Looking to test the limits of your courage? Try jumping out of an airplane for the first time — wearing only lingerie.
That’s what seven California women will do on Saturday in a so-crazy-it-works awareness campaign designed to help women overcome insecurities and discover their inner bravery.
Each of the under-dressed skydivers in the Be Bold, Take The Leap project has experienced some major trauma — from rape to domestic abuse to kidnapping — and is jumping to symbolize their ability to move beyond the darkest moments in their lives.
The project was conceived by Marisa Leigh Gallegos and Jennifer Hoffman, best friends and business partners who founded the L.A. boudoir photography studio Esme + Eve last year while both were emerging from personal crisis. Marisa watched her father die suddenly from a fast-moving cancer, while Jennifer was starting over after an abusive husband left her in hospital, broke and homeless.
Earlier this year, the two photographers decided to try skydiving in their underwear as a way of challenging their own fears and self-doubts. The experience was so liberating they created the Be Bold contest to give other women a chance to jump and share their stories of personal setbacks and recovery.
“We call these women warriors without weapons,” Jennifer told Lingerie Talk this week. “They’ve already fought their battles. Now they get to fly.”
Be Bold is an unusual self-empowerment initiative, and sometimes difficult to explain, but it’s resonating with women everywhere. The project has been profiled in major media outlets worldwide and has received a barrage of supportive messages.
On Saturday, Jennifer and Marisa will jump again along with five women chosen through the Be Bold contest:
The Be Bold jump has a unique meaning and symbolism to each of the women participating, Jennifer said.
“It’s about so many different things, like moving past those things that should break you but make you instead. Every person who sees it will filter it through their own experiences.”
Each of the women will be dressed in outfits donated by the luxury lifestyle brand Naked Princess, and will be rigged with video cameras to record the experience. A documentary film will be put together after the jump.
“The reason these women are jumping with us they made the same kind of choice we did,” Jennifer said. “They chose to move through their traumas. They wanted to share their stories and share their lives with other women.
“Bad things happen all the time to good people,” she added. “But it’s the choices you make when that happens that will dictate your life. What I love about each and every one of these women is they took their life and changed it.”
The parachute jump, she added, isn’t just symbolic: “It’s a way of showing what they’ve moved through. It’s an outward manifestation of inward change.”
The two photographers, both 33, decided to skydive back in May — despite Jennifer’s extreme fear of heights — as a way of putting into practice the values of their corporate brand. Esme + Eve does both fashion and private boudoir photography, and the experience of dealing with clients inspired them.
“So many women came in who were such an inspiration to us,” said Jennifer (left in photo above). “We saw burn victims, abuse survivors, women with body issues and women having panic attacks on the set. I wouldn’t be doing this if it weren’t for our clients. If I want my clients to embrace themselves, I have to lead by example.”
But the inspiration to strip down to their skivvies was a last-minute “accident”. When the pair took their first jump in May, it was blazingly hot and Marisa impulsively suggested shedding some of their clothes.
“On the surface it looks very lascivious, but there’s so much heart in it,” Jennifer said. “Our boudoir clients face their body issues every day in front of us, and this was a way of showing solidarity with our clients. However, I’m a little horrified that I’m now being seen on websites around the world in mismatched underpants.”
And even though Saturday’s leap from 3,500 feet near Lake Elsinore, CA, will be her second jump, Jennifer said she’ll be “just as afraid of heights this time around as last time.”
Which is sort of the whole point of the project.
“People forget that change is not a comfortable experience,” she said. “It’s hard and it’s frightening. But I’ll take feeling like I’m about to die for half an hour of my life if it means I can fly at the end of it.”