(TEEN version!) women. raw. honest. loved.


Remember being a teenager?

Especially being a teen girl…
Ugh. The skepticism. The self-doubt. The pressure to be prettier, thinner, funnier, more athletic, smarter, more popular…the list goes on.

Now, take those feelings and maybe multiply them by 100.
With the pressures induced by media and social networking adding to those already crappy feelings they are prone to have about themselves, I would hate to be in these girls’ shoes today.

I went on a field trip this year with my daughter (who is days away from turning 13, and is just now tiptoeing {CONFIDENTLY, I might add} through these waters), and my eyes were opened WIDE as to what she deals with among her peers on a daily basis. Thankfully, the particular group of girls that I had in this group were pretty level-headed girls…smart, fun, goofy girls in seventh grade…acting like seventh graders. But, as I looked around on the bus I observed LOUD, crass, mean, gossipy girls all around. Girls who were wearing layers of makeup. Girls who were doing the best to make their school uniforms as revealing as possible. Girls who seemed quite sexualized already, sadly, at their age. I’m not saying these girls are the majority, but they make up a good number. And I could see many girls around them desperately seeking their approval, hanging on their every word…trying hard to be their friends. And this was just on a couple of bus rides…only a smidgin of a glance into a middle-school girl’s everyday world.

My heart hurt a little bit.

And it scared the crap out of me.

How does this pressure affect my own daughter? Is she really as level-headed as she seems and can rise above it all, or is there a part of her that gets confused about all of it and feels the need to be like everyone else? Will her own insecurities then do as mine did – become a nagging voice in her head always bringing her down? Or will they not only possibly bring her down, but turn her into another “mean girl”, one who takes these pent-up insecurities out on other girls and women along the way? How do I stop this?

I do understand that the feelings…the insecurities…are somewhat inevitable.

But, the outcome? I don’t think the outcome needs to be the same.

Well, I sort of put those thoughts after that field trip out of my head for awhile.
Until I did the original women’s project with my own peers.
Originally, I wanted a change because of that very apparent fact about women: that we have a tendency to internalize our insecurities and then, in turn, take these things out on other women, disparaging them, ruining lines of communication and support between ourselves and other women that we should instead be seeking.
Interestingly enough, that evening we ended up realizing that most of these insecurities have had their roots for a very long period of time. Generally starting or building up significantly around the times we were these girls’ ages.

So, it was decided: the next project needed to take place with girls in this age group.

Because, not only did the original project achieve the objective: to check ourselves before we disparage another woman…to think about this night, and these women, when a negative thought about another woman crosses our mind…to 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…
but, it also had a few unexpected benefits: we each have come away with a bit more love for ourselves, not so much of a focus on the nasty messages in our heads, and opened lines of communication with our loved ones. How awesome would it be if we could have done that yeeeeeeears ago?!

So, after brainstorming with a few of the ladies from the initial women’s project (Rachel, Jamey, and Rhi), and with their help (THANK YOU, LADIES!!!!!), the stage began to be set for the teen project.

Our hope was that these girls’ insecurities would not have too much of a root yet, but, that maybe the evening could promote among them an understanding and acceptance of their own peers and an appreciation of what makes they themselves individual and unique – which can hopefully promote empowering thinking, and not only prevent a bullying of others, but encourage them to stand up for others when they see this happening.

Well, here is how the night went down…
The girls arrived little by little. There were some super quiet, super shy, sometimes awkward introductions made, as I only knew two of these girls personally. The rest had only corresponded briefly with me via phone and email about the project. It was obvious that they were nervous. Honestly, it was obvious that all of us were nervous. Rachel, Jamey, Rhi, and I all sorta kept looking at each other like “this should be interesting…”, and then decided to have a glass of wine before beginning…allowing us to relax a touch, and allowing the girls to get to know one another a little (as many of them had just met for the first time as well).
We found it pretty cool when suddenly we realized that all of the girls had disappeared into Isabella’s room (for this project she will further be referred to as Izzlebizzle – her request) 🙂 to chat and giggle as teen girls do, subsiding their own nerves a bit.
We let things evolve as so, finally rounding the girls up downstairs to begin things.

And so, we started chatting.
I explained a bit about the project…the beginnings of it, what compelled me to start it, my personal experiences behind it. The other ladies did a bit of explaining what it’s meant to them since our project night. And then we turned it over to the girls…who didn’t really have questions, but were on the same page as us…understanding where we were coming from, excited, and maybe a bit apprehensive to address this topic.

Let me just mention here that we were dealing with some SUPER AMAZING, super intelligent, broad-thinking, empathetic, mature young women, as you will soon find out…

We showed them a couple of clips from the documentary “MissRepresentation“, as it speaks a lot about both media and society’s pressures on girls to look and act a particular way, often inadvertently (and sometimes advertently) discouraging girls from being themselves, from taking leadership roles, from finding importance beyond body image, etcetera.

I had come to the interesting realization, in preparation for this evening, that most of these girls’ shared insecurities had nothing to do with the physical. This was incredibly impressive to me, while also making me curious.
Is this actually the case?
Are they really not hung-up on/somewhat obsessed with physical appearance?
Is our society and media maybe putting so much pressure on personal appearance that these girls have already recognized it for how shallow it is and risen above??? If so, AWESOME.
OR, is this the age they’re at…where, seeing as this project would be public…they didn’t really want to call attention to these things?

I still cannot share that answer with you. The answer I’m going with is the first one. They’ve risen above. That is my hope.

In any case, please appreciate these girls’ honesty. Most of these insecurities were read with hesitation in their voices, cracking tones, falling tears, emotions on their sleeves.

I am inspired by each and every one of them. I’m positive that you will be, too.

And now, meet the girls (ages ranging from 12-17)…

*The process in which I did the photographing for this was the same as for the initial project, which was explained in the first blog posts, found here:


mayamaya ~

“My insecurity is not being perfect. I try my best in school but hardly ever get straight A’s. I’ve been playing the violin since 4th grade and I’m in the back of the second violin in Youth Symphony. I also can be really mean and make others feel bad even if I didn’t mean for it to be that way.”

maya’s friends and family:

“Dedicated to schoolwork, Musically talented, Piercing Brown Eyes, Generous, Fun, Entertaining, Loving, Feisty, Beautiful, Clever, Trustworthy, Confident, Aiden (my son) loves her, Genuine.” – jessica

“Has great charisma, Very easy to talk to, Creatively passionate, Wonderful Musician, Looks great in anything, Charming, An old soul who is wise for her years.” – sadie

“I have known Maya since she was a little girl, so I have many impressions of her. My most vivid, oddly enough, is of her at a distance from me, at the age of twelve or thirteen, running in an orchard at dusk. As the light was fading I could only make out her silhouette. Other children were running around frantically trying to find a hiding spot or something, but Maya was being so perfectly Maya. Moving gently and thoughtfully. Leaping higher than the others (just for the joy of it and because she could), Shifting quietly and with grace. Making her way without sound. A little woodland creature.
The other most vivid memory that I have of Maya is from when she was no more than six. She had come to our house with her little sister and the children were outside playing in the garden. I was doing the thankless job of polishing the main stairs in our house and I was moving stair by stair as I polished. I thought I was alone in the house as I could hear the children outside calling to one another. When I heard a sound above me I looked up suddenly, and there was little Maya. Her sweet face so serious and earnest, she asked if it would be ok if she stayed with me while I worked. I don’t think she was unhappy or upset with the others, just that she preferred to watch the methodical process and have a quiet conversation. We worked slowly and carefully on those stairs, not saying much, but working together happy and peaceful until the others came in.
Maya: Gentle, thoughtful, quiet, graceful, serious, earnest, happy, peaceful, loyal, wise.” – megan

“Brave, Tenacious, Intelligent, Honest, Beautiful, Creative, True to her heart, Silly, Runs fast, Jumps high, Best camp bed-maker ever!” – natalie

“Elegant, Determined, Dedicated, Strong, Full of Promise, Slyly Funny, Whip-Smart, Thoughtful, Stunningly Beautiful, Sweetly Shy, Compelling.
Maya is an amazing young woman. She is talented in areas that aren’t supposed to be compatible — music & engineering, humor & stoicism. She is incredibly smart, but she also strives to achieve – so her accomplishments are that perfect combination of dreams & desires plus true effort. I think Maya is going to accomplish great things — things we can’t even imagine right now.” – shannon

“Maya is a force to be reckoned with. She is fearless and brave and knows what she believes in. Maya is one of those kids who can be terrified or intimidated on the inside, but, take a deep breath, square her shoulders, and walk into any situation as if it is just a stroll in the park. She has a calm and logical way of approaching life that is so refreshing. When she finds something that interests her, she is passionate about her commitment to it – whether it is the violin, building robots, drawing, playing piano or high-jumping. If you are lucky enough to be Maya’s friend, you will have a steadfast and dedicated companion. Maya just might rule the world someday, and we might all be better for it. I am proud and honored that she is my daughter.” – shari

bellag bella ~

“I have a lot of insecurities, but I think the one that bothers me the most is the constant fear that my peers will decide they don’t like me and disconnect me from social situations. When I was in elementary school, I was friends with one girl in the fifth grade, and one day she randomly began to ignore me. I was in such emotional distress, I had honestly no clue what I had done. Eventually, this girl sent me a not so nice email, claiming I was the rudest person she had ever met and that nobody else liked me, even though I never did anything besides worship the ground that little girl walked on. Ever since then, I’ve always worried about people not liking me. I’m in this semi-constant fear that my friends are mad at me, or think I’m dull, annoying etc. It’s hard for me not to be paranoid and I hope I’m not alone..”

bella’s friends and family:

“Brilliant, Kind, Huggable, Nerve-Calming, Compassionate, Adventurous, Courageous, Strong, Excited, Helpful, Always there when someone needs her, Problem Solving, Beautiful” – oscar

“Bella is very creative and has a great sense of humor. She is not afraid to express her individuality through her clothing and doesn’t hide her personality. Bella helps me with homework whenever she can. She is a great sister.” – chloe

I’m a friend of Bella’s and I’m here to yell at you about how amazing she is and stuff!
Honestly, Bella’s one of the best friends I’ve ever had (since preschool actually, I’m a super credible source), and I’m so honored to call her that. She’s one of the most understanding people you will ever meet, she’s incredibly encouraging and she will never give up on someone. Bella is incredibly understanding and a total joy to be around, plus she’s super smart (she was in the gifted program back at Kalles). She’s super artistic and musical, and I’ve never met anyone more genuinely incredible than her.” – carissa

“Isabella is an intelligent and free-spirited young woman whom I admire very much. She has a great sense of humor and a wonderful laugh. I love that Bella is so passionate about her beliefs. She is a beautiful girl with a fresh outlook on life, and she is very stylish!” – jenny

“Bella is one of the three smartest, sweetest, funniest, and prettiest great nieces in the universe. Plus, she’s not just a great niece, she is an awesome great niece!
She is articulate, creative, caring, compassionate, and deeply intellectual.
Bella isn’t afraid to ask questions. That’s the great secret to learning.
Bella looks for unique solutions to challenges. When she is determined to accomplish something and encounters an obstacle, she will continue to look for a way to go over, under, around, or through the hurdle.
Bella loves her family and her animals. One of the best ways to learn about someone is to look at how he or she treats animals.
When something runs counter to her sense of justice she swings into action to take corrective measures. She is also a true thinker with an unmatched sense of humor.” – uncle sam

“I have been best friends with Isabella’s mother, Ursula, for well over twenty years. Once Isabella was born, I became her surrogate Aunt and godmother, so I have been on the periphery of her life since she has been born.
Isabella was always a strong and intelligent child, and it has been a privilege to watch her maintain these traits as she moves into adulthood. I have always been struck by Isabella’s will to do what’s right even if it’s not popular. I have been impressed with her willingness to be involved in the LGBT community and crusade for the underdog, even though it might not be the “cool” thing to do. It is just one example of her strength of character and compassion, and it makes me feel a lot better about the future of our society that we have people like her in it. I could go on for pages about her creativity and wit, but was advised I had to keep it to a paragraph.
Thank you for the opportunity to sing her praises.” – kerry

“The following is a list of what makes my precious niece, Bella (beautiful)…
-She is kind.
-She cares for all critters; two legged (people), four legged, scaled, feathered or furred.
-She loves deeply.
-She is very intelligent in a humble manner. Never flaunting her intelligence but rather using it to teach others, especially those who are younger, with a desire to help them understand something new.
-She has a wicked sense of humor but never at the expense of others.
-She is a good listener. What you say is important to her and she shows it in her eye contact, body language, and how she engages in the conversation.
-She has a hunger of knowledge and is inquisitive. She lives and breathes books for the adventure and understanding they afford and enjoys discussions that stretch her intellectually.
-She loves her family deeply and enjoys spending time with her favorite Aunt (her best quality, I might add!). All family is important to her.
-She pursues her music passion with fervor and dedication and loves to share it with others.
-She is a good encourager, especially to those who are younger.
-She is helpful, especially to her mother with her younger siblings, and does it with a joyful heart knowing it makes a positive difference in her mother’s life.
-She is an independent thinker, able to assess information and make an informed decision on her own behalf without worrying about what others think.
-She looks at the world beyond herself and searches for ways she can make a difference in this world today and for her future.
-She has a sweet spirit with just the right amount of feistiness! 🙂
Isabella is a ray of sunshine and a joy to be around! I am honored to call her my niece!” – heather

“Bella is a beautiful person inside and out. She is caring and sympathetic towards others. She is a loving daughter, sister, granddaughter, niece and friend. She is fun to be around and always has something interesting to talk about. She possesses a stellar sense of humor. She takes time to make sure she is well-informed and is not afraid to share her opinions as she is confident in them. She is incredibly bright. A talented musician and lover of music. She has a great sense of fashion and has created a style that is all her own. I think she is an amazing human being, I am so proud of her! :-)” – mom

beth beth ~

“It has taken me a long time to realize this – my greatest insecurity is that I am a stupid, annoying, bore. I feel like everyone around me knows it, and I’m the only one not in on this hilarious joke of a girl. A girl who’s trying so hard to be smart and interesting. Often it feels like I’m the only one who doesn’t see my ignorance, my plain stupidity. I often feel that I am overzealous, and annoying – that my very presence is a hindrance to other people. I feel like people who are my friends just aren’t in on the joke yet either, and when I lose friends it’s as if they’ve realized and moved past me. I feel like the whole world is in on this joke that is me, and they all sit in a room together and laugh about it. So in essence, I guess I feel like I’ll never be anyone’s first choice, or I’m just not good enough, and people see my inadequacy. Clearly.”

beth’s friends and family:

“Your drive and ambition is likely to be your greatest asset in your life. With that, the sky is literally the limit for you. I know you fear your abilities in general, but you are foolish to do so. With your dedication and ambition and drive, there is realistically nothing you cannot achieve.” – uncle owen

So, I’m not even sure where to begin this letter. Can I start off by saying that you are so truly amazing? Because you are. And just in case you don’t hear it often enough, you are so worthy of love and beautiful friendships and relationships. You are the truest person I know, and I have more love for you as a friend than I’m sure you realize.
While we were in Moclips, I met a Beth I didn’t know existed. One with so many layers, and so real, to the core. She showed me that she is stronger than people realize. That she is passionate. I met someone that week that would become more necessary and important to me than I possibly could’ve foreseen.
So many others don’t value you as much as they should. I’m convinced its because they aren’t willing to get to know you more than they hear in rumors. They’re simple-minded, and unworthy to know someone as fantastic as you. You have such a beautiful soul and I am so happy that you share it with me.
Let me be the first to tell you that I am so very proud of the person you are, and I am incredibly honored and blessed to be your friend. You simply amaze me; you have one of the most compassionate and gentle hearts I’ve ever had to pleasure of spending time with. You love me endlessly, without questions. You’re there for me like it’s your job, and I hope you never stop. I want you to know that the person I am today wouldn’t be complete without you. You bring me more joy and sunshine than you can possibly comprehend- there isn’t a time that you can’t put a smile on my face, and if I am half of that to you, I would be so proud.
Everything is better when you’re around. All the really hard stuff is a little easier when I can talk to you about it. Everyone deserves a best friend, there’s no doubt about that. I can only hope that everyone is as lucky as I am.
Sometimes I feel like you’re shy when it comes to aspects of your life and that you’re unwilling to disclose things you think I would find unsavory. I hope you can realize that I will not judge you, and that any and everything that you choose to share with me will always be sacred and I will never turn on you as people have done before. I just really hope you can say “fuck everyone else” and learn to see and love Bethany the way that I do.
Thank you for always bringing out the best in me, and I will never take you for granted. If our past and present adventures is any clue to what our future would bring, we’re in for a hell of a ride.” – serena

“Alright. I should start.
But honesty is HARD.
Stop that. We need to write this.
Shut up.

Hey Beth. So uh- where to start? I suppose where we did. We met in middle school, but we never really hung out that much. You insist that you had a goth phase, but I must have been too blinded by the sheer volume of my Afro to take notice of things like your style decisions. I think I had a crush on you at one point, but in any event I don’t remember it very well. I distinctly remember being moderately scared of you (don’t worry, I start off negative and work towards positive; It’s almost like giving you a character arc). One day you would be happy to see me and give me a hug, the next you would completely ignore my existence or kick me in the shins or something. This may or may not be why we didn’t hang out much.
I was surprised when I saw you at SaMI freshman year. You always seemed artsy, creative, a bit fey. I had expected you to go to SOtA, but you came to SaMI instead. Again, we didn’t hang out all that much for awhile, me still being a bit scared of you, but eventually we developed overlapping social circles (one trait we share: we have awesome taste in friends). We started to hang out a bit. The first time you were nice, I wasn’t surprised, but the second time it caught me off guard. Usually, by this time, your opinion of me had switched, but it hadn’t so I was content to kind of bask in this extended kindness.
But then something extra weird happened. It didn’t stop. You just stayed nice. We hung out a bit more and the kindness train just kept on chuggin’ through. You were always smiling (this is when I started to notice how weirdly immaculate your teeth are, by the way). You were fun and, dare I say, cool. I started to trust you. You started to trust me. We became what I think of as good friends. You being the adept social butterfly that you are, put me in a lot of situations to interact with people. I think you brought me out of my shell and gave me a bit of confidence (successfully hanging out with a group of women and getting them to laugh will do that to a guy). You were always happy to see me and I was happy to see you. We could share secrets (cough… Egyptian… cough). I was – am – proud to call someone as cool and kick-ass and talented and nice and awesome as you my friend.
Fo’ Shizzle,
p.s.- you should make your rogue so we can play D&D. There will be ninjas. It’s gonna rock.” – elijah

“Bethany is an amazing friend of mine. I have known her since my freshman year and we’ve grown very close since then. She is extremely beautiful. I have found her attractive ever since I met her, but she is far more than just that. Beth has a great sense of humor. Every time I spend time with her we laugh for the majority of it because of the humor we both find in everything. She is also very intelligent, more then she gives herself credit for. She is incredibly curious about many things in this world and will search for answers until she finds one that satisfies her. That tells me that she questions the world and is very driven about things that interest her.
Also, Beth loves to go on adventures. I am constantly hearing stories of her going camping, on huge hikes, and exploring the world around us. I believe that all of these adventures just drive her to be more curious and learn more about this magnificent world we live on.
She is also incredibly social and outgoing. I know very few people who make as many friends as Beth does in so little time. With her outgoing-ness, Beth is very bold and open. She will tell you almost anything about herself and what she likes or dislikes. This can be a great thing, but I have seen the times when people have done her wrong and she gets hurt incredibly. I am not saying that her openness is a bad thing, I just wish she was more cautious with it.
Above all else, Beth is amazingly caring. Rarely do you meet people who genuinely care about you as much as Beth does. Why she cares so much is beyond me. All I know is that if I need someone to talk to, or I need a shoulder to cry on, Beth will always be there for me.” – stephen

cassie cassie ~

“I have a lot of insecurities but I think the one that eats at me the most is the feeling of being insignificant.. I think of myself as just another mere speck of dust floating around on a bigger speck that’s floating around with maybe millions of more specks.. When I try to look at the big picture of existence, I feel so small and insignificant. Sometimes I wonder why I even bother trying so hard when it doesn’t really matter. When I work really hard on something like a drawing, sometimes I think, “Why am I trying so hard? Eventually everything I’ve put all my time and energy in, everything I’ve worked hard on to make will end up being nothing more than dust. I’ll be nothing more than dust, so why even bother?” The feeling of being insignificant eats away at me everyday and keeps me up every night. Always feeling like nothing I say or do will ever matter or make any difference makes it hard for me to keep trying hard everyday.”

cassie’s friends and family:

“Cassandra is the most beautifulest girl I’ve ever met in my life. She’s so caring for others and has a smile that can light up the sky. Her laugh and her voice is so soft and gentle, I can’t help but smile. I love that girl with all my heart, and if she is reading this, “Hi baby” (: “ – dominic

“Cassie is really nice, Beautiful, Loyal, She will always be there for you, Protective over the ones she loves, Funny, You can trust her with anything, and she’s really caring about a lot.” – breanna

“I’m a photographer too, so Cassie and I have a lot in common. We both like photographing a lot of the same subjects.
Cassie is the sweetest person I’ve ever met. It doesn’t matter who you are…if you have some kind of a problem and just need someone to talk to, she’ll listen. I’ve done a lot of stupid things within the five or so years Cassie and I have been friends, and she’s never judged me. She always puts her own personal problems aside and gives me her two cents. She is extremely shy, but if you’re lucky enough to know her like I do, you’ll see that she is very outgoing. She will randomly start acting like a five year old when we’re with all of our friends, just to make someone smile. She also is known to make some of the weirdest and creepiest noises I’ve ever heard! She always knows how to make me smile when I’m in a bad mood. Whenever I get really pissed off at home, I’ll call her and she’ll meet me somewhere so I can hang out and blow off some steam. Cassie is hands down one of my best friends. I know that even after graduation we’ll still be really close. I love Cassie to death, and I’m always trying to help her work on overcoming her shyness, and working on being able to stand up for herself more. Since she is so caring, people will often take advantage of her. She doesn’t think so, but she has become so much stronger over the time we’ve spent in high school. Since freshman year, she has changed so much, but in the best way she could change. She sticks up for herself more and shares more of her thoughts and opinions in class and with our friends. I’m so proud of her for that, and I know that I could never thank her enough for how much she’s helped me throughout the years. I don’t know what I would do with myself if I ever lost Cassie as my friend. She’s one of the only people I know and trust enough to go to, no matter what the problem is. I honestly know that if I showed up at her house crying my eyes out, and not wanting to talk about what’s wrong, she’d just hold me until I stopped crying and could explain what was wrong. She’s the closest friend I have. She’s talked me out of cutting myself and even killing myself, whether she knows it or not. I’m so grateful to have her be such a big part of my life. I love you so much Cassie! You mean the world to me, darling.” – jodee

“There are so many great things i can say about Cassandra Elmore 🙂
She is the single most amazing person I ever met.
She is loving and caring about everyone in her life, and will put everyone else before her own needs.
She is hilarious and beautiful, and I love every second I spend with her.
She is adventurous and genuine, and I know I could never find anyone else who even comes close to comparing to her.
Cassandra is my single most best friend in the world, and I want to keep her in my life forever.
If I never met Cassie, my life wouldn’t be where it is today. Hell, I might not even be here today if it wasn’t for this magnificent, beautiful, amazing girl that I am more than proud to call my best friend.
Cassie means so much to me, and I would do anything to make her happy. I absolutely adore her smile and laugh. She brings so much joy and happiness to my life.” – rebecca

“Cassandra is one of the most selfless people I know – she’s generous to a fault. She is conscientious in all that she does and feels. The day she learned about Earth Day in school, her little heart would break at the sight of garbage in the streets, she took it very seriously. Her kind and sensitive heart has made her a go-to confidant with her friends. Her passion and talent in photography inspires me to search for my own creative outlet, and her harsh self-criticism breaks my heart. She expects perfection of herself and yet forgives with ease when slighted by others. She’s a loyal and fierce friend. Her empathy and sympathy knows no boundaries – she doesn’t care about what your race, religion or sexual orientation is – I couldn’t be prouder.” – amy

iris iris ~

“It’s hard to make friends with new people or my friends’ friends because I’m afraid I won’t live up to their expectations. I worry that people will think that I am lame or annoying. I guess that’s why I’m always awkward around people, because I feel that if I open up that they won’t like ME.”

iris’ friends and family:

“I haven’t known Iris for very long, but what I’ve summed up about her is that she’s pretty awesome. She’s funny, smart, and absolutely gorgeous. She can goof off with you and take control of a situation when necessary. I think she’s pretty cool to be around and I’m glad I know her.” – ravyn

“Humble, calming, sensitive, shining, one of my favorite people in my life, bubbly, strong, smart, fun.” – hope & aimee

“Iris is determined, smart, funny, very loving, and compassionate, a born-leader. She is tough when she needs to be and always caring. She puts the needs of others before herself, and the best thing is that she does these things and is how she is because she wants to, and not because she is supposed to. I am proud to call her my step-daughter” – damien

“Iris is the bravest person I have ever known.
She is creative ~ She is genius creative. She can imagine and then create anything. And she does. Daily ~ every moment~ she is creating something marvelous.
She is genuine in the truest sense.
She is beautiful. Heart-achingly beautiful. She is tender and graceful and delicate. She is a rosebud. She is made of star dust and magic and dragonfly wings. She is wind.
She is able to make a person feel special and radiant with just a look.
She loves. She loves fully and purely and with no hesitation. Her love is a force of nature that can bend mountains.
She is kind ~ she will give to any and all everything she has.
And she is thoughtful. so very very very thoughtful. Iris is my buddha of compassion. She feels what the universe is feeling and must heal it as best she can.
She is a protector. She will defend anyone she sees being hurt or attacked. She is fierce and loyal. She will stand by you through anything. She IS her word.
She is a valkyrie in the truest sense. She is strong and safe and stable. She is made of granite and oak and has the blood of an eagle. An eagle with a wolf head. With laser eyes. She is that kind of epic.
She is a graceful ballerina with a war axe and the smarts and compassion to know how to never have to use it.
She has the best fashion sense of everyone I have ever known or admired.
She knows how to be a friend and a very supportive and good one at that.
She is wonderful.
And now im all rambling and in tears. And so fearful I forgot things. Which I know I did.
How can you write how marvelous Iris is in words? She is beyond mere words. She is water and music and laughter and sunshine. She is who she is and stands unflinching.
I have been in awe of her since I was blessed with her into my universe.
She is my hero.” – dagmar

izzlebizzle izzlebizzle ~

“I don’t like talking to people about my problems. I reshape myself in a “happy” and “cheerful” way so people don’t ask questions. I guess you could say that is my biggest insecurity… I’m not happy enough and I feel selfish for that.”

izzlebizzle’s friends and family:

“Not afraid to let her “child” out. Fiercely protective of family. Boundless energy. A natural force of nature. Bright. A highly developed sense of humor. Confident. Can hold a meaningful conversation with adults and peers. Physically beautiful. Creative and artistic. Loving and affectionate. Isabella is a joy to be around. I hope this is of help!” – grandma sylvia.

“Bella is a brilliant girl. I am not talking super smarty-pants brilliant, although she is a smarty-pants. I am talking, quite literally, BRILLIANT. I mean, she shines. She radiates life and happiness on an inhuman level. She’s full of enthusiasm and joy, and you can always count on her to lift your spirits when you are in a funk. She’s creative, and funny, and she’s always had great style. She loves to read, learn, and share cool things with others, and not in a show-offy way. She has friends from all walks-of-life, and is pretty good at accepting people who are different from her. All in all, I’d say she’s 95% awesome, 2% dorky, 2% messy, and 1% silly as all get out. I wish I was her age so we could be best friends. She will always have a fan in me.” – diana

You are one of the most darling people I know.
Our meeting and friendship has been destined since our mothers went to school, and you are a phenomenal woman. You are strong and empowered. You do wonderful things, you are passionate and just an all around absolutely wondrous person. I love who you are, I love being your best friend. We even each other out, and we pick each other up when we’re down. I know you struggle sometimes, I am and will always be here for you, through anything and everything. I want to point out all the good things about you in this letter, all the good feels, right here. Not just the ones you can see on the outside either, the inside feels.
I want to tell you how smart you are – you, dear, are in fact very smart and insightful, and I think often you doubt yourself when it comes to your awesome brains.
I want to tell you you’re beautiful, and dependable, and fun to be around, you have infectious energy, and amazing taste. You are a loyal friend, the best person to confide in, and a great adventurer. I can have very deep talks with you, and also completely silly superficial talks.
You are amazing. I am glad to call you my best friend.
I want to tell you many more things, but I think instead of me writing them all down here, I will just make a point of telling you in person as often as possible.
Because, my honey bunny, you are a light shining in the dark. You are a really beautiful person inside and out. I want you to remember that when you’re feeling insecure or doubtful about your amazing character .
I love you.
I love being your bestest friend .
I will always be here for you.
I will always want to snuggle you even when you’re PMSing 3 weeks out of the month.

You are a pleasure to know, to be around, to love.

And I will always cherish you and be a loyal friend to you.

Love, Beth”

“In the years I have been lucky enough to be a part of Isabella’s life, she has shown herself to be one of the bravest people I’ve ever known, a fiercely loyal friend and sister and daughter, and a first-rate comedian. She faces every situation head-on, and if she is afraid to fight for what she believes is the right thing, you wouldn’t know it by watching her. She has an instinctive understanding of how people should be treated and cared for, and a completely admirable understanding of how she herself should be treated by others… I think it’s unavoidable for anyone who spends any time at all with her not to learn something about kindness and self-respect. Isabella takes no shit and has mad love to give, and I think she’s the fucking greatest for it.” – ash

“UGH. I knew writing this letter was going to be hard, but I didn’t think it was gonna be THIS HARD. There are absolutely not enough words for me to describe how awesome my daughter is. Every. Single. Day. I am amazed by something she does. (and almost always in a good way! ha.) I love the way she moves through the world with such awareness at her young age and maintains her optimism. Her ability to look at a problem and immediately set to work on it…determined… sets my mind at ease. I can see how capable she is. I know that she is going to be able to take care of herself out there in the world. She can always find an answer…she’s not afraid to ask for help…and she isn’t afraid of doing anything. She can navigate the public transit between two cities with a bike in tow, alone. Seriously? Most adults I know can’t do that.
She may be in to some totally screamo new metal bands that her brothers totally make fun of her for, but, you know what? She doesn’t give a fuck…and she tells them that, “I don’t give a fuck”. Which leads us to her delightfully expressive language. Yesterday alone I heard her tell her brothers to “eat sh*t”, “shut up, c*nt!” and “f**k off”. It’s like she speaks the language of my heart.
My Isabella has an open heart that leads to an open mind. She has her own style, her own ways of doing things, and her own opinion on how the world should be. I couldn’t be more proud. Having a daughter who can think for herself and not let others get her down when they are being pack-minded, jerk beasts? The perfect gift.
I think it’s obvious (to the rest of us) that all of the stuff I’ve mentioned comes from true intelligence, but I don’t always think she realizes that. If ever there was a person who doesn’t seem to know just how brilliant they are, it’s her. I get a little frustrated when she knocks herself in that area…I’m hopeful that time will lead her to see what everyone else does. She is so smart, so able, so fast! It’s freaking cool.
My beautiful girl has the world in her hands and she knows just what to do with it. I will never be able to express how much I love her in a way she will understand. Sometimes I hate that. I think sometimes she really, really, really needs to know. But. It’s just too much. I love her too much for her to understand.

Quick list of other important Bella characteristics:
-She’s funny. In real life and on twitter
-She has a pretty great Tumblr
-She stands up for herself and others
-She’s not afraid to tell some jerky dude to shove it
-She respects herself
-She is going to be a great snowboarder someday of she can avoid breaking her butt again
-She has more clothes than any one person should ever have
-She bought most of them herself
-She’s responsible enough to babysit an infant and toddler simultaneously and be good at it. Most adults I know can’t be left alone in the same room with an infant without freaking much less the two together.
-She’s so awesome six names weren’t enough and she continues to acquire more.
-She’s the best

Okay. That’s it. I don’t feel like I said everything I needed too. Darnit.
Mommm” – jamey

ravyn ravyn ~

“At first I didn’t know what my insecurity was. Then, when I read other women’s insecurities from the last shoot I realized that it was my skin. My skin drives me crazy. I hate it so much. I have very bad acne, huge pores, and many scars. I’m able to hide most of that behind my bangs. My skin is the reason why when I run I’m constantly resituating my bangs so that my skin doesn’t show, and it’s the reason why I’m nervous about getting side-bangs. It doesn’t help that most girls I know have flawless skin…they make me extremely jealous. My skin is just stupid.”

ravyn’s friends and family:

“1. Her laugh.
2. She has an amazing personality.
3. She’s loving.
4. She is natural at anything she does – be it acting, singing, writing, anything…..she can succeed at it.
5. I am proud to have her as a best friend.
6. She is trustworthy.
7. She is pure at heart.
Thanks for letting me do this for Ravyn! I love her so much.” – jessica

“-Her laugh -Her smile -Her personality -Good sense of humor -Isn’t afraid to be herself in front of people she doesn’t know -She is considerate -She is polite -She is kind and caring -She can make any situation a funny one -I can joke around with her and she won’t take it the wrong way -Very generous -Very smart (helps me when I need it) -Good sport” – isabelle

“I’m honored to be of the select few that Ravyn asked to do this. She’s probably hoping that I’m not going to be embarrassing. I make no promises.
I believe Ravyn is a little like me, unsure exactly how to navigate this weird kind of a stepdad/not-quite-dad territory. We each know how we feel but aren’t sure how to express it – we get it wrong occasionally, sometimes we get it right.
Ravyn is hilarious. Dinner is often the highlight of my day. We sit around at the table, talk, make jokes, annoy each other, throw wet paper towels, bug mom… Oh right, and eat.
Ravyn is also extraordinarily talented. Anything I’ve seen her choose to do, she does well. School, theater, piano, MATH… there are no limits. When she puts her mind to it, she does it, and does it well.
It doesn’t stop at talent. Even being a sister, she’s fun, caring…you name it. Grey will realize this more and more as he gets older – he has an awesome sister. Her mom has a great daughter – Alana’s always talking about how impressed she is with Ravyn and how proud she is. I do the same, I couldn’t ask for a better [step?] daughter.
It’s been a crazy few years but if I could go back in time (haha Dr. Who) and change anything… I wouldn’t.
To Ravyn: Always do what you think is right, no matter what others say. Never let anyone tell you what you are capable of doing. Never be afraid to pursue what you’re interested in.” – dylan

“Why did I start this project? Why didn’t I realize that I would soon want to do a teen group, that I would be including Ravyn in it, and that it would be so extremely difficult to have to neatly package my feelings about my RIDICULOUSLY AWESOME daughter?? This was a dumb idea. This is hard. *breathe*
Where to begin?
Maybe I should begin with the obvious…anyone who has had the privilege of hearing her play piano, sing, or perform in a play knows that she is incredibly talented. She makes all of these things look effortless. She is a natural when it comes to artistic pursuits. I love watching her excel at these things…I love while doing menial things around the house, hearing a song start up, thinking she is playing something on the stereo, and then realizing that, no, that’s just my daughter being awesome on the piano AGAIN…playing and singing that song she taught herself.
Ravyn is super intelligent – she’s got ‘brains in her head and feet in her shoes!’ ☺ She excels in school even at things that she THINKS she is doing badly at. It’s as if she doesn’t even need to try, but she then tries even harder. She’s not afraid to ask questions. She also has a deep love of reading, which I’m super stoked about…I love to watch the world open up to her through books. She always longs for more and could spend hours and hours in a bookstore.
Anyone who has met her also knows that she is HILARIOUS. She has grown into this super rad, ridiculously funny sense of humor that is spot-on, and always timed perfectly. We have many a night around the dinner table that is filled with us in tears over something she has said…or done…and, yeah, sometimes we (herself included) are laughing AT her, because she also is a big ol’ dork and does super dumb things, too. But that is also the beautiful thing about her…she’s unafraid of saying and doing silly things. It’s pretty awesome.
Ravyn is gorgeous. Inside and out. Sparkling eyes, big encapsulating smile that makes you smile with her, and long, strong legs that can kick my ass in tennis.
She is super compassionate, accepting, empathetic, and generous. She truly feels for other people and would give anything she can to help someone who needs it.
She is unashamed and unapologetic about her morals. She has very high standards and is not ashamed about sticking to those standards, even when it may not be the norm around her. She gains my respect in this all the time.
She is the BEST big sister. She’s Grey’s biggest fan, and he is hers, as well. Nothing makes me happier than watching them together. There really are no words…
Ravyn is pure, understanding, loving, and affectionate. Affectionate with her ridiculous mom, who she knows has an innate difficulty with affection, but she still never gives up on me. She still sees through my struggles and hugs me anyway…she seems to know that even when I need my “space”, I also need her to ignore when I say that. ☺ She loves me and loves ON me despite me being a weirdo. And I love her even more for it.
Ravyn is the coolest, most conscientious girl I’ve ever known. It’s been astounding to watch her grow up so much in these last few years. My heart hurts a little every time I think about the fact that she will surely not be around as much in the years to come…it seems that she suddenly went from needing and wanting her mom’s company all the time, to suddenly becoming a beautiful, smart, hilarious, talented, creative, and independent young woman who has dreams and plans…and will surely fulfill all of them. Because she’s like that – determined. And because her stepdad and I will always, ALWAYS have her back and support her in fulfilling those dreams. She should know always that she is loved. So very loved.” – alana (aka, mom)

sophie sophie ~

“If I can’t understand something in school immediately I feel stupid (especially Math!). It makes me feel like I shouldn’t be in Algebra. If I don’t get it I feel like maybe I won’t get into a good college and I won’t be successful.”

sophie’s friends and family:

“Sweet, Charming, Sociable, Generous, Smart, Pretty hair, Beautiful eyes, Athletic, Good role model to Aiden (my son), Entertaining, Great imagination, Can talk to anyone, Adventurous, Loving.” – jessica

“Vibrant, So friendly, Makes people feel their best, Very helpful, Extremely athletic, Beautiful Smile, Energetic, Fun to be around, Fantastic long legs, So silly in such a fun way.” – sadie

“My most vivid memories of Sophie are, quite simply, of laughter.
Ever since she has been small she has seemed to be the center of happy and exuberant moments. Her warmth is an integral part of everything she does; a natural extension of her obvious love of life. She runs quickly and with abandon, hugs like she means it, and has learned early the joys of human folly. She is bright, loving and kind.
Sophie: Uninhibited, warm, joyful, happy, exuberant, affectionate, bright, artistic, funny, approachable, kind.” – megan

“Kind, Caring, Funny, Smart, Curious, Clever, True-blue friend, Gorgeous, Generous, Organized, Fantastic Dancer, The world’s greatest nickname-creator ever!” – natalie

“Effusive, Hilarious, Curious, Outgoing, Energetic, Powerful, Compassionate, Empathetic, Philosophical, Truly Gorgeous, Brilliant, Independent.
Sophie gives the world energy. We might not know it, but I think we’d all feel an absence if she were to stop contributing to the “buzz” of the earth. I love that she is fun-loving, goofy, and unafraid of taking risks. Nothing stops Sophie… And yet… her wildness is balanced by what is probably the kindest, most compassionate heart ever. Most adults lack the empathetic development that Sophie has had since she was just a wee kid.” – shannon

“Sophie lights up a room. She has an effervescent joy that she just can’t help but exude. Dancing, singing, cartwheeling across the lawn, laughing ALL the time, she is an energetic force that cannot be stopped. She wears her huge compassionate heart on her sleeve. Anyone who hurts in her immediate area has their hurt felt deeply by her. She is huggable as the day is long. She can paint some amazing finger and toe nails. She is neat and organized in everything she does. She gets up and immediately makes her bed, she sweeps the dog hair from our floors daily without being asked, keeps up the family fridge calendar (color coded by person and activity), and her schoolwork is always done on time- pristine, neat and perfect. She is smarter than she can even imagine. I love that girl with every fiber of my being.” – shari

Group 1, Part 1: https://alanatphotography.wordpress.com/2013/02/11/women-raw-honest-loved-part-1-2/
Group 1, Part 2: https://alanatphotography.wordpress.com/2013/02/12/women-raw-honest-loved-part-2/
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/
roup 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. alyssalwarner · April 13, 2013

    Reblogged this on Thoughts and What Nots and commented:
    this is SO GOOD. A must read and a must see.

  2. booknutcase · April 14, 2013

    Reblogged this on BOOKNUTCASE and commented:
    Because it made me think of my adolescent-self, the insecure creature I was (and still am) … Because the girls are so beautiful, inside and outside… Because we should never forget how we felt at that age…and because the project is so beautiful…

    • alanatphotography · April 14, 2013

      Thank you so much for sharing, and for your super sweet words about it!

  3. KT Wright · April 16, 2013

    You girls rock and you too Alana! Keep on keepin on!

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