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.

New Beginning

A spotlight shines quietly over an empty stage where a lone microphone waits.

It’s time.

It’s taken blood, sweat and a lot of tears to get to this moment – this very uncertain, unknown, exhilarating moment.

My moment.

Our moment.

I peak through the curtains stage right, palms sweating and surveying the dimly lit gymnasium, thankful for the natural light streaming in. Chairs are lined in mostly straight lines, and a few friendly faces fill those seats. Some family and friends who know and love me. I smile. I am not just doing this for me; I am doing this for them. But it is also because of them I can find the courage to even be here.

I wonder who will fill the remaining seats. What new faces will come. I get a little nervous.

I read a quote recently – one that I have been encouraged to adopt as daily reading. It reads:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Marianne Williamson

One of the first real pictures I took of myself after working
KC Fashion Week’s Fall Show 2018.
This was a significant moment.

I believe in the power of story. So, this is mine.

How do I possibly begin to summarize the roller coaster that has been the past 7-8 years? Not to mention, the last 2 1/2 of those years. Phrases like peaks but mostly valleys, hopeless disappointment, crippling exhaustion, and “at the end of my rope” are a start. And my goodness, the waiting. #canigetanamen

This took a noticeable toll on my body too. Oh, and let’s not forget the ever-popular aging process. I spent an entire year hiding from cameras. And crying a lot.

Then one day this past fall, while I was volunteering for the first time ever for Kansas City Fashion Week’s fall show, I looked at the models walking the runway, and realized, “I can do that.”

I had been told in my 20s that I should model. But I did not see what they saw, and I imagined only mockery, heckling, and pointing and laughing in my direction. I imagined my worst nightmare. My answer was always no.

“Who the hell does this girl think she is?”

“She looks just like my sister, random acquaintance, that one girl on that one TV show, the cashier at the grocery store, every other girl I have ever known in my life. She is not unique looking.”

“She’s not that pretty. Or in shape. Or talented.”

“I thought she was a good girl. Good girls don’t ever do, say, experience that or this or god-forbid THAT (whatever “that” may be to someone).”

Armed with the hard work of therapy and inner healing, I am embarking on arguably the worst and best timed modeling career (or whatever this turns out to be). I started trying out for shows, and walked my first ever show a couple weeks ago!

But this isn’t just about modeling (again, or whatever this is).

This is about the next chapter of my life. This is about me becoming me.

I’ll chat about modeling, networking (because I love showing off the amazing people in my life), vulnerable moments, health and wellness, beliefs, business ventures and advocacy (I sell Beauty Counter, so it’s bound to make an appearance every once in a while), probably a smidge of controversy, as much laughter as possible, maybe a man. Whatever, and come what may.

I believe it is time to share my story, because I also believe this is many of yours – this journey of shedding the old and walking into the new.

It’ll be messy and imperfect, but it’ll be worth it. You may love me now and not like me later, or vice versa. You may question my morals, judge my version of beauty, be brought to tears, or walk away feeling refreshed and empowered to finally be you. One thing this won’t be is squeaky clean. Consider this your friendly warning.

As dramatic as this may sound, I believe it is time to be seen. I feel like many of you can relate. I mostly hope this may (possibly, hopefully, definitely) serve, empower and compel you to flex your you-muscles to a waiting world. For me, there is no glory to settling for the sidelines or sitting in the cheap seats. #brenebrown I am drawing a line in the sand. And I am asking you to cross it with me.

Please cross it with me.

Is this audacious? Possibly.

Necessary? Absolutely.

Scary? Hell yeah.

Encouraging, uplifting, empowering? My greatest hope and reward.

Happy Blog Launch Day.
– Filling Station on Gillham –

As I begin my walk onto that creaky wooden stage leaving my veiled existence behind, I think about how everything up unto this point matters. I know I don’t have it all figured out, and I fear the criticisms and the misunderstandings. I left my speech notes backstage, and I’m excited where this may go. I know Marianne is right – playing small does not serve the world. I smile to myself knowingly – I am right where I am meant to be.

I reach the microphone, adjust the stand, tap it to make sure it’s on…

And open my mouth to speak.