Finding Janna

No matter how often I hear the words, “You’re gorgeous!” I never really see it. I mean, I believe it – my friends and family can’t all be crazy. But I don’t actually see it when I look in the mirror. I see an aging woman with bad skin, a crooked smile and thin little lips, a barely-there jaw-line, uneven eyes, and don’t even get me started on this nose. I don’t know which parent gave me this nose, but I’m going to need a gift receipt. No, I sure don’t see ‘gorgeous’ nor do I feel ‘gorgeous’ when I’m posing for photos. Even posting a selfie means taking 15 shots before getting one good one… if my makeup is done, the lighting is just right, and Snapchat has blessed us with a good filter that day. But when someone else is taking a photo of me, I’m lost. I know what my face and body should be doing – I’m constantly directing other people to do it – but when I see that final photo of me, it never really translates. As a result, I often bring out Goofy Janna for photos, since she’s still a step up from Awkward Janna, and way cooler than Ugly Janna.

“Woah! Wait. That’s not me. Is that me?”
So when my friend and fellow photographer, Denise, told me she was starting a new venture in her photography business – one that focuses on “feel good” portraits or “just because” portraits or “bring out your inner sparkle” portraits, as opposed to business portraits or wedding portraits or even boudoir portraits – I said, “YAAAAAAAS!” I told her that was an amazing idea and that it was sure to be a success because, “I know I would love to pose for something like that someday!” Rookie mistake, JMac. Turns out Denise needed a 30-year-old model to advertise her new venture. Now I don’t remember exactly how Denise convinced me to model for her – there might have been a few drinks involved – but I do remember warning her heavily and multiple times that she was going to be disappointed. That I can’t model. That I am incapable of looking good in photos.

I spent the next few weeks imagining what my photos would look like: Top notch photography of course, but awkward model, heavy on the Photoshop. So when the photo shoot started, I had zero confidence and was prepared to disappoint my friend. I felt so awkward and stupid. I think I forgot how to smile! But Denise was patient and professional; she kept changing it up, trying to find my natural glow. A few times, she got excited by a picture and offered to show me the raw image on the back of her camera. Of course, I refused; I knew I wouldn’t like it. But after a solid hour of figuring out how to be comfortable in my own skin, I finally let go of my fears and just started having fun with it. We raided my closet for my coolest clothes. Got a little more dramatic with my makeup. Changed up the backdrop and props. Until finally I got up the courage to look at one raw photo… and it was incredible. Now she’d piqued my interest.

Fast forward to the day she posted a Sneak Peek on Facebook. My inner dialogue went something like this:

“Oh! Woah. Wait, that’s not me. Is that me? No way. That… Girl… Is… Gorgeous! She’s not awkward. She’s not boring. She’s adorable! That couldn’t possibly be me. Is that really me? *Looks a little closer… zooms in… inspects every detail* Yes, Janna, that’s really you. See the thin little lips, the crooked smile, and even that stupid nose. Yep, that’s you! But… I look gorgeous. Me… all of me… my thin little lips, crooked smile, and stupid nose look gorgeous. WHAT SORCERY IS THIS?!”

A few weeks later, the images were ready. There I sat in sweatpants with no makeup on, looking like a dump truck but surrounded my some of my best gal pals and a few bottles of wine, when Denise got a giddy little grin on her face and finally pulled out my photos. To be honest, I was speechless… and that doesn’t happen often. But I truly I didn’t know what to say. They were incredible. My friends were spewing compliments, oohs and aahs, picking their favourites. But I was in a cloud of shock. I barely recognized the girl in the photos. She was so pretty and so confident. She was a model! A FRICKIN MODEL!!!

Yes, I could still see all my flaws, but holding the 8×10 image in my hand forced me to see the whole picture. Literally. I couldn’t zoom in on my stupid nose or inspect my imperfect skin. And suddenly my flaws looked a little less dramatic, and I just saw a person. A whole person. The same person my friends were looking at right now… Dump Truck Janna and Model Janna. And in that moment, I realized that Dump Truck Janna and Ugly Janna and Awkward Janna and Goofy Janna and Model Janna… are all the same Janna. A living, breathing human being. A girl with a heart. A girl with a soul. A girl who is loved. And now I know that nobody sees your flaws as vividly as you do. In fact, the people who love you don’t see them at all.

Photography by Denise Andries

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