Undefined Beauty A Styled Shoot Celebrating Women
There’s nothing quite like collective power of women supporting women.
When we set aside our pride and insecurities, and refuse to allow narrow definitions of our roles to get in the way, beautiful and transformative things can happen. I recently had the pleasure and honor of woking with an amazing woman Maegan (Mae) of Mae B Photography, to create something that celebrates that collectiveness.
When Maegan reached out to me about a collaboration shoot to empower women, I was beyond thrilled. Our first meeting wasn’t like a “first” at all. Her magenta locks and inviting smile had me at hello, and I knew I was in the company of a woman defining beauty for herself. Over afternoon coffee, two women from two different walks of life poured out our hearts and it felt as though we had known each other for years. We each found so much of our own selves in the other. If you didn’t know, Mae B Photography was born out of a leap of faith. Maegan broke away from a job that she wasn't passionate about and started a business that allowed her to do what she loved! Can we say speaking to my soul?!?!? Much like our initial introduction, we wanted this collaboration to feel welcoming and inclusive, but most of all, to showcase the beauty in our diversity and prompt conversations that empower women while bringing us closer together.
For far too long there’s been a cycle of blind acceptance of what being beautiful and living beautifully looks like. We have internalized the advertisements of corporations that project unrealistic or non inclusive body types, to shape our views of what makes an attractive silhouette. We’ve had tunnel vision on what textures and lengths of hair are classic beauty. We've been told what the parameters of success are, and are then continuously reminded of how our choices don't fit within them. Although those stigmas do not always exclusively pertain to women, there’s an immense amount of misdirection on the views of womanhood, and like a generations curse, they're being passed on. My hope was that the images Mae captured in our shoot together would be a testimony of living beautifully on “your” terms (or as I’m the subject matter, in mine!) In addition to achieving that goal, what came as a welcomed surprise was that I too, had been visually reminded of the beauty in our individual stories and uniqueness.
Within these photos, I saw my journey through my own womanhood in art form. While we were shooting Mae asked me a series of questions regarding the process of divorce, the challenges of single parenting, and what made me cut my hair, among other things. My face is all telling in the images. In some I looked thoughtful and reflective, others strong and assured. My favorite are the many that show undeniable joy! I can also bear witness to a body that doesn't look like it did prior to having children but now bears the attributes of motherhood. I am leaner and less curvy. I spy breasts that have been kissed by gravity and down a few cup sizes, because they have proudly nurtured two healthy tots. I see a striking bald head nestled on the shoulders of a strong woman who is paving her own way. I also see a woman of color who isn’t always represented in print publications, social media, and film as aspirational beauty. But what is beautifully captured in Maegan’s images is woman who’s grown quite comfortable in her body. A woman who is confident because my beauty is my own, as my plight is my own. Not because it was defined for me on a billboard or in a digital square, but because I’ve defined it for myself.
We most certainly have made some serious strides in transforming the ideology behind our standards for beauty, success, family orientation and otherwise. Yet and still, we have a lot more work to do. Especially in this digital age where social media is a watering hole for branding but also a direct link to our peers, our role models, and future connections, we have the responsibility to be honest in our sharing. The goal shouldn't be to project the face that says I've got it all together. That’s not real life. However you define beauty, and whatever path of life you have chosen for yourself, let us be mindful to own our truths. It’s not about coloring within the lines, but rather deciding what those lines are for you. That’s how we connect. It’s how we grow, and it is how we encourage our future generations, by protecting the idea that we can look however we want, and do anything we want, and in all ways it’s beautiful.
Please check out Meagan's website and blog post here for more about our styled shoot (and on IG @mae_b_photo). Meagan is a gifted photographer who’s dedicated to her clients and her craft. I particular love how she tastefully brought out my emotions that will now serve as beautiful reminder of this portion of life through the conveyance of her lens. Special thank you to Natalie Colwell (@nataliecolwell_mua) for providing the makeup for this project. It was wonderful working you both.