Be Seen: Part 3

Hey so, this was a really fun shoot.

Excuse me, two shoots. (More on that in a few.)

You might recall the first two Be Seen posts being more intense in nature. If you haven’t read those yet, I would encourage you to do so either now or well, later.

This was not like those previous two. Wanna see the pictures? Buckle up, because there are a lot of them.

I did not start modeling because I am already a pro; I started to become a pro.

My goal for this photo session with Larry was to work on poses. Contrary to popular belief, modeling is not easy. You have a lot to think about: Now, remember to stand up straight and to cross your legs as you walk, but not too much; wait, what is my hand doing here?; I should close my mouth a millimeter; Ok, there you go… tilt your chin slightly down; make sure to lengthen your leg; roll your shoulders back, but not too far back; give them a fierce look, or more like sexy fierce, but really like whimsy, PG-sexy fierce; and now relaaaaaxxxxx.

Still don’t believe me?

Start modeling as a 30-something among a bunch of 18 year olds or among models who have been nailing poses for the past decade and then tell me if you doubt yourself.

But your girl here is one strong-willed fighter (my mama can stand up and attest). I ain’t no quitter, and I am determined to get much better.

Because time is not a renewable resource.

Larry and I agreed to meet at the Filling Station on Gillham at 6:30 am. I am a sucker for good graffiti and old brick or industrial buildings. There are some good ones in this area.

6:45 am – still no Larry.

I text him, but there’s no answer. I am sure he just slept in accidentally, and that he would be getting my message soon. I decided to make the most of it, and to take pictures of myself on my phone, practicing what it looks like for me to be in front of the camera.

I sheepishly set up my phone out of sight of the windows of the Filling Station staff and of course, making sure to act totally natural when dog owners come out to walk their pups.

I pushed play on video and started to move.

I played around with poses, angles, and discovering what made sense for my face and body type. I used my oversized sweater as a prop (one of my finds from my latest time in Amsterdam), stretching it and seeing what I could do with it.

I had a lot of fun, though I felt kinda silly and like an imposter. But I know that I have to plow through this fear and these feelings of inadequacy if I am going to have any hope of getting past them.

NOTE: Blending in with the industrial and slightly grassy surroundings was totally unintentional.

Ultimately, finding out who I am behind the camera is a process and a personal conversation with myself.

Around 7:30 am Larry calls very upset with himself.

We all make mistakes. Be gracious and kind when others make them.

He drove out to meet me, and we rolled into the second photo shoot of the morning, coffees in hand.

Clearly, you can tell he has the better camera and the years of photographing experience. He moves, he moves me, and we move as the light changes.

Wanna give a little shout out to the garment strings on both my dress and sweater that unbeknownst to me made shameless appearances throughout this whole morning.

I was too nervous to get serious and work on poses now that someone was watching me. But this is okay too, because this is all in his style – completely candid.

He asked me to show him my runway walk. Interestingly enough, for the designers I have been scheduled to walk for since I began, I have only one show out of 5 where I wear heels. All the others, I am either barefoot or in boots. As a runway model, it’s been interesting to figure out my walk without traditionally wearing heels, figuring out creative ways to look good in pictures and on the runway.

In the long run, I think it’ll make me a better runway model.

[There are a few slideshows in this blog post, and I think that though it may be fun to look at each picture (and totally feel free to, because for some it makes sense to), it is also pretty fun to click through each quickly. It’s sorta like you can see me walking or talking.]

And a little more walking. This time with a little from behind.

Of course, intermingled with plenty of chatting. Because we are chatty people.

Seriously. I love graffiti. So, this backdrop just makes my heart happy. Creativity is everywhere, and it always seeks to have a voice. For me, I love the raw, boldness of graffiti; it’s unapologetic ability to make itself be heard. Some may think graffiti is violating or disgraceful, even if the work is commissioned; I choose to instead see a talented life behind the creation of it.

To me, there is no point in throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Life is a beautiful mess, and that’s just how it is. I am grateful to the artist who created this colorful bull behind me. I mean, look how much more fun these pictures are because of it.

We took an impromptu break and kept chatting. Or least, I kept chatting, and he just kept snapping.

If there are any smiling pictures in all of this, it is because I have purposely stopped talking long enough for a picture to be snapped.

Otherwise, I am usually laughing.

Or really engaged in something.

Can you spot the jogger?

Let’s all stop and have a passing-through puppy break. Aww….

And we wrap it up here. In front of this grandiose house on the corner.

Me and a moment with the bird. #edgarallenpoe

Have any favorite pictures? Not sure how you would be able to tell me which one(s) you liked the most, but you can sure try!

Lastly, remember that you are not doing yourself or the world any favors showing up as anything less than who you are and who you are created to be.

It’s A Movement Back to the Table

I believe the movement back to the greatest privilege of life starts around the table.

Years ago, I was living in Africa. I was four weeks out from coming back Stateside, and I was dreading leaving. Why? The “poor” of third world countries have a gift we don’t have – a life without first world demands. My experience with third world peoples is limited and just my own; I don’t claim to know third world realities as a whole. I realize there are things that we are blessed beyond words for, but when I lived among them, I believe they have us beat on valuing one of the greatest gifts of life: relationships.

I remember a beautiful Australian woman I was in Africa with asked if I was excited to go back home. I just cried. No, I wasn’t. You don’t realize the tremendous stress we live under in this country until you are stripped off it for a period of time. Limited internet, no bills, and a whole lot of just “being” together. Loving, learning, laughing and living. We would eat together for hours despite our conversations limited by language, and they were some of the best experiences.

My passion for the table started in an old farm house on Beaver Valley Road.

One of my favorite memories of my ma is of her cooking and her love of experiencing good food. This is a woman who will talk passionately of the soil in her garden, who will indulge wholeheartedly in fresh picked, dark red tomatoes with good bread and Bulgarian feta, who will laugh so hard she’ll slide off the couch, and who would encourage me to invite my friends over all summer to just hangout around the pool and would make us homemade pizza. When she would cook, she’d fill the house with Dinah Shore, Patsy Cline or The Tenors, sometimes pour herself a glass of White Zinfandel, and put her favorite pan on low heat. She would find what was in the refrigerator and create. This is where cooking became way more than food; it became an experience.

The ladies – my ma, me and my sister, Georgia.
As usual, I am the only one following directions and smiling like a normal person.

She would call me into the kitchen, ask me to taste the sauce she was making to see what I thought was missing. I would give her my opinion, and she would take it. She’d then call me back 10 minutes later to see what I thought now. We would do that a few times until we felt it was right. This is where I learned it was okay to experiment and make mistakes in the creative process.

Ten years ago, I was accidentally introduced to the profound potential of the table.

In my twenties, I was celebrating my birthday with about 15 people, some of whom I knew and a few of whom I did not, at Buffalo Wild Wings in Northern Illinois. When we went around the table to share how each person knew me, they shared how they had just met me the hour before. I loved it! This is where I learned the possibility of the wonderful sneakiness of the table to bring people together who may not any other way.

I had other dinner parties and helped manage big events over the next decade: Christmas Extaveganza’s of 2009 and 2010, Thankful Friends Dinner of 2009, and my own birthday party once I moved to KC, to name a few.

But I wanted to do more, and I hadn’t found anyone who truly “got me” in this way when I relocated to Kansas City eight years ago.

Then, a year and a half ago, I met Ricky and Whitney around their Epic Table.

Long story short, they decided to clear out their apartment living room in Hyde Park, and with board by board hoisted through their third story bedroom window, they built an 18-foot table, inviting anyone in the community to come. I immediately became a groupie. I came to almost every dinner. Brings tears to my eyes now, because for the first time, I found people who extravagantly did something audacious with the table on a consistent basis. They got it. They got me.

The #glitterbomb couple #rickywhitney and me at their last Epic Table in their apartment.

And at that time in my life the table became a life raft of hope and peace thrown to me. It was deeply healing for so many reasons, and I am forever grateful for their audacious decision to do something “crazy” and out-of-the-box.

A new season of Epic Table has begun.

In July, Ricky and Whitney hopped a plane and crossed an ocean to Bangladesh to volunteer for one of the world’s largest refugee camps in the world for the next year. They sold their apartment, and I took up the torch in Strawberry Hill to keep the movement going.

When I say you are welcome, I mean it.

I believe the table is a powerful thing: the way it nourishes us, builds community, fosters belonging, heals broken hearts, provokes meaningful interactions, and forces us to engage with those we wouldn’t in any other setting. It levels the playing field, and levels out our over-stressed nervous system. It is a place to be safe and seen. It encourages us be vulnerable, to believe the best in people, and to live a full and abundant life. We laugh often, eat always, grow beautifully, cry sometimes and just connect.

You don’t have to come to Epic Table, because I realize that’s a difficult thing for some people. If more comfortable for you, be encouraged to start a tradition of your own to meet with people around a table on a consistent basis. You will be so grateful you did. I also want you to know you are undeniably welcome around Epic Table.

Let me say that again: YOU ARE WELCOME.

The reason I shout Epic Table from the rafters so much is because I am tired of not living a full and abundant life, and I have a sneaky suspicion you feel the same way. Ricky and Whitney made space for something truly transformative to happen, and it is my joy and honor to carry on that legacy.

There is no catch, no bait and switch, no fine print. Epic Table was started with the understanding that if the proverbial and physical space is created, the rest takes care of itself. And that’s the only goal.

Come as you are. Come as you. Come.

Be Seen: Part 1

This is the most terrifying thing I have ever done.

A couple months back, a photographer friend of mine private messaged me after I posted on Facebook about how scary it can be to to be seen behind the lens of a camera, which is akin to my worst nightmare.

You know the nightmare: the nightmare of being naked in front of a group of people; Of unknowingly (and annoyingly) losing your pants at some point (and of course, no one told you) and now here you are standing in a horse stable amidst snickering jockeys; Or of being suddenly topless without a shirt to be found anywhere and you have to give a presentation of your life’s greatest work to a million eagerly waiting business professionals and soccer moms counting down in 5… 4… 3… 2… 1.

I have a feeling a good number of you can relate.

Larry, my photographer friend was reaching out to let me know that when ready he would love to help me get over my fear.

How many of you admire Brene Brown? For those of you who have never heard of Dr. Brown, I strongly encourage you to do a little browsing. She is a research professor and social scientist who has spent a little less than a couple decades studying vulnerability, courage, empathy and shame.

If you have Netflix, she recently gave a talk encapsulating the whole of her work. Or you can google her famous TedTalk, which is one of the top 5 most watched TedTalks of all time. Or you could read any one of her excellent books.

The soul of her work hinges on a famous quote by Theodore Roosevelt:

It is not the critic that counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Being vulnerable is possibly the most terrifying thing we can ever do with our lives. Nothing worth having is had without this vital sacrifice. It is the launching point, the heartbeat, the gatekeeper to a full life, and it provides no exceptions. There are no loop holes, and it cannot be bribed or sweet-talked. To be vulnerable is to know disappointment and heartache, but also triumph and true wealth.

So, after my work deadline passed and months of overtime quieted, I summoned the courage to do the vulnerable thing, and I reached back out to Larry to set a time to meet up.

Loose Park, Saturday, May 18th at 7 am.

I arrived, two coffees in hand. It was a beautiful morning, raining only briefly, a small temporary respite from the weeks of constant downpours. The pavilion was covered in trash and squirrels. A Taco Bell bag laid atop the grill and a broken lawn chair was propped against an overflowing garbage can.

I actually like the rain, and I don’t mind a little mess. The stage was set.

When I look at these pictures I see scars on my face, partially grown-in eyebrows resulting from years of over-tweezing, a nose that kids used to make fun of, and a snaggle front tooth, and I feel like a guitar-playing poser. I feel awkward, unattractive and afraid.

And it still feels weird to look at my side profile. Anyone else feel like you don’t know who you are looking at when you see your side profile in pictures?

I have picked up and put down the guitar several times in my life.
Larry had to remind me how to make a D chord, which is why I am laughing so hard.
This guitar was a gift from a former customer and dear friend
from my Whole Foods Market days who used to be in the entertainment industry.

But I also see my mom, the expressiveness of my partially Greek bloodline, and someone who sometimes requires laughter to ground her when the deepness of her heart pulls her out to a tumultuous sea. I see pretty eyes, olive skin tone that tans easily (I am a summer girl to my core), and long fingers that are more elegant than I thought. I see the same kind expression that I had in my second grade school picture.

I see a woman emerging out of years of deep unyielding internal pain. I see a woman who is for the first time in her life choosing to believe that people like and love her. She is fiercely immoveable when needed, direct sometimes to a fault, and kind. I see a brave woman daring to be truly seen.

When I look at my life choices I often consider “What would the ‘me’ 6 months from now think of this moment?” “Two years from now?” “On my death bed?” This filter process has influenced my decisions to persevere through some of my life’s greatest battles thus far, to backpack through Europe with my youngest brother when it only sort of made sense practically, and to walk my first runway audition as a 30-something.

You and I live once on this planet. We all get to chose the parameters by which we live it. For me, making that old gal on her deathbed proud is one of my greatest goals.

This is just the beginning, my friends. I kind of don’t know what I just got myself into with pursuing modeling and this blog, but I was aware from the beginning that this freak out would likely come.

This is the first of more shoots with Larry to come, and I will be sharing each one with you.

The world awaits THE REAL you. Thank you for being here.

Bonus: Remember that pictures are a snapshot. Most of which are awkward and unflattering. It comes with the territory. For your viewing pleasure and in (almost) full disclosure, here are a few of my awkward and unflattering favs. Not sure if you’ll get a good giggle out of them, but I sure did.

Ps. This is Larry’s style – raw and unedited. Rather than a portrait photographer, he is a candid one. He has done some impressive work in his lifetime. If you would like more information on getting in touch with him, please reach out to me.