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.
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