost) 50, Ed found confidence in honesty and love.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m 49, from Ohio, partnered for 10 years, and a nurse by profession.
What can you tell us about confidence?
When I met my current partner and came out as a gay man to my friends and family, something seemed to have changed in me. I became liberated in ways I never even thought I could be liberated, and that included how I dressed myself, even down to my underwear.
What was it specifically that made you more aware of what you wore?
I would have to say it was finally noticing the same old, tired clothes in my closet. Looking and dressing like everyone else. Not really exploring and asserting who I really was on the inside, and that was a proud gay man who deserved the chance, like every other gay person, to not live in secrecy.
What prompted you to come out to family and friends?
It was encouragement from my partner. It was also the fact that I knew that my friends and other loved ones already were aware of the fact that I was gay, that I always had been, and not even being married for ten years to a woman would ever change that.
Why weren’t you able to come out before?
There wasn’t a good reason why I hadn’t come out long before I did. It was one thing and one thing only: my own fear of facing who I really was. I wasn’t afraid of losing the love of my friends and family by coming out as a gay man. It was admitting to myself that I needed to live in MY truth, not the truth of others. It was the fear of learning how to live my life as a proud gay man. It was the fear of standing up and being counted as worthy.
Assuming coming out offered you a new-found confidence, where did you find confidence before?
I didn’t find it before coming out. I didn’t know I had confidence inside of me until I came out. At least, I never believed I had any confidence to begin with.
Ten years later, what gives you confidence now?
Several things. Turning 50 this year and knowing I have lived half a century and experienced so much of this life that hasn’t always been easy or fun, but somehow I have managed to stay alive. My wonderful and amazing partner Richard who has kept me grounded. Going back to college after twenty years to finally finish my RN degree. THAT takes a huge amount of confidence, believing that no matter how old you are, education is something everyone can and should pursue. You are never too old to learn!
Anything else you would like to share?
Yes. A favorite quote of mine: “We do not live in this world alone, but in a thousand other worlds”. This has always resounded with me. It says so much to me as a human being, and particularly as a gay man.
"When you’re in high school, everyone is more apt to take part in ridicule and I got made fun of a lot for my breasts."
New York, NY
Where are you from?
I’m from Connecticut. I was raised there—we never moved.
Do you still live there?
No, my mom’s side of the family is all still there, they have a family business there. I went to the same high school as my grandparents. It’s very nice to go home but it’s very, uh…hard to do anything. You get spotted because people recognize me as my mother’s daughter and I’m always like, “who’s that!”
What was your experience like in high school?
Overall it’s wonderful the way I was raised. I got to see my great grandparents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins all the time. But in high school it was hard to date guys because it took no time for the information to spread around.
I also developed really early and was fuller busted than I would have liked. I was the girl in middle school with big boobs.
How early did you develop?
Well, I got my first training bra when I was 10. It was this white, tiny, little triangle thing.Then when I was 12, I got my first real bra and it was a 32D. It was a soft blue color with an alpaca on the straps. It was beautiful and I thought it was made just for me. I just loved it.
Did you have difficulty playing sports in high school?
I played softball in middle school and I was big into volleyball in high school. I didn’t let my breasts stop me—I would just wear several of them at a time. I wanted to be flat so when I dove into the net they wouldn’t get in the way.
I also wanted to be flat because at 16, when you’re bouncing around and you have boobs, you’re in a very vulnerable position. Now I could care less, but at that age it was an experience.
So what changed?
There are a few things that made a difference. When you’re in high school everyone is more apt to take part in ridicule and I got made fun of a lot for my breasts. Now that I’m an adult, people are more open to actually giving compliments. This one girl that I thought was really pretty and super skinny told me how much she wished she had my breasts. She said “oh Amy, you look gorgeous! I love your boobs in that dress!” That comment really stuck out to me.
When I was younger, there was also not as much available to me in regards to bras. That pretty blue bra was hard to replace. Now that I’m older and actually work in the industry, beautiful lingerie is readily available to me.
Did you always want to be a lingerie designer?
Well, I always expressed myself through clothes. I would experiment with different looks and my style was all over the place when I was young but now it’s definitely bohemian. The decision to go to design school was a natural one and then my curiosity and obsession with lingerie made my decision clear.
Is your personal lingerie style bohemian too?
Well, I like things that are more traditional sexy. I like things with feminine components and beautiful lace. I like balconettes and semi-demi cups. I always wear pretty bottoms too but I don’t worry about them matching. It’s like I can have a party in my pants!
I also don’t ever worry about the size of my bra or bottoms. I try it on and think oh yeah! I enjoy this. It’s pretty. I don’t care if it’s a size larger or smaller than what I am used to, it matters more to me what I feel like in it. Some women I help freak out about labels and I think, well, if you’re comfortable in something that’s too small then go for it.
What does lingerie mean to you?
Oh! I get excited to put new underwear on or colorful ones on. Like if it’s raining outside or I’m going to a function that I have to wear something blah then I can wear crazy polka-dots or strips. It doesn’t have to match the outfit—it can be whatever you want. If there’s a lining to your skirt, you can wear thigh highs and feel super sexy. There are no limits.
What’s your favorite body part?
Oh, I love my collar bones. I love wearing clothes that show them off.
What’s your favorite quality?
I’m driven. Sometimes that’s good and sometimes that’s hard, but it gets me where I’m going.
"It just felt like I should take charge of myself and my habits and change my life."
Elizabeth, New Jersey
What motivated you to lose the weight?
It was a health decision. I had always been overweight, not active and ate terribly. It just felt like I should take charge of myself and my habits and change up my life.
How much did you lose and how did you do it?
I lost a little over 30 pounds. It was a huge lifestyle change. I started counting calories, running, going to the gym, doing yoga, cutting out a lot of breads and cutting down from sugary coffee drinks to black coffee. It was a lot of switching how I thought about food.
What did you tell yourself when you weren’t feeling motivated? How did you stick to a plan when you didn’t want to?
It took a long time to see any results. Like almost a year. I’m actually not sure how I stuck to it so long honestly. I just knew that I didn’t want to continue living the way I was and so I learned to live this new way. I gave myself some cheat days and whatnot - I do love food - but those were special days and not every day.
You mentioned replacing your wardrobe.
It’s really difficult at first because you almost don’t believe it’s true. It was difficult getting rid of clothes that used to fit cause you’re never sure if you’ll keep the weight off, or keep exercising, but underwear was one of the first things I replaced cause maybe I knew only me and my significant other would see it. Even seeing an “S” on the underwear was crazy. I remember actually saying out loud “I am small” and having that statement not make sense to me. There was a point where I was walking around in clothes that were now too big on me but my underwear fit right.
Did the weight loss affect what styles you bought?
It definitely changed the way I shopped for underwear. My stomach was flatter so underwear sat better. It was crazy to start shopping for size small when I had always been large. So many different styles were opening up. I felt way sexier in the underwear too.
What about bras?
I’ve always hated bras! I never felt they fit right, there was always a weird bulge on the sides or they cut into me. Once I lost weight I was able to figure out the sizing better and because I was more toned, there wasn’t much to squeeze into a weird bulge. I actually only started buying sets after I lost the weight. Before it was a lot of bikini underwear and nude bras. Now I started buying lace and colorful sets.
Did that change the way you felt about your body?
I never felt like I had body issues but I did notice my confidence boost in my new body from the under up.
Can you elaborate on “under up”?
So overall I went down from a size 8/10 to a size 2/4 in clothing and that is a big difference. The confidence to wear more flattering clothing started with wearing underwear that was flattering. There’s more of an ease to it. Once I realized that if what I was wearing underneath was small and I looked good in it then what I wear on the outside can also be small and I will look good in it. I became confident in my body starting with underwear.
What would you say to other men and women who want to make the same change? My advice is pretty chock full of cliches I think. You really do have to think of it as a lifestyle change and not just an “I want to lose weight” thing. Just do one small change at a time (cut out sodas, add more veggies) and once you get used to that, change another thing. It’s constantly changing it up, whether food or exercise, that kept it interesting. And subscribe to health things, magazines, email lists, groups, whatever. Seeing a daily reminder helps and you’ll see you’re not the only one doing it. And finally, keep your eye on the prize and pat yourself on the back for even the smallest victories (seeing a tiny definition in your arms or fitting into an old pair of jeans—anything).
What’s it like when you catch yourself in the mirror now?
Be prepared not to recognize yourself for a while! You’re becoming a new person both physically, emotionally, and mentally. But you’ll feel better overall about yourself. At least I have.
"I think it all comes from within. You have to be sexy with who you are."
Can you tell us a little bit about what you do?
I work for a global advertising agency in production. I’ve been working in advertising for several years now aside from working in the lingerie industry.
Would you say you have a lingerie obsession?
Yes, definitely [Laughs]. It’s probably beyond an obsession.
Can you tell us about your introduction to bras and lingerie?
My introduction was basically going to a mass retailer in the mall. The company and the brand was different then and I was just drawn to the materials, the colors, all the different types of lingerie that there was. It’s such a broad array of merchandise and it’s not just limited to an everyday bra. I really loved that and that it’s a way to express yourself on the inside. Other people might not see it but you see it. If you have something hot on, like a bright color, something that makes you feel good and sexy inside, it will help you have that confidence as you go about your day.
How old were you when you developed?
I developed later. I stuffed my bra for a while.
You did?! [Both laugh]
Yeah, I did. I didn’t have something for quite some time. It wasn’t until my first year of college, I guess it was the food, but I came back and I had them. The first summer after college, I got a job in a lingerie store and that’s when I started buying it on my own. One of the girl’s measured me with the tape so I went with a certain size for a long time. It wasn’t until I went to a more high-end boutique where they specialized in bra fitting that I actually found my true size which was very different than the bras I was buying.
How many sets would you say you have now?
[Long pause] Oh my gosh, I don’t know. I have so many. I went through my drawers the other day and I was shocked.
More than 100?
Yeah, probably. I have way, way, way more than your average wardrobe. Mine is like a whole closet full.
So when you get ready in the morning, how do you decide what you’re going to wear? Do you match them to your outfit?
I usually match it to my outfit. I wear a lot of lace. I have my bras organized by my lace ones, my contour ones, it depends. If I’m wearing something sheer where I don’t want the lace to be visible, I might pick a contour bra. They’re all kind of fun, though. I don’t really have any basic black or nude colors. I wear pinks and purples and yellows. I just think color is a great way to boost how you feel if you have something fun underneath. Usually I just pick whatever I’m feeling for the day.
Would you say your collection has influenced your love life?
Yeah definitely. I actually had a really good comment the other day. He was like, “You have the best lingerie I’ve ever seen.” I was so pleased with myself. Aside from bras and underwire, I like to look sexy when going to sleep. I wear a lot of chemises and really cute little rompers. I have a lot of fun stuff that I sleep in.
What would your advice be to women who are a little insecure about their bodies?
I think it all comes from within. You have to be sexy with who you are. I always struggle with body image, losing weight and gaining weight, working out more.
But, it’s good to find something that works for you. A bra you can put on and know you’ll look amazing. Your breasts will be lifted and if you put a matching pair of bottoms with it, it just helps everything. You look in the mirror and you’re like “Wow I look awesome” and if you feel like you look awesome, then he’s going to notice that. You’re confident, he’s happy, then the experience is that much better.
What have you found about women shopping for lingerie?
A lot of people aren’t wearing the right size and they aren’t aware of the brands that are out there. It’s good to do some research, go shopping, try different bras. Try a structured bra to enhance your breasts. Take the time to find what works best—we take the time to buy shoes and dresses.
What color are you going to wear today?
I just got a new bra, it’s an emerald green color. I don’t have too much of that color. I might wear that one.
NYC, New York
From lost identity to embracing his own unique personality, Jason hopes to inspire others through his newfound confidence
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I live in NYC and am originally from Topeka, Kansas. I’m an actor by trade doing a great deal of off off Broadway theatre and working retail, bartending, and DJ gigs to pay the rent. My favorite color is white and I drink too much soda pop.
About how much underwear do you own?
I own upward of 700 different pairs of underwear from jocks, bikinis, thongs, briefs, speedos, spandex gear, singlets, and body suits.
Why such a huge collection?
It’s kind of like this: You know how people from LA have cars as an extension of their personality, or how distinguished women of NYC have handbags that extend their awesome presence on 5th Ave…well, my briefs are that same extension of who I am on a daily basis.
What initiated your love of underwear?
I think a public declaration of being gay outed my under fetish. I spent a long time hiding from the world around me in regards to who I am and what I am about. I thought for many years that disguising what is questionable about me that society might object to how one got ahead in life. And then one day I woke up, looked in the mirror, and found I didn’t like myself very much. Worse, I didn’t know anymore who I was.
In your story, you explain that a jock (John) stood up for you against a bully in your high school locker room and that it was a defining moment.
On that day my idea of what a hero was changed. I immediately attached sexy underwear to power and compassion and sex and virility and heroism and being a man.
How did that move you to start collecting?
I think at the center of my underwear fascination and collecting is a hope that I’ll recreate that moment of discovering what the difference is between being a bully, being a boy, and being a man. That if I find the right Gregg Homme square cut, Joe Snyder bulge thong, or Cocksox push up speedo that the memory of that moment in that high school locker room with John looking out for me will come back in some form and I’ll experience again what it means to develop a first crush and a young version of love.
How has your fetish influenced you?
There is something powerful about being in a pair of sexy briefs and nothing else. It’s a tease. A confidence builder. I have a special jock strap I wear to my visual job during overnight shifts when we are doing floor flips. It’s bright orange and puts a spring in my step when I am moving around. Even though no one can see it at work, I know it’s there and that is fun for me.
What has your journey from those teen years to now revealed?
I am not unique in that feeling of lost identity. I don’t think mainstream society in general really encourages us as humans to embrace who and what we are as people. I do think I am special in my decision to stop hiding and, to not only show more of who I am actively discovering myself to be, but to let others know that what sets them apart from the masses is what makes them attractive.
Why did you choose to share your story?
The sharing of a history can heal a person. It can create a sense of community and home. It teaches others that they are not alone and can inspire people to do great things. It is the medicine to human confusion and the magic elixir to make anything possible. So not only stories about underwear are important to me but stories about life.
"It’s alternative in that men aren’t supposed to wear women’s underwear. … As far as I’m concerned, it’s just different, that’s all."
Kansas City, Missouri
You started wearing women’s underwear when you were about 10. Did you feel like you didn’t have options? Was it all tightey whities?
That’s all they had back then. I found more variety in women’s stuff. It was a lot nicer, a lot prettier.
Was it more about fabric or the cut or the color?
I guess back then it was about the colors and the idea that it was different and nicer. The waistbands are a lot more comfortable. They’re a lot more lightweight. Men’s underwear now is a lot more diverse.
What is it about pantie’s that you prefer?
I’ve been doing it for so long, I like knowing that it’s womens. It’s the excitement of it number one, there’s always a little bit of a sexual thrill with it. That is part of it. But it’s also the comfort. They’re still more comfortable and lighter than most men’s underwear.
Do you have a personal preference?
I prefer silk but the cost and the fact that it’s not as breathable—I wear cotton most of the time when I’m working. But for evening and in bed I usually wear the silk.
You grew up in the sixties, correct?
Do you find the world today more accepting of individuality and self expression?
I think it’s much more open minded now than it used to be. Obviously if someone found out when I was kid or even as a young adult it would be…now, though, people are more accepting of it. Doesn’t mean everyone is, but people think “If it’s not bothering me, it doesn’t matter to me.”
You’re married, you have children, grandchildren, you’re a government employee. Some people would consider your underwear preference an alternative lifestyle. What would you say to that?
I guess it’s their point of view whether it is or not. It’s alternative in that men aren’t supposed to wear women’s underwear. If you do, then you shouldn’t get any feeling from it and if you get a feeling then it is alternative. As far as I’m concerned, it’s just different, that’s all.
Would you say your profession influenced your choice as well?
I came from a very masculine profession. It’s what I did my whole career. When I put on women’s things, it’s was a complete contrast and I enjoyed that feeling.
Was this difficult in your work environment?
When I was younger I didn’t wear panties under my uniform because I was always afraid something would happen. When I got further up, I started wearing them to work. That constant macho field you’re in and the machismo of every minute of every day from every guy you’re working with…I started to find that sometimes it was nice to wear something of women’s and feel something different. It would relax me. I didn’t have to be Mr. Macho.
Can you recall what it was like when you first started trying them and what it’s like today?
Yeah, you’re scared and excited. You’re scared because you know you’re not supposed to do this but the exciting part is, well, these feel nice, this is different, I like this. So I enjoyed it. It’s like two different feelings at once and they might have been the same. It’s hard to tell that long ago. Today it makes me confident, relaxed. I feel good when I wear them.
How does it give you confidence?
Well to me the biggest thing with confidence is, if you know in the back of your mind that you can do something or you can succeed at something but you’re nervous and worried about it, usually it’s not because of your ability. There’s something else bothering you. And I just found that this is one of those things that, by wearing panties, it gives me confidence. What if they don’t like me? Well that’s not your ability. What if they’re looking for somebody younger. That’s not your ability. And a lot of times that’s what you worry about, the wrong things. I don’t care. I’m comfortable, man. I’m wearing what I like to wear. And if they don’t want me, they don’t want me.
"Well the bedroom is where everything happens."
NYC, New York
Where did you grow up?
That’s a long way from New York. When did you move?
I moved when I was 19. It was a huge move and I was really nervous about it. I moved for the idea of true love.
Wow! How did you meet him?
I was in high school. We actually met online. It was back when it was the cool up and coming thing to do. All my friends were always online in chat rooms. I didn’t plan on meeting anyone. It just happened.
What was the adjustment like when you moved?
I definitely spent a few days crying. I didn’t know anyone so it was hard at first. I went through this period where I didn’t know if I was going to be happy here. I mean its New York City; it either accepts you or eats you alive. It’s intimidating at first.
Was it strange going from long distance to living together?
Absolutely. For the first month or two I wouldn’t change in front of him. I went to the bathroom to change into my pajamas.Then I had to say to myself, “I love him and I want him to think I am as sexy as I think he is.”
How did you get over that insecurity?
I went out to find attractive lingerie and pajamas so I could feel confident in front of him all the time.
What was your first bra fitting like?
The first place I went to was a horrible experience. Nothing fit, nothing was flattering. The second place I was able to work with a bra specialist and it was life changing. I have had a love affair with lingerie ever since.
What size were you wearing before your first fitting and what did they fit you to?
I was wearing a 36DD and they fit me to a 32G. I was way off!
Did your boyfriend notice a difference?
Haha! Well I remember I bought one pretty bra and one basic bra to start with. I wore the basic bra home and didn’t expect him to notice. Well to say he loved it was an understatement! He went on and on about how amazing I looked and how perfect I was. I said, “This is not even the sexy one.” He just fell in love with it. I still have that bra and whenever he sees it he says, “Aww I remember that one!”
What role does lingerie play in your relationship?
Well the bedroom is where everything happens. To me lingerie is the foundation of my wardrobe and my relationship. It gives me the confidence I need to be the woman he deserves.
How does you lingerie differ from daytime to nighttime?
It doesn’t change. I wear sexy stuff out during the day, just the same as I would wear it for him. I feel like who doesn’t want to feel sexy every day? It’s still fully functional and supports me.
What advice would you give to someone struggling with confidence in the bedroom?
Looking back I initially did it for him but should have done it for myself long ago. I underestimated how much it would benefit me and improve my confidence.
"My daughter was adopted from Ethiopia when she was 13½…she was always wearing the same yellow sweatshirt to cover her chest."
Can you tell us a little bit about you?
I’m from Iowa. I have two sisters and one brother and I’m a designer.
How soon did you start to develop?
I developed really early like 3rd grade and by the time I was in fourth grade I needed a bra.
Do you remember what your first bra was like?
I don’t remember my first bra. I do know that I was very embarrassed and uncomfortable to shop for bras. We used to go to Kmart and buy bras for my great-aunt, so that’s probably where we got my first one. I was always overwhelmed by the selection of bras there and how big they looked.
How did that affect you during your adolescent years?
I was always the biggest chested girl in school. I went to a catholic high school and we had to wear white shirts. I was uncomfortable and embarrassed to be wearing a bra in 4th grade so even during the warmest weather I would wear a sweater so you couldn’t tell. My sister and brothers used to make fun of me for my big breasts.
Did you play sports?
Yes, and I had a huge problem with that. My mom wasn’t any help either. I don’t think it’s because she didn’t care. She just didn’t understand so, for her, it wasn’t a big issue like it was for me. I couldn’t find a sports bra over a C cup. When I played sports I would wear at least 3 bras. I didn’t let it stop me from playing but it was always uncomfortable. I think that’s why I have shoulder pain now because I was never supported properly.
Did you have a particular role model that inspired your confidence?
I didn’t really have anyone that I looked up to. I have always been confident despite my breast struggles. My mom did share some wisdom that I have always held on to. She said that if a girl was mean to me it was because she was jealous of me. If a boy was mean to me it was because he liked me. So as a kid I honestly felt bad if someone was mean to me and I would say a prayer for them.
Tell us about your family.
I have an amazing husband that I have been married to for nine years. We adopted two children about four years ago. I have the cutest nine year old boy, and I have a 16 year old daughter.
Do you ever notice your daughter struggling with confidence?
Yes! A lot. My daughter was adopted from Ethiopia when she was 13.5 yrs old. And when I first met her, I felt there was a kindred spirit because she was always wearing the same yellow sweatshirt to cover her chest. It’s odd for girls there to have a full bust because everyone is so malnourished and thin. They usually don’t develop and there definitely aren’t any bras found there. She didn’t come home with us after the first visit. I knew I would be coming back a month later and I wanted to bring her a bra. At that point I struggled finding her a bra because I had never been fit to the right bra. So I didn’t really know where to begin.
Did you end up finding a bra?
I looked high and low for something I thought would fit. I basically guessed on a size from a department store. It wasn’t the right size and didn’t help her much.
What was it like taking your daughter bra shopping?
The first time I took her bra shopping was a terrible experience. I took her to a local department store, nothing fit, and she was upset the whole time. She was so embarrassed and started asking me to get her a breast reduction. She thought she was fat because no one else in her class was developed.
The second time I had her fit totally changed her world. Finding a person that is knowledgeable about bras and sensitive too is priceless. I got fit as well. It was an amazing experience and I’m so glad we did it together.
What changes did you notice in her because of the fitting?
Her confidence has improved 100%. Since then she has not mentioned wanting a reduction. She went to only wearing sweatshirts to wearing t-shirts and tank tops! She even wears swim suits now because you can buy them in the right bra size. I can’t say enough about how it’s changed her confidence. She also thinks it’s cute because we bought matching bras in our own size.
Is there anything you do to help your kids feel confident?
It’s important to me that they are empowered to make up their own minds. I give different choices and allow them to make up their own minds. Then I give them a lot of positive feedback. I also don’t allow my kids to watch mainstream TV or read many magazines. I don’t want them influenced by what the media says is beautiful or perfect. We are all beautiful.
"Having good underwear always makes you feel better about yourself…it doesn’t matter that others can’t see it."
Brooklyn, New York
What do you do?
I’m an occupational therapist. I work with children. Right now I’m working at a school system in Harlem and Bedstuy, and I also work at a clinic in midtown.
What made you decide on occupational therapy?
Oh, Lord. My brother.
Tell us about your brother.
He was born with a genetic disorder. Over the years he started going to occupational therapy. I would go with him occasionally and started to see all of the fun, cool things he got to do. He learned how to take care of himself and do functional activities but in a fun way. And I decided that was what I wanted to do.
Other than the physical aspect, how does what you do affect the children you work with?
It gives them confidence in their abilities, which are sometimes very limited. Even just having one person giving positive reinforcement and help them believe that they’re important and can do things gives them a huge confidence boost and makes them feel like important members of society.
Have you been pretty confident yourself?
No. I had those awkward pre-teen/teen years. I guess I really started to feel confident in high school when I started to realize what I wanted to do with my life, which was occupational therapy. But it took a lot longer than that. I wasn’t just flipping a switch. It was a process.
What obstacles stood out?
I definitely had body image issues and poor self esteem. Really starting to take pride in my appearance and going to the gym helped. Watching what I ate. In college I really tried to stick to my routines and focus on my goals and it helped to keep me driven. Each time I met a smaller goal it would boost my confidence a bit more.
Did your wardrobe change with taking pride in appearance?
Yes, it did. I started paying more attention to the trends in fashion and instead of just rolling out of bed and wearing sweats to class. I started doing my makeup and hair. It was amazing when I looked good on the outside, how I felt better about myself on the inside.
Did your underwear wardrobe change at all?
Yeah, I started buying nicer underwear—more expensive, more color, and I’d match it to my outfits. Having good underwear always makes you feel better about yourself.
I guess just knowing that you look great underneath your clothes; it doesn’t matter that others can’t see it. You know you look great and that’s all that matters. It gives you an extra confidence boost and that translates to feeling beautiful and confident on the outside
What’s it like when you see the girl in the mirror today?
I am happy with what I see today. Of course there are always little things that I would like to change (lose a few pounds here and there), but overall I am happy, content, and confident in myself, which I wasn’t even a few years ago. I see a woman who is passionate about what she does and this brings me happiness and confidence.
A lot of the time I think it’s easier to see our weaknesses than our strengths. So I would advise others to try to realize what their strengths are and focus on those. This is also what I try to do with the kids. When they’re struggling, I try to show them what they do well and then approach a problem area or task from that direction, providing them with the confidence they need to succeed.
“It was like God said, ‘What’s up Lauren? It’s me. Here’s your period…here’s your boobs….go for it!’”
Where are you from?
I grew up in Athens, Alabama. I went to college at Middle Tennessee and have been in Nashville for the past five years.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do?
I love museums, baby animals, honky-tonks, party dip, and Britney Spears. Seriously, that kind of sums it up. I manage Mike Wolfe’s store, Antique Archaeology, in Nashville, TN. You can see him and his fellow cohorts on HISTORY channel, and sometimes me too!
Are you ever nervous before filming?
It gets better each time, but I used to get dreadfully nervous each time we’d film. I’m finally at the point where it’s fun and not as scary. I’d like to think of myself as an entertaining person, but it always changes when a camera’s around. It makes you more conscious of everything. Like last time we filmed, the crew thought it was so funny I kept referring to somewhere as “Upper State New York.” I was like “What?!” And they were like “Upstate, Lauren??” Whatever.
It’s probably safe to say everyone has something that makes them insecure. How do you overcome your insecurities?
Honestly, that’s kind of a safety in numbers thing. I always feel better when I think someone feels (or has felt) the same way as I do. When I am trying to pump the jam for something that makes me insecure I try to remember just that—that everyone has felt that way at some point and time. All is cool in the universe! One minute you’re sad, next pissed off, next ecstatic and excited…such is the roller coaster of life. Acknowledge it and get ready for the next. Like Stuart Smalley said, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!”
When did you first become aware of your breasts?
Literally, the boobs happened over night in 5th grade. It was like God said, “What’s up Lauren? It’s me. Here’s your period…here’s your boobs…go for it!”
What was your first bra like?
I remember being VERY embarrassed to ask my mom for a bra. I noticed my boobs under my shirt and I was like, “I hope I’m the only one that notices…” Not until after high school did I come to terms and actually appreciate my breast size. I think the bra was a cotton candy pink triangle cup. That was pretty much the extent of it.
How did you decide what size bra to buy if you’d never been fit?
Good question…I probably picked whichever one had the coolest looking Tween on the front!
How would you define your style?
I would like to think of my style as the love child of an Easy Rider biker dude from the 1970s and Ellie Mae Clampett (Beverly Hillbillies).
You’re a pretty stylish girl. Have you ever felt you needed to compromise style because of your breast size?
I’m a tiny gal with big boobs. A lot of people would think this is awesome, but not when it comes to picking out clothes. I have to consider something I like to call “daytime cleavage”…nothing too tight or showy for work. Granted, I can’t be expected to wear a giant sweatshirt all the time (I’m sure my mom would prefer I would) but fit has to be considered. Definitely forget the button down shirts. Bathing suit season is another topic. My friend who makes them custom fit (Bone Feather) finally set me straight. There was nothing to be found off the shelf.
Did you think there were better options for bras out there?
I had no idea there was something that would fit me until I had my bra consultation. Honestly, I was just used to poorly fitting bras.
Now that you’re in the right size, what is your favorite part of having the right size?
I feel my boobs match my petite body frame. My clothes fit more smoothly, not to mention, they were instantly slenderizing (seriously).
Will lingerie play a bigger role in your overall style now?
The bras made for my t-shirts will be the most appreciated! I might want to revisit those that I put in the “When I Lose Weight” closet because I feel a good-fitting bra is instantly slimming.
What would you tell someone struggling with their blessed bust?
Like my mom always said, “People pay a lot of money for those!”
Owner of Jockstrap Central
When big business didn’t hit the spot, John followed his dream and started his own underwear company.
You cover a broad spectrum.
You’ve got guys into the tighty whiteys or into the skimpy stuff. I love it all. Different underwear has different purposes. I was into good fitting boxer briefs for day to day but I was also into the sexy, erotic stuff. My underwear fetish wasn’t a secret fetish. My family knew about it, everybody knew about it. I was buying the crazy, erotic thongs and g-strings. Again, I was always into a good fitting boxer brief or brief, but the kinky side of me was always looking for something crazy.
Has discovering underwear made you more confident?
In a very abstract way. It allowed me to make a website and people respected me…and it’s always been free. It’s built me up to feel confident. I’m confident in my underwear fetish. I guess it makes me feel sexier. Definitely sexy. Especially when I was working in an office and I’d be wearing something skimpy underneath. It made me feel a little more sexual…almost naughty (laughs). I’m not sure about confident but naughty. It was my little secret that nobody else knew.
Now I’m able to do exactly what I love. Whether it’s underwear, the design aspect, programming, or marketing. I love all aspects of it.
Do you think there’s a common thread among the forum members?
Definitely. The whole site has been geared towards showing off in underwear. It’s all about self pics. I try to stop people from just posting pictures from around the Internet. It’s really about finding the underwear, then showing it. When I first started it was all about the forums, and then I launched galleries and the forums were all of a sudden being neglected. Guys just love to show off their purchases. I think it’s even more popular than talking about the underwear.