Penny has been a part of my series FEARLESS, showcasing women who decide their own worth and live on their own terms. She is a multitalented woman who wants to live her life to its fullest, a free spirit embracing truth, creativity and adventure and a kind, loving soul. I feel so blessed having met Penny and photographing this beautiful woman. I hope you are inspired by her story as much as I am.
As a child I grew up in an idyllic English country village with my lovely family. My mum was a part of the local theatre and dance group so from a young age I got into performance & theatre work. We moved to the Midlands when I was 10 and I kept going with my dance and theatre which was a magical world that I always loved being a part of.
During secondary school I was sadly bullied for quite a long time and this did a huge amount of damage to my self-esteem & self-belief. I tried to cope by controlling the way I looked….make-up, dieting, exercise. I’m not sure why it came out like that – maybe I thought if I was more attractive then they would like me more…
I went on to college for my A levels and met my first love – a boy who I’d met once before when I was in my first year of secondary school and just thought he was the most beautiful & lovely boy EVER!! We dated for a long time and he did a lot to rebuild my self-esteem & help me to have fun, enjoying my late teen years. Sadly the relationship ended…we were just too young….and I really struggled to cope with that.
I fell into church life through a group of friends who all attended the same church with a really strong support network for young people. It was here that I met my future husband and embarked on a long journey of faith.
At 24 I married and at 28 we started our family. I’d always wanted to be a mum and it had taken us a long time to fall pregnant. After having our first baby girl, I began to experience post-natal depression, feeling like I was sinking under the weight of all this change and loosing my sense of self.
The next 5 years were very full on as my husbands career changed and we moved to China, then we had our second daughter. Through all of this time, as much as I loved my family & the opportunities we were having, I was hugely struggling with my own happiness, worth & identity.
When we returned to the UK I decided to retrain in health & fitness, following my passions of dance, exercise & yoga. This was a huge turning point for me as I began to do something that I loved and something that was for me. Us mums spend a lot of time giving to others and ignoring ourselves!
Our 30s have been a time of establishing ourselves as a family, building on our jobs & passions – including lots of performing arts for me! It’s been a time of real self-discovery and learning more about who we are as individuals and as a family. I have also experienced in this time a deconstruction of faith which I have found very liberating and enlightening. Whilst I still hold fast to a belief in a divine presence of love & creativity, I no longer feel boxed in by the constraints of organised religion.
What do you want from life, talk to me about your dreams?
To be authentic, free, adventurous & expressive! We have plans to build a house-box which we can travel the world in, spending time living off grid and exploring new places. I love my yoga and would love to teach yoga all over the world, meeting new friends along the way. And I want to keep pursuing my passion of performing arts, taking every opportunity that comes my way.
I want to show my girls how to live a life without constraints. To live well, respecting themselves, others & the world we live in….whilst also exploring, being creative and taking risks.
I love meeting & connecting with people – learning about different lives, cultures & beliefs….I hope that I will live a life of constant curiosity.
What brings you joy?
Fitness, yoga, dance & movement
Music & singing – performing
Being with others and sharing in community
Laughing, loving & adventuring!
Who inspires you and why?
Anyone who advocates truth & authenticity. Who has the courage & strength to be true to themselves in the face of life. People who are honest with their hearts and therefore give you permission to be honest with yours…..
What motivates you to do your very best?
The desire to live a life designed by me not by others or society. One chance…one me… I want to be the best version of me that I can be as I’m the only me!! And I want my girls to live that way too…..
What 3 things would you change in the world if you had power to make them happen?
To help people live lives of authenticity – free from egoic structures, effects of trauma and demands of a social media society. To embrace pure truth & happiness. (I’ve found something called Enneagram an amazing tool to help with this…..)
Greater equality – embracing our differences and seeing value in everyone.
Greater value placed on smaller creative communities rather than mainstream money-machines.
What are you excited for this year?
As my girls are now older I’m hoping to get back to building me and my passions – my work in fitness, performing arts, exploring the Enneagram and travelling with friends & loved ones.
What do you imagine yourself doing 5 or 10 years from now?
I hope to be working more 1-2-1 with people, doing Personal Training and Yoga. I hope to have strengthened more ways within myself to be authentic with myself and with others – a freedom of self expression. I hope to be exploring more of the wild – experiencing more off-grid living (think Ben Fogle Lives In The Wild!)
What one thing have you not done that you really want to do? What are you waiting for?
I want to try some modelling! I did a little bit when I was younger, but not a lot. I’ve held back thinking that I probably wouldn’t be good enough for it….but now I think it could be worth having a go!
What advice would you give to your 20 year old self?
Believe in yourself – explore, adventure, question and be true to your inner essence. Take risks & don’t regret. Live by your intuition & not by the expectations of others.
You can’t be faint-hearted in this life. If you want to live it well, you’ve got to press into the challenges as much as the good times and see everything as an opportunity to learn & grow. This past year has taught us all that life is precious and we only get one go at it….too often we take time for granted…
Why were the photographs important to you now?
I wanted to capture this moment in time when so much has changed and a lot of challenge has been lived through. They say that ‘youth is wasted on the young’ and I get that…. It’s not been until now, reaching my 40s that I’ve started to have a greater understanding of who I am and that I’ve started to have the strength and confidence to more fully explore, express & follow that.
How did you feel seeing your finished portraits?
Emotional!! They were so beautiful & I feel like they portray where I’m at right now…. As mums we so often put others first…it was humbling, emotional and empowering to unashamedly put myself first!
Photo & Retouch Renata Clarke
Makeup & Hair Styling Aleksandra Guz
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Renata specialises in magazine style portrait and boudoir photography. Her main focus is to empower women through the tailored experience and beautiful fine art portraits that will last a lifetime. Get in touch to reserve your complimentary consultation and talk about your dream portraits.