Today I’m sharing very personal stories of both myself and my client Stephanie. I hope you’ll take a few minutes and read to the end.
In 2014 I booked a boudoir experience over the phone. We tried hard to get together in person before her Full Day Of Sexy, but it just wasn’t to be. This is one of the few times I haven’t met my client in person or on video chat in advance of photographing her. The day she arrived I noticed she looked unlike how she had described herself to me. I was a little taken back that her perception could be so different than the beautiful woman who was bringing her wardrobe case in the door. She was visibly nervous, to the point of shaking. Ashley & I put her in the makeup chair and began our comfortable rapport. Eventually Stephanie settled down and began to get more comfortable with the idea of what we were doing. By the end of the day she owned her space and was suggesting poses.
At her image reveal she was ecstatic with the results and I breathed a sigh of relief. I also have insecurities at times…What if I can’t show a woman her beauty? What if she just refuses to see it? What if I don’t do her justice with my images?
A while later we were scheduled for pick up of her products. I sat in my office that day, working away and awaiting her return. I’m not sure why I was filled with self doubt on this particular day but I was. It had nothing to do with Stephanie’s planned visit or her experience. I thought about if I was doing what I was meant to do in the world. I was thinking of giving up on my dreams. Anyway, who cared what I was doing?
Then, I heard a door open. A confident walk got progressively louder as it came closer. I looked up and Stephanie rounded the corner into my space. I remember thinking, “She is glowing!” She was so put together and fashionable! She had on makeup! As we moved through the product presentation she told me how her self esteem had skyrocketed, that she was thinking of starting a business and that she had never felt better in her skin! Moments before I was considering giving up. This interaction is absolutely gave me the courage to continue my path of empowering women. I was so new at it at that time. I didn’t have the confidence and clear vision I have now. How many women would I have not assisted on their path if not for Stephanie? There are so many. If I had given up that day none of my art I hold so dear now would have been made.
A couple of years later Stephanie was faced with the hardest and most important battle of her life. She persisted. She won. And in that process she found a cause. Many women who suffer the loss of their breasts have reconstruction surgery because they believe they have no alternative. Stephanie chose to live her life without breasts. She now champions women being fully informed of their options. She did all this with the utmost grace. I’m so proud to call her my friend. Please read her story as it follows and share and comment your support.
Thank you, Marsha
Far too many women use words such as, “ugly”, “gross”, “fat” and on and on with such horrible words to describe themselves. Glamour magazine did a survey on women’s body image. They found that a shocking 97% of women struggle with their body image. These thoughts often lead to a low self-esteem. Media, which has only been heightened by the rise of social media, shows us & promotes these unrealistic goals. It is as if we are looking into a broken mirror.
I was no different. I, like so many, had experienced some of life’s struggles that only contributed to my poor self-esteem. In my younger years, I’d spend hours pouring over Vogue, Glamour, Cosmo and on and on imagining and plotting how I could look just like those models. So, the first time I met with Marsha I was not confident. In fact, I thought I would be the one that the pictures are just not good. I was not a model. I was not a 20 something. I was a mom with two children. When I looked into my “broken mirror”, I wasn’t able to see beauty. But, my experience with Marsha would shake my own beliefs in myself. She would challenge me to look into that mirror differently. I had a truly wonderful day with Marsha, as well as the beautiful makeup and hair from Ashley Gregory, two very talented women. We had fun. We laughed. As the day progressed, I felt this unknown feeling rumble inside me. I felt some confidence. I actually, dare I say, felt “pretty.” I no doubt left Marsha’s studio a different woman than when I had entered that morning.
The next step was the picture reveals. I was filled with such excitement. But, still a bit of stubbornness with a hint of doubt, “I bet she was disappointed in the pictures and maybe only found a couple “okay” ones.” However, when she put those photos up on the screen, I was literally brought to tears. Those photos were beautiful. Looking back at me were photos of a truly beautiful woman. I can say confidently that I am very proud of those photos and will forever cherish them.
Marsha is blessed with an amazing talent. She is more than a photographer. She can look through her lens and see true beauty. She is able to use the camera as a medium to reach women and help to show them all their true beauty. She reaches so many women and I believe reaches us on a deeper level. Yes, the photos are stunning but the fact that it touches our inner self and challenges us to look at ourselves differently is as much a part of the experience.
But, my journey doesn’t end there.
In January 2016, I was diagnosed with Stage 3, Triple Negative Breast cancer. As part of my treatment, I underwent a bilateral mastectomy. I, along with my families support, made the decision to not undergo breast reconstruction. This means I live my life without breasts … no reconstruction, no prosthetics. I desperately wanted to return to living my life as quickly as possible. I wasn’t willing to undergo multiple surgeries, each with risks of there own. And, in the end, the fact is … a woman’s beauty truly is more than skin deep. Our breasts, any size or shape is not what defines us as a woman. I felt confident in this decision. I believe that a portion of this confidence came from my initial photo shoot with Marsha. I grew from there & knew that I would be just as beautiful without breasts as with.
My second photo shoot was to allow myself to express these emotions & to hopefully inspire other women. Let’s throw out our broken mirrors. Stand tall and confidently say, “I AM BEAUTIFUL!”
Please enjoy these images Stephanie chose to share with you: