Monday, 22 December 2014

The Joy Of Doing What You Love: Reflecting On The Past 2014

As any business owner will tell you, starting a business is filled with excitement, joy and hope. You are taking a leap of faith on what you're passionate about; is your newborn baby. But also as first time parents will admit, it comes with fears; Will I be good at it? What if I destroy my dream? What if it's too overwhelming? Will I burn out?

I started 2014 with all those thoughts. 2015 will be the 4th year my business as Fela Photography has been running, but it was 2014 that I consider the official run. Before 2014, Fela Photography was my job on the side, working full time and hoping that I would get enough clients to quit my day job and dip myself full time in Fela Photography; something I've been dreaming for too long. But being honest with myself, I wasn't putting the necessary elbow grease on it to make it happen, so obviously results were not showing much potential.

When I started my maternity leave in 2013, I knew I wanted to work from home so that I could be present in my son's life. It was something that was heavy in my heart. My son was the reason that made me put my self together and really start working on it so I decided that Fela Photography would have my deserved attention. It needed revamping though. Before, I was all over the place, grabbing any photography gig that would come my way and it was feeling kind of "blah". So with the guidance of Accelerator YYC I found my photography calling and that's when in 2014 the Reveal Your True Beauty project happened.

I felt vulnerable and scared at the beginning because Reveal Your True Beauty came from the heart and a personal experience. I had to pitch it to many people, many times and always with the fear that people would think it was a silly idea but I found support and encouragement which motivated me to keep going, even if it felt like I was running in circles. 

"I had to remind myself constantly that there is something beyond  money in the path I chose. There was the opportunity to help change women's lives, to impact positively in others, to use my skills/gift/talent for good".

When I was working my butt off (excuse my english) and didn't see much money coming in and a LOT leaving, I was worried and felt small and frustrated many times. I had to remind myself constantly that there is something beyond  money in the path I chose. There was the opportunity to help change women's lives, to impact positively in others, to use my skills/gift/talent for good. I had to remember the spark igniting in these ladies' eyes to motivate me; that's what kept me going. The ladies' words of joy where the cherry on top.

When I felt stuck, I would stop, reassess what I was doing, where was I failing, ask for feedback and try again. Tweaking here and there, changing this and that, Reveal Your True Beauty has become stronger in one year than in the 3 years I was playing business owner in lukewarm waters.

Founding My Happy Place:

Since I know my husband, he's been a spokesman about finding your happy place. His is a beach and he'll think of it on stressful times, picturing the breeze, the sun heat and the sound of waves and it does indeed make him happy and relaxed. But it didn't work for me. I couldn't picture anything that would bring me to that estate. I would say it was my home for the sake of saying something. 

However, reflecting on 2014 for the last couple of weeks I have finally found my happy place and is photographing women. It really is! I know every session we have will be fun, filled with laughs, new relationships and growth and as I go through the photos on my computer and work on them I find myself with a frozen smile and honestly happy to meet every single one of my clients and being able to bring joy into their lives as well. I daydream of the reveal appointments wondering how will they react when they see their photos and hoping it changes their lives for good. So it comes as no surprise that I find solace in my happy place when I feel down or stressed.

Jaimie, one of the wonderful ladies I photographed at the beginning of the year told me a week ago that her photo session with me is the only one she remembers having fun. It's so overwhelmingly beautiful how those words warm my heart! Comments like that feed my passion for what I do and help me to keep on walking.

"Jaimie, one of the wonderful ladies I photographed at the beginning of the year told me a week ago that her photo session with me is the only one she remembers having fun".

The Coming of 2015:

There has been a lot of work put into my business and there is still a lot of work to do as well, but my dreams are being unfolded in front of me in even better ways that I imagined, what a blessing! The scary leap of faith has become a wonderful adventure in which I have found freedom to be who I am (silly and all with my little happy jumps), met amazing people and help others, one person at a time.

Reveal Your True Beauty was born from the heart and it will continue to be that way. Each session is indeed a celebration of you and the great beauty of your soul as others and me see it. And it's catching on! Sessions are being booked all the way to April as we speak with ladies coming from in and out of Calgary to be photographed; such a humbling and beautiful thing.

A heartfelt thank you to those of you who have trust me to reveal to you your true beauty, to those of you who will trust me to reveal it and to those of you who join in the celebration. I hope you find your happy place too in loving what you do and who you are.


Monday, 8 December 2014

Revealing Chantal: The True Beauty Of A Small Business Owner

Hair And Makeup by Kada Issa from Bombay Beauty Loft, Fashion Styling by Studio Intent Boutique

Chantal Barchard. I'm sure many of you know her. She's the amazing lady behind Studio Intent Boutique. Yes, the same one that styles all the amazing ladies that have been in front of my camera so far. It was about time we revealed her true beauty too, right?

She is indeed an amazing woman; kind, generous, poise, always looking amazing and elegant in everything she does and one of my favourite things, she stands to her word. You can trust that she'll do as she says (I love that because I'm the same and feels sometimes like is hard to find that nowadays); very trustworthy. She's been such a big supporter of Reveal Your True Beauty! And I want to share with you the story:

I've been a photographer for 10 years now; ten years! Makes me feel old hahaha! And I began my photography business in Canada in 2011. But it was this year that I pushed the reset button for my business and started putting all my attention on my new baby: the Reveal Your True Beauty Project. I needed to spread the word to all women in Calgary, but how? So an idea came to mind; reach out to local boutiques and give them 5 sessions to gift their clients, free of charge. Only 3 would get this offer. The intention was to help them market themselves, increase sales, and spreading the word of what I do would tag along. My "sample" work were pictures of my mom and a close friend. I had an impeccable presentation and my fashion portfolio to show as well. Of all the boutiques I reached out to (and it was a lot of boutiques), only Chantal agreed to meet with me and she understood the concept, the passion behind it and the opportunity of giving something special and meaningful to 5 of her clients. The rest, as you can see, is history. 

I find it very interesting how someone's decision can create a ripple effect. Have you been aware of it in your life? Have you noticed that word, that drop that falls out of your mouth or others and transforms your life... or others'? Isn't that amazing??

I'm grateful beyond words for getting to know her and sharing in the adventures this year have brought, but specially for those seconds when she said "Yes" to my project. I support her work too, because it is made with great intention behind, just like the name of her boutique and with a passionate heart for what she does; you can feel it as you walk in her store. As all our clients have experienced, and I'm sure you agree, going to her boutique is like walking inside your dream closet and play dress up. Picture it. That's how fun it is!

So thank you Chantal for putting your trust in me but most of all for how amazing and awesome you are. There's definitely not two like you; I'm happy you are part of my life now. A truly beautiful person on the inside and outside.

Have you met Chantal? Share her awesomeness on the comments; it's a great opportunity for you to celebrate her too!

Monday, 24 November 2014

A Storyteller With A Camera

Special thanks to Serena from Italy for this beautiful illustration!

It has taken a significant amount of people telling me the same thing the last couple of months for me to finally get it. I'm a storyteller.

My brother wrote a comment on one of my blog posts:

"Is wonderful how you write, you've always had the 
gift to show the world in a beautiful way regardless of  
the medium."

- "Fela, didn't you know this already?! Is kind of obvious!".

I know, I know. But first let me explain why it took so long to hit me. I'm a bit of a weird combination; I can be very creative (out of the box) but at the same time be IN the box, full on. Which I've been told is rare for an artist. My head is processing storytelling and portrait as 2 different things:

- Storytelling goes in my procrastinated box of "Writing"
- True Beauty goes in my current box of "Photography" 

Therefore, since it has been categorized, in my head, Storytelling is not part of the same box where Portrait goes, so is dismissed. I can be non-artistic like that...

But put me inside the Writing box or the Photography box and my imagination and creativity goes wild, jumping into an infinite world of possibilities; kind of a Narnia effect (the world inside the wardrobe).

So, I was completely oblivious to it, but people kept saying it and Storytelling started planting a seed in my Photography box and a lot of things started making sense, and my Photography world expanded more; kind of the world of Fantastica in "The Never-ending Story": the more you imagine, the bigger it gets (yeah... I'm applying my book geekiness right now if you have noticed...).

"If you were doing this unconsciously already, what's the difference now and why should I care?"- You may ask.

Well my friend, it makes a HUGE difference! 

First, it's a conscious decision now, which makes me more attentive to telling your story when I photograph you. I'll be able to discover and reveal more of your amazing self.

And second, but most importantly, I'll be able to tell YOU your story. I'll be able to tell you how amazing, strong and smart you are. I'll be able to tell YOU how, despite all the hardship in your life, you have been able to conquer it all and stand victorious in front of me with the courage (that is not found so easily) to make yourself vulnerable to me and my camera so that I may see it all and show it to you so that YOU may look at yourself and FINALLY realize, that you are standing pretty good in life, that God has shaped you into an AMAZING woman, that your body is just the shell that contains all your awesomeness and THAT my friend is not a bad thing. Not a bad thing at all.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Revealing Marnie: The Impersonation Of Goodness

Hair and Makeup by Kada from Bombay Beauty Loft. Styling by Cherry Chic Designs
The day of Marnie's Reveal Your True Beauty session had started with the wrong foot for me. I was not feeling well emotionally and was very worried about it affecting the overall of her session. How could I bring out the beauty in her if I was struggling with an emotional overcast? I was worried she would feel uncomfortable because I was uncomfortable with myself that day.

I had read her form of course, and what I read gave me the hope that her presence would ease the pain. And on my way to meet with her I kept praying like a mantra to forget about myself and make it all about her, it was not about me.

When she arrived it was like a ray of sunshine with her big, beautiful and sincere smile, so excited to do her session. Marnie is a lady you would love hanging out with or just being near her. She has this comfortable energy you want to dwell in.

All about who she is smiles, absolutely all of it; and what a sincere smile it is! A smile full of absolute joy. As if God had answer my prayers, I was happy and had an amazing time that made me forget about my sadness that day. In fact, when I mentioned it to Marnie, she couldn't believe it. "You seemed so happy that day that I would have never guessed you were struggling" was what she said. My reply was "yes, I WAS happy, thanks to you. You are one amazing lady!".


As someone close to her mentioned in the form:

"Marnie is an incredibly energetic, dedicated, driven, strong minded beautiful woman. Her aura is amazing!"

I am convinced this is true.

But let's see what Marnie has to say about her Reveal Your True Beauty experience:

"In June of this year I had the very special honour of working with Fela 
Photography for a "makeover" session. Greeted by Fela in a lovely, fun, 
supportive atmosphere at Bombay Beauty Loft I had my makeup done for the 
first time in 15 years, by amazing Kada, slipped on my gorgeous Cherry Chic 
Design dress from Valrie, then Fela worked her magic. She made me 
feel instantly sparkly and beautiful. Fela has this spirit of 
mischief coupled with sincere delight and passion for her craft. She worked to 
help me with poses and bring out my best, and it was so much fun. We laughed 
during the whole session and it comes through on the photos. When it 
came time for the "reveal" I was taken back by how beautifully they turned out 
and the quality of what Fela created. I am so sincerely grateful to 
have had this opportunity and I would highly 
recommend not only Fela, but also experiencing a 
Reveal Your True Beauty session. It was a blast!"


Sunday, 5 October 2014

What I've Learned From You So Far

I little context to today's post:

Though you might not believe it, I'm actually quite the introvert and sometimes even shy (specially in group setting where I barely know people or don't know anybody at all). For an introvert, investing our energy in others is a hard and exhausting task, that's why we have to learn to pick wisely; if you have our attention is because we believe every second of it is absolutely worth it. I love this comic explanation of what's an introvert; totally nailed it.

Now, on with the tale...!

It feels weird for me to call "client" the people I photograph. Yes, there's a financial transaction between us because that's what I do for a living, but each person also brings invaluable things to my life.

As I have mentioned many times before not only through my blog but through my social media and interviews, every session builds a connexion; I learned to know each one because there's a level of trust that we built before, during and after your session. It's my natural way to find and see the beauty that lies within you. Though I won't know absolutely everything about how your life is, I know who you are as a person. Every time I get a chance to see you again or talk or write fills me with joy, because I value your company and your presence even when is only your name popping up on my inbox. So in short, the people I photograph fill my life with positivism, light and motivation to keep doing what I do because meeting you has been an amazing journey in itself.

Though I strive to be able to show you how amazing you truly are I also have learned from you. Each interaction I've had with the people I photograph makes me feel a little more comfortable to put myself out there and interact with others; kind of a silly reassurance that people "don't bite" hahaha! 

I'm getting more comfortable at initiating a conversation with strangers. Even on my way to the park with my son, I have found myself short-talking to random people on the street! Believe me, I always thought that would never happen ("beautiful dog, is my favourite breed!""What a beautiful apple tree you have; love all the fruit hanging from it!"). There's still a lot of work to be done, but I wanted to let you know that your presence in my life, even if it was for 2 hours that day I photographed you, is teaching me a lot. I'm learning to breakout from those "social fears" that were stopping me from being more me and I'm grateful.

I'm grateful because the simple exercise of seeing beauty in you, is helping me to see it everywhere too. It's going on autopilot now and I'm embracing it all because is making my life brighter and better. And by making my life brighter and better, I'll be able to bring a bit of sunshine to others as well. A cyclic motion I guess.

I once heard that in order to love someone, you have to understand them first. Practicing this philosophy with your help has proven it right. Thank you!

I want to leave you with this:

Real beauty is found in the heart and the mind of a person, giving fruit to goodness that impacts the world and the people around them. Is that which leaves a positive mark, an impression on everything it touches therefore, making everything it touches beautiful as well. So in other words, thank you for making me beautiful too. 

Big hugs!

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Revealing Marlene: Beauty In The Silence

HMUA: Kada from Bombay Beauty Loft    STYLING: Valrie from Cherry Chic Designs

When I get to photograph someone out-of-the-blue for a Reveal Your True Beauty Experience, it's like a present you know is coming: the giddiness of it all is awesome, wondering how it'll be, who is she and barely able to wait for the date to do it. 

Even though we emailed back and forth with Marlene, she was very business-like through all of the messages, going straight to the point. When I read her interview form, it didn't reveal much of her either so being the curious lady I am, and she being a mystery, I was VERY looking forward to meeting this person and understand all the secrecy in her.

I'll be honest, she was a tough shell at the beginning. Marlene wasn't talking much and I was starting to worry wondering how to get her inner beauty to show when she was guarding it with all her might?
But she did open up and told me her story which I'm sorry to disappoint you but I won't share it here, simply out of respect; it's not mine to tell. Some stories are and some aren't, and Marlene is a wonderful lady whom I'm sure would love to keep it to just the people close to her. It's nothing atrocious in any way, it'll definitely leave you admiring this woman but understanding who she is made me feel it was better to keep it that way.

I can tell you this: When she opened up it was beautiful; you could feel her tension go away and her kindness come out. She started talking and sharing her stories about being a school bus driver; she truly enjoys what she does and you can see it in her eyes as she talks. The more we talked, the more I started to see a little smile coming out more and more often, until her eyes wouldn't stop smiling. When we finish her session and I said "all done!" she was so comfortable, she stayed in her place for quite a while. I had to come to her, gently touch her shoulder and tell her that we were done. It made me so happy to see her THAT happy and comfortable. You could tell this meant a lot to her and I was very grateful to be able to give her that moment.

In her own words, this is what her experience was:

"Fela captured the real me in her photos. She helped me to show different facial expressions and in so doing was able to make the photos much more interesting. I have never been comfortable as the subject and she helped me have fun and enjoy the experience. Thanks so much Fela!"

I loved her reveal because of her reaction. She was literally taken aback and was speechless; it was a very emotional moment for her. But she was happy... and proud of herself. She came out of it walking a bit taller that day. And me? With a warm heart and the joy of knowing she was able to discover her true beauty.

Aren't those eyes simply gorgeous??

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

FRANQ Magazine And Why I Had To Write About It

If you are a faithful reader of my blog, you're very familiar by now with my post "The Ugly Betty Story And Why I Want To Show Your True Beauty To The World". That part of my life happened between the ages of 12 and 18. Yes, 6 years having low thoughts about myself.

That age range is the most vulnerable of all regarding body image and self confidence, and the most susceptible to be shaped by information thrown their way regarding these subjects, because teens are in the development time of their lives on which they are discovering who they are as an individual, instead of as a member of a family, which is how they identified themselves when they were younger.

So today, while doing searches on Twitter (I'm into that now, to find awesome people who stand for what I stand for), I stumbled upon this Teen Magazine: FRANQ. It wasn't the Twitter name that caught my attention initially but an image they shared:

So, being the curious lady I am, I went to their website and checked all I could (I still have no idea which city it belongs to, so if you know, please tell me!).

I have to admit, I'm so excited about this concept! I love how most of the collaboration work is made also by teens (in fact, the promotional video was made by an intern who is 17). For example, Maria Dasoo, a teenage writer wrote an amazing poem from which I took out my favourite verse (perhaps because it relates with the Reveal Your True Beauty concept):

"My body is not to be objectified, but to be personalized"

How did this magazine started? With a "WHAT IF" question:

What if...

There was a magazine that created an environment to empower girls in all areas of their lives, from becoming body positive, to achieving their most audacious dreams and goals. Showcasing the possibilities in life, not constrained by the “ideals” set out before them.

What if...

There was a magazine that showed girls as girls, in all shapes and sizes and in all their glory, by using REAL teen girls as their models WITHOUT THE USE OF PHOTOSHOP.

What if...

There was a magazine that challenged all of the current parameters of beauty in the media.

They want to take the next step (and rightfully so!) to engage more teen girls in positive image and self awareness. That is why they are doing a crowd funding on Indiegogo which I strongly invite you to support. What impact can this magazine generate on our teenaged girls? I'll let another image shared by FRANQ Magazine answer that question for you:

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Revealing Kimberly: A Boost For Getting Back On Your Feet

Hair and Makeup by Kada Issa from Bombay Beauty Loft

Every time I finish a REVEAL YOUR TRUE BEAUTY session, I feel blessed by the opportunity of meeting that person. Is not only about the fun experience we live together during their photo shoot but about how amazing and special each one of them are, in their own unique way. I'm grateful that they trust me and were their true selves and that I was able to help them take a brake about everything that's noisy in their lives and enjoy being them. I love watching it and being part of it. It's truly a very special thing!

Kimberly won a session through Studio Intent Boutique. She wrote to me saying how grateful she was about her prize and how much she needed it. Her husband had recently passed away and she needed a boost. Urgently.

So the Reveal Your True Beauty Team and me did what we do best: spoil her and make her feel loved... and beautiful.

Considering what an amazing lady she is, this was no problem at all. What I treasure the most though, is the caring relationship we all built with her. Truly something special.

Isn't she beautiful?!

To get a better idea of who she is, I'll leave at the hands of her friends:
"Our friend Kimberly King is strong, gracious and beautiful.  She has the unique ability to put everyone around her at ease.  She has a light, charming and infectious laugh.
She loves her friends, family and community with her whole heart and truly accepts people for who they are.  Her passion for the environment is manifested in her countless volunteer hours and career".

All of it is absolutely wonderfully true. But what touched our hearts the most was what the letter Kimberly wrote about her experience:

"Hello Fela, Chantal and Kada,
I struggle to find the words to tell you how grateful I am for the True Beauty experience I won.  Immediately after the reveal I felt I had to write down all the positive emotions I was feeling as there was so much negativity elsewhere in my life.  I ended up filling four pages but my ramblings were not something I wanted to share in their entirety.
 I have told you all in person how grateful I was for the experience but I wanted to send an actual note of thanks. All of you made me feel so special, comfortable, and beautiful.  I feel I have formed a lasting relationship with each of you which is a wonderful testament to how compatible you are as a team.  I know future clients will feel the warmth you bring to the True Beauty experience. 
 I was overwhelmed but deeply impressed at the quality of the photos.  Every shot was so unique, showed strong emotion and, of course, showed my true beauty.  I had no idea how good I would look without looking overdone.  I love the attitude I exude in the photos where I am not smiling.  I happily display my photos at home and proudly changed all my on-line profile pictures, garnering rave reviews from my contacts, friends, and family.  The photos continue to be an amazing confidence booster.
 Thank you for all the True Beauty experience gave me.  I highly recommend others within my circle take advantage of your services.

The emotion behind this letter is what we live for. Thank you Kimberly for letting us be part of your life. You are a blessing.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Being Grateful: An Open Letter To A Group Of Amazing Women

So far, this has been a year of changes. As I announced at the beginning of the year through my mailing list and my social media networks, I made the decision of revamping my business to focus on something I'm passionate about, to make my photography, my skills, more than just taking photos but leaving a mark, being able to influence my subjects by helping them see the beauty within each one of them. Everything has been about using my talent to do good, one person at a time.

Well, I have been blessed with an amazing, beautiful group of women who understand my vision and dream, who see the potential and who decided to help pull the cart too. I'm overwhelmed with affection for you. I'm not good at expressing my feelings in front of people (I'm actually quite shy when it comes to that), so I'm writing this for each one of you today. It comes from the bottom of my heart.

Kada: You were the first person I called to talk about the Reveal Your True Beauty Concept. I wanted one of the best on board to do hair and makeup. Not only because of your skills but because of your character. You are a very sweet soul Kada; I love how diplomatic you can be but always with gentleness. I love that we can talk about anything and everything at the same time and be bubbly together. 
I came to you humbled and with honesty and I confess, I was nervous. I was nervous because I was afraid you would say no, because I was talking to you about something very close to my heart and that made me feel vulnerable. But you embraced the idea with excitement and a vision too. You helped me when I had nothing to show you or give you in return for your support but just an idea in my head. Thank you so much for placing your trust in me.

Chantal: You know this already; You were the first (and so far only) boutique owner in the city who saw the value of the Reveal Your True Beauty concept. When so many said no, you said YES! But what I value the most is that it gave me the opportunity to know you and our relationship extended further than just the project for your boutique. Chantal, you are a very gentle and generous lady, someone on whom I see wisdom and who understands the value of words. I trust you fully. I'm grateful for your thoughtfulness in providing me with ideas and tools to grow my business constantly. I hope you know that I'm here for you in anything you need. You just have to say it. 

Lana: I'm so grateful for your generosity and positive attitude! I love how excited you are about the RYTB concept, specially that you like to dream big, like me. You saw the potential and jumped in without hesitation. I love it when we throw ideas and your eyes start sparkling with excitement (yes they do!), it's so awesome to see you enjoy what you do so much. Even though what you do is mostly behind the curtains, it means a lot to the team, and it means a lot to me. I'm so happy to be able to come to you with an idea I have and you are honest about it and help me tweak it if necessary. I value a lot what you have to say and how approachable and awesome you are.

Pritma: Even though you got officially involved very recently with the RYTB concept, I am grateful for you. I'm grateful because you have been there from the beginning, behind Kada, kind of in the shadows, allowing me to setup my mini studio at Bombay Beauty Loft and supporting the concept. It made me happy to see you step out of the shadows and get involved. You are a very business oriented person with a lot of experience and I appreciate everything you bring to the table. I'm not as experienced in the business world as you are; in fact, I'm the youngest of the whole team when it comes to business experience, but I'm grateful that I get the opportunity to learn from you. You are a very structured and focused lady which pushes me to step up and deliver the same to keep up with the game; it keeps my focus sharp which is highly needed to achieve the success we want and I'm confident that with you involved to "tight the screws" when we need it, we'll get there soon.

It is with excitement that I welcome every opportunity I get to see each one of you, because being around you motivates me to keep going and keep growing as a person and in my business. It's an amazing thing to be around like-minded, inspiring people who bring their best to everything they do. I know each person that discovers their true beauty through my photos is a collective achievement because each one of you have started paving the road with love and encouragement in them; when they are finally in front of me, I see the path you guys have built almost done and I'm just putting the final touches, the flashing sign that says "This Way". 

With all my heart, THANK YOU. Can't wait to see what the future hold with all of you in it!


Thursday, 31 July 2014

Revealing Ja'net: How A Busy Mom Remembered Her True Beauty

As described by her husband:

"Ja'net is a vibrant, talented young woman making her mark in the world in a unique and wonderful way. Mother, Daughter, Wife, Sister, Yogi, Beauty"

Ja'net is a wonderful laid back lady who generously gives all her time to others. You can feel the softness of her soul in her voice, a voice that puts you at ease and relaxes you. She is a full time Stay-at-home mom of two boys (4 & 2 years old), teaching yoga therapy and yoga part time which I believe is the perfect career for her; her personality and whole being exudes it. 

In fact, as humble as Ja'net is (she doesn't boast about anything), she's such a good yoga instructor that I have seen other instructors recognize her in photos and by name and saying great things about her (she has even been featured in yoga magazines). You can check her website here.

Hair and Makeup by Kada from Bombay Beauty Loft. Styling by Chantal from Studio Intent Boutique

But I'm going to let her say with her own words how the RYTB (read as "Reveal Your True Beauty") experience was for her:

"The day I went for my session,  it had been a busy day at home and I rushed out the door to get there. I've always been a wash and go type of girl, wear little make-up and when I look at my before picture I see a tired and rushed me. Once I was at our session it was easy to relax and enjoy just being there. There was no where else I had to be, I had no expectation of how it would go, I was just in the moment. It was so nice to put on the beautiful clothes from Studio Intent and then to have my make-up and hair done in a glamorous way. The photo shoot was completely relaxed for me. Fela guided me clearly on what to expect and kept it light-hearted. It wasn't something I felt I had to be good at, I just wanted to enjoy the experience. When I got to see the pictures at the reveal, I was amazed. They were beautiful, I looked beautiful. Where my role is often to take care of others, it was wonderful to have done the shoot with Fela and feel like I had done something for myself that honours a part of me that I don't often take the time to connect to in my busy days: my beauty. I feel that what Fela facilitates is allowing someone's inner beauty to shine through in her pictures. Thank you for that Fela and for sharing you gift."

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

I'm Not Ugly Betty, Now What? The Beginning of a Journey

"It's not easy to put our hearts out there. We worry about their vulnerability and we are afraid of what may cause them harm; we don't like feeling broken. The thing is, only when we learn to love our true selves, flawed and all, the same way God loves us, we'll be able to bring our hearts out of their hiding because only then, they'll be clothed in a powerful protective armour which is Love. Love feeds love and love cannot grow from where there's hate. Therefore, start with loving yourself so that you may love others as flawed as you are. "Flaw" doesn't have to be a negative word but an encouraging word to step on; to rise to our better selves". 

This are the words I posted yesterday on my social media. I have been thinking a lot about this topic for a while, mainly because of the Reveal Your True Beauty sessions we've been doing with the team lately and the blog post "The Ugly Betty Story and Why I Want To Show Your True Beauty To The World" that I wrote a while back.

As we put it on the website:

"Reveal Your True Beauty is the ignition, the much needed spark, the beginning of a journey to get you moving into embracing who you really are with what you already have. It's the opportunity to have the best of you, your inner beauty (your REAL beauty), portrayed in an image that you can go back to anytime you need; it's a reminder of how truly beautiful you are".

But what happens next? 
Embracing our true beauty is a process we have to go through. Everybody's process is different; faster for some, slower for others. Realistically, we cannot expect the "metamorphosis" to happen in a week and we can't expect it to happen on it's own. 
I believe example is the best way to explain it, so I'll share with you how it was for me:

This is me were I left you on the Ugly Betty post: Finding out I had beauty in me: This was the spark I needed.Working on portraying it out of my inner self: That was the hardest and longest part because I'm broken. Because I have daddy issues, because I was told I would end up living a lonely life, because I had to stop believing the lies I heard and believed about myself.

I found my true inner beauty but was still so insecure that at the beginning I took the wrong approach, just like when you take the wrong turn when you're driving and you have to do a huge loop to be able to get back to the same spot to take the other turn instead. Under poor advice (not ill intended though; they actually believed this to be true) I was taught that showing my true beauty was about looking sexy all the time; wearing cleavage and tight clothes, masking my face with a lot of makeup and keeping my hair straight because my curls were ugly. I was so obsessed with leaving the ugly Betty behind that I fell for the beauty standards trap. It's impossible for someone who begins this type of journey to know the real truth when everything around you points the opposite direction with false "truth" signs.

What was the consequence of my detour? I started attracting guys (finally, woohoo!) but, for the wrong reasons. The ones that actually liked me for me wouldn't approach me (this still puzzles me. I know from mutual friends of a couple of guys who had a crush on me and I had no idea! I still wonder how would my life had been if they would have stepped forward? How would that have changed me or my life? But that's another topic). And my insecurities and daddy issues made me automatically try to fit in what was expected of me by them; basically grabbing crumbs of love because it would prove that I was beautiful and I wouldn't end up alone. I felt like I was cool and belonged many times, but just at the beginning. Afterwards I noticed a pattern of lack of respect that was diminishing me instead of helping me grow and flourish. Lack of respect from them and from me. Which made me fall in the thought of "I'm not pretty enough", which made me come back to more cleavage, more tight clothes, more makeup and so forth... a cycle. And a destructive bad one. If you're not respecting yourself, that's what you'll saw. It was when an ex-boyfriend made me promise him when we broke up that I was going to start respecting myself and find someone that would respect me as well what hit me.
I started to analyze my processing. Was it aligned with God? was it aligned with myself? With what I believed to be the right thing? I'm a smart person, how could I fall for all this so easily? 

I believe everything happens for a reason; there's blessings in disguise everywhere, happening all the time. We don't see them as we are struggling but once we come out of our struggle, we can see the whole picture. 

My current and true no makeup self on a work break. Finally loving my curls!

These experiences were my blessings in disguise. Why? Because I learned to "beautify" myself because I WANT to, not because I HAVE to.
Because I learned from them what I want and don't want for my life. 
Because sometimes we have to hit the ground to stand up again with head held high and move forward. Because I was placed face to face with my insecurities so I could fight them and come out victorious. Because they were the tools through which I learned to love myself. Truly love myself.Because when you truly love yourself, your respect yourself, you are confident of who you are and what you want.Because when you truly love yourself it's easier to truly love others in their imperfection.Because these experiences helped shape me into the person I am now; the person with imperfections that my husband fell in love with 5 years ago and married 3 years ago. The person who couldn't be more in love and grateful for the little child that came out of that love. Because I'm here writing this for you in the hopes that what I went through might help you in your journey. Because when I say I'm here for you, I mean it.

"My "embracing my true beauty" process was slow. It's not easy to change the line of thought we have about who we think we are and replace it with who we really are and finding our true potential. It took me years to get to where I am now and I still have insecurities that want to take over; I just work on not letting them take control of my head. Just like driving a car, we are very conscious and thoughtful about our actions when we just learn how to drive but eventually they become second nature and you are able to focus better on the road ahead. The key is practice and the key to success is how often you practice".

With the Reveal Your True Beauty Team, we don't want to stop at giving you the push; we want to walk with you on your journey. We are working on some ideas and tools to help you so that you don't get lost on the way like I did. But even if you do, remember that everything happens for a reason. Life is full of blessings in disguise. Just get up and keep on walking. You are not alone.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Mr. & Mrs. Smith: A Wedding Reception Adventure

I received the news about my friend Matt's engagement through a text message from my husband during the intermission of The Nutcracker. My mom and I were getting back to our chairs when the phone vibrated. When I read the message I let out a big scream with a jump off my seat, forgetting for  less than a second where I was but it was too late to stop; I was in the middle of a 2 seconds celebration (and carefully with grace sitting back down as if everything was calculated; yes, it was a bit embarrassing hahaha!).

You see, Matt is my "brotha from anotha motha"; like my young sibling, the one you would think this day would never come to, despite how awesome he is. But the day had come and I HAD to be part of it.

I liked Sandra from the first time I met her. She is so sweet and kind. One of those people that you feel immediately at ease with, the ones you feel safe around because you know she has your back, even if you just met. That is the bright sweet energy that emanates from her. 

Matt and Sandra being their awesome selves, didn't want any of their photographer friends to work during their wedding; they wanted us to enjoy ourselves (though for me photography IS my joy, but I understood where they came from) so we split it between Stephanie Jager (ceremony) and myself (reception). I was very happy with this arrangement because it meant to me the opportunity to make something special for them while doing something useful instead of just sitting and listening through the reception; this made a huge difference to me. I had a blast!

I used a Canon EF70-200/2.8 II so I could capture a lot of candid moments from very far without people noticing I was doing that (Sneaky, eh?). From "paparazzi" portraits to groups and panoramic, I enjoyed playing during the wedding and I was able to make something special for my friends that will last a lifetime.

"All blessings be poured over the amazing newlyweds. May God be the head of your journey together, now and always. Love you!"