When Donna first pitched me the idea, she explained that her inspiration behind the shoot was the movie Inkheart. I've never seen it, but apparently a boy can read fairytale characters out of their books. The boy in the film has a stutter though, so he reads them out imperfectly. Rapunzel, our muse, when she emerges from her story, is covered in the contents of it.
I have this blog to keep my vulnerability alive and well, so I have to be transparent about what this meant to me. For as long as I can remember, I've had a damn near obsession with perfection. I'm not trying to lie in a job interview here, perfectionism is most definitely my biggest weakness. If you know me, you know.
I work very hard to be all the things to all the people. Being unliked hurts me the most, and I'm, to quote my mother and sister, "harder on myself than anyone in the world" for my flaws. I strive for perfection so much that it's usually my downfall. And, in the past few years, the entire life I've lead has been so far from perfect that I've fallen apart behind the scenes more times than I'd care to share. But here I am, sharing.
I haven't been proud of many parts of my story. Before I became a mom at the ripe age of 20, I had it all figured out. I was planned, crisp, and organized. I ate well, I exercised, I worked, went to college, got my nails done occasionally. I never skipped a shower, or let a deadline pass me by. I was untainted by emotional addiction. I was unharmed by false love. I was as close to perfect as I'll ever come.
I didn't prepare for the life in front of me, and although it is my everything, it frequently terrifies me. I don't know any 23 year old single mothers of two children, in the middle of ugly court battles, struggling to work multiple jobs, pay the bills, keep up relationships, keep the house clean, kids happy, attempting to attend all of the school events, and just watch one damn movie on Netflix before passing out 4 hours prior to the next shift. I'm not saying I have it worse than anyone; I'm truly saying, I don't know any. I don't know any perfect heroes or heroines in my shoes to idolize, to make it feel normal. So I often put on a happy face of imperturbability and pretend it doesn't exist.
Look at me and my perfect children with wonderful vocabularies. Look at me and my adorable god-like gentleman of a boyfriend. Look at me and my beautiful, successful friends. Look at this (only) clean corner of my 700 sq.ft apartment. Don't courtview me though. Don't come over unannounced. And please, for the love of God, don't tell anyone how negative and emotional I can get when I'm comfortable enough to open up to you.
So this shoot, with a gibberish story painted in liquid eyeliner all over my body, took me there. I didn't feel like Rapunzel. Read out of my perfect story into the forest of a new realm.
I felt like me. And I felt exposed. The Latin laced with English text wrapping around me felt like all of my very own imperfection written clearly for everyone to see. (And that, they did. This was at a frolf course, and the frolfers were loving it.) I felt really uncomfortable, and when Donna pulled out a masquerade mask, I was like "GIMME". For the first half, or maybe for the majority of the shoot, I was not okay with the words on my skin. I was internally battling questions like "why did she think of me when she thought of an imperfect shoot?"
I got in my car to leave, watching her hang the river-drenched gown outside through my rearview, and I started bawling. I like to self-reflect on long drives, and I also cry a lot in the car. So this is not weird.
I started thinking about why I was her first thought for her imperfect shoot, and why that was actually the biggest compliment of all. I started to think about my messy, loud life and all the joy it includes. I used to think of myself as this perfect china doll, and after being dropped and mishandled so many times, I've tried to hide the cracks for a very long time. In my everyday, I catch glimpses of my insecurities and post-traumas and each crack that tries to peep through. But the beauty and perfection that exists in my life today stem from each of those fractures that have been filled with healing, sacrifice, and unconditional, unwavering love.
My story is long and naive and stupid and brave and emotional and strong. But it will never be perfect. Even when it's written like a fairytale. And that is okay.
Huge thank you to Donna Smith, one of the most innovative, creative, and wonderful photographers I know. Thank you for helping all of your clients to shed their masks and let their lights shine through with every click, through your genuine warmth, talent, and eye for beauty.
Thanks for reading, friends, and if you need an engagement/senior/wedding/fairytale photographer, I've found your girl!
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