Empowering Editorial Portraiture: Finally, The Result of Our Photo Shoot

Right before Covid hit, I shared the countdown to my photo shoot.  Lucky for me, I was able to get in the photo shoot and the photo selection before the shutdown.  So why have I waited so long to share the outcome?  Like so many of you, I was in shock, hibernation, and then adaptation mode for the past few months.  I just wasn’t ready to present myself too much.  But now I am.  

Who cares, it’s just a bunch of pics, right?  But for me, this was an emotionally complex process.  I’ve always felt uncomfortable getting my pictures taken.  I am a ham in front of a video camera, but when it comes to still photos, I freeze up and always look unhappy, uncomfortable, and unlike me.  And let’s face it, we are a visual culture now.  We speak in pictures.  They matter.  As a woman who writes about beauty, and relies on it somewhat — for better or worse, I really wanted my pictures to capture me at my best.  More than that, I wanted them to capture who I am and my personality.  I wanted them to express my growth as a woman, professional, and human being.

I held off for YEARS getting my next round of shots.  I was afraid to commit the time and resources to photos that could end up horrible.  But when I saw a post by a former advertising colleague, Rebecca Rehder, about her portrait studio, June4thstudio, I was intrigued.  Upon meeting and chatting about the shoot, I immediately knew she was the ONE.  She truly tried to understand my expectations, my goals, and how to showcase my best assets.  She recognized that I was on a new journey professionally, and how I wanted to “show up” as a mix of thought leader, creative and fun.  In a nutshell, she creates Empowering Editorial Portraiture.  So I went for it.  

Rebecca uniquely combines her background as an advertising strategist and her photography talent to create magic.  She tries to capture a person’s essence, her power, and her many layers of beauty.  To hear more about her special technique watch our chat below.    

For a selection of our shots, see gallery below:

Beauty Convos with Gad #3: What Are We Going to Take Forward After The Crisis?

I had the privilege of catching up with my good friend and beauty stylist to the stars, Gad Cohen.  I totally scrapped my intended “look” for the chat (a groovy headscarf) and played up the moment.  A few hours prior to our chat, I decided to wash my hair and then ran into a meeting that lasted much longer than anticipated.  I was left with only a few minutes to prep.  So I leaned into it.  I didn’t blow dry my hair but, instead, worked with the au natural waviness and fullness.

Why am I telling you all this?  Because it became the theme of our discussion: embracing the NOW.

Gad and I kicked off our chat discussing the New York Times article: What Is Beauty Now by Mara Altman.  Altman shares a number of different opinions around our responses to the beauty constraints during this crisis, and what’s going to happen when it’s all over.  She describes the sheer panic people are experiencing over their gray hairs and how they are jumping out of their seats in anticipation of salons opening up.  While others, she writes, are embracing their new-found liberation from beauty maintenance.  When it comes to the moment we can go back to normal living, the article shares the concern that beauty brands will shame us into trying to get plucked, primped and preened by pointing out how we’ve all gone to pot. But the article raises the opinions of others — like that of Gad — that we will be a lot more empathetic and embracing of others’  appearances.  And that we will all come out better from this experience.

I tend towards the “glass half full side of things” and agree with the last sentiment.  Given that Gad is part of the beauty industry that Altman refers to, I asked him if he agrees that people will be convinced that they will be crappy about themselves and succumb to the beauty industry’s call for transformation.  He said absolutely no.  First, he believes people will reject that type of marketing and even rebel against it.  Second, he, himself, looks forward to playing with the changes that we are all experiencing — the gray strands, the longer hair, the grown out eyebrows.  The opposite of using shame, he will greet people’s evolving beauty with love, excitement and creativity. 

This discussion led us to anticipate what’s going to change for HIM when people start coming back to his atelier.  Will he be doing anything differently given what he’s learned from this crisis? Of course he will continue to do what he’s always been doing, that is, truly understand his clients — their personalities, lifestyles, aspirations and dreams — in order to create the best styles for them.  But he believes that we will all be much more focused on the NOW, i.e., how we are feeling at that moment.  In the past, we may have asked our stylists for looks that will work in different future scenarios.  We would think about what will grow out well in the long run or what has versatility.  But our sense of the future is so unsure now.  Who would have expected to be stuck working from home for months on end?  Who would have thought travel was off limits?  Who would have thought we wouldn’t be socializing or that our major source of connection would be a small screen?  We are not saying that we won’t be planning for days ahead but we will have a greater appreciation for the NOW — what we need, feel, want, expect in this moment.

Boy, am I looking forward to that NOW moment

Beauty Convos with Gad Cohen: How Do I Get My Mojo Back?

As I’ve begun to settle into my ‘new-normal” state during this Covid era, I’m able to stop and take stock a bit.  The first few months I was working at a frenetic pace trying to manage increasing work, kids and home needs.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m so grateful that my family is healthy, I’m still gainfully employed and that the weather has been warm enough that I can get outside one a while.  But as I settle into my new routine, I’ve started bumming on the new beauty reality of social distancing.   How can I express my me-ness?  Can I share the part of me that’s associated with how I look and show up, my sense of fashion and beauty?  If my life consists of presenting on camera..how do I do that well?

Oh, yeah, what do I do when I have to give a speech at a “virtual” conference next month?  You see when I present, I see it as a performance of sorts.  Of course my content is the most important part of the experience.  But for my information to resonate, I do a lot to make it entertaining — including how I come across on stage.  I use videos, jokes and gestures to make my points.  And I try to present an image — one of intelligence, fun, AND glamour.  So what happens now that I’m relegated to giving a speech on a tiny screen?

Who do I turn to for some advice (and commiseration) on this topic?  My close friend and beauty stylist to the stars, Gad Cohen.   His response?  First, he totally sympathizes.  “We need responses from other ppl…that’s natural. We get dressed up for work and look for a reaction of some sort. And now we  don’t have that ‘audience’ anymore.”

Then we moved beyond the moping and when into solution-mode.  “We have to be creative in our confinement,” said Gad.  In addition to all the typical tricks we’ve been reading, e.g., make sure your background looks nice, ensure your sound works, or don’t just wear your PJ’s all day, Gad gave us some new tips.  Here are some:

1. It’s not enough to have a great background, but change it up!  It not only refreshes you but the folks that you tend to chat with virtually too.

2. Watch other ppl … you see what’s good and what’s not so good.

3. Think of your appearance on the computer camera like you would a portrait..only its a LIVE portrait.  Consider the framing, the composition and the lighting   Natural light is the most even.  Don’t get too close to the camera.  Make sure your heads and shoulders are in frame.  And sit at the right angle.  Maybe face on isn’t the best but at a slight tilt or angle changes everything

4. Be smart about hair and make up — you don’t want to look too done up.  “As long as we look fresh — fresh is the keyword — don’t look like you just got out of bed..a day time look.  Look polished.  Polish is key.  Add a little lipstick.  Give hair volume — freshly washed, blown out, velcro rollers.  Never ever cut it!”

And now I’m adding something:

 5.  Have fun with wigs and head scarves!  I never thought about this myself until I had a virtual birthday bash a few weeks ago and my friend came on the camera wearing a fun wig.  Instead of  panicking about your hair color, just dress up in a wig or scarf.  I ended up wearing a blonde pixie wig and then went online right after and bought myself a bright red wig for the next cocktail hour we have.

Yes, we may not be able to totally express our fashion sense or head to toe beauty during this era, but that doesn’t mean we can’t express it in different and even more creative ways.  And the even better news is that when things start to return, we will have the tips and tricks to make even the simple call as beautiful as possible!

For for the full video of our convo, check below:


Are Beauties Bad for Business? Ban the Bias

Could beauty be a business liability? According to a recent edition of Harvard Business Review, it just might be. Well, if you are a woman that is. Professor Lead D. Sheppard of Washington State University and Stefanie K Johnson, an associate professor of the University of Colorado Boulder, published a study that showed how people will rate more attractive women in the workplace as “less truthful, less trustworthy as leaders and more deserving of termination than their ordinary-looking counterparts.” (“For Women in Business, Beauty is Liability”) Haven’t we heard that beautiful men and women have a leg up in business? I’ve written about this in a number of past posts (“Hotties Get More For Free” and “Did Newsweek Get It Right?” to name a few.) The article does point out that other studies have shown women rated high on the appearance scale did benefit from being seen as more competent. While that too reflects bias, I can see how that makes sense, i.e. if you assume those women who care for their appearance may also care for their work. But to assume anyone, based on their looks alone, is more or less truthful and honest, is disturbing, to say the least.  

Was it the methodology that was out of whack? Doesn’t appear that way. The professors had participants in the study read fictional articles about certain people with their photos attached, and then these participants were asked to rate the honesty of the people featured. The articles were quoting leaders explaining why certain people were laid off due to economic conditions (vs anyone’s failures). While the content remained the same, the pictures changed. There were pictures of more or less attractive men and women. Attractive men were regarded the same as unattractive men with regard to the different attributes. Not so for women.

The professors attribute some of this bias to our long history of believing women use their attractiveness to lure men. (Scary that this STILL is so deeply embedded in us.) Another reason for this bias is the long history of some women using their attractiveness to compete for men to climb social and economic ladders. Think beauty contests for example.

Many would argue that attractive people have it easier in life. There have been studies showing how attractive people get more attention, higher salaries for example. But that’s based on bias too! I’m so thrilled to say that we are now living in time of pushing to bust our biases, and a call for inclusion ALL people — all genders, ethnicities, backgrounds, in our schools, offices and media. But there are many other forms of bias we have to be aware of too. And women’s appearance, especially, is one of them. Let’s start by recognizing this is an issue, and remind ourselves that ALL people deserve a fair chance. Sexism is NOT ok. End of story.