What do you consider beautiful?

Last week, at HealtheVoices 2019: A Little Heart Can Do Big Things,  we had the opportunity to hear keynote speaker Rick Guidotti. He is a remarkable photographer but more importantly, he is genuine, kind and so passionate.

Very briefly, Rick worked in major fashion capitals all over the world for clients like GQ, Yves St Laurent and Revlon, photographing models and what were considered the most beautiful people. Then, on a break in NYC one day, he noticed a girl at the bus stop. She had white hair, pale skin and had albinism. He wanted to learn more about it and genetic differences and sadly only found images in medical textbooks that were dehumanizing. Children were seen as a disease, not as people. Rick changes paths and stopped working in the fashion industry and created a not-for-profit organization named Positive Exposure.
Back to the conference. Rick surprised everyone at the end when he told us we could all have a photograph session with him that we could freely use (that’s huge!) At the end of his keynote, many people wanted to express their gratitude, including myself. I heard many people in line discussing make up, how to style their hair and what outfit they would wear to their photo shoot.
I decided to take a different approach due to something that had happened a few days earlier. I was in my apartment and going over some content for a video I wanted to record. My hair was pulled back into a ponytail (as it normally is) and as I shot the video, something caught me off guard. I really noticed the intent on my head due to the brain surgery I had to have when I had my strokes.
It’s not as if I haven’t seen this before. I’m fully aware that my head can look lopsided but for some reason (I was not having the best day and it was likely the culmination of a few things) but I really noticed the indent and it bothered me. I just felt sad. I saw my mom that evening and whispered to her what I noticed earlier that day and she just held me and hugged me. Normally I’m proud of my differences and imperfections but that day, I just felt weird and ugly. It wasn’t a pleasant feeling.
So for my photo shoot with Rick, I wanted to look like I normally do – Frizzy hair, ponytail, little to no make up and simple clothes. It’s easy to feel pretty when I’m on TV or doing a shoot when my hair and makeup is done by experts and I’m dressed up with fancy heels. I wanted this photo shoot to represent the everyday me. A photo I could turn to when I’m at my desk and maybe not feeling as good or beautiful or having a frustrating or crummy day.
I’ll share the photos once I get them but one of the amazing members of the organizing team took these of Rick and me. In the past week, I’ve looked at these pictures and within a millisecond, I find myself smiling. It makes me think of Rick and his incredible gift of capturing inner beauty and how that radiates outward into a beaming smile, glowing eyes and that feeling of confidence.
Note: Janssen Global Services, LLC, paid for my travel expenses for the conference. All thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own