Steph is another incredible woman in my portrait series FEARLESS, showcasing women who decide their own worth and live on their own terms. Her session was a little bit different from others and I remember my excitement when she shared her Pinterest board with some inspirational images. We knew from the early stages of planning what would be the main idea/ motive of this shoot and what we will focus on. I loved how Steph was open to various ideas in terms of styling and actual images. We decided to go for a timeless retro liner and neutral lips which later on we changed to classic red. We did not want the images to be overpowered by the makeup since all of these were close beauty shots. This session was not about the makeup or outfits. It was entirely about Steph and her journey and we wanted it to be the main focus. I am so in love with the final effect and also grateful for Steph letting me do all sorts of crazy things on the day of the session like…. using my fabulous pink tulle skirt to wrap around her face for one of my favourite series of 3 portraits to date.
Where do I begin?
My Mum is my biggest inspiration but life has been hard.
She suffered with poor mental health and so growing up surrounded by fear was hard. I had to grow up fast. I am so thankful to say that she is well now and we enjoy doing lots of lovely things together.
I’ve lost so many people in my life. By the time I’d hit my early 20’s all of my grandparents had died. I’ve lost dear friends too. All of these loses and my upbringing could have propelled me into a dark state of mind and I recognise my life could be very different.
However, I decided to use my experiences and healing to help others. I qualified as a counsellor, I do art therapy and I also work as a reiki practitioner/psychic medium.
I genuinely believe my souls purpose is to help people find theirs. And boy I love what I do.
My self confidence in relation to my body image though is very low. I have always struggled with my weight. And rather than embrace my curves, I have spent years torturing myself about my appearance.
A key reason for this is that when I was 26 in April 2016 I was given a bombshell that I have early menopause and cannot conceive. I only went to the GP with fatigue.
A scan revealed my left ovary is 12mm instead of the 3-5cm. My right ovary could barely be seen at all and my womb had shrunk to a size similar to a shrivelled prune instead of the pear shape it is meant to be.
My FSH levels are very low and have been on every blood test, which is how they know my ovaries have stopped working and I will not be able to have children. My womb being so small would struggle to hold a baby and make it more likely that I would have a miscarriage if I tried.
From the signs and symptoms specialists suggested that my menopause journey started about 5/6 years before diagnosis, so around age 21, but I just never knew.
I am now on hormone replacement therapy and write blogs and run a Facebook page called TeamOvaryacting, where I share videos and posts about my menopause.
My menopausal symptoms are persistent and I regularly have to visit Birmingham Women’s hospital to see specialists there as I am not aware of anybody else closer to me that can help with my issue. If I’m honest, many specialists don’t really know what to do either.
This news completely devastated me to my core, as you can imagine. However, like I say above, I used this to turn my life around for the better, helping others along the way.
In the past I have been on Lorraine, Sky News, lots of radio shows and have appeared in magazines such as Positive News and Stylist, to share my story and raise awareness. I have also campaigned for fertility treatments in the past. I have no children and don’t intend on having any now. But I always wanted them before my infertility diagnosis.
It’s a been a long journey to body acceptance. My body doesn’t work ‘as it should’ and it doesn’t look how I would like it too. But it’s mine. And I hope if it is possible, that a photo shoot with yourself as part of this campaign, can be another thing I do to increase my confidence and self awareness, inspiring others along the way.
What do you want from life, talk to me about your dreams?
What I want most out of my life is to be grateful, happy and share the love I feel in my heart. My dreams are to continue doing what I love, be genuine, humble and work with others to improve our mental health and well being.
Who motivates you and why?
There are many people who motivate me, friends, family, artists, musicians etc and all in their way they helped me become the person I am today. I defintely feel a lot of self motivation from the work i do and seeing the progression in others prompts me to do more for myself also.
What would you like to do more each day?
Meditate! Finding time to connect to myself more and go within. I truly believe all of the answers we seek are within us we just have to trust we can reach them.
What else would you want to experience in your life?
Travelling! I would love to travel to new places and in particular places that have a lot of history.
What gets you truly excited about life?
Meeting new people, seeing new places and having new experiences. In my work i absolutely love supporting people and seeing their growth.
What 3 things would you change in the world if you had power to make them happen?
1. No more war/conflict
2. That everyone would respect one another irrespective of whether we understand each other for not.
3. That more and better holistic health services become recognised
What do you see yourself in 10 years from now?
Hopefully owning my own well-being cafe which will be a hub of support and promotes positive health and wellbing, focusing especially on mental health.
What advice would you give to your 20 year old self?
That I’m fabulous and do not need to change for anybody else. Life is tough but there are things to be grateful for all of the time.
Why were the photographs important to you now?
Because inner wounds deserve to be photographed. I have always loved photography and I am a keen snapper myself (only on my iPhone though)
I believe in capturing the spirit and truth of a person and not just the appearance. I do believe that you can see someone’s story through a photograph and I love that so much. I am a very sentimental person, I have photographs all over my house.
How did you feel seeing your finished images?
Honestly amazed! I don’t feel i am the most photogenic person in the world but my images made me feel I was! It was really hard to pick my favourites.
Stephanie is qualified Counsellor, Reiki healer and and workshop facilitator, dedicated to providing support to enhance your mental health and well-being. To get in touch or find out more visit Gateway Counselling And Well-Being Support or email email@example.com
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.