Dress for Success: The Gift of Confidence

I am so lucky. 

This is what I kept repeating to myself all day on Sunday, March 4th, 2018. 

I am so lucky to have this team of talented, generous people showing up to donate their time and talents to Dress for Success clients. I am so lucky to have a job and the flexibility to give my time and passions. I am SO LUCKY that I've never experienced true hardship. My privilege. 

Recognizing that, I jump at any chance of passing that luck and privilege on to others who might benefit from it. This event was one small way of providing confidence and support to women in our community who may not have always been so lucky. They say that when you can give a piece of yourself to someone else, it comes back to you tenfold. Never have I found this to be more true than with these portraits. I feel the love from that day every time I look at them, and I hope the feeling continues for a long time to come.


A note from Lucy, Ivory House Photography's Studio Manager: 

The day began the way I expected: rushing to set out snacks and bottles of water, unlocking the doors, answering last-minute emails about the event. What’s the parking situation? Which street is the door on again? The stylists arrived with their ring lights and curling irons. Is there another outlet in this corner? No problem, I’ll set up in the kitchen. Jody White, Executive Director and Co-founder of Dress for Success, was all smiles as she introduced herself to everyone, warmly thanking each person for donating their Sunday to a great cause.

The Glam Teams, clockwise from top left: Ashley Maree Harvey (hair), Violeta, Natalie Gendle (makeup, ACADEMIC Lash & Beauty); Ivy Boyd (makeup, Ivy Boyd Makeup Artist + Beauty Blogger), Africa, Stacy Syroka (hair, Elevencherry); Desi Thompson (hair, Desi at Dolce), Jenny, Natalie Gendle (makeup, ACADEMIC Lash & Beauty); Kelsey Ziemann (makeup, Kelsi Ziemann Artistry), Jasmin, Kearra Chester (hair)

The Glam Teams, clockwise from top left: Ashley Maree Harvey (hair), Violeta, Natalie Gendle (makeup, ACADEMIC Lash & Beauty); Ivy Boyd (makeup, Ivy Boyd Makeup Artist + Beauty Blogger), Africa, Stacy Syroka (hair, Elevencherry); Desi Thompson (hair, Desi at Dolce), Jenny, Natalie Gendle (makeup, ACADEMIC Lash & Beauty); Kelsey Ziemann (makeup, Kelsi Ziemann Artistry), Jasmin, Kearra Chester (hair)

Whitney’s idea for a campaign to benefit Dress for Success originated before I came to work at Ivory House. Selling discounted headshots to her regular clients seemed like a great way to generate revenue that would allow for her to donate portraits to the clients of Dress for Success, an organization that empowers women to thrive professionally. She first mentioned this undertaking in my job interview back in January. Hearing her talk about the importance of elevating every member of the community made me realize that working at Ivory House was going to be much more than a nine-to-five job. Coming fresh from the corporate world, this was very appealing to me. 

My role on Sunday as Whitney’s studio manager was to manage the flow and make sure everyone was getting what they needed. I was anticipating a fast pace and lots of last-minute problem-solving, but as soon as the women began to arrive, it was clear things were going to go much smoother than I anticipated. The "Glam Teams," compromised of incredibly talented hair and makeup artists, were matched with a Dress for Success client. As anyone who’s been to a salon can attest, once the women were seated in their chairs and the pampering began, their stories began to pour out. 

There was Violeta, a legal assistant at Drake, who told me about the lifelong romance with her husband that started in their hometown in Mexico and brought them all the way to Des Moines.

Violeta

Violeta

There was Sharon, who works in the crafts department at Walmart and who boasted that she has 13 great-grandkids. She honors the memory of her late husband, her sweetheart and the love of her life, by wearing their wedding rings around her neck. 

Sharon

Sharon

After 10 years in school while also raising three kids as a single mom, Jasmin is going to graduate next year with her master’s degree in social work, and is currently working as self-sufficiency counselor.

Jasmin

Jasmin

Kimberly brought so much attitude and energy to the day. She kept us laughing the whole time, and her confidence shone through in every single photo that we took of her.

Kimberly

Kimberly

Angela, who I told that I would definitely ask for her ID at a bar, told me she’d been married for 14 years and has nine children. (Angela also told me an incredible story about her dog Capone, who’ll be receiving a medal of bravery next month.)

Angela

Angela

Africa opened up about her history of domestic violence and the strength it took to take her children and leave her husband to start over in a country where she barely spoke the language. 

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Our interactions were brief, but the energy in the “glam room” was that of support and love. 

In the studio, Whitney was working her magic with each woman, making them feel confident and beautiful. Your hair is flawless! Oh my gosh you have the most perfect jawline. Yes, those eyes! You’re killin’ it! It wasn’t anything out of the ordinary for her when it comes to shooting any client who walks through the door, but today was different. These women have overcome obstacles and carried weight on their shoulders that we don’t know about, that maybe is only seen in their hesitance to meet the camera’s eye. Whitney took the time to make them feel beautiful, radiant, and cared for, and the proof is in their stunning images. The person who entered the studio was not the same person who emerged. 

The day came to a close with smiles and hugs of gratitude, exchanged phone numbers, and more than a few happy tears (my own included). Giving the gift of confidence to these women who have overcome so much in their lives, and providing them with a gorgeous portrait that they can share and keep forever, means just as much to us as it does to them. It's unbelievably rewarding when we're lucky enough to have the opportunity to share our skills and talents with others in the community. I'm so grateful to be with a company that values lifting each other up whenever we're able. As our stylist Kearra said, it's why we're on this planet.


We couldn't have done this without the support of our amazing collaborators:

Jody White and Nicole Roe Sickels of Dress for Success Des Moines

The Glam Squad:
Kelsi Ziemann with Kelsi Ziemann Artistry
Ivy Boyd with Ivy Boyd Makeup Artist + Beauty Blogger
Natalie Sanger Gendle with Academic lash & beauty
Stacy Syroka independent stylist at Elevencherry
Ashley Maree Harvey independent hair stylist
Kearra Chester independent hair stylist
Desi Joelle with Desi at Dolce

And our kind and patience videographers (video to come): 
Caleb and Joe Stevens

And lastly, a huge thanks to the Ivory House team: Megan, Rachel, and Lucy.

Wednesdays With Whitney: Empowerment Session Winner

I was overwhelmed by the beautiful nominations received for the Empowerment Session Campaign. The idea, to give one deserving woman her day in the sun. Show one stunning woman how beautiful she is, inside and out. What started out as awarding a complimentary creative portrait session, quickly morphed into something bigger. More women wanted to contribute to the contest and give away their time and talents. 

The Empowerment Session team consists of Ivy Boyd, makeup artist extraordinaire; Sarah Noll Wilson, leadership coach powerhouse; and Christina Davis, personal stylist and Cabi consultant. The grand prize package: a complimentary two-hour clothing session with Christina, makeup application with Ivy prior to the photo shoot, and a 90 minute creative portrait session with me.

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The lucky winner, Mary Bacon, was nominated by her daughter Angela Ames. Mary is a fighter, survivor and the epitome of selfless. In her daughter's words:

"My mother is so beautiful...let's start by in 2005 she beat stage IV breast cancer. She is legally blind but spends endless days making blankets for those in need. She has a rare form of leukemia that fights against her healthy blood cells as well as her good, in addition to currently waiting her chance for a new kidney and finally beating colon cancer. To say my mother is strong would be an understatement. A woman that should be full of life resentment, she actually just wants to do what she can to get back home to keep working on blankets! This woman is incredible!!! She doesn't fuss over the little things, because to her "that's life" and "well that's the stuff that God gave her to deal with." She's so beautiful, her eyes are a stunning blue, and she could really use a day about her, to highlight how amazing she is."

"She is a true definition of humanitarian , a warrior, but above those an amazing mother. Because she never gives up. She sees ten paths to a way out of a dead end. Her girls mean everything to her, nothing, not even being told that she has a few short months to live would keep her from encouraging her girls to do what makes them truly happy."

"I recently moved to California, taking her beloved grandchildren (boys 8 & 7) 1600 miles away. My husband took a new job. My mom would never stand in the way of someone wanting to move closer to their dreams. Most grandmas would be devastated but not my mom. She put her own feelings aside! She misses my husband (who she loves very much, she misses her grandsons but she just says, 'I have to get better so I can come visit.' This woman is truly a blessing to anyone that has her in their lives!"

I drew additional names for extra prizes. Amanda is the winner of a Professional Portrait Session. She was nominated by her sister-in-law. A snippet from her nomination:

"I have known Amanda (my sister-in-law) since she was in high school. She nearly died when I was dating her brother (now my husband) due to long-qt syndrome, which is a heart issue. She had a pacemaker put in when she was 16. It completely changed her trajectory in life. She has always been an active, giving and outgoing individual but has had many obstacles put in her way. On her journey to realizing how strong she is, she built her life up around what she can and can not do (physically) given her heart condition. In the last year, she also has been diagnosed with alopecia. Amanda’s beauty comes from her love of others and her beautiful smile. When she smiles you can’t unsee how beautiful she is. It’s incredible contagious. As a case worker for Broadlawns, she brings her beauty and strength to the lives of those who are less fortunate. While this work is difficult and challenging, she manages to do it with extreme care and grace, that most can not. This is exactly what makes her beautiful and strong at the same time- her very giving heart."

Last but not least, Teresa Tomka is the winner of a $100 Cabi gift card. She was nominated by a friend. The three adjectives used to describe Teresa:

"1) Strong - so strong. She lost her husband in a sudden, tragic accident. She has five children. She owns a business. STRONG. 2) Giving. She gives back her resources, her time, her laughter. 3) And speaking of laughter, this lady is F-U-N! An evening with her is an evening laughing."

Thank you to everyone who took the time to nominate a woman. You are incredible for taking the time and recognizing the powerful women in your life. All participants, nominees and nominators, are receiving the opportunity to participate in a Championing Workshop. 

Words from Sarah Noll Wilson on the workshop: 

"Do you build up or break down? Learn how to powerfully acknowledge and build up those around you. 

Everyone is capable of greatness and everyone is capable of revealing greatness in others.  Think about this, in every moment you impact those around you, is it the impact you want? By being a powerful champion for others you help others see their most powerful self even when they can't see it themselves. Join us for this transformative workshop where you will learn and practice the skills to be a champion for others and yourself too!

Table 128: Fall Menu Reveal

I sat at the bar at Table 128 enjoying the company of owner Sarah Pritchard after our Wednesdays with Whitney session. I watched a full house arrive for lunch. Everyone who passed the hostess counter on the way to their table grabbed a famous chocolate chip cookie with sea salt, an aperatif to the delicious lunch to come. These cookies, along with amazing food and warm, responsive service are trademarks of this local West Des Moines resturant.

SeasonalFoodPhotographyTable128

This winter, Table 128 catered the grand opening and one year anniversary of my business. Sarah showed up at my door with trays of delicious, pipping hot food and a smile, ready to serve in any way she could. I had fully expected her to drop off the food and head to her next event. This is the only time I would underestimate Sarah and Lynn’s immense call to host and help. Sarah stayed at the opening, pouring wine and greeting guests, making sure the trays were filled and details weren’t dropped. Her presence made that party a true success.

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I desperately wanted to return the favor of hospitality to the Table 128 team and months later, I was finally able to convince Sarah and Lynn it was time for updated headshots. Like so many of my clients, they bulked. Excuses like, “I don’t photograph well,” were spoken aloud. But I am known to be very convincing and finally got this dynamic duo in front of the camera. Of course, the photos were just as beautiful as they are. Their love of people, food and wine, and each other stand out in every image. 

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Yesterday, I had the pleasure of photographing the new Fall Menu. The smells and views laid before me were impeccable. I loved capturing the beautiful food, lovingly prepared by amazing people. I personally got to sample the Scallops, Cured Zucchini and Sweet Potato Panna Cotta. Every bite was an experience. The scallops were seared to perfection, laid over a nutty wheat berry concoction that had me singing praises to the fall weather. The cured zucchini had me begging for the recipe. How the heck does a person make a zucchini taste THAT GOOD? I sat protesting as the panna cotta was served with hot coffee. How could I possibly eat another bite?!  But of course, it was rich, creamy and just the right amount of sweet. I polished off the whole dish without hesitation. It was a perfect example of another amazing meal at Table 128. 

ThreeCourseFallMeal

Home Coming: The Top 5 Reasons I LOVE DSM.

Hello all! 

First of all, I'd like to say a HUGE thank you to everyone involved in my big life transition. There are so many people in Rochester, NY, Des Moines, IA, and cities far and wide who supported me in making this relocation dream come true. 

I've been back in DSM for a little over a month and I have to say, I'm astounded. The support I received upon my arrival was more then I ever could have anticipated. I'm so grateful and I feel compelled to gush. So here it is - my top five reasons I'm ecstatic to be back in DSM! 

4. Open and inclusive attitude: I am overwhelmed by the resounding "YES" I've received when inviting people for coffee. Community leaders are thrilled to take time out of their day to enjoy a conversation with this young entrepreneur. Wedding vendors with well established creditability and awesome work ethic have instantly accepted me into their inner circles. Countless strong and impressive young women in the community have taken me under their wing as friends and confidants.  I am truly honored and thrilled to be part of these ever growing and inclusive circles of strength. 

3. Gorgeous places to shoot, be entertained and be enthralled: The change in Des Moines from when I was a high schooler to now is beyond comprehension. I am so proud of my town, even though I can't take any credit for this transformation. I look forward to being a positive influence in this community in the years to come. 

DesMoinesPhotographs

 

2. Impressive female leaders making a difference in Des Moines: Now this might truly be one of the most engaging points this community offers me. Everywhere I turn, I see women making real, measurable changes in our local and global community. I see these women reaching out and offering a supportive hand, getting down and dirty for conservation issues and stepping up to the capital to speak their mind. I am honored to join your ranks. Thank you for leading the way.

1. Family: I lived in Rochester, NY for seven years. That was seven years of texting, FaceTime, extended weekend visits and treasured Christmas vacations with the people I love most. I have to be honest, I forgot what it was like to have my family around. I forgot what it meant to be able to call on them ANYTIME, for ANYTHING. Being here, surround by these people is the best thing about Des Moines. 

DesMoinesFamilyPhotos