That's when I saw this magazine cover.
I've always been a fan of Tyra Banks, and to see HER - this statuesque beauty who's always looked the curvacious epitome of health - having to respond to the nasty headlines that she was... well.. fat - < head shaking > it was a bit unbelievable.
This article was upsetting to say the least. When she modeled, she had to be curvy but still underweight (as far as modeling goes, I mean). So when she retired, she didn't have to mold her body to fit the ideal of someone else. So what if she decided to RETIRE the constraints that were put upon her by the industry too. I mean, who wouldn't???
I had daughters at the time - my own plus I felt emotionally responsible for OTHER mother's daughters, because they were at my house most of the time. I try to promote self-confidence and body acceptance, but when this was splashed all over the television and newsstands, it DID become an issue for conversation with me and my girls.
I wasn't sure what to do, but I had been getting more and more into photography. Though I was photographing weddings and seniors and kids, I really wanted my own niche.
I started photographing more and more girls and women and found that I had a knack for taking pics that THEY actually liked. Even tough critics who said they hated every photo taken of them, they liked mine! To say the least, this was a huge compliment.
At the end of 2007 I started practicing my photography techniques on friends - and friends of my daughters' - and before long we were having Photo Parties and makeovers... playing dress up and trying out new poses, clothes, hairstyles, props, and backdrops.
I eventually bought a better camera, some lights, a backdrop system and kept practicing. And the more I practiced, the more people came to me for photos.
In 2008 I decided to open a small studio in Athens, Ohio. And by small I mean SMMAAAALLLL... it was tucked way back in a basement and right next to a porn store. But still, it was super cute. We had a dressing room, a small studio and a place for props. I felt my best photos were of women - and I could make them look and feel sexy.... a skill, I later found out, was not too common.
That year I asked the girls who were modeling for me to act as promotional models. They agreed and the Eye Candy Girls were born! Basically I get to dress them up and photograph them for projects and promotional purposes, plus they go with me to gigs and help by handing out cards and looking amazing all the time! Honestly, it really is a fun time for all of us!
I closed the first studio in a year and thought I was big shit when I moved to a gigantic studio in a small, conservative town of Nelsonville, Ohio. After 18 months and several accusations from old biddies that what I was doing was wrong, I closed shop. I bought a house and moved to another town. I started shooting on-location and hosting marathon photoshoots. It's been a huge success - much more so than with any other the other studios!
And it's all because of Tyra Banks and her courage to talk openly about her body, her health, and her right to live her life as SHE sees fit.
It's been more than 6 years since that magazine cover - and yet I still think about it when I'm doing my work and - hopefully - empowering women..
... the same way Tyra Banks empowered me.