I was thrilled when Jana asked me to write about my experience at her studio because it was truly life-changing for me. I had a substantial mindset shift about myself that has stayed with me far after the session was over, and the people around me can sense that as well. Let me tell you what happened…
Why a Portrait?
I saw an ad for Jana’s studio highlighting the idea of beauty at any age. That struck a chord with me. I grew up in show business, having my photo taken all the time and feeling beautiful, but for the last 20 years I hadn’t done anything like that. I tend to be rather self-critical and when my husband says I look beautiful, or someone gives me a compliment, I wonder what they see because I think I’m a hot mess! I thought a photo shoot would be a good opportunity for me to explore what I look like now as opposed to what is in my head – which is pretty much stuck at when I was age 26!
Then and Now
You see, when I was younger, my job in the entertainment industry completely relied upon my looks, my voice, and my physical abilities. There was no way I could maintain any of that as I got decades older. It was crazy to think I could. When I left show business I threw myself into a new career that was all about how smart I was. I didn’t talk about my entertainment background to anyone, I was almost embarrassed by it because I couldn’t hold on to that level of success, which had revolved around my youth. In my new business role I was receiving validation that I was a smart and capable grown-up woman. I could wear whatever I wanted to an office - it didn’t matter what I looked like. What mattered was my capabilities and the topic of the job. It was exciting, so I let go of– and ignored–my entertainment roots completely.
But now, at age 52, I was feeling invisible in the world. I thought it would be helpful to get in front of a camera and see what would happen. I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and stop depending on others to validate who I am or what I look like. I wanted to find some way to move forward on my own terms instead of worrying about what others thought. Trying to break the conditioning of unrealistic beauty goals at my age can be difficult to overcome.
Who Am I Today?
When I met with Jana for the pre-shoot consultation, she asked me how I wanted to be photographed and what I would be wearing. I felt like a deer in headlights! I wanted to do the shoot and change the way I saw myself, but I had no idea how to do that or what I really wanted. After we made a basic plan it left me with a lot to think about, but I was overwhelmed.
On the day of the shoot, I piled all the clothes that fit me into the car– everything from fancy to what I’d wear to the grocery store–and decided to throw myself at the mercy of Jana and her makeup artist.
I was very nervous when arrived, but once I was in hair and makeup I started to get excited and felt those wonderful, old familiar butterflies in my stomach about being in front of the camera. But when it came to getting dressed I became very self-conscious again about how I looked, even though Jana styled them to look amazing, I was having a hard time getting out of my head when we started taking photos. Jana is very good at making people feel comfortable in front of the camera, and she did help me to stop worrying about what she was seeing and to think about what I wanted to project about myself to the world, but I was still struggling with who I really was in this moment of my life.
Finding Myself With Every Click
Jana suggested I change into an outfit that we had talked about at the consultation - just a blazer so I could show off my legs. It reminded us both of the iconic images of Judy Garland, but it had been the outfit I least cared about. Jana took it one step further and asked if I would also put on fishnets and heels. She handed me a fedora and started ripping up her paper background to create some kind of set.
Her suggestion at that moment changed everything for me…it was incredible! Suddenly I saw that old part of myself emerge and it felt good! The entertainer in me was something I had locked away all those years ago and forgotten about. But it IS a huge part of who I am, and like that, I realized it had been a mistake to hide it. I came alive and could feel my joy. It became so clear to me who I am. Putting on those clothes also helped me unlock the idea that I could be anyone I wanted to be in front of the camera…and in life.
The Lingering Effect
When I look at the photos we took that day I’m so proud of myself. I can see the joy and the depth of who I am. It’s empowering to know that by stepping out of my comfort zone and doing something scary I accomplished something incredibly positive. I see myself, with Jana’s help, being able to rise to the occasion and then take that positivity and carry it with me into the world and as I interact with people. That moment in front of her camera was so important to me. Everything took a turn. I feel differently about myself now and I am doing things differently in my life. I’m excited about my future and what I may do. I don’t feel invisible anymore!
After having this life-changing experience at the studio I want other women to feel that gift as well, so I have sent my two best friends to Jana’s studio for sessions! I want them to love and appreciate this moment in their lives also and I’m eager to see if their outlook will change the way mine did.
Jana is changing the lives of the people she photographs. Everyone who comes in front of her lens discovers something about themselves that they didn’t know before. I’ve already booked my next shoot – this time with clear intentions – and I can’t wait to see what happens!
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