I was the definition of a tomboy growing up - rough and tumble with a backwards hat, glasses that were taped in the middle due to being too rough on the basketball court, cuts and scrapes and skipping the pink toy aisle at the store, haha - all the classics. This attitude and independence didn't translate well into high school, and on top of that I was also was evolving out of my scrawny boy build and into a curvy yet fit frame. Once I started gaining weight in college I struggled to identify with myself, and over time I let it emotionally cripple me.
After years of warped self-perspective, I decided it was time figure out a way to clear the fog. "Ha, you're crazy" was a common retort to compliments or "it's just smoke and mirrors" to generous photo comments and let us not forget the famous, "oh but when I lose this weight, I'm going to do this that and this" as a response to so many plans and goals, as if it was going to be some mode of self motivation - but just turned into a broken record annoyance. I've tried every trick there was to try and combat this self deprecation but nothing was working, so for my 30th birthday I called in my reinforcements, Gia & Kelliana, two wonderful humans with awe inspiring confidence and skill.
Going into the shoot, my nervousness outweighed my excitement, but that was short-lived as I wanted to prove to myself (and them, as they are well aware of my neurosis) that I could do this. A professional photo shoot was completely foreign to me, but I was given this amazing opportunity and needed to take full advantage of it - to see what was really beyond this defensive exterior.
The shoot was an absolute blast! Kelianna did an incredible job of making me feel comfortable and of not allowing myself to be lost within the makeup - to make sure that it was still me, but by also glaming me up just enough, she made me feel gorgeous. She had a perfect plan for me and I trusted her completely. Gia, what can I say...she is a true artist. It went so far beyond just taking the photographs or figuring out the proper lighting. Her knowledge of space, lines and body language along with her energy and raw ability to draw out the personality and expression that the photograph needs to be alive was incredible to watch. She truly loves what she does and it shows through every encouraging and/or instructional moment.
When I saw a sneak peak of the first photo, I was blown away! It was a perfect mix of my harsh as well as vulnerable qualities...it was me. I couldn't believe how much of 'me' she was able to pull to the surface. I'm known for being hard on myself and my own worst critic, but I truly couldn't find anything to say about the image other than "beautiful". My friends & family are so used to seeing me ruin pictures of myself with a snarky smirk or an over the top cheese ball smile, that they were almost as shocked as I was. It's been overwhelming.
Relinquishing control and giving into the process proved to be the main challenge but also the most necessary piece of the experience. I would find myself laughing as I held myself in an awkward pose, thinking how silly this was - but then Gia would show me the back of the camera and say "see! look how incredible that translates". If you ever get the chance to work this with amazing team, you will walk away with so much more than a few photographs. This has been a huge turning point for me and the best gift I could have ever been given.
I've never been one to wear much makeup, if any at all - somehow I feel trapped under a layer of foundation. Yet I've often felt that I don't measure up to other women, especially those who spend the time on perfect hair and makeup. When I look at pictures of myself, I usually think I look okay, but I'm also quite talented at identifying what feel like flaws in my face or body. The idea of a photo shoot was outside my typical comfort zone, but I was also intrigued to see how the fashion "machine" could make me look.
The experience was an amazing memory, and I learned a lot more than I expected. Seeing everything that goes into creating a beautiful fashion image was a bit shocking - to see that an unnatural process (lighting, posing, makeup) is able to create a very natural looking image, opened my eyes to the reality of the imagery we see everyday in media. Kelliana was great with the makeup and styling, and made sure to understand what made sense for me and my personality. The photo shoot with Gia was a blast, and she made me feel comfortable and gorgeous. Leaving the shoot, I felt great and couldn't wait to see the finished product.
When I saw my images, I was floored. The pictures are absolutely true to who I am, and I feel like they show me in my best light. Seeing myself in this way has been unexpectedly freeing - I have finally proven to myself that I am beautiful, which somehow feels like permission to truly be myself, and be proud of who I am.
As the young mother of twins I have had a lot of body identity issues, but growing up I always felt very confident when it came to my physical appearance. I always got attention for my brown skin and big curly hair and skinny but curvy body, it wasn't until I became pregnant that I really started to struggle with the changes my body was going through and all the things I never knew would not ever be the same again. I found myself always wearing clothes that weren't as flattering on my body just to hide what I thought were flaws like extra skin and stretch marks. It wasn’t until my sons at 5 years old asked “mommy what happened to your tummy?” and I respond with a grandiose story about how I fought off Wolverine in the hospital parking lot on my way to birth them in order to keep them all for myself, as he wanted them to be a part of the X-MEN. My boys were amazed by this and told everyone for weeks how amazing myself and my stretch marks are, and in turn this small story ended up showing me the beauty that I can make out of something that is not viewed as beautiful in this society. From that point on I started looking at myself differently, especially in photos. I began to see a Lioness, a beautiful WOMAN and not a little girl worried about all the wrong things. This allowed me to see all of my inner beauty and that has transpired in to photos of me. When this shoot was presented to me I was really hesitant even though I loved the idea, I just didn’t think I would be good at getting my photo taken... It turns out I’m a pro!
When I came in to the studio with bags of wardrobe in hand I was terrified. The girls at Vev immediately took all the stress away as I found out we all have reservations about being in the spot light and out of our comfort zone which made me feel at home. The amazing team of women at Vev eased my worries and sat me down to start beautifying which was amazing and I felt like they listened to what I wanted to look like and felt no pressure in any way. Posing was a little hard for me as I am no model and have no idea what looks good in a professional shoot but Gia took charge as I desperately was hoping she would and made me feel like a superstar, Jillian was amazing and was kind of like a personal cheerleader reassuring me that I looked smoking hot. Overall the experience was fantastic and I maybe thought I was a model for a few days post shoot. I am so glad I got to do this and see myself in a new light. This shoot gave me a confidence that I am still glowing with and want more of.
Waiting to see my images was the hardest part, but the wait was well worth it. When I first saw my photos I was in shock, I thought to myself “ ummm who is that and how can she be in my life everyday”. This shoot made me feel beyond beautiful. I have referred just about every woman in Portland to this studio because of the boost that I got to myself esteem. There are so many beautiful women out there who if they could see what these photos showed me their self-esteem would be restored, never mind the fact that the overall experience was wonderful. Thank you to Vev Studios for bringing back something I didn’t know was so lost.
I grew up in a world where beauty, and being beautiful was--everything. I would imagine, that this is the world most of us grew up in. One of my first childhood memories was someone stopping me and telling me how beautiful I was. This pattern of verbal validation continued through out my childhood and teen years. Despite others perception of my own beauty, I found myself struggling with my own self image.
As I grew into my teen years, I was in desperate need of verbal validation. Being a teenager was tough, I found myself in the midst of weight gain, bad haircuts, failed attempts at eyeliner, and uniquely for me having my leg amputated right in the middle of it all. My teen years became a pretty strong recipe for lack of confidence and poor body image. I struggled to find my value and my identity beyond what I felt I needed to hear from the outside world. At the tail end of my teen years I landed my first job in the beauty industry, feeding fashion and self confidence to housewives and young girls. The industry forced me, unknowingly to establish my own self confidence in who I was, by helping others gain and discover their own confidence.
When I see a picture of myself now, I see transformation past, present and future. We each have an ability to continually transform and evolve our idea of what makes us beautiful--maybe it's the perfect eyeliner, a little black dress, words from a stranger, or knowing we are innately good within. Beauty is beyond what we see on the surface, it's the very essence of who we are mind, body and soul--we write the definition to our own sense of beauty.
When I heard about this project, I knew I had to work on it. Behind the scenes and in front of the camera, I knew I wanted to bestow value and beauty into each woman who stepped into the spotlight, not only on the surface but to the very core of their being.
I do not spend a lot of time on my hair and makeup on a daily basis as I am a runner and a mom and wife and businesswoman and really have gotten away with not spending much time on my looks. Don't get me wrong, I love looking and feeling good but I really am lazy when it comes to spending time in the mirror.
When Gia invited me to this photo shoot I at first thought I was too old but soon came to realize I was perfect for this as it shows my true self through the eyes of an amazing photographer.
I gasped when I first saw my photo because I couldn't believe that this was me. The hair and makeup was so fun and looks so natural I feel like a movie star and will cherish this as I continue to age. This captures me and my spirit at age 49. I love it!
Thanks Gia and Jillian and VEV Studios, it was an amazing experience I would highly recommend.
I was born and raised in the Portland metropolitan area. Portland is where I currently work and reside.
I recently survived cancer about 2 years ago and have been living life with a much more important outlook which is simply enjoying every moment. I normally think I look fat, or my face looks weird, or my smile is not right somehow. I am very self-critical of my body. Initially I was excited about the photo shoot despite my negative self-image and worries about my body – scars, fat etc. I was worried about seeing the pictures after the fact, but I am shocked to see how beautifully they turned out.
My photo shoot was very special. I was nervous before showing up and grabbed almost every outfit I owned. Jillian calmly helped me pick out outfits to ‘dress me for success’. The makeup artist was highly skilled. My skin was glowing and beautiful and my hair was curled and looked so sexy which gave me so much enthusiasm and excitement before the photo shoot. The photo shoot itself, was very intimate and Gia has a presence that allows you just to be yourself and have fun. She has an artistic ability that I havent ever experienced before and it was truly amazing. Jillian also helped with my photo shoot to get my hair perfect and gave me words of encouragement throughout. It was such a great experience that I didn’t want to end.
The images made me feel alive which is a feeling I do not take for granted these days. They were breathtakingly beautiful and captured how I want to see myself and how I want to be remembered. To the future clientele, I would say this is a life experience worth taking. Having these photos for memories for not only yourself, but for your family is priceless.
Coming from an art and design background, I'm usually one behind the camera critiquing and analyzing. When I'm the subject of a shot, I just can't help "art directing" my face, which leads to traumatic self-criticism.
When Vev approached me, I was shocked and scared. What do they see that I can't see? Surely they made a mistake. I'm so awkward... so awkward looking! How can they get any images from me?
I convinced myself to face my fear of the camera. Everyone at Vev had this level of casual ease and warmth. They knew what they were doing, and were confident they could make me shine. I felt accepted and beautiful, something I have a hard time doing myself. I was reminded of the cruelty of my craft, and how I feed into it. It's the norm to dissociate, turn people into subjects for analysis and critique. My experience with Vev was the exact opposite. I felt like a PERSON with my own unique beauty, that which Vev captured and mirrored back to me.
I was amazed and touched by the final image. If they could see that in me, then perhaps I can too, and maybe the camera isn't so scary after all.
I am a tall and curvy-bodied 28-year old queer woman. Growing up in Georgia, traditional ideas of femininity were ever-present; skinny, blond, heavily made-up, always in a dress and heels. Being heavier set made me incredibly self conscious and I struggled with body image issues until I moved to Portland four years ago. I used to always shy away from having my picture taken, and when I did pose I often opted for the much-maligned "duck face" to make my cheeks look thinner and my lips look poutier. Although I have always been a very positive and outgoing person, I thought that smiling made my face look fatter, and usually hated photos of myself where I was told to smile or laugh. Since moving to Portland I have developed a much stronger sense of self-esteem and self-worth, which includes a healthier dose of body-positivity than I ever thought would be possible. I credit the queer community that I have become a part of here for that change. Coming out and finding a community that celebrates my curves as much as my eccentricities has given me a confidence and happiness that has changed my life forever. I have become the girl that is always camera-ready, and thrives in the spotlight; the girl who always smiles in pictures, even open-mouthed!
When Gia approached me about modeling for VEV, I was ecstatic. In addition to being a very dear friend Gia is the most talented photographer I have ever known. Having already seen some of the portraits she had done with VEV, I was incredibly excited to have the opportunity to be photographed by her. I am not a morning person, so when she told me to be ready by 8am, I was unsure how much energy I would bring to the shoot. But her team was so positive and fun to be around that I was instantly relaxed and excited. Kelliana, the stylist, started by asking me what makes me feel beautiful, so she could make me look as close to my own ideal as possible. She was sassy and funny and brought a real spark to my experience. Jillian was also adorable beyond words. She was an absolute sweetheart and very easy to talk to. When it was finally time to get behind the camera I was so excited that I couldn't stop bouncing around and swishing my skirt. Gia was very encouraging and gave such good direction that I felt like a professional model the whole time. Every time she would stop and look at her camera, she would smile and tell me how great my pictures were turning out, furthering my exuberance. It would be tough to imagine a time that I have felt more beautiful and celebrated. Even after the shoot was over and I went about the rest of my day, I felt more confident and happy and pretty than I usually do.
Seeing final images was an overwhelmingly pleasant surprise. Although I felt gorgeous during the entirety of the shoot, I had no idea how stunning the outcome would be. I want to show everyone I know! Every time I look at the photos I can't help but well up with self-pride and happiness. No one has ever taken pictures of me that look like this, and I've never felt so striking and lovely. I couldn't give a high enough recommendation to anyone interested in VEV Studios. Everyone should have an opportunity to feel this good about themselves, and experience this level of special care and personal attention. It will change the way you look at yourself in the most positive way.