The morning of Brenda’s shoot I was feeling particularly anxious. I’d been going through lots of changes, and was feeling cranky and kind of vulnerable. The anticipation of meeting a new participant can be somewhat overwhelming at times because I want to make sure I am completely present and accounted for in addition to working in tandem with Kim and Terry Lee to make sure everything is going to run smoothly. Set design, make-up, hair, wardrobe, and the grounding ritual and meditation we try to do before every photo shoot. I met Brenda at the top of the stairs and she smiled and introduced herself and my anxiety just kind of melted away. She seemed so settled inside it must have been contagious. She told me about her family and her life while we were doing make-up. She told me about her daughters and family, about growing up and the many challenges she had faced throughout her life. She told me she loves to make people feel comfortable and happy. By the time she left I realized she’d given us all a new way to perceive ourselves. Our body- just a shell. Inside we are absolutely anything we choose to be. Brenda is courageous, bold, beautiful. Brenda is comfortable in her skin and accepting of anyone else’s. Brenda is the embodiment of self acceptance and love. We love you Brenda.
TRP: Would you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Brenda: I’m just a girl, who loves big, lives big, is big! Thank goodness I finally figured that out!
TRP: What are the biggest challenge’s that have faced you as a woman?
Brenda: One of my biggest challenges has been being a “woman of size”, as they put it these days. Most of my life I was very physical, most people made assumptions that I wasn’t and then carried those assumptions further. It made me spend way too much time worrying about how to prove myself worthy to people, to the point where I questioned my own self worth. But in the end, I believe it made me a better person. It made me care more about others and their feelings and perceptions. It made me want to help. It made me more understanding of everyone’s differences. It made me a better mother.
TRP: What are some of the issues that you think are important to explore as it relates to being female?
Brenda: This one is hard for me, except for the first question above; I’ve answered all the others before this one. I’ve lived a very “masculine” life for a female. While my dad always voiced female stereotypes that I should emulate, be a “Be a teacher, so you will have summers off with your children.” “Lose weight so you will be attractive, and get a husband.” His actions were anything but. He taught me how to build and repair things, he taught me how to maintain and repair my cars. He taught me how to manage money and plan for a future. Not going to college was not an option. I spent much of my youth at his side and learned my lessons well.
I was fairly successful as a single female in a male industry. I fit in with my male counterparts, my dad had taught me well. Then I met a man, got married and had my girls. That man was content to stay home summers with our girls, and do the groceries… Unfortunately, the jobs that I had been doing, that challenged me and allowed me to travel were no longer being offered to me. The raises were fewer and farther in-between. I swallowed my pride and stayed, I had a family to support, and I didn’t have to courage to stand up for myself. That was a lesson I was never taught.
I have put in 30 years now and I can go. And I will, and I have, with the help and support of the women in my life, found my strength and courage. My new business will involve helping people. In my free time I will continue my volunteer efforts. When it is my time to leave this world, I will know that I have done good, I have felt good, and I have had a good life.
So maybe I didn’t answer the question directly…but I hope you got my messages.
TRP: What frightens you?
Brenda: Not finishing…
TRP: What is your “Life Mission?”
Brenda: To find the “good”… in people, in situations, in life, in the world around me…. I hope to never stop looking.
TRP: How do you keep yourself inspired by life?
Brenda: I often find the “good”! and celebrate it.
TRP: Is there anything in particular that made you feel like being part of the Revelation Project was a good idea right now?
Brenda: I first saw the pictures… I could feel the love… I had had no professional picture taking experience of myself where I felt that the person on the other side of the camera cared to see beyond the lens. I wanted to feel that.
Also, I am about to take a big leap, into retirement and hopefully into a successful new career, this opportunity, of putting myself in front of a camera, not usually a comfortable place for me seemed to be a logical step to say, “Here I am, gotta love me! I do!”
About the shoot:
TRP: What did you think about the approach of the upcoming photo shoot (before you got there) and what were the results you were expecting?
Brenda: Nervous, was I going to see that judgmental “fat lady” look in anyone’s eyes? I scoured the pictures, not a “fat lady” in the group.And then when I couldn’t find the shoot, oh no, I was hoaxed. Then I calmed down, let my mental resources take over and figured out how to find my way to the house. When I got there I was hoping to find the same love & humor & kindredness (so I make up new words every now and then) & joy that I saw in the other ladies photos.
But really, I had been reading Monica’s blog, so it was more the old pre-conditioned fears rising up than any real fear & trepidation.
TRP: How did you feel during the shoot and was there anything in particular that made you feel more or less relaxed or open to the process?
Brenda: I think the ladies would attest that it didn’t take very long for me to release myself into their hands. I think I felt like a bride feels on their wedding day, when they are surrounded by the ladies in their lives who care about them and want this day to be the day when they feel the most beautiful and cherished. I didn’t get that on my wedding day, didn’t know I had missed it until I just started to answer this question. So I guess I was made to feel immediately beautiful and cherished! Wheeeee
TRP: Can you describe in three words the way you felt before we shot
Brenda: Ready, able, willing.
TRP: Three words for after
Brenda: Happy, proud, devilish.
TRP: Three words for when you saw the results
Beautiful, happy, excited.
TRP: After you left but before you saw the results – did you have any thoughts about the experience? What were some of the things you thought about on the drive home?
Brenda: I couldn’t wait to share the experience with my friends. I left to meet a dear friend for lunch, an older woman who has become a mother/grandmother figure in the lives of my daughters and my life. She has lived most of her life as a single mom, a teacher and an ACTIVE DEMOCRAT. I couldn’t wait to share with her, I knew she would understand what had just happened to me in a way that my own mother never could.
I also thought of my girls, and my hopes and dreams for their lives as women.
TRP: When you saw the results can you tell me your first impression?
Brenda: Oh so pretty!
TRP: Can you talk about the feedback you received from those who saw your photographs?
Brenda: It was all from women, mostly the women whom I count as my friends, it was all positive. The most meaningful were the comments about how they captured the me that they see.
TRP: What are some words you would use to describe how those comments made you feel?
Brenda: Successful, happy, humble, content that the person I try to be showed up in the persona captured in those pictures.
TRP: Did you learn anything new about yourself from the experience?
Brenda: I’m not sure; I’m a very introspective person, so I’m always thinking about myself, my family, my friends & people around me and how the whole big puzzle of humanity works, so I’ve trodded down lots of mental paths…
TRP: Did you feel empowered?
Brenda: Definitely! Something happened shortly after the shoot, a negative decision was made that was specifically about me and my size. In the past I would have shrugged it off, this time I choose to fight, not because it will affect the outcome for me, because it won’t, but because it could for others like me.
TRP: Since the shoot happened a few months ago now can you talk about the lasting impact of the experience? Has it altered the way you view yourself or your surroundings?
Brenda: As I mentioned earlier, I’m about to make a big change in my life, I will be leaving my secure financial situation, into a world where me and my family’s security s will be as a result of my hard work, and the person I have become. Here’s my new logo!
TRP: Do you think this was an important/valuable experience for yourself? Why?
Brenda: Yes, it was a kick in the pants, get out of your comfort zone, kind of thing. It’s where I need to be now to move ahead with my life. I put myself out there, nothing scary happened, I’m ready to try the next step!
TRP: Do you think it’s relevant for other women? Why?
Brenda: YES! And I’ve been telling all my friends. It’s not always easy to explain why, mostly I tell them about why I did it, and I tell them to start with reading Monica’s blogs and the other Revelation Ladies interviews, that’s what I did before I signed up, and knew that I needed some of their wisdom, they took me down new paths of exploring myself and who can’t benefit from that?
TRP: How would you use the photos moving forward? Professionally? Personally? As gifts?
Brenda: So far I have been content to have my favorite as my FB picture. That one, to me, reflects in my eyes my “badgirlness” which I try to temper with intelligence and thoughtfulness.
TRP: What is your favorite song and why?
Brenda: Ooooh, these kinds of questions are always ones I hate to answer…”What is your favorite…” The world is too big & too varied for me to pick… I have songs & artists that touch me for so many different reasons I could never decide. Maybe it goes back to my credo, “Find the good”. It’s everywhere, music, people, art, movies…I just let it move me.
TRP: Why do you think this project is important?
Brenda: Ah, another question about “The Good”. At its core, I believe it’s about women taking time for feeling good about themselves. The women who are The Revelation Project, Monica, Terri Lee & Kim, who enable us to feel good about ourselves, the women who have participated in The Project, empowering other women to experience it for themselves, and lastly, for all the women who see our results of The Project and give us positive reinforcement that fuel us to continue on our paths.
TRP: If you could sum up the experience what would you say?
Brenda: To steal another very popular slogan….Just Do It!
To find out more about The Revelation Project please visit our facebook page and don’t forget to “like” us, and if you’d like to participate please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org