Camila Coelho On How Pregnancy Has Changed Her Body and Mind

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For influencer and fashion entrepreneur Camila Coelho, capturing the last month of her pregnancy may have come together at the last minute, but it was always planned. “The photoshoot was always something I wanted to do to capture images of my belly in its final weeks,” she told ELLE.com over email. Her first child, a baby boy with her husband, Ícaro Coelho, is due any day now. “To be honest, I didn’t have any inspiration or theme specific in my mind, but I knew the most important thing for me was to capture beautiful images with the big belly and the baby.”

With the shoot’s timing, “everything was very last minute. I kept waiting and waiting, until I was like, ‘My belly is huge, I need to photograph, I’m very swollen,’” she says. But as things tend to do when a baby’s on the way, the pieces eventually came together—and she and her team (consisting of photographer Marcio Amaral Peterson, hairstylist Dafne Evangelista, makeup artist Julia Ritondaro, and stylist Manuela Gutierrez) put together a stunning and intimate portrait of the mom-to-be.

Coelho says she fully embraced the way pregnancy changed her body. “I was honestly very comfortable in my skin, seeing my belly grow,” she says. “I know, on social media, so many people talk about how fit I am and the six-pack and all of that, but I was excited to see my body change and see the progress.”

Having been diagnosed with epilepsy as a child, Coelho was also transparent with her 9.8 million Instagram followers about how the disorder impacted her pregnancy. She says that, during the most anxiety-inducing moments of her early pregnancy, she maintained faith and positivity that she’d have a healthy little boy. “Right in the beginning when the baby was still a fetus, I remember saying to myself, ‘This baby is healthy,’” she says. “‘This baby is growing beautifully and he’s going to be a perfect child. He’s going to be born perfect.’ Reassuring myself helped make a change in my mental health and will impact how the baby grows up.

“I remember after every single test we did, the relief and the happiness that I felt. But the fears, they don’t disappear and they’re always going to be there,” she adds. “I think my message to women, no matter what you’re going through–if you have epilepsy or any other conditions that may affect a pregnancy—is to stay positive, have faith, and be certain that everything is going to be okay.”

Below, Coelho shares her 9-month maternity shoot exclusively with ELLE, and opens up about her maternity style, what kind of mom she envisions herself being, and how posing at 9 months pregnant is a little different than working your average fashion shoot.

How have the last nine months changed your relationship with fashion?

I would say my relationship with fashion hasn’t changed much, especially in the first few months of my pregnancy. Now that I am at the very end, my belly is super big and there are things that don’t work anymore. Through my pregnancy, I still wore and worked with brands I usually work with until around the eighth month. I went to the Louis Vuitton Cruise Show, I supported brands through fashion week, I wore a Miu Miu look, I was able to wear my own Camila Coelho Collection on a regular basis, and I chose looks that would go with the belly and with my style. I felt like I wasn’t limited, and I got to really have fun and still express myself through it! Because this pregnancy experience has been so joyful for me, I think you’ll notice my style has been very colorful lately. Ultimately, my relationship with fashion didn’t really change and that makes me super happy as I was able to be myself and play with fashion as my belly grew.

This year we’ve witnessed multiple celebrities redefining maternity style as bold and sexy. What inspired your pregnancy style? What were your closet essentials?

When I got pregnant, I did think about that a little bit—mostly, Am I going to change or have to change my style a little bit? Am I going to feel comfortable wearing the things I do today?

Definitely seeing Rihanna get pregnant first and wearing such cool outfits, really having fun with it, and not limiting herself, was definitely an inspiration to me. There’s no denying the impact she’s had on me and so many other pregnant women.

I think, looking back, I wore everything that I love to wear that’s my style and aesthetic. What made me feel the most comfortable and what were essentials in my closet were low-rise bottoms—from skirts to pants, a lot of knit pieces, baggy jeans. One thing I wore a lot in my pregnancy, that maybe I didn’t photograph, was oversized blazers. I wore them every day, even to go to the doctors with biker shorts and crop tops. I would throw them over everything, and it made me feel very comfortable and chic at the same time.

You’ve been open about your experience as a pregnant woman with epilepsy. As you draw closer to your due date, do you have any advice or words of encouragement you’d share with other mothers-to-be going through this?

Being pregnant in general is so exciting. The moment you find out, it’s the happiest moment of your life and there’s this magical feeling. But there are also so many fears going through your mind, even when taking epilepsy out. Since the moment I found out I was pregnant, every day, and especially in the first three months, you’re so scared about so many things regarding the health of the baby. I talked to so many moms and we all felt the same. We all had so many insecurities and fears. Your hormones are crazy, you cry, and there are so many feelings that go through your mind. It is hard, and you can’t lie.

Having epilepsy on top of that definitely made the journey a little bit harder in the beginning, before getting all of the tests done to make sure that the baby is fine and healthy. It gave me a lot of anxiety, but one thing I learned was that I needed to stay positive and have a lot of faith…Reassuring myself helped make a change in my mental health and will impact how the baby grows up.

I think my message to women, no matter what you’re going through—if you have epilepsy or any other conditions that may affect a pregnancy—is to stay positive, have faith, and be certain that everything is going to be okay. My baby is about to be born, and I still have some fears. But I feel like I was very positive throughout my whole pregnancy. There are going to be so many challenges and hard moments, but staying positive will definitely help you throughout anything you go through. Love yourself, love your child that’s inside of you, because you are creating life and that’s the most magical thing in the world. Also, make sure to ask for help or to share your feelings with someone. If it’s your partner, your mom, a family member, a friend—I did so many 20-second hugs throughout my pregnancy. Read about the 20-second hug thing; it changes your life.

camila coelho's 9 month maternity shoot

Marcio Amaral Peterson

How has your pregnancy changed your relationship with your body, if at all?

    The moment I got pregnant, I was very open-minded about my body changing and everything that the pregnancy journey comes with…Every single day, seeing how much bigger my belly would get and seeing my body gaining the weight, it didn’t make me feel uncomfortable at any moment.

    Seeing my body change and my belly grow was magical and I didn’t, at any moment, look at it in a negative way. I only looked at it in a positive way. I looked at it as, I am creating life inside of me, and this is incredible. I definitely stayed active. I worried about eating super healthy and I worked out more than I ever worked out before, 2-3 times a week with my trainer at home. I ate really healthy to make sure that I got all of the vitamins in my body, but I also ate things that I was craving. I did not stop eating carbs or chocolate or anything like that—I never limited myself—I just made sure I was very active during pregnancy and eating all the good stuff the baby needed.

    What kind of mom do you see yourself being?

      I see myself being a very loving and nurturing mom, but also a mom that will be a bit strict, hopefully. I am very loving in general, with my family and my husband, Ícaro; it’s in my blood. So I definitely will be a really loving mom. But I also want to teach him how to be a great human being and educate him on all the things that I need to, which is hard. That means I will probably have to be strict a lot of times. But being strict doesn’t mean you can’t give love. I grew up with that tough love. I think about my mom, and she was strict but she was so, so loving. The times that she was hard with me, I think it was good for me because at the end, she still gave me love.

      camila coelho's 9 month maternity shoot

      Marcio Amaral Peterson

      What’s the best advice you’ve gotten on motherhood?

        When you get pregnant, you get so many pieces of advice from so many different people. I got to do a YouTube series, and I interviewed some of my mom friends like Jessica Alba, Karen Wazen and Eva Longoria. One thing my dear Eva Longoria (who is always so honest with me, which I love) said to me that got stuck in my head is that, “The best advice is: Don’t take anyone’s advice.” Which, in a way, is true. I got to learn that each person will have a different pregnancy and a different experience…I made sure to listen to the good stuff and not compare myself and what I will go through to someone else.

        Overall, the best was from my mom, who said to stay positive no matter what and be happy because you are having a child. Your dream is coming true, so stay positive.

        What values do you most hope to instill in your child?

          I think about that so much. Since I got pregnant, one of my fears is about raising a child that will be a good human being. Especially since I’m having a boy. Educating a boy and raising a boy to be a man in our society today is a huge responsibility. I want my child to be a good human being, especially to other women. I want him to be kind, grateful, to have a loving heart, to give back and to help others.

          camila coelho's 9 month maternity shoot

          Marcio Amaral Peterson

          What inspired this maternity shoot’s theme and outfits?

            To be honest, I didn’t have any inspiration or theme specific in my mind, but I knew the most important thing for me was to capture beautiful images with the big belly and the baby. A lot of them I imagined being raw—like skin to skin, which a lot of these images show. In some of them, I don’t have clothes on, or I just have pants on because I wanted it to be really natural. But we definitely got to play with some beautiful outfits, like a tulle Dior dress and a fun GCDS hot outfit, which is very me.

            How did you choose who you wanted to work with?

              I ended up picking a very Brazilian and Latino team, which always makes me feel so comfortable on set with the energy, the vibe, ‘la familia.’ They are also people I usually work with, my go-to team. Dafne Evangelista, who usually does my hair, always does the most amazing styling. Julia Ritondaro, who is one of the makeup artists I always go to here in Miami—she’s incredible and has the best energy. The photographer as well—Marcio Amaral Peterson—he’s also Brazilian, and he’s very sensitive and has the best warm, calm energy, and his photographs are amazing. The studio, Skep 360 in Miami, is a beautiful space for shooting clean imagery, which I knew I wanted for this. The stylist is someone I have been working with since I moved to Miami, Manuela Gutierrez. So the whole team was made up of the people I usually work with and who have incredible, comfortable, and Latin energy. That really transferred to the full shoot and results.

              camila coelho's 9 month maternity shoot

              Marcio Amaral Peterson

              Are there any behind the scene shoot stories you’d like to share from that day?

                The shoot was so fun, and it ended up being a bit longer than I thought. At the end of the shoot, my feet were so swollen, but I had so much fun with everything. I ordered a bunch of Brazilian sweets for the whole team and everyone was so happy to eat all the Brazilian cakes and brigadeiros. I remember the baby kicking a lot throughout the shoot and that got me really emotional inside. He was kicking my belly the whole time, maybe because I was eating all the sweets, or maybe because he wanted to participate in the shoot too like mommy, but he was very active through the whole shoot.

                camila coelho's 9 month maternity shoot

                Marcio Amaral Peterson

                How did you feel seeing the photos for the first time? And how do you feel now, sharing them publicly?

                  I remember when I looked at them with my husband, I became very emotional and happy at the same time. I felt beautiful—but not just, like, aesthetically beautiful, like my hair or my makeup, but beautiful in a mom way. This is the circle of life, and that is beautiful. I felt powerful, especially seeing myself in the more bare photos, without the outfits, just me, myself, and the belly and my skin. I felt unstoppable and powerful.

                  When looking at these pictures, I’ll forever feel like I can do anything in this life. I am a mom now; I am giving birth; I created a human being inside of me. I feel very excited sharing these photos. My friends, family, team and also my social following, they have all been excited and supportive throughout my whole pregnancy. Everyone’s excitement, even guessing the baby’s name, throughout everything I post and the whole process from one month pregnant to now nine, I see their excitement through all their love.

                  This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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