Hello Friends!  

As you are aware our area has been dealing with "Harvey".   Many are dealing with this unwanted house guest that has flooded homes and created so much loss.  Personally, our family managed to not have any damage.   As I said in an earlier post, I am so grateful.  My biggest problem was the "Harvey15" (as compared to the Freshman 15) and of course it stems from eating to calm my nerves. 

It is ironic that I bring up the "Harvey15" with this blog post.   I figure it would be a great introduction to this special project.   It was Spring of this past school year that I photographed the entire 8th grade class of my oldest son's school.  It was a project for their 8th grade dance and was just a quick 2 minute session per kiddo and the images would be in black and white.   There were approximately 600 students.  It was one of the most fun weeks and a couple of extra days (we had to do it over their lunch periods) in my photography bank of memories. :-)   It was also incredibly eye opening.   I saw girls in a complete panic over their photos.   Not all of the girls, but more than you would ever want to witness.    These young ladies are beautiful 13 and 14 year olds.  I even had a few guys that were concerned.   Trust me, we fixed hair and did our best to make these 8th graders feel confident.   Even then, the kids displayed a strong sense of fear that their photo would not be pretty.  I assured all of them, they are black and white and if I felt a reshoot was necessary we would do it.   I also promised to remove pimples. :-)   I mean, those are not permanent features, those will heal.     More often than not I would show them the back of my camera prior to editing and they would say, "WOW"!!!  I do look good!   It was a game changer.  

During the course of my 8th grade photo sessions, my heart began to just hurt for these kids. Knowing their confidence was dependent on their outward appearance.    Although I have 2 boys, my photography experience with seniors has allowed me to understand the beauty dynamic more and more.  The vast majority of my senior clients seem to have confidence.  There are those that are timid; but soon they let their guard down and we capture so many fun shots. Of course senior sessions will continue to be all sorts of crazy fun!  We will continue to honor each individual's style-if you want glam we go glam, if you want natural...we go natural.   It is up to YOU--I can guarantee you will always be respected and we will honor your individuality. My goal is to give my clients an unforgettable senior experience!  I want them to feel confident and have a memory that is not only in their mind, but will be documented for years to come.    

During my sessions with the 8th graders, I realized that somewhere between the junior high years and high school years, something happens.   Confidence drops.   Now, I could be wrong and you may be the kids (or parent of a kid) that this does not pertain to...but I do think we all have those moments and that kids have it more challenging than ever.   

Much of society suggests that beauty is defined by how much you weigh and what clothes you wear.  Here comes my "Harvey15" story moment.   I was feeling guilty and fat.   I literally ate to soothe my nerves.   Then, I felt panic and disappointed in myself.    Suddenly I was relating in a different way to my youth but at 45.  I am human and we would be silly to expect that no one cares what they look like. However, this craving to achieve perfection is highly overrated.  The desire to be supermodel skinny that media (tv, magazines, social, etc) has deemed as beauty is not reality.   The truth is...I will work my booty off and try to lose my "Harvey15" and a few extra just to be healthy.   That is the goal.  It has taken me 45 years to get to this point mentally.   I am ok with that.   

Shortly after my session with my son's 8th grade class,  my good friend and fellow photographer, Thomas Nguyen (based out of Cincinatti) shared his project.   He titled it "PROJECT BEAUTY 360".   He invited photographers to participate and I immediately jumped.  The timing couldn't have been more perfect.   The idea behind the project is to photograph tweens, teens, or seniors in their most natural state.  To honor and celebrate each other's natural beauty.   The goal is to bring about self awareness and help youth overcome the desire to make anyone feel less than beautiful.  Self awareness can be a catalyst to preventing eating disorders and even suicide.   It only takes a simple, "I am proud of you" or "You are amazing" help begin the healing process.  Mom and Dad's have a duty to your kids, support them.  Watch the way you word things,  you can correct behavior without belittling them.  Sorry for the rant.   I just had to throw that in to the mix.    

Thomas-thank you for the perfect timing of inviting photographers to join you in this effort.  I am looking forward to many more opportunities that honor the beauty of our youth. 

Upon asking these young ladies to participate, they did so without hesitation...I am so proud of them.  Each one of these beauties has been working hard in the community.  They are selfless individuals that are such an example to everyone-especially me. I have learned so much from this experience and without a doubt the project will start a movement for others to join on this self confidence seeking adventure!    

I recently saw a quote:  "Someone who sees her body as a vehicle to do good for others will be able to accept herself as she is".   Without further ado, let me introduce you to my first round of "Project Beauty 360" sessions.  I am adding a few thoughts some of my clients shared.   

A few of the girls shared their thoughts on the experience.  This is a reduced version (except for one that moved me to tears)-they all had so much to was awesome !  These are not in any order...xo

Alexa- "the whole idea of "project beauty" was so perfectly played out over the last couple weeks in our small community of Cinco Ranch (as it was all over the Houston metro area). Watching neighbors and even strangers helping each other with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey as been one of the most impactful things I've ever experienced  As I walked into flooded homes wearing protective googles and a mask, I could feel the pain of the homeowner.  I touched my heart to be able to help, but there was another positive side of gutting homes that I hadn't counted on.  Based on traditional stereotypes, I would not normally have been ordered to remove base boards, kick through walls and pull soaking wet and moldy insulation out of walls.  But, I did it without even batting an eye....because it had to be done.  And furthermore, I liked it!   I learned how to be physically powerful and guess what?  There is NO amount of makeup, hair products, or outfits that could have helped these flooded families.  I saw true beauty in the face of the single mom whose home I helped gut.  And trust me, she wasn't worried about her hair and makeup...and I didn't worry about mine either."

Cami-" At first, I felt vulnerable, wondering what other people would think of me.  Then, I realized it doesn't matter what people think of me.  I learned to love my natural self". 

Hannah-"True beauty to me is being one's purest form of them self.  It is so powerful when someone can just be themselves."

Katherine-"Being photographed without makeup, in which I wear everyday was an eye opening experience, because it further reinforced the confidence I have in myself". 

Jordyn-"It is more important to have a pretty heart than to have features that are determined to be beautiful by society".  "A kind heart shows way more than makeup ever will"! 

Dori-"True beauty is when you present your best self no matter what you are wearing". " I felt wonderful posing with no makeup". 

Chandler-"Our true beauty comes from our smiles and personality, not the makeup we wear". 

Bailey-"I believe that natural beauty deals a lot with loving yourself for who you are with and without makeup". 

Ladies-You are each stunning!  It was pure joy for me to see you embrace who you are naturally. Thank you so much for allowing me to capture these special images.  -Nikki