Sarah showed up to her REVEAL shoot with terror in her eyes, but her chin and body projected her courage. I think the first thing that struck me is how honest she was in her own paradoxical experience of signing herself up for something so... REVEALING. She wanted to fade into the background and yet she wanted to be seen. She wanted to give it all and yet she was hesitant to receive. She wanted to know the depth of her independence and yet she sought belonging and connection. Bringing Sarah to the edge of her comfort zone was such a beautiful tradeoff because in exchange, we were there to witness her quiet power and her disarming beauty. As you look at her photos, please note that the RED DRESS came to be a symbol for us that day. She blanched when we pulled it from the wardrobe as it's loud reputation seemed to represent all of the ways in which she did not wish to be perceived. The conversation that weaved it's way throughout the day was one of what defines us: Our clothing does not define us. Our bodies do not define us. Our circumstances do not define us.
Red is the color of extremes. It’s the color of passionate love, seduction, violence, danger, anger, and adventure. Our prehistoric ancestors saw red as the color of fire and blood – energy and primal life forces – and most of red’s symbolism today arises from its powerful associations in the past.
Red is also a magical and religious color. It symbolized super-human heroism to the Greeks and is the color symbolizing the Christian crucifixion. Red was almost as rare and as expensive as purple in ancient days – a fact that may explain its magic and power, which brings me back to the revelation of Sarah.
Sarah is a quiet and powerful force of primal nature, dancing with the process of expansion.
Her gift to herself is to embrace the full range of her self expression, including the red dress parts.
As you'll see below, she shows up for all of it!
TRP: Who are you today?
I am a mother and a woman of purpose. I have been blessed with 3 beautiful and kind children who I have confidence are the people they are becoming because of the positive example I have helped set for them. I am purposeful as I have chosen to approach life with the belief that I can inspire others with my caring and intuitive spirit.
TRP: What are the biggest challenges that have faced you as a woman?
The objectification of women in the media and an unattainable level of beauty. How this ‘desirable beauty’ can destroy the self-worth of many young girls and women. Finding my voice and using it without the fear of judgment.
I have also been challenged as a woman to balance home and work. I feel women in our society are not given enough time to celebrate their children and raise them without feeling like they’re missing out in the professional world. I’ve always felt that I had to make a choice between the two and although I wouldn’t trade staying home and raising my children for anything, I feel as though I am often judged because of it. What are some of the issues that you think are important to explore as it relates to being a woman? Why some women choose to break other women down..
I feel as if women have so much potential to encourage and learn from each other. My work makes this topic so much more relevant because learning to live openly, with courage and authenticity starts in childhood when young girls are easily influenced by the women around them.
TRP: What makes your heart ache?
Insincerity, unkindness and not belonging.
TRP: What frightens you most?
TRP: What do you deeply love? (This can be ANYTHING or ANYONE or ANY PLACE…)
I deeply love nature. I can attribute my love of nature to having lived in the State of Vermont for 21 years of my life. I have extremely fond memories of exploring the woods behind my house for hours and traveling by horseback with my best friend while the autumn leaves burned brightly around us. I deeply love music. Music lights up my soul. I am amazed with how music and certain musicians can create emotion without words and intrigued by how diverse musical sound can be. I deeply love my family. My children have taught me so much about myself. They have taught me that I am strong.
My oldest daughter is a lot like me…her ability to empathize with others is amazing but she often forgets about taking care of herself. My son is a bundle of energy that reminds me to celebrate each and every moment. My youngest daughter has given me the gift of time. My partner is my greatest source of strength and I am just now understanding and celebrating this. He believes in me even when I don’t have the strength to believe in myself. We are a team.
TRP: What is your “Life Purpose?”
My ‘life purpose’ is to be an authentic example for young women so that they are able to grow and nurture their self-confidence like I was unable to for so many years. I am currently living life on the threshold of judgment and vulnerability as I’m learning that the things I avoided where the most important to face. Living in this fear, I wasn’t allowing myself the opportunity to grow. I am committed to this ‘life purpose’ by choosing courage and positivity and that through this imperfect courage, I might inspire others to discover their potential and share their story with the world. You never know the impact you can have on another person, just by being yourself.
TRP: How do you keep yourself inspired by life?
Running is the place where I can truly be myself. I love watching the seasons change from my running shoes. I was always a good runner as a girl I and remember finishing first out of all the girls AND most of the boys, in any timed run in gym class. When I discovered running again in my early 30s, I found it provided a healthy space for me to escape years of negative self-talk (it also didn’t hurt that I started placing first in my age group at local races)! I further found that by setting goals and reaching them, like this past fall when I ran my first marathon, it taught me that I am the possibility of many things-far beyond the limits I place on myself.
TRP: Have you ever hit rock bottom? Please share about it if you’re willing.
I don’t think I’ve ever hit rock bottom. The Revelation Project is opening up a world I’ve locked away for years and I am grateful for the experience. We’ll see if this ‘enlightening’ has a bottom or just and endless sky.
TRP: Is there anything in particular that made you feel like being part of the Revelation Project was important to your life right now?
I knew TRP existed because Andrea told me about it when we were doing some non-profit work together and I knew I needed to join the movement but it was never the right time. 3 years ago, I began a journey that started with and continues to be, facing my biggest fears. I started a chapter in CT of a nationally known non-profit after school program for girls called Girls on the Run. We are a positive youth development program for girls in grades 3-8, ‘inspiring them to be joyful, healthy and confident’. At Girls on the Run, ‘we envision a world where every girl knows and activates her limitless potential and is free to boldly pursue her dreams’. Meeting after school twice a week for 10 weeks, the girls are mentored by certified coaches and taught life lessons that incorporate running games. By the end of the session, the girls are physically and mentally prepared to run a 5k event.
The Girls on the Run program was founded in 1996 by a woman who, in her 30’s, finally realized her potential while out on a morning run. She used her experiences to create a safe space for girls to embrace their gifts and celebrate their strengths.
I let years of negative self-talk hold me back from reaching my potential and celebrating my strengths. I was shy and introverted as a kid….In certain situations I still am! From a very early age, I began believing that these qualities were negative and I used this negativity to define myself. What I saw as weakness were actually my greatest gifts. I had let others define me. In order to fully be ‘present’ in my work of inspiring girls to be themselves, I needed to reconnect with this piece that I left behind years ago. I know how the lack of self-worth is extremely detrimental to the spirit of a young woman and by choosing Girls on the Run, I’ve committed to sharing my experiences to help others.
TRP: About the shoot
TRP: What did you think about the approach of the upcoming photo shoot (before you got there) and what were your expectations?
I had no expectations about how the shoot would go, I just trusted it was somewhere I needed to be.
TRP: How did you feel during the shoot, and was there anything in particular that made you feel more or less relaxed and open to the process?
I was nervous as hell….I knew only knew Andrea and my vulnerability showed up in the first few photographs. Once I was able to ‘shake things up’, I loosened up. I am actually quite playful and after I had a moment, I was able to relax and let things go. My ability to finally ‘let-go’ and share myself in the care of these three women was very empowering. The greatest part of the experience was even though they didn’t know me, they created a beautiful space for me to explore by listening with care and love.
TRP: Use three words to describe the way you felt before we shot:
Anxious, Unsure, Child-like.
TRP: Three words for after:
Hopeful, Unique, Thoughtful.
TRP: Three words for when you saw the results:
Anxious, Unsure, Hopeful
TRP: After you left, but before you saw the results, what were the thoughts and feelings you were having about your experience? What were some of the things you thought about on the drive home?
I felt unearthed. I was amazed how quickly the time had passed. I felt different. I felt like I had experienced something intimate and transformative. I felt like I had faced fear.
TRP: When you saw the results what was your first reaction and impression?
I felt nervous and absolutely anxious. My daughter was the first one I showed the pictures to. She made the anxiety worse when she talked about how ‘strange’ I looked in the red dress photos. She actually laughed out loud when she saw the photos and I imagined her saying, ‘this isn’t how mommy is suppose-to dress’, in her 11 year old, matter of fact way…. Her reaction mirrored my own anxieties which caused more discomfort. I instantly connected with the photos of me outdoors and I know this was my comfort zone. It is through nature and the natural world that I feel the most connected. I think this shone through in the final photographs.
TRP: What was some of the feedback you received from those who saw your photographs?
It was all positive. Gorgeous, beautiful, confident, etc. It was so interesting to see people comment on my photos and use these words because they are not the words I think of when I picture myself. In fact, they are the exact words I find I lack when I describe myself. I had a high school friend tell me she always thought I was one of the most beautiful girls in high school. That was a surprise….
I had a family member say she was thankful I did this because she always looked up to me, feeling like I was someone she should aspire to be, and to know I struggled with negative self-talk was inspiring to her because she struggles with it too.
TRP: How did the feedback make you feel?
Amazing. I didn’t want it to stop.
TRP: Did you learn anything new about yourself from the experience?
I have learned that I am afraid to be in vulnerable situations because I fear I lack the tools to handle them with grace. It is in these vulnerable situations where true self growth lies.
I have learned that I have the ability to choose how I will react when faced with other people’s insecurities and that I can choose what type of people I want in my life.
I have learned that in facing my deepest fears I allow myself to let go of the possibility of being perfect and instead, give myself the permission to be imperfect. It is in the imperfections that we live the most empowered life.
TRP: Do you feel empowered, and if so what parts of your TRP experience were empowering
I do feel empowered but it wasn’t something I felt right away. It took a week for the anxiety to wear off and then I was able to look at the experience from a perspective of BE-ing without my own self judgment. TRP has shown me that the only way to grow as an individual is to face our deepest fears and overcome them, something I already know intellectually but had to experience, in a safe environment, for it to make sense.
TRP: Since the shoot happened, what is the lasting impact of your experience? Has it altered the way you view yourself and the way you interact in your relationships?
I am approaching people with purpose and not fear. I am better able to choose what I want to let into my life. I have begun to trust my instincts again as I was always told that I am ‘too sensitive’….something that was detrimental to my spirit for so many years. I am a person who longs for connection and wants to share myself with others and I will do so without fear of telling too much. It is through our stories that we are connected.
TRP: Do you think it's relevant for other women, and if so why?
The Revelation Project is SO relevant for other women because we all long to share, to belong and to be heard. We have the ability to connect on a deep, intimate and spiritual level with one another in a world with so many external pressures and influences. It’s through this connection that we offer grounding to each other and can make sense of all the external ‘noise’.
Girls often loose themselves at a time when they are transitioning into women-hood because of these ‘societal’ pressures, stereotypes and external noise.
The Revelation Project helps us connect with the girl we might’ve lost in our childhood….that girl who just wanted to be accepted but gave up trying to find her-self because she just wanted to fit in.
TRP: How will you use the photos moving forward; professionally, personally, as gifts?
I will use these photos on my social media pages and change them as I feel inspired to do so. The red dress photos might pop up when I’m feeling powerful and secure for that woman exists beneath the exterior (even if my 11 year old daughter says she doesn’t)…. Clothing does not define me.
TRP: Which photo was your favorite, and why?
The one close-up of me outside…..I feel it depicts me as the ME I see: kind, natural, playful and a tad beautiful too. It’s the me I want the world to see.
TRP: What is your favorite song today, and why?
My favorite song today is “The Incredible” by David Gray.
He is an amazing musician and I admire his ability to create such depth of emotion though his music. But the song is powerful because the lyrics depict the possibility of what I hadn’t allowed myself to be. “This time, it won’t leap past us”….
TRP: How would you sum up your TRP experience in one sentence?
The Revelation Project is an intimate awareness of self and so worth the enlightening roller-coaster ride.
Thanks for such an amazing shoot Sarah!
View Sarah Lafayette's REVEAL YOU gallery below.