It all started in a coffee shop. Two complete strangers chose to meet to talk about working together on a photography project. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, but I knew I was sitting on an idea - an idea that was waiting for the right counterpart to come along and bring it to life. You never quite know when or why, but timing has its way of working things out for you. Janel arrived and we essentially introduced ourselves and our lives to each other over a couple of cold brews at Stonefruit coffee shop in Boardman, Ohio. My intention was to work together on a project that would empower women. Little did I know, this project was going to hit close to home. The whole time I was thinking of the big picture, but the opportunity for ME to empower another women was sitting right in my hands. As Janel spoke about her story and her path to self discovery that she’s on, it truly hit me that this shoot could be a defining moment in her journey. To say that I am honored to be a part of something so beautiful is a complete understatement.
Being a woman means many things. There is more to us than a dated stereotype. We can be equally as assertive as we are compassionate. We have the power to be leaders. We have the power to lift others up. We have the power to share our emotions and feel stronger for it. We can grow a human inside of our freakin' bodies. We can break through gender roles and what it means to be a woman. We know that what other people think a woman should be doesn’t define us. Let me say that again. WHAT OTHER PEOPLE THINK A WOMAN SHOULD BE DOES NOT DEFINE US. The person that we are when we’re authentically, uniquely US is exactly what makes us women. No two people are the same. As it turns out, no two women are the same, either. We may have similarities, but we all have special qualities that set us apart. The hair on our head, the products on our skin, the clothes on our bodies - those differences do NOT define who we are. Sure, they're a part of our being. But, it's the character we bring to the table. It's the compassion in our hearts. It's the nurturing capabilities that we're born with. That's part of what makes a person a person.
As I mentioned before, Janel set out on this amazing path to self discovery because of a life changing event. Shortly thereafter, she made a conscious decision to figure out who she truly was. She wanted to write, so she started a blog. She wanted to create beautiful imagery to help tell her story, so she learned how to use her camera. She wanted short hair, so she simply cut it all off. She said that it was always something that she wanted to do but just never did. So she did it. There is so much power in the idea of just doing something. Amazingly enough, I think it's so symbolic in stripping away all of the fluff and all of the extra BS and completely exposing herself in order to transform into the self that has always been there but she was never quite fully aware of.
During the entire shoot, we had such a beautiful, deep conversation about her journey. We started talking about where she was in life and how she felt as she entered this brand new, scary, uncomfortable space. The raw truth in the words that she was saying truly showed on her face as we dove into the past. As we continued to navigate her journey, we talked a bit about the person she is now. More than anything, she showed me who she is - a beautiful, confident, strong, intelligent, compassionate human being. No, she is no where near her peak in this journey, but she's on her way there. It's so amazing how her exterior mirrors her interior so beautifully. She mentioned the sense of freedom that came with her short hair, and the idea that it doesn't have to be what society says it should. If she wants to rock a cut that has been stereotypically claimed by the male gender, SHE CAN. And she is, with so much grace and femininity. That idea that she can do whatever makes her feel so much like her true self, regardless of societal roles or what other people say, is what makes her so strong, so beautiful, and so much of what it means to be a woman.
A HUGE shout out to Janel for being brave enough to step into the light and in front of the camera on her journey. You can learn more about her and read her blog here.
Another HUGE shoutout to my girl Natalie Colwell for doing such a beautiful, natural makeup application! And for tagging along and holding my reflector like a boss :P You can check out her Youtube channel here.