Living with Epilepsy: Mara Lynn opens up about her difficult journey and path to happiness.
Mara is one of those women who upon first meeting you think, “she must have the best life.” Her energy seems so boundlessly enthusiastic that you would never guess she’s lived with a crippling condition since childhood.
In her early teens Mara was diagnosed with epilepsy after suffering from seizures on a daily basis, leaving her constantly drained and struggling to focus. In 2005, she underwent the first of four brain surgeries, resulting in the removal of her Amygdala and Hippocampus, responsible for certain memory and emotional functions. The surgeries were successful at stopping her seizures, but left her unable to continue her career in acting. For Mara, not being able to act felt a little like not being able to breath. But rather than letting all this keep her down, she’s instead used her experience to inspire service for others. She’s an advocate within the epilepsy community and volunteers hours each week. She’s also found a way to channel her acting experience into modeling (and we can say this with confidence from photographing her) she’s an emotive, dynamic muse.
Finding her joy: Mara uses modeling for creative expression
For women feeling nervous being photographed, her advice, “Get out of your brain. Be honest with the photographer about how you are feeling. Good photogs, will do whatever it takes to get a great shot. Don’t be afraid to get support from your photog. Try & take your brain out of it. Let your body just go!”
For others with Epilepsy or struggling with their own personal challenges…
For those struggling with something on a personal level and having difficulty staying positive, Mara can really relate, “ Reach out for help, until you find the support that you need.”
For a little self-care, try her method, “80’s concerts, frozen yogurt, and friends.”
To learn more about Mara’s journey with Epilepsy, watch this video below. To help stop seizures and find a cure for epilepsy, you can donate here.
THE DECISION TO LEAVE WAS A HARD ONE, BUT HEALTHY ONE
In our latest feature for our Real Women of Revealed Series, Courtney S. shares how walking away from her marriage was one of the hardest things she’s ever done, but also the healthiest, leading to freedom after a controlling relationship.
The first thing you notice about Courtney is her vibrant red hair, followed closely by her raspy, unbridled laugh. Spend just ten minutes with her, and you’ll feel like you’re old friends. She is uninhibited, spunky, and the perfect amount of inappropriate.
It’s hard to picture, but less than two years ago, this ball of fire felt trapped in an unhealthy relationship, yearning to get out.
Back then she was like a faded version of herself, self-conscious of every action, filtering what she said and how she moved for fear of critique from her husband.
When I finally stepped outside of it, I realized, this is not me and I’m becoming a part of something that I don’t believe in.
Her breaking point came when during a trip they took with friends, someone asked, ‘how can you be with someone so verbally and mentally abusive?”
At the time, so used to living with her every move questioned, hearing an outsider make note of his controlling behavior struck like an ember to her skin.
I thought, “Oh my God, other people know? I’m not the one creating these problems, the anger, the unpleasantness. And then when I finally stepped outside of it, I realized this is not me. I’m becoming part of something I don’t believe in.”
Courtney says, it’s like this experience, “When you see yourself from a different view. I didn’t even realize what had happened in that relationship until other people had said them to me.”
“I was going to be 30 and in my head, I kept saying, I’m not going to be 30 and still doing this. I can’t. Thirty is going to be for me. I can’t let this person run my life and tell me what I’m gonna be.”
HOW SHE SURVIVED THE DIVORCE
When Courtney told her husband she was leaving, she said she felt relief and a sense of freedom. Still, there were days she was weepy and emotional, and others where she thought she could climb a mountain. It was a roller coaster of emotions. All of a sudden she was on her own again. She felt fear about the unknown, but when it came down to it, she knew she’d figure it out. “You have to.”
Over the last year and a half, she slowly reconnected with herself. While with her ex-husband, they lived in a dark, garden apartment that felt like a dungeon to her. Now she has a third floor unit with lots of windows. “I’m obsessed with light. [The lack of light] is very signifying of our relationship.”
After feeling like everything was held over her, being able to say, “this is me ,” was a significant change. “My whole wall was all Ani Difranco posters and the girliest shi*t I could have.”
She did a lot of journaling and focused on letting go of the guilt she carried with her after leaving.
My mom said, I never realized how unhappy you were until I saw how happy you are now.
Slowly but eventually, the vibrant Courtney you see in these pictures began to take shape. She came to realize “that I’ma lot stronger than I thought I was. Just to be myself is freeing in a lot of ways. I’m going to be sensitive, I’m going to cry, and that’s ok. It’s very freeing to just be able to be you.”
For any other woman struggling in an unhealthy relationship, Courtney says the best thing you can do is “go with your gut. If it’s telling you something’s not right, there’s a reason. The other side of your brain might be saying ‘no, it’s ok…’ and sometimes things are good on paper, but if you’re feeling it, there’s a reason.”
She knows other women might feel like they’re letting themselves or other people down by leaving, but “They’re gonna love you no matter what you do.”
When asked what the experience of being photographed was like, “it’s symbolic that you start fully clothed, and slowly you take off a little more and become a little more comfortable. You shed a little of your outer shell, protective barrier and by the end you feel like you.”
We’re so happy to feature Courtney as part of our on-going series, Real Women of Revealed -a collection of photos and stories of inspirational women we feel exemplify beauty beyond appearance. Click here to see more from this series.
Last week we posted a series of fine art nude photos from Real Woman of Revealed, Sherhara’s early morning shoot along Lake Michigan. This week, we’re featuring her again along with her second set of images from the morning.
Finding Confidence Within
Sherhara is a great example of a Real Woman of Revealed because her confidence comes from much more than her outward beauty. She is a motivational speaker, host, and philanthropist–helping individuals and brands recognize and communicate their message. Her success in this work comes from her own ability to be truthful with herself. When asked about this work, she said, “be honest with yourself, about who you are… your flaws, vices, weaknesses, challenges, imperfections, and mess ups. It’s easy to be honest about your strengths and positive attributes, but you’ll liberate yourself by having the courage to be your full self–flaws and all.”
We did a post-shoot interview with Sherhara to find out what it was like to strip down for the camera, and much more.
1. Describe the day of shoot in your own words:
The shoot was peaceful! Yet I knew something awesome was happening. I felt valued from the beginning to the end. Time went by quickly, but it’s probably because I felt I was being catered to. Without the photos I felt beautiful.
2. What do you attribute to your confidence in not only modeling for these images but also sharing them?
Everyone has titties!! I’m not showing anything that someone hasn’t gotten up in the morning and seen for themselves! Whether those boobs are someone else’s or their own. I’m not bashful about my body because everyone has one, just a different one. And the only way people can get over the taboo of being naked is to be naked. Who makes it a big deal? It’s not, if you don’t.
3. What inspired you to do this shoot?
My husband inspire me to do the shoot! He already wanted me to do some type of sexy photo shoot and it was perfect timing when I met the lovely ladies of Revealed!
4. How did you feel during and after?
I felt confident before the shoot and I felt accomplished afterwards. I was proud that I did something few have the courage to do. It’s great to know I knocked something off of my bucket list (even though it wasn’t on the list to begin with! Lol)
5. Any significance in your tattoos?
My tattoos are a symbol of a moment in time. I can reflect on each one and it takes me back to where I was in life. A photo album on my body instead of on my coffee table.
6. Can you talk about your dance/movement background?
I haven’t practiced dance in forever! It’s been enough time for me to say, “I’m a former dancer.” But movement comes naturally for me and the photo shoot is where I could use it again.
7. What advice do you have for our audience?
I ask that everyone challenge themselves to step outside of their comfort zone. Do something as least weekly that you wouldn’t normally have done! Surprise yourself with your own courage!
8.What lesson have you learned in your adult life that you value most?
Be honest with yourself about who you are i.e. your flaws, vices, weaknesses, challenges, imperfections, and mess ups. It’s easy to be honest about your strengths and positive attributes, but you’ll liberate yourself by having the courage to be your full self, flaws and all!
9. What advice to you have for other clients struggling with image confidence?
So many people have left this earth without truly loving and embracing themselves. Don’t be that person that dies without ever loving yourself. You have a body that’s a vessel for your life! To celebrate that vessel is to celebrate life!
When I opened the door to the studio at 4:45 am, I was greeted by a beautiful, smiling face, sitting before me. Having also just arrived, Sherhara was makeup free, but despite the early morning hours, already radiant. “Hi!” She said, with cheerful energy.
“Good morning.” I replied back. “It’s so nice to finally meet you!”
I’d been hearing about Sherhara for months after she showed up to support a friend during her boudoir session. I was out of town at the time at the time, but Laurie and Kelly raved all about her great energy. Still, I was a little nervous coming in to this shoot. I was meeting her for the first time while also venturing into new territory with an outdoor fine art nude photo shoot. Boudoir is already a vulnerable feat for many, and this was taking it two steps further-baring it all out in the open.
My concerns dissipated within minutes. Sherhara was the perfect person to collaborate on this experience. We wanted the shoot to be a celebration of the female form through tasteful, artful imagery. As a professional who specializes in coaching confidence, Sherhara really connected with the message.
While taking her picture, I felt a strong feminine energy radiate from her as she shifted gracefully through different movements. At one point, while the sun crested the horizon, Sherhara stretched her arms out toward the water in a maternal-like posture that touched me deeply, as my own son-to-be grew in my womb.
In our next series of images from the shoot, Sherhara answers questions about the experience, what inspired her to bare all, and more about her personal journey to loving herself.
Real Client Testimonial: Ms. V’s path to self love
“My body image has always been something I have struggled with. No matter what size I have been, it’s always been a tender subject-that fear of my body being undesirable. However, about eight years ago I started doing pin-up photo shoots. At first I was unsure and nervous but then I began to notice over time that the shots in which I let go and started to have fun were the shots that turned out the best and people were attracted to! The recognition of my own light inside of me and how that played the most important role in my photos began my love affair with photo shoots…. and me in them! I have learned so strongly that the most important thing you can do is to love who you are…every inch of you. So what if it’s a lot of inches or a little bit of inches-you define your beauty. When you allow yourself to love you, it radiates on film and more importantly in life. My experience in working with Maggie and Tanya at Revealed was one of the most comfortable and enjoyable shoots I have had in a long time. They build you up. They reflect your beauty. They champion your success. They take stunning photos and they create a safe space for you to revel in your own ridiculous awesomeness.”
Ms. V’s story of her path to self love is included in on-going series, Real Women of Revealed -a collection of photos and stories of inspirational women we feel exemplify beauty beyond appearance. Click here to see more from this series.
Exciting changes happening for our Chicago Boudoir Studio
Thank you so much for visiting and returning to the Revealed Studios blog! As we continue our work of celebrating women through photography, we love knowing our mission hits home with many of you out there. Over the past year, we’ve seen a lot of growth and many changes. We’ve worked with more women than ever, helping them experience the liberating and healing power of boudoir. We’ve photographed women from Texas to Australia, from their twenties to their seventies.
As our business expanded, we’ve continued thinking deeply about why we do this work. Yes, it’s fun and fulfilling on a very basic level (we get to serve gals champagne, get them all glam’d up, then honor our love of photography by capturing it all on camera). But what really makes our hearts, is watching the celebration that occurs during the Reveal Session when we witness women see themselves in a whole new light. Watching as someone is overcome by their pictures to the point of tears is incredibly moving. It’s during those moments that we know the value of this experience is more than skin deep. It reaffirms our mission and inspires us to do more.
This year we introduced our Real Women of Revealed campaign. We began this series to honor the amazing women we’re surrounded by who embody the idea that beauty is more than appearance. We’ve featured some very remarkable women, and now that summer is winding down, we’re looking forward to sharing others. We want to invite our past and future clients to submit their own recommendations for this opportunity. Each participant will receive the ultimate day of glamour, including professional hair and makeup, as well as a magazine-like portrait shoot, with an accompanying written feature sharing why this person was chosen. Interested? Please contact us at email@example.com to find our more information.
This fall, we’re also introducing a few very exciting new services. We can’t share the details just yet, but I will tell you it’s perfect for the client wanting more than a paper product from their boudoir experience.
As for the service we can talk about, it comes from hearing client after client tell our makeup artists, “I have no idea how to do my makeup,” or “I only know the basics for applying makeup,” and “I wish I knew some techniques for mixing up my makeup routine.
Well, you asked, we’re answering. We’re introducing makeup workshops at the studio. This is the opportunity to come back for an intimate lesson with our artists, who will walk you through their techniques for everyday makeup to special occasion looks. They’ll share tips on correcting dark circles under the eyes, a common complaint for new moms, and how to make your eyes pop without looking heavy-handed. Participants will get an inside scoop on the best products on the market and one-on-one help practicing techniques.
My last announcement comes with a heavy heart. After five successful years of partnership, Laurie Peacock has made the decision to pursue her love of family photography and writing. We’re all very sad to see Laurie go, but are so excited to see her shine in this new direction. Here’s a message from Laurie:
“It’s with sadness that I am leaving Revealed Studios. It was a tough decision, but I’m leaving to pursue other endeavors. Helping women see their beauty and power has been a life-affirming opportunity and one I will cherish always.
Thanks to all who have made my stay at Revealed be an inspiring and uplifting experience. Keep embracing your imperfections and strutting your sexy and amazing bodies.”
I, along with everyone working with Revealed, will cherish the imprint Laurie’s left on the company. We’ll miss many things about having Laurie at the studio, her contagious, releasing laugh most of all. -Maggie
Known as “Aunt Sandy” to many, A Silver Lining Foundation Founder Dr. Sandy Goldberg is dedicated to providing free mammograms to women who can’t afford them.
In 2000, Dr. Sandy was told she had breast cancer and would need surgery immediately. As a contributor on nutrition for NBC Chicago, she had the unique opportunity to share her experience with thousands of viewers in what became an intimate documentation of her 14-month journey treating and–ultimately– surviving breast cancer.
During that time, she received countless calls from strangers going through a similar experience, only without the financial means to receive the same level of care. Dr. Sandy became the point person to many, offering advice and a compassionate ear to those who couldn’t afford top-of-the-line care. After one day full of these calls, she returned home and burst into tears at the disparity between others’ treatment and her own. Her husband (a straight-talker!) said “what are you going to do about it?”
Her answer: “start a foundation.” And that’s how A Silver Lining Foundation (ASLF) was born.
Dr. Sandy’s mother was an immigrant to America from Russia and each month, when it came time to pay the bills, set aside a portion for others. She always heard her mom say in Yiddish, “we’re all family. We have to help each other through the tough times.” This way of thinking stuck with Dr. Sandy and eventually became the philosophy behind ASLF.
With Mother’s Day fast approaching, we are honored to feature Dr. Sandy as a Real Woman of Revealed. Like many of our own mothers, she’s an example of someone with a fountain of beauty streaming from her heart that nourishes those around her.
This Mother’s Day, we’re celebrating Dr. Sandy and A Silver Lining Foundation by partnering with The Hue Studio to raise money for ASLF’s Buy a Mom a Mammogram® Program. Revealed will be donating 25% of all proceeds from any Mother’s Day photo shoot to this important cause. We hope this gives you another reason to pamper your mother this year with a makeover and photoshoot. You can even jump in the pictures with your mom to capture the moment together. Know your gift will help a great cause, because like Dr. Sandy believes, we’re all family.
A Silver Lining Foundation Founder Dr. Sandy Goldberg feature is part of our on-going series, Real Women of Revealed -a collection of photos and stories of inspirational women we feel exemplify beauty beyond appearance. Click here to see more from this series.
We’re thrilled to feature the lovely Alicia Roman, meteorologist for NBC Chicago today on our blog. Besides being gorgeous and talented, Alicia is kind, funny, and a giver. She doesn’t take life too seriously and manages to stay grounded in an industry where that can be tough to maintain.
What inspired you to pursue meteorology?
I’ve always been fascinated with weather. When I was little (4 years old) – my dad was working construction and depended on the weather to “cooperate” or his job would be canceled. I would wake up early in the morning with him at 5 am to watch the weather channel (which was in its infancy then).
Also, he loved watching thunderstorms on our front porch. We would watch together – he would explain things to me and then we would run inside, turn on the weather channel and watch the radar for our area. After that, I had a meteorologist come to my school when I was in fourth grade and I was sold by then!
You were on the host committee for Tickled Pink, can you tell us a little about the organization and why you choose to support the cause?
My mother is a two-time cancer survivor – breast and colon cancer. She is amazing, such a strong woman. I am so motivated by her strength and perseverance during that time. Its very important to me to help and be an advocate for these organizations such as Tickled Pink.
What’s a day off like for you?
Hah! Well now a days – my days off are consumed with wedding planning ( getting married at the end of the year). But really, other than that, I like to wake up, watch the news, do a little work on the internet (emails and such), go to the gym, then come home to make a wonderful dinner followed by either binge watching netflix or tv with my fiancé! That is a perfect day off for me!
What makes you feel confident?
Knowing myself and what I stand for and believe in. Over the years it has been very hard to find that confidence. For me, I think it came later in life. Once I was confident in myself – my confidence at work came next, then with friends and etc.
What makes you feel beautiful?
Knowing that I am loved and I am happy with myself and what I am doing in this life, makes me feel beautiful. I have a wonderful family, network of friends and an AMAZING fiancé, all of whom would do anything to help me & I to help them.
Who are some women who have inspired you throughout your life and why?
My mother of course for her courage and strength.
Work related: Ever since the Weather Channel first aired – I LOVED Vivian Brown, and still do. She is still working at the station today. She has such elegance and grace when she gives her forecast, I’ve always tried to model myself after her.
In an industry where there’s so much focus on appearance, how do you stay grounded?
For me, I grew up in a humble household. I was taught to be grateful for everything you have, even if that includes beauty.
I’ve never been really comfortable being in the spotlight, so I have no problems staying grounded in that way, however, I work in a business that allows me to teach people about weather and protect them in times when the weather can be dangerous.
Do you have any words of advice for younger women struggling with their confidence?
In this day in age with, social media, magazines, photoshop etc… it is extremely hard for us to focus on what really matters, which is looking inward and realizing that we are so much more than what we see in the mirror. Be yourself and be happy – that is the real beauty in life!