this is my friend Stephanie. recently, she decided to shave her head and I was so inspired by it so I asked if I could photograph her.

with a buzzed head and without a stitch of makeup on her face, Stephanie stepped in front of my camera and let her beauty shine through.

when I first asked her to pose for me, it was her looks that inspired me. but after spending 5 minutes with her I realized that everything she did inspired me. from the way she laughed to the way she moved her dress…but especially just the person she is. I love people who have stories to tell, and I love people who love life, but don’t ignore how hard things can be either. She is authentic. She is powerful. and she is fucking hilarious.

Anyway. I’m not even going to try to write up a post for this because I can’t even come close to telling her story as well as she can. So she is going to take it from here:

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When I mentioned shaving my head to my husband, he just asked me if I was sure. He didn’t object or try to convince me otherwise, he just wanted to make sure my decision would make me happy. Shaving my head has made me happier than I would have ever imagined. I feel free, more confident, more beautiful and empowered. Most importantly, I feel like I am myself.

Women have told me how brave and bold I am for shaving my head. Which I find to be so empowering to hear, but I am saddened by the idea. Cutting our hair and looking different than what society believes a woman should look like shouldn’t take bravery. I didn’t feel brave. I felt scared and anxious about what people would think about me. I was scared that my husband wouldn’t find me as attractive as he did before. I was even nervous about how strangers would see me. I just stared in the mirror for a long time before it finally clicked that I didn’t really care. I don’t care about any of those things. When I look at myself in the mirror, I want to feel happy and confident in the image staring back at me.

I am not a model, by any means. I am a woman. Which should be a statement that holds more influence and power than most people will credit. I am a woman that took a step to finally live up to my own expectations and standards of what beauty is. Beauty is such a fickle idea. It is an idea based on an opinion that is ever-changing and has fooled people into believing it is this tangible thing. Our true beauty is a light that shines from the love and goodness within us. Some of us shine brighter than others and that light isn’t always constant, but it exists within every single one of us. For me, beauty is something that is raw and untouched. Beauty is about how confident we carry our femininity and cast aside the anxiety gripping at our throats when we are outside of our comfort zones. We face ridicule, shame, judgement and humiliation all in the name of beauty. Unfortunately, that ridicule is often born from our own thoughts. It is okay to feel insecure. It is not okay to wear it around your neck for the world to take. Own it. Lather that insecurity all over your body, wear it like armor and no one in this world can ever harm you with it. We are in powerful and important positions that can reshape the idea of beauty for the generations of women that follow us. Every woman has the ability to posses true beauty and to encourage and influence the beauty in others. When you strip away all of the makeup and hair and accessories, I hope you see the true beauty within yourself. When you look into the mirror, don’t focus in on all of your self-proclaimed flaws, look into your eyes and smile. We are born with the innate ability to love unconditionally, to bring life into the world, to teach our aging women around us to love themselves. I want you to look at these images and refrain from thinking, “I could never do that!” and truly believe that you absolutely could. You can and should do everything in your power to feel great about yourself, to feel unique and beautiful. Be exactly who you feel you need to be. Look exactly how you feel you need to look. You are more powerful than you could ever imagine and you are more capable than you give yourself credit.

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