Karissa: Philadelphia, PA

In May, Hannah and I headed down to Philly to take some pictures for Karissa. When I was down there, Karissa and I were chatting about how fun it would be to do pictures in front of a graffiti wall. I’ve always wanted to take them, and she’s always wanted them of herself. She commented that maybe one day if she and her husband have children, we could do maternity shots in front of a graffiti wall, and we left it at that. Not even two months later, Karissa contacted me and said “let’s do it.” No, she’s not expecting. In fact, she didn’t even want her husband in the pictures, just herself. She said she didn’t tell her husband about our shoot until the night before. He asked “why?” and her answer was simple, “Because I love myself.”

You may read that sentence and think “huh, that’s arrogant,” but can you say it? And by you, I mean women. Can we say that we truly love ourselves? I’d say 99.99% of us women these days allow our insecurities to barricade us from genuinely seeing who we are and loving who we are.

Since having Hannah, I found a new respect for me. One I never had before. As long as I can remember, I was totally consumed (like almost every female in this shameful society) with how I looked. Did my pants dig into my sides? Can you see my jaw line? Is my hair parted the right way? Do I have any stray eyebrows? Is my eyeliner smeared? Can you see any bra bulges? Am I too tall? Am I too short? Am I too fat? I’m sure these questions are familiar to you. Suddenly, though, when I became pregnant, I absolutely adored my body. MY body was carrying and nourishing another life. That’s amazing.

Now I have this incredible daughter who I vow to teach to love herself. I vow to never diet again. I vow to be healthy and to show my daughter healthy habits. She shall never hear me ask “Does this make me look fat?” (however, I certainly don’t want to wear something unflattering… but I believe that’s different). She will never hear me talk negatively about my body. She will learn to love herself because she’s smart, because she’s funny, because she’s beautiful. Not because she has the perfect nose, or a flat stomach or skinny arms. I have FINALLY learned that if you love yourself inside, you love yourself outside. It is the most liberating feeling I’ve ever had in my life. Try it.

Karissa knows. Her journey to finding this love was different than mine, and yours will be different too, but the destination is the same beautiful spot. That’s why she booked this shoot. She loves her core, her soul, and because of that, she loves herself. It shows, doesn’t it?

She ran this shoot. She chose her props, locations, poses. It’s all her. I know Karissa, so I know this shoot is her personality to a “tee” and I absolutely love it. Flip flops, her wedding heels, necklaces, outfit changes… I love it all!

The best parts of these props, though, are the fabrics you see. Her husband, Daniel, is from Ghana, and his family sent her these gorgeous fabrics which she then had made into the different pieces you see. The two skirts she’s wearing are called Ankara and have an interesting history, but now are primarily made in Ghana. The purse and clutch are made from kente cloth, also made in Ghana and these specific fabrics in the purses were made in preparation for their August wedding last year.

So, as you can tell, from these little details to the big details, this shoot IS Karissa.

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Being on my soap box about “loving me” coinciding with Karissa’s shoot, I want to challenge all the women who are reading this to do the same. Find the love for yourself from within. I’d love to do it through pictures for you, but even without me, I hope you find your love. Put your family aside, put your work aside, and find who you truly are and embrace it.

Karissa, thank you so much for giving me this platform and being such a beautiful model and role model for such a powerful message.

PortraitsEringraffiti, Philadelphia