Olesha Haskett is changing the face and meaning of boudoir with every frame.
– KEYS SOULCARE
Olesha Haskett is the healer, connector, and photographer behind Oh Experience, the studio guiding Black women to honoring themselves with a self-empowering twist on traditional boudoir photography. The Maryland-based artist has spent over a decade building a business and platform of healing for Black women to show up authentically, exploring their sensuality in front of the lens.
In a candid conversation with Olesha, we chatted about the importance of safer spaces for Black women, pleasure after divorce, and what we all can learn from letting ourselves be fully seen.
WHY DO YOU USE BOUDOIR PHOTOGRAPHY AS A THERAPEUTIC MODALITY FOR BLACK WOMEN?
I [first] witnessed boudoir [photography] for weddings — people who wanted to have something for their husband, which is where I started — but as I grew in my healing process, I realized [boudoir] is something that Black women needed. It’s more of an intimate conversation between the photographer and the subject, the subject and their body, and how they see themselves. [I tell my clients] to just show up and give them space to be whatever their version of beautiful is.
HOW DO YOU CULTIVATE A SAFE SPACE FOR BLACK WOMEN?
I focus on making space for [Black women] to be pampered. A lot of them feel guilty for spending money on themselves, but I encourage them to just come. I provide everything: hair, makeup, wardrobe, snacks, and water. I give them that space to not really have to think about anything. Black women cannot “self-care” their way out of oppression, but I can give them that space to make decisions and show them how to pose, breathe, and stretch. And if something doesn’t work, we change it immediately so they feel comfortable. That’s the biggest thing for me — I want you to feel comfortable in this space to be yourself.
HOW HAS TAPPING INTO YOUR SENSUALITY EMPOWERED YOU?
After being in a relationship from 18 to 30 years-old [and getting a divorce], really tapping into what I wanted took me almost three to four years. I’m empowered now because I’m taking my body back. I think, what makes me feel pleasure?Where do I find pleasure outside of sex? I’ve worked with a sex coach who helped me identify when I am doing something because I have to or doing something because it brings me pleasure. And if it doesn’t bring me pleasure, [I ask myself], why are you doing it?
WHAT ELSE HAS BEEN A PART OF YOUR PLEASURE PRACTICE?
One of the things my coach really talked to me about is having a journal. I have my joy journal, so whenever joyful things happen, I write them down. Focusing on those things really allows me to tap into pleasure. When it comes to the body, if something doesn’t feel good, I don’t want it. For me, sexuality is really tapping into your five senses and if you can’t identify what pleasure is to you, you can’t tell someone else how to please you.
WAS IT DIFFICULT TO MAKE THE DECISION TO EXCLUSIVELY SERVE BLACK WOMEN?
I won’t say it was tough for me, but it was tough for those around me. They were like, “You’re not gonna make any money.” But I am a very headstrong person — if I say I’m going to do that, I’m gonna do that — and if it doesn’t work, it just doesn’t work. I’ve taken images of all races, but I found that I had a deeper connection with Black women and I can speak directly to Black women because I am a Black woman. I’m finding my voice and sharing my journey with Black women.
WHAT IS YOUR ULTIMATE VISION FOR YOUR WORK?
Having an empire where Black women are able to find Black photographers who look like them. I also want to be able to elevate Black photographers through Boudoir for Black Women. Elevating everything from their branding and their pricing to expanding on workshops and retreats for the community.
ARE THERE ANY MANTRAS OR MOTIVATIONAL PHRASES KEEPING YOU GROUNDED?
I have two. “You are your longest and most expensive relationship” is the first one. Any time or money that you spend on yourself is never money or time wasted. That’s always at the forefront for my clients as well. The second? “Everything is working out in your favor.” If I’m feeling overwhelmed or stressed, that [phrase means] I don’t know what the hell’s going on, but it must be something good, so I’m just gonna sit in this, ground myself, and focus on what I can control.
Olesha is tapping into her pleasure in everything she does. What has been bringing you pleasure? Sound off in the comments!