women. raw. honest. loved. (part 1)

monablog beccablog aardeblogcherylblogedenblogjameyblogjennieblog


Have you ever spent an evening with fifteen other women that was filled with only positive energy? Where there was no gossip, no cattiness, no bullshit, no sneers from across the room, no whispering behind someone else’s back, etc?

Yeah, me neither.

Until Friday, February 8th.

The evening started with the majority of these women never having met. There were shy introductions, nervous small talk while everyone got comfortable and cozy. Drinks of choice helped to calm some initial nerves. And then it began – the discussing, revealing, crying, sharing, hugging, affirming, LOVING. And, of course, the photographing, as you can see…but that felt like a side note in the whole scheme of things.

Why were we doing this? Let me give you a brief description of why.

You’ve probably seen the movie “Mean Girls”, and I’m sure you related to at least SOMEthing in it, whether you were the one bullied, the co-conspirator of the bully, or the bully yourself. We’ve all experienced at least some aspect. And we realize that it is usually destructive behavior over what is generally incredibly silly things…jealousy that someone is prettier than us, weighs less than us, has a better job than us, has a better boyfriend than us; we weren’t invited to such and such party…the list goes on. And, yes, all of those things sound like a list made by a girl in junior high or high school, but, lemme just say – I’m 35, and I hear conversations (and see…thank you, social networking) about these very silly things ALLLLLLLLL THE TIME. I also have recently felt the effects of peer “bullying”, by women who don’t even know me very well at all. I just said I’m 35, right?!?! Yeah. So, I found all of that ridiculous and it spearheaded me writing this blog here: https://alanatphotography.wordpress.com/2012/12/06/if-you-dont-have-anything-nice-to-say/ which led to this project.

One of the problems is that women tend to bond over negativity. How sad is that, ladies? We trash-talk another woman with our friend, and so our bond with our friend becomes stronger. Gross, right? I’ve been guilty of it, for sure. My stomach actually hurts to think about that now. And I wish I could apologize to anyone I’ve done this to, and actually anyone that I’ve done this WITH, as I wasn’t helping to build up that person, either. Consider this my apology, please. Pretty, pretty please.

Bottom line: talking trash generally happens because of our own insecurities. We struggle with things deep inside of us, and we inadvertently take them out on others.
So, that’s what got me thinking…

Maybe there needed to be a bigger conversation.

Maybe we needed to face those insecurities.

Maybe we needed to face them together.

Maybe we could relate to each other and get a whole new perspective on women in general.

And guess what? That’s what happened. That and so much more. I’m so grateful to these women for being so raw and honest, and so willing to bare this to not only their friends and family, but strangers alike. The ladies have used such words to describe it as: Scary. Intimidating. Exposing. Liberating. Empowering. Bonding.

As you’ll see, all of these insecurities these eighteen women face stem deep, to the core. Even those that are insecurities about physical attributes, they stem emotionally. Not just physically. So many of them (maybe all of them), go back to our respective childhoods. The ladies have mentioned that doing this has made them appreciate how much they need to pay attention to the messages that they are sending as parents, (myself included, wholeheartedly.) Hopefully, you will read and appreciate all of this as well and be able to relate in some respect, however small it may be.

We had this opportunity to recognize that all of us deal with these nagging insecurities, but that all of us are equally loved and appreciated by those close to us. Our loved ones don’t even see these insecurities, most of the time. They only see their beautiful friend/sister/mother/daughter/girlfriend/wife/etc.

That said, my goal for this project: to think about this night, and these women, when a negative thought about another woman crosses our mind. It’s natural that it happens, but, hopefully this is a reminder to check ourselves before we vocalize anything of the sort. Remember that we don’t know the struggles that that particular woman may be dealing with…that she has friends and family who love her, and that there are probably numerous reasons why they love her unconditionally.

Before you delve into reading these women’s revealing, honest, raw emotions, let me set the scene for how this project flowed.
Basically, after the responses to my previous blog about this subject, I had the women involved send me the biggest insecurity that they obsess over, that they were also willing to share with the world. This took a lot of thought on their part – most of them gave it a good month or so before really writing something up for me, because, as I’ve mentioned, it was scary.
In addition, they each selected five-to-ten family members and/or friends that they feel especially close to and sent me their names and contact info. I then proceeded to contact these individuals personally, requesting some information on what they personally love and appreciate about that particular woman. Some chose to list traits, some chose to write very emotional testimonials – all of them are so beautiful, and so appreciated, as you shall see.
As far as the night itself, I had each woman read her own write-up about her insecurity aloud. This was rarely done without resulting in tears, not just their own tears, but also the tears of fifteen other women who felt their pain. We would do this one at a time – one woman would read hers, and I would immediately take her over afterward to take her photo, holding her insecurity summed up in her own choice of words. They all got a little bit mad at me for this 🙂 because they were still crying, for the most part – but that is why I wanted the photo right then – to capture the raw emotion that they were feeling from just sharing that with this group.
Immediately following that, we would sit back down with the group and I got to read to them the kind, loving, reassuring words of their friends…which led to more tears. But, happy ones this time. (I should also mention that I didn’t share these women’s insecurities with anyone else beforehand, not even the friends and family of whom I was requesting information.)
It ended up feeling like we were hearing what would be our eulogies, since that seems to be the only time people feel free to share all of the things they love about a person. Very surreal…and very powerful.

That said, meet the ladies. (The following eight..ten, actually…are included in a PART TWO that can be found here: https://alanatphotography.wordpress.com/2013/02/12/women-raw-honest-loved-part-2/

***The project has continued…links to other groups here:
Group 2 (Teen Version!) https://alanatphotography.wordpress.com/2013/04/13/teen-version-women-raw-honest-loved/
Group 3 (55+ Version!) https://alanatphotography.wordpress.com/2013/06/27/55-version-women-raw-honest-loved/
Group 4 https://alanatphotography.wordpress.com/2013/07/30/group-4-women-raw-honest-loved/)

monainsmona ~

“Ok, so I wanted to go with the standard too fat, and too old to have a four year old, but I decided to be a bit deeper and vulnerable.

Takes deep breath and here goes:

I’m afraid that one day, I will wake up and everyone that I deeply care about will have stopped loving me. That somehow I am secretly undeserving of their love and that they will realize I am not worth it and leave me.

Because of this, I work really hard to show everyone who I care about how much they mean to me. But no matter how secure I feel in my relationships (I have been with Scott for 20 years, good relationship with my mom, many of my friends go back decades), I still have that little seed of doubt that maybe I didn’t do enough, care enough, listen enough, give enough, etc. to deserve their love.

There you go. That was hard. 
Oh and I am fat and old.”

mona’s friends and family:

“My friend, Mona, has a LOT of amazing traits but I’d like to focus on what makes her uniquely Mona.
When I think of her I picture her in a black and grey super-hero cape adorned with a super sparkly, super flashy “J” for Justice. Her cape would perfectly match her black and white coordinated superhero outfit, complete with 3-inch heels. Her sense of justice for all is what drives her other wonderful qualities – her compassion, empathy, and kindness, helpfulness to all human beings, and her deep love and loyalty to her friends. She is the superhero that coordinates and pulls together to help all, but especially her friends in need. What draws people to her is her acceptance and her sense of community.
All of this pushes me to be a better friend to other people, and that will be her legacy. She drives people to be better because she is so good at being a friend. Mona puts much thought and care into her friendships and truly understands what it means to be a real friend. As a friend, she works so hard to build you up, to support you. She is so giving and loving, and always has your back.
To sum it up, our Justice superhero is one of the best friends I’ve ever had. Her support has helped carry me through these last 4 years and I am so grateful that I get to call a beautiful (inside and out) woman like her my friend.” – noelle

“Mona: *Gives more of herself to others than any person I know
 *has an astounding capability to keep track of all the loved ones in her life – and knows exactly when to check in to celebrate a happy time or make a bad time feel better 
*is devoted to guiding her daughter into strong womanhood
 *is not afraid to say what needs to be said 
*is just a damn good friend.” – sara

“I’ve known Mona since high school… um she is an incurable spaz, seriously have never known anyone as erratic and off the cuff as she is. It’s the most beautiful thing ever!! She would bake you brownies, organize your yard sale and take a bullet for you, tirelessly!!” – andrea

“Strengths: Passion, Determination, Beauty, Brains, Compassion.” – wendy

“I admire Ramona for so many of her positive traits, but I would have to say her tenacity, wit and loyalty are among the very top of that list.” – lisa

“Mona has the biggest heart of anyone I’ve ever met. She is first to help anyone in need. She is one of those rare people who is beautiful inside and out. The definition of the word friend. Loyal even if it hurts her.” – ally

“What can I say about Ramona? I have known her all her life, maybe this due to the fact I am her Mom. She has always made me very proud of her and she still does.
Ramona is the type of person you would like to have in your corner. She is very kind, considerate, helpful, etc. She will help you selflessly, give you a shoulder to cry on, be your ally through thick and thin. When you need a friend, you can count on Ramona.
When you need help with anything, you can count on Ramona. The only thing she will ever ask for in return, play it straight with her.
I could go on and on but I think you get the picture.
I feel very blessed that she is my daughter and I love her very much.” – sylvia

“Can light up a room with her smile.
Constantly re-invents herself.
Truly cares about her friends and family and will do anything for them.
Fantastic mother & wife.
Great role model.
Super compassionate.
She always makes you feel good.
My perfect balance – “she completes me.”” – scott

becca ~

“I am insecure about my acceptability to others. (I had to look that up but it seems to go with what I’m trying to say). I don’t measure up. I’m not smart enough, not cool enough, not mom enough, not wife enough, etc. I don’t live up to what I portray myself as.”

becca’s friends and family:

“I can tell you that I think my sister is one of the coolest people I know. I always thought highly of her (well, maybe not always. I’m sure you know how sisters can be.) Though I never truly appreciated her until well after I should have. I think she’s beautiful (not just because we’re twins :D) inside and out. She’s smart, a smartass, hilarious, and a very snazzy dresser. She’s a great friend, always willing to help anyway she can, when she can. She’s a great mother. I don’t know. I just think she’s all around pretty cool.”toria

“Her ability to see the humor in every situation is one of the things I love about her. I don’t know if that’s the kind of thing you’re looking for. But also her smile and dimples. I’ve always been jealous of her dimples…I don’t think she knows that. If we’re going for the physical attributes, also – her curves. Especially since she’s had kids. I know she’s insecure about it sometimes and thinks she has huge hips, but I think it’s just made her more beautiful.”summer-lynn

“My absolute favorite thing about Becca is her honesty. If you ask her how she feels about something, she will tell you exactly how she feels – no bullshit. She’s also always willing to stand up for her friends. If we’re out at a bar with a group of friends and one of our friends runs into trouble, she will be first in line to fight for them. Whether it’s telling some asshole off, or punching some asshole in the face, Becca to the rescue! 
And she always welcomes families into her home that are falling on hard times and need a place to stay and stuff like that. Or offers hot meals to friends or acquaintances who don’t have much money.” – mallery

“Becca is an amazing mother, wife, and sister-in-law. She is kind and generous. She is patient and thoughtful. She is fun and silly. She has a beautiful smile and a great ass! Lol… I wuv her.” – jen

“Becca is a very good friend of mine. I know that when I need to talk, she will listen, not try to fix it. Just listen. That is a rare quality in our one-up society.”
She is a wonderful mother to two very busy boys.
She has a magnificent resting bitch face, not rare, but has been perfected.
She has a great sense of style, which most of the time is “I don’t give a shit what you think. I like boots with shorts. What?!”
After having two kids she went from no butt to having a nice ass!
Becca and I have the same sense of humor and hopefully will love her positive traits I have outlined!
Love You!” – ryan

aarde ~

“My insecurity is being overweight/unhealthy. I suppose it’s because I have back fat, a double chin, my mom’s stomach, and I feel like no one will really love me enough to see past it. My brain is so caught up on my weight that I can’t be confident in my being. It doesn’t help that a douche chose to use that as a reason over anything else to break my heart. I know I should exercise and eat better but when I have time to do it, I just get sad like I can never accomplish it, so I eat. I eat for comfort, I smoke for stress and I sit for rest from everyday pressures that feel out of my control. Sometimes I feel beautiful and then I see a picture of myself and think…is that what I really look like? What a gross fat pig, which is a horrible thing to run through your mind, when you thought you were beautiful. I feel like the men I am interested in are looking for someone thinner and look at me as a friend…if only I were thinner and in shape, I know I could have anyone I wanted because I have personality and compassion for days…but it doesn’t seem to matter…which brings me to feeling lame for thinking that I would want anyone that doesn’t see me for how beautiful I really am.”

aarde’s friends and family:

“Positive Trait, hummmm, let me see…
Jenny (as I know her) for me displays these beautiful traits: 
She is magic…. she lights up the room where ever she goes. 
Compassionate . . . .she takes the time to really listen. 
Versatile . . .. ready to climb the ladder or jump in the 
canoe, do whatever it takes to help someone through their 
Humble . . .she does without asking. 
Intellectually stimulating . . .
Beautiful . . .truly…. from the inside out… she is
 sunshine.” – vicki

“Kind, self-confident, self-reliant, resourceful, empathetic, great Mom, patient, quick-witted, creative, and very lovable. Beautiful lips, strong firm physique, pretty feet, nice perky bum, great smile, and pretty eyes. Geesh, the whole package for God’s sake.” – cheryl

“Aarde has a big heart and is willing to help a friend in any way she can. She has a great sense of humor; she is outgoing and will strike up a conversation with just about anyone. I think one of the things that I liked about Aarde when I first met her was that despite what she was going through in her personal life she was always laughing and having a good time. Overall she is a good friend. Even if it’s been years since I have seen her we still pick up as if no time has passed.” – jennifer

“Aarde is an amazing person…she is a great mother, a talented artist, and a wonderful friend. Her sense of humor is so bizarre and quirky; we laugh about the weirdest stuff. Definitely one of the coolest people that I have ever had the pleasure of spending time with.” – jeremy


cheryl ~

I have just started to finally be able to tell myself that I am not ugly… that I can get by to some degree regarding the physicality part…still have a hard time when people look at me or a photo is taken. 
I still feel unlovable, mostly for the reasons stated below.

I was made to feel boring and unintelligent if I spoke for very long. I was never going to be bright enough, pretty enough, or talented enough to follow the dreams that I had. 
Any feeling of self-worth as a kid was squashed. 

So, here I am, a 50 year old woman who still feels like an ugly, stupid, and boring kid unless I give myself a good talking-to, which I do quite often. 
I started my own mantra when I was seven to get me through the day and I still use it over and over. 
I feel bad for that kid and for my four of the six brothers that lived with us while I was growing up. 
There you have it – the raw and the short of it.”

cheryl’s friends and family:

“Cheryl is my constant friend from high school! She is usually the one that inspires the girls get-togethers. She enjoys friendships from so many different walks of life, the young and old alike. She is a nonjudgmental person. She is a woman of confidence. She enjoys life and seeks adventures. She loves to travel the world. Her heart is in Europe. She enjoys the finer things in life or just reading a book at home. I am proud to call her my friend.” – patrice

“She is bold, passionate, caring, kind, beautiful, hilarious, intuitive, creative, fun, almost psychic, loving, smart as a whip and so much more.” – amanda

“She is intelligent, unique, supportive, a good listener, inspiring.” – aarde

“Cheryl is: 1. Loyal 2. Fun 3. Vibrant 4. Eccentric 5. Generous. These are five traits that come to mind…” – annette

“Cheryl is a dear and trusted friend. * Cheryl was an avid social networker before Facebook existed. She has a great way of making a connection with people. * Cheryl is someone who knows her friends very well.” – deette

“Cheryl has the ability to liven up a room wherever she goes – people are drawn to her self-assurance. She puts people at ease and can get them talking, making them comfy in any situation. She is strong-willed (which is not a bad thing). She would do whatever it took to protect someone.” – vicki

“My ten words about Cheryl: the glue that keeps friends in touch. Worldly, knowledgeable, opinionated, worthy, adventurous, passionate, outgoing, fierce, independent, loyal.” – kim

“Cheryl is a very kind person. She is the most generous person I know. One of my very favorite traits about Cheryl is she is trustworthy. If you tell her something in confidence it will go no further. When we get together, we are silly and laugh. I am so relaxed with her. She does not judge anyone. Gossip, NO WAY. In fact when a conversation starts to go in that direction she is the first to say, “lets change the subject.” She really values friendships and over the years has been the one who has kept our friendships going. We all get busy in life but Cheryl is NEVER too busy to get together with her old friends. She makes me feel safe and cared for. Cheryl is one of the best women I have known in my life. I really look forward to all the fun years to come.” – deena

eden ~

“I am terrified of not living my life right, whatever right is. Which is a broad term. But I am scared of being disappointed in myself, not taking opportunities, of being scared of letting myself be alive. I am terrified of being unsatisfied, and stuck in a place of created for myself that I don’t like. In the end, I am scared of being unhappy.

Yikes, there it is.”

eden’s friends and family:

“Eden is one of the nicest and most caring persons I have ever met. She is also prettier than she will ever know!” – ashgan

“As Eden’s mother, I believe she is a bundle full of positive traits. I think her determination is one of her most outstanding traits. When she believes she can do something, even against great odds, she can do it. She makes things happen for herself. Eden also is caring and never intends to harm anyone. Eden is very smart and very capable. She delves into situations and comes away with a more thorough understanding of what is happening than most people do. Finally, Eden is open to all types of people, experiences and ideas. This openness has lead to a large variety of friends, great confidence in herself as a world traveler, being a practitioner of diversity in thought and deed, and much more.” – kim

“She is brave, accepting, and curious about all peoples, and affectionate…and she’s very clean, isn’t she.” – jerry

“I could go on for DAYS about ALL the wonderful things about Eden. She is one of my closest friends at this point and time and I can’t currently imagine life without her. 
She is Adventurous, Independent, Determined, Confident, Caring, Curious, Diligent, Considerate, and Athletic. She is very easy to talk to. Open-Minded. A go-getter. She has a ROCKIN’ Body. Naturally beautiful.” – heidi

is joyous; 
is ever-present;
 is courageous; 
is thoughtful; 
has an inspirational sense of self;
 is authentic; 
is honest;
 is sexy as hell; 
is kind and warm; 
is an amazing athlete.” – alayna

“Eden is: 
One of the sexiest ladies I know (especially the American accent ;))
Unique and not afraid to be herself. 
Always knows how to cheer someone up, such a caring friend. 
The kind of person everyone wants as a friend. 
Soooooo much fun to be around! 
Honest.” – jess

“Eden is an amazing and strong woman. She is fabulous and funny with a free-flowing laugh. Eden is a beauty inside and out. She is a force to be reckoned with – bold, brave, and bright. 
Eden is a friend who cares deeply about those around her. She is a generous woman who has become a sister and welcomed me into her own family. I just plain love this woman!” – kerri

“ahhhhh, Eden. Eden is one of my best pals, for sure. Even though there is nearly a ten year age difference, we have always gotten along brilliantly. She started as an employee of mine at the coffee shop I was managing, and she was always the first to get excited about dumbass plans that I had for theme days there…always ready to join me in some crazy adventure. She is fearless when it comes to letting loose and just being a complete dork. I love and appreciate that about her so very much.
She is sensitive, in the best way. She doesn’t ever want to offend anyone…even if it means that she hurts in the process – sort of a double-edged sword at times, I suppose. She cares deeply about her friends and family.
She is adventurous. She would love to have a reckless abandon when it comes to adventures, and I hope to see her one day be able to experience just that. I’ve loved watching her grow through her travels.
She is honest…the way you require & love & hate a best friend to be.
She is super smart and incredibly humble all at once.
She has an infectious laugh…which is lovely, as we laugh a LOT.
She is sexy as hell, and doesn’t even have a clue that she is.
She is beautiful. To her core.” – alana


jamey ~

I thought for a long while about this project and what it was asking of me. I felt that sharing my easy to admit insecurities (not pretty enough, not thin enough, not educated enough, boobs, butt, hair, etc.) didn’t quite live up to what I interpreted as the heart of the project. I decided I was going to be stupid and brave and try and admit my greatest insecurity. So I thought about it…and then I thought about it some more…and then I realized what it is. Then I argued with myself about whether or not it was honest enough. Whether or not I was phrasing it correctly. I decided there was little I could do to change the way it sounds so, here goes: I don’t believe anyone can love me. I believe I am unlovable. I can say that to you now in the letter, that part is easy…but the hard part comes when you ask me to explain it. If I have to explain it, then I have to consider why, how, I feel that way…and while I now know why I feel that way, (guh) explaining it just make me feel bad.”

jamey’s friends and family:

“Jamey is one of the best women I know. She has so many wonderful qualities, it is very hard to name just a few, but here goes…
Jamey is one of the most intelligent women I know. She could be anything in the world she wants to be, and, thankfully for her children, she has chosen to be the best mother I know. She is understanding, demanding, loving and nurturing, in her own Jamey way. She knows the pain of a difficult childhood, and has made sure that her three children had someone that loves them unconditionally. This is the greatest gift any parent can give her kids. I turn to her for advice for my own children. 
Jamey is one of the most beautiful women, who I don’t believe is truly aware of her beauty. She has a style that I only wish I could pull off. Despite the fact that she has her own unique style, that style never takes over her natural beauty. She has such a beautiful face. I have to put a lot of my beauty on. She is lucky enough to look gorgeous just as she is. 
Finally, Jamey is one of the strongest women I know. She has seen a lot in her years, but rather than wallow in self pity, or let it keep her from enjoying life, she learns and grows from life’s experiences. To be able to be philosophical about life’s shitty experiences is so important. I think she knows that the sum total of her life has made her the incredible woman she is today. I admire Jamey and all the wonderful qualities that she has. I am thankful and proud to call her my friend.” – laura

“Jamey is a fierce and loyal friend. She’s a lioness – generous, impulsive, and never backs down from a fight. She is tender to those she loves, inquisitive and hard working. Most of all, she is a devoted Mother, who always puts her children first, and whose happiness and well being are her reason to get up in the morning. She is a good wife, and incredibly beautiful. She turns hardship into challenge, and is constantly evolving. She is also a hothead, crazy *ss wacko, and I love her all the more for it, because without this, she would be insufferably perfect. I’d give her any organ I could spare, and maybe a few I could not. I am very lucky she is in my life.” – diana

“Ok, let’s see… words to describe Jamey… thorough — she’s a friend that, if you got lice from your asshole kids, would help you deal with it (since the boyfriend wouldn’t). haha. Kind, an avid recycler, spontaneous, funny– (as in HAHA but also sarcastic haha), brave, strong– (she could take a man down and stands up for her family and those she cares about), smart (hell, she homeschools Ethan) a great decorator, (we’ve all seen her house), animal lover (from her urban farming to cats and dogs and what else resides in the house, haha), good listener (she’ll let you vent but also gives you pros and cons about irrational crazy thoughts), humble, a great cook (all those years watching Food Network paid off), fun (just typing that makes me laugh…she’s a friggin’ hoot) in love (I’m surprised they get out of bed)…..” – jooley


“Lets see…I have known Jamey since we were 6yrs old. She is right in that I can share a thing or 2 or 50! 
Jamey is loyal. Even when years passed between times that we spoke, she has my back. 
Jamey might be the smartest chick I know (person, really). And I’m not just speaking of intelligence, although she has an abundance of that! 
Jamey is so funny…always. She has one of the best senses of humor of anyone I know…& I know some funny people! 
Jamey’s heart is bigger than her person. She cares deeply about everyone she meets (even those who may not deserve it). She cares deeply about causes too – environment, children, animals, human rights…
Jamey is strong. She has gone through things that would break most people and she keeps going, almost stronger after each thing. I am amazed everyday by the person she’s become. 
She is an awesome mother. She’s kind of my “mom” idol. When I have a mothering issue, I often find myself thinking, “what would Jamey do?”
I know this project isn’t about outer beauty, but she has that in spades as well…
I could go on & on about how amazing she is, but I will probably start crying and then I won’t be able to type.” – paige

“Hi Alana, 
I could write an essay about my beloved Jamey and never be able to describe her adequately. But here is the mixed bag of qualities that I admire about her. I think what makes them so great is that they are so contrasting. She isn’t one way…Majestic, Decisive,
Resourceful, Persuasive,
Brilliant.” – jillian

“Hey Alana…
I don’t know…Jamey usually just makes fun of me…
But seriously, 
I think one of the best qualities of Jamey is her confidence. She is funny and sharp-witted. She is also a fantastic mother and very protective of her children.” – greg

“My wife sees a new world. She lives a new world. She spends every single day, at great personal, emotional risk to herself, living and feeling and loving as if the people she knows and loves are somehow better than we are; somehow kinder, and gentler, and funnier, and more caring, than we are, because that is how she is, and that is what it takes to evolve. Every breath is encouragement, to be better – to try and transcend. Jamey somehow manages to live in the big picture, seeing the past and considering the future, while living within each moment, and the macrocosmic power contained within each breath, each touch, each sound, each look. She lives and loves without a net, without hesitation, and with no expectation other than to be treated with the same love, the same hope, and the same promise she gives. Our kids, who – let’s be honest – get more from her than anyone else, are the best testimonial, as they are quickly growing to be even better – their kindness, tolerance, sensitivity and intellect are entirely their mothers fault.
She’s also fucking hilarious – seriously, the funniest person I’ve ever known. Honestly, she’s so funny, she could be kind of a dick and I’d still think she was amazing. Bonus she’s not, right?” – ash

How would I describe her? 
Charming, funny, bright, compassionate, a great mother, a good friend, diligent, hard working, thoughtful.” – rebecca

“Jamey etc etc etc is the kind of woman that deserves to have a four-name-long name. This chick is one of the absolute strongest women I know. BUT, one of the things I especially love about her is that, while I rely on that strength of hers, she also lets those close to her see the other things that make her beautiful – her vulnerability and sensitivity. The woman can cut a chicken’s head off, yell at the asshole down the street, and then come in and cry with me over the latest Parenthood.
She is a friend to the death – incredibly and fiercely loyal – an ally that anyone would want on their side, while also being the secretly emotional woman you need that enveloping hug from that only she can give. She is the friend that I know I can call on to attend a memorial for innocent children that we never knew, but feel their loss as if they were our own. She is the one that will hold my hand at those times that I just need to FEEL.
She is selflessly generous.
She is a super devoted, loving, and protective mother (in the most balanced, perfect way). One that I take many a lesson from in mommying, like how to be nurturing when it goes against your normal grain…
She exudes love for her family and earns that love and respect back.
She is super intelligent and very self-aware and aware of the world around her. As dumb as the world can often be, she is not fazed.
Have I said that she’s beautiful? She is STUNNING. The most fabulous tattoos, always the best hair, the best style (even when it’s a peacoat with yoga pants, she looks amazing), and just the way she carries herself – she exudes confidence. People can’t help but stare at how gorgeous she is. I think one of my favorite things to watch her do is to cover her mouth when she laughs, as her nose scrunches up all cute – I see this gorgeous woman transform into an adorable little girl for a minute. J
The chick is HILARIOUS. I could go on for hours about this. We have enjoyed many a night where we just end up in a heap of tears on her kitchen floor from laughing so hard. There are probably pictures. Indeed, there are pictures. But they will never capture the actual extent of the hilarity. For that, you must experience Jamey for yourself. Everyone should be lucky enough to have that privilege.
p.s. she’ll also watch The Cure dvd trilogy with me for many hours in one sitting…gotta love that!” – alana


jennie ~

“I would have to say that the insecurity that plagues me the most is my skin. For such a long time I have been battling acne scars, eczema, and very irritable skin. As I have grown older things have gotten better, but I still feel the need to hide in my clam shell whenever my skin breaks out.”

jennie’s friends and family:

“Alright, so she and I have been friends since the last day of high school. We met through a mutual friend and both decided she was crazy and we needed to be friends. She’s my hetero life mate. She’s always been so real with me. Even though it pisses me off sometimes, she always gives the best advice. After talking to her, I always feel like I have a way better grip on reality and what to do in any situation I’m in. She has the best family ever, and if you know her and her parents, you realize why she is the way she is. She cares way too much for others… sometimes to the point where it becomes a problem because she’s trying make everyone happy when everyone’s already happy. But she only means well. She’s so personable and can talk to anyone. She’s one of those people that becomes friends with my boyfriends and if I have to leave to go to work or something, she will stay and chill. She’s always been there for me through thick and thin, and in ways that other people could never think of being. I found out that my 5 year old cousin was killed when I was with her and a boyfriend of mine. I left to go on a drive for a while and then go see my mom. When I got back they had made me the most delicious cake that was totally me. It was black and white stripey Oreo Pie cake with a quote I used to say all the time: “Look at me go.” They fucked it up, even, but it was better than it should have been. It was the perfect idea to help me feel a little better, and to remember to laugh and be positive in a time where you can’t even think about it. She the man!” – kt

“What can I say, Jen is my soulmate of best friends and a hero to me. She probably doesn’t know, or realize it, but she’s saved my life a time or two. From the very beginning, at a time my life had so much darkness, she shined a light right through it, the day we became bf’s. It’s been nearly 14 years (I think) since that day and I thank God for every moment and memory I have with her.
I don’t know if anyone else (other than Jim- cause he just knows everything) knows the triumphs Jennie has had over her insecurities like I do, to be honest. I think when Jen and I became friends, she was probably her most insecure self. And although Jen is the same beautiful, kind, and funny girl that she was 14 years ago, she’s not the same girl I met – she’s so much more than that girl. She’s so full of life, when she laughs…I mean really laughs… you can see, hear, and feel how the world values someone like her.
The honesty Jennie has towards herself as to who she is as a person portrays so much about how she treats others and who she allows to have in her life. Her morals, dignity, compassion, and unconditional love are qualities most people strive to have. As an example, watching Jennie grow as a woman – all that she has accomplished and overcome in such a spiritual way, how she applies and lives out all that she has learned and still learning till this day – allows me to put her so high up on a pedestal in my life…that when I look into my daughter’s eyes, and think about all that I wish for her life and for her to be, not only do I think of her father and I… but I think of Jennie and who she is, and hope that my daughter will live and love in the aspiring way that Jennie has.
I have so much more I could say about her, but knowing my Jennie, she already knows how much I love her and all the things I love about her. And she’s not a person who doesn’t love herself or lets insecurities get in the way of that… My Jen has confidence, and those that don’t have confidence in her or think she has too much confidence generally get a real sophisticated fuck you… so I will end with this comment…
I think the only down fall Jennie has is that she doesn’t realize how truly special she is to people and how much she makes a difference in their lives. And now I will address Jen- “Jen, you’re not just another person in this world, you’re an inspiration- a movement-a statement to this world, and we desperately need more people like you… so with that said, my love, don’t stop with just inspiring me – get out there and inspire others.
Love always,
Sami aka “Yoshi”” – samantha

“My sister Jennie is a lot of amazing things…She is the Best friend that a person could ask for. She is caring and kind and always there when you need her. One of the things I love about her is her views on life…She is very realistic about things, and very honest about what she feels, and I love that! She is a very positive & real person!” – shellie

kt ~

“My insecurity is that I’m a picky eater. Might sound dumb, but its something I totally struggle with. I’ve definitely gotten better the last few years but I might still be pickier than grey (alana t’s son). Doesn’t help that as a kid my parents didn’t really have me eating fruits or veggies or anything out of the ordinary. In fact, I was forced to just eat the same few meals every week even if I didn’t like it. My dad always ate pineapple at dinner and they literally made me gag, but I still had to eat them everyday, even if he had to shove them down my throat. Made for great family time. Growing up, I only ate grilled cheese sandwiches at restaurants. My mom would even make like Chinese restaurants make em’ for me. When my mom remarried, my step-sisters took to calling me “bread girl” because that was what you could always count on me eating if I didn’t like anything else at the table. It made it difficult to eat at other’s houses or eat meals with boyfriends on a regular basis. Funny thing… I’m even picky about liquids – I only drank water my whole life. No milk, no soda, no juice. Even as I got older, I didn’t start drinking forever cuz, hey, I didn’t want to try any beers or anything. So even tho I’ve been excited about this get-together with you guys… I don’t like wine and I know it’s not a big thing. I’ll bring some beers (I do like me some beer now but its just always been that feeling like I gotta always be the odd ball.) And fortunately I’m not super sensitive and don’t have many insecurities, so I can usually just deal and laugh it off. But It was always embarrassing for me to have to order off the kids menu as a young adult, or once I started eating other stuff, I’d always have to special-order my meals. Plain cheese burgers, meat and cheese only tacos…. stuff like that. On top of being picky, I hate trying new things, but that kinda goes without saying.
One of my boyfriends always wanted me to try new things. We’d go out to restaurants that literally had nothing I’d like and it would totally put me in a bad mood. One time we went to a Mexican place and the waitress only spoke Spanish, so I had him order my tacos – I wanted meat and cheese only, but he thought it would be good for me to branch out and order what he wanted for me without telling me. When my food came, I was totally stuck because I really couldn’t/wouldn’t eat it. It was super lame and again brought the spirits down.
I try not to be like that but it’s really hard. Makes me feel like a kid. There is a somewhat good reason behind it though. I can’t smell. Never really have been able to. I can sense fumes and things like that just not so much fragrances. So therefore I don’t have a great sense of taste either, meaning I rely greatly on texture, and a lot of food has really bad texture. Like, I absolutely hate onions. Doesn’t matter how tiny they are – in my spaghetti, or tacos, or whatever – I can always tell when I bite down on one cuz I’m hypersensitive to it, so it totally grosses me out. So ya. That’s my insecurity in a nutshell. I hate that I’m a picky eater and considering it’s one of those things you do all the time, I constantly have to be like, “Hey look at me, I’m a child.””

kt’s friends and family:

“Katee is driven w/ imagination, focus, and hope! She is determined to develop herself and become successful as a human and w/ her passion. She is the type of person that you enjoy being around cause she makes you want to be a better person also!!!” – sativa

“KT is an amazing loyal friend, unique, confident, one of the most generous people you will ever meet, great with kids, extremely creative, hard working, incredibly positive, destined for absolute greatness and stardom – HANDS down!!! One of the coolest people I know! One last thing … Once you meet her she is one of those few people that are just completely unforgettable.” – brittaney

“KT, You are beautiful. You are so amazingly talented and so creative, your art amazes me. I love that you never stop fighting for everything and everyone that you love. Your love for your family and friends is unsurpassed. I remember that being the first thing I noticed about you, and I said “yea, we’re gonna be best friends.” And, man am I glad that we are. You are one of the most thoughtful people that I know. You give so much of your heart to everything that you do, and that is why everything that you do is always so amazing! And last, but most certainly not least, you are an amazing friend. Good times or bad, you are always right there with me – loving me and being a great friend. I always appreciate it. I am so grateful to have such an awesome best friend whose awesomeness is out of this world! Oh yea, did I mention you’re awesome?! Love you KT” – jenn I e

“As long as we’ve known each other, which is the better part of 15 years, she has been a beautiful human. There’s never been a moment that we’ve had together that she wasn’t willing to help. Or even just exist with another person. Like if you were to need someone around, but didn’t feel obligated to talk – KT is that person. She’s attentive, but not attention-seeking. When she talks to you about your problems, it’s about your problems, not her life in light of them. KT has always known how to care about people without a self-serving attitude.
Creatively, she’s one of my personal inspirations. She views art in a pure space. Where you do what you love, and find even more to love after the fact. She hasn’t let herself stop learning and I’m happy that I’ve gotten to watch her do what she loves and I’ve gotten to watch her hone in on her talents and really bring them out. She’s willing and ready to break out of her shell, but still keep in tune with her own talents and sense of self. We all have problems with knowing ourselves, but she’s actually happy in her identity. It boggles my mind sometimes. While she’s seen me change from this to that, she’s never really strayed from her own identity.
I really haven’t seen KT be anything but a beautiful human. Between inside jokes, drawing together, or just driving aimlessly across town trying to find something to do with no money, it’s always been honest and awesome. She’s a rare person where insincerity isn’t really an option – you get what you get. And instead of that being one of those “I’m a bitch and I know it” people, you just get someone who’s honest, and who hates nonsense. Not because it inconveniences them, but because it’s a waste of time. She’d rather be doing something productive, always.
She’s a brain that would rather laugh with you than find bits and pieces to tear apart or “fix.” And it’s nice to have someone who isn’t brutally judgmental watching you meander through life and love. And laugh at you like a friend when the inevitable happens, instead of pushing the fact that she’s smarter than you. Which there’ve been plenty of chances to do. I don’t know what else to say… KT is just a great person. Creative, beautiful inside and out, and a kind of neutral that seems almost impossible in today’s world. She loves, always. And acts as if that love is the only thing that really matters or holds any tacit value in life.” – chris

“Katee Carroll Wright born Christmas Eve 1986… she will hate that I used her middle name. She prefers KT. Sitting here trying to figure out how not to write a book. She is a very old soul, wise beyond her years. She is my best friend! I have turned to her in many trying situations with family members, she always has the words that make so much sense, when no one else’s do. I’m so proud to be her Mom!!!” – mom

“As for KT, she is an awesome person. My step sister is quite an amazing person. She has always been her own individual that has been judged by her appearance. She has a heart of gold. People have been so quick to do the same as you talk about, whisper like kids and throw dirty looks at first glance, but she is a great aunt that is involved with all her nieces and nephew, Gives great advice, and even when struggling inside herself, still manages to stay positive and rain light on any situation. She’s had her hard times in life, but has always pulled herself in the right direction. 
Not sure what all you are looking for, but KT is a great person, not judgmental, and just fun to be around. She enjoys laughing and having a good time which usually results in her photography as well!” – val

Group 1, Part 2: https://alanatphotography.wordpress.com/2013/02/12/women-raw-honest-loved-part-2/
Group 2, TEENS!: https://alanatphotography.wordpress.com/2013/04/13/teen-version-women-raw-honest-loved/
Group 3, 55+: https://alanatphotography.wordpress.com/2013/06/27/55-version-women-raw-honest-loved/
Group 4: https://alanatphotography.wordpress.com/2013/07/30/group-4-women-raw-honest-loved/
Group 5: https://alanatphotography.wordpress.com/2013/11/12/group-5-women-raw-honest-loved/
Group 6: https://alanatphotography.wordpress.com/2014/01/29/group-6-women-raw-honest-loved/
roup 7, MEN!: https://alanatphotography.wordpress.com/2014/03/13/group-7-men-nope-not-women-men-raw-honest-loved/
roup 8: https://alanatphotography.wordpress.com/2014/04/09/group-8-women-raw-honest-loved/
roup 9, Moms & Daughters: https://alanatphotography.wordpress.com/2014/11/11/moms-daughters-group-9-featuring-melissa-lily/


  1. KT Wright · February 11, 2013

    Even though I was there when all this happened I just had to sit here and read it all again. So amazing. Thank you again and again Alana and all the women and their friends and family for helping make this what it has become. I cannot wait to see where it goes! The possibilities are endless.

    • alanatphotography · February 11, 2013

      love you so very much! thank YOU for being a part!!! yours touched me so much because it come around and kicks you in the face…makes you think. really think. ❤

  2. Becca · February 11, 2013

    This was one of the best nights of my life. One of the best things was just the atmosphere. Started out nervous, anxious and shy but ended with tears, awesome hugs, laughter, love, new friends and a better appreciation of old ones. I honestly feel it changed my life. I was intimidated by these ladies at the beginning but by the end I realized, hey, we’re all not so different, I don’t need to be scared. Im sure my insecurities will still rear their ugly heads but when they do, Im ready for them. All I have to do is remember this night and these amazing lovely women. I think everyone should do something like this, even without the photos, although they’re a great added bonus.

    • alanatphotography · February 11, 2013

      you wrote that so well. ❤ I'm so glad to have had you as a part of this – I feel like I know you a hundred times better, and love you all the more for it.

  3. jan · March 13, 2013

    what a fantastic idea.

  4. Adam Drake · March 18, 2013

    This is so cool, but kind of heartbreaking. Amazing creativity and project!

    • alanatphotography · March 18, 2013

      I agree. It’s amazing what has come from it, though. Many of these women, myself included, don’t struggle so much with each of our particular noted insecurities since sharing and discussing them that evening. It’s been incredibly freeing and liberating…to extents that have surprised all of us.

      Thank you so much for reading!!! And for commenting!

  5. Thanks for doing this feature. I identify so much with Jennie. My skin is one of my biggest insecurities for the exact same reasons as her.I am 23 now and have battled with acne for the past 12 years and with eczema for as long as I can remember. I try to downplay it by telling myself that it is such a trivial and vain insecurity but well, it honestly does eat me up. I still get a little anxious when someone looks me in the face or speaks close to me as I imagine them noticing all my enlarged pores, whiteheads,blackheads and scars and getting disgusted by the sight. Because sometimes I do disgust myself. Anyway, thanks for this post. It’s very encouraging.

    • alanatphotography · March 19, 2013

      thank you so much for sharing!!!
      You know, I always did the same thing…played down my feelings about my weight as being trivial and vain…but, when it’s something that you obsess about every minute, it’s definitely NOT trivial.
      I can’t speak for Jennie, but, in my own case, since discussing this with the other women that night and hearing how my friends and family see me, it’s not as big of a deal anymore. It’s not like it vanished, but it is wayyyyyy less significant. 🙂 I encourage every woman to do the same, if you can. It’s very liberating.
      If you do it, let me know how you feel later…I’d really like to hear about it. Here’s to more positive thoughts about yourself!!! ❤

      • Thank you for the pointers and I will let you know. I’ll follow your blog and keep up with what you’re doing, love your pictures by the way :).

      • alanatphotography · March 19, 2013

        yayyyyyy!!! thank you!!!

  6. Michelle · March 20, 2013

    Reblogged this on The Persnickety Eater and commented:
    This isn’t about food… But it’s about life, expectations, beliefs, community, communication and, ultimately, love… And I can get behind the message here. With love, Michelle xoxo

  7. Michelle · March 20, 2013


    I haven’t had a chance to read every bit of all of the posts about this event yet (though what I have read had me in tears), but I was wondering if you have plans or a vision of growing this activity? I’m so great business mind, but the soul in this sings so loudly that I felt compelled to ask. I can only imagine how difficult yet freeing an experience like this would be! I imagine, too, that there are a GREAT many people who would benefit from this format. I love the idea and how you pulled it off – huge, glorious kudos to you and these fine, brave women!

    • alanatphotography · March 20, 2013

      Thank you so very much!
      I definitely do have a vision/plans to continue the project…I wrote a bit about it yesterday here, https://alanatphotography.wordpress.com/2013/03/19/can-i-bake-you-all-some-cookies-or-somethin/
      for the sake of not repeating it all in a comment. but, as I say there, I definitely need help…especially from the business minds, as that is not me! haha
      I won’t be able to do this too much without somehow acquiring funding, or having to request payment (which feels wrong somehow)…but, as it is my career (i.e. my way to pay off school loans and bills like everyone else), I’ve gotta actually think business for a change and figure something out that achieves my goal, but also can cover the time it takes me away from my family.
      I know SOMETHING will present itself that feels right – that doesn’t take away from the message, but that enables me to keep going. That’s what I’m searching for.

      P.S. I took a stroll over to your page and it compels me to tell you that you should definitely read KT’s post here…her insecurity is being a picky eater…

  8. zememoves · March 20, 2013

    I love this project.

    • alanatphotography · March 21, 2013

      ❤ yay! thank you! stay tuned, as I promise there will be more, if I have anything to say about it…

  9. fairykisses3 · March 24, 2013

    This is the best thing I’ve read in the longest time. Congratulations, u are inspiring, and I can’t wait to see more.

  10. Maja M · March 26, 2013

    Hi Alana,

    Wow! What a great and touching project!

    We would feel blessed if we could share it on our website (globalyogahub.com).

    If you are interested could you please email us at globalyogahub@gmail.com (I couldn’t find your contact here), so we can talk a bit more about it.

    Sending much love to you and the beautiful & courageous ladies,


  11. Kruel Intentions · March 26, 2013

    I can’t even explain how beauitful this is.. I am speechless. Truly amazing in every aspect, touches every part of my soul. I bow down to all of you.

    • alanatphotography · March 26, 2013

      thank you! I really appreciate you taking the time to read it and comment. ❤

  12. Pingback: women. raw. honest. loved. (part 1) | Prappleye's Blog
  13. emily ledgard · April 5, 2014

    This is a beautiful and moving idea/project. I commend you for putting all the work and effort and heart into its completion. I feel like it speaks to me personally, and wish i could have taken part. Your finished product will no doubt move many people, by both whatever media you produce from it, and the changes in lives it can and will affect privately. This is so worth all your time and efforts. Please continue, and know you have my utmost respect.

    • alanatphotography · April 5, 2014

      Thank you so much! And you can absolutely still take part! It is an ongoing project and I have a list of names for future participation, so, if you’d like to be added, just send me your email address. 🙂
      And thank you so much for your kind comments…it definitely keeps me motivated to keep the project going. ❤

      • JoNette Rollene · May 2, 2015

        I’m in Iowa, heard your interview on public radio on the way home from town (12.2 miles). It’s the first time I’ve ever sat in the car and listened to the radio instead of getting the groceries directly to the house. We need this project, we desperately need your project. My friend Lynette is trying to call attention to mental health issues in our church (ELCA Lutheran) Our assistant to the bishop (NEIowa Synod) listed a web site on bullying on his Face Book page yesterday. I could go on.
        I am 73, well-educated and well-traveled. I winter 4 months of the year in AZ. In recent years I felt secure about life until I lost my husband of 44 years. I have had some time to think about my life and my call for those years still left on this planet. Please let me know how we can use your gained knowledge and experience in our church and community. This could be huge. Thanks

      • alanatphotography · May 2, 2015

        JoNette, thank you so much! This message is very special to me and I would absolutely love to help out in any way that I can. Feel free to contact me at alanatphotography@gmail.com and we can chat through some things and see what can be done! I look forward to hearing from you! ❤

      • alanatphotography · May 2, 2015

        JoNette, do you mind me using your comment here on my Facebook page for the project? I love when I get meaningful comments from people and like to encourage others to speak up, as well. I think people would love this. 🙂

  14. Rozanne · March 11, 2015

    Reblogged this on Life is Rozie and commented:
    So, this link was given to me by Alana in one of the comments of the beauty article.
    Amazing, creative work that shows the contrasts between two different realities: how we see ourselves, and how others see us.



  15. Pingback: are you beautiful? I asked 100 men what ‘physical beauty’ is and the results shocked me | Life is Rozie
  16. Wendy L Geiger · March 12, 2015

    Wow, this is really good stuff!

  17. Pingback: Suicide. Insecurity. Self-Esteem. And the power of communication. Group 11 – Decorah, Iowa Teens! | alana t photography
  18. Pingback: beauty (blk text on white background) teeth – Love The Life You Are

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