Last week I attended my ninth Engage! Luxury Business Summit conference at The Cloister on Sea Island, Georgia. I am what we refer to as a Nine Baller, and I proudly wore those nine balls around my neck until I broke my name tag with my (not so) smooth dance moves and they all went squirreling all over the dance floor, pell-mell and I sunk my head in sadness. Oh well! A girl does not need the actual nine balls to prove how in love with this conference I have become, that is a fun fact for you!
My first Engage was waaaaaay back at the Mandarin Oriental in Las Vegas, and I was a pink haired sassafras, full of more vinegar than sugar, due mostly to the fact that I was nervous and just wanted to be accepted for who I was. In this sea of really beautiful, accomplished and successful (mostly) women… I just felt out of sorts. Love ME. Not my hair, or my non-name brand Target maternity clothes. And no, I was not pregnant, just overweight and danggit their maternity clothes are stylish, people! In the end, all I can be is myself, I am a horrible faker and I was welcomed into the warm and comforting community that is Engage.
After attending several, I was asked to photograph at the Biltmore Engage, and have not really stopped since! How can I? Opulent event, after opulent event… it’s just so much fun! It was there that my Engage Portrait project started… as I am wont to do… I became inspired by you all, the light, the location… and just couldn’t help myself. This portrait project has since grown and now I have become an unofficial official part of the pre-Gala festivities. How can I pass up an opportunity to connect with each of you, for as long as our portrait session lasts? And I am still surprised at how open and vulnerable you all are with me, how much you trust me and just let me do my thing with you! I am still blown away. Thank you!
My goal with these portraits is for you to be seen. To be present. Remembered. Heard. Held. Listened to, validated. Sometimes there is a hug involved! OK, most times! While there may be over 300 people present around you, it’s easy to feel like you get lost in the shuffle of life. But for me…to stop, and take time and create some magic together is what it is all about. To look beyond those things about yourself that you don’t like (and I have heard the list, each time, from everyone)
My arms. My nose. This scar. I gained weight. I don’t feel like myself. Can you Photoshop me? I have a zit. Can you fix my hair? How’s my dress look? Can you make me look shorter? Can you make me look taller?
When all I see is your light! I don’t see the things you see. I see how you light up in her embrace, or how confidently you stand when you think no one else is looking at you, I see how you gently touch your friends arm in support of what they are saying, or how you almost throw your back out when you laugh at a joke. I see how handsome you are in that tux, standing in the corner, working the event, thinking you are invisible. I am mirroring you all, right back to yourselves. All of the wonderful things about you, the perfect imperfections. I hope that you can see that all in your portrait, in your smile, your laugh, the way the light makes your eyes sparkle. Thank you all for trusting me and waiting in that line…!! I truly appreciate it, so so much!
OK, full disclosure: the only think I HAD to Photoshop? Matt Buckman’s crazy front pocket wallet imprint! I just… could not even!
**disclaimer, sorry if I got your name wrong or there was no credit, but honestly y’all! Some of you have some straight up CRAY headshots where you cannot see your actual faces… so. I did my best, I promise you that! If you need a new headshot… I just may know someone! 🙂
Top Left: Sarah Campbell of Intrigue Design + Decor in Annapolis MD (who I got SO MUCH TIME with to chat and really get to know one another, I loved it!!!) Catie Bane, my own personal stylist and little sister for life of Catie & Amy, Hamden CT; Kirsten Ott-Palladino the founder of Equally Wed who I am so excited to have finally met!! and my former skittle sister Laura DeCarlo of Laura Dee in North Haven, CT
Amber Harrison with Wedding Paper Divas (she knows why she’s laughing so hard!) My love Calder Clark, one of the classiest and most amazing women I have ever met! of Calder Clark Designs in Charleston SC and my sweet southern colleague John Cain Sargent of John Cain Sargent Photography in Dallas Texas
Andrea Eppolito of Andrea Eppolito Events in Las Vegas, she’s super reserved! And this gal, who has got me BEAT in the long torso department (a first!) Perry Adams of Perry Vaile Photography in Raleigh NC
This lady has my heart! Cindy Novotny of Master Connection Associates knocks me out with her sass and her straightforward, no-nonsense approach to life! I adore her and her main squeeze Lefty so much!
Sarah Jennings of Lonesome Valley in Cashiers NC (which, dude I have been to and it is uh-MAY-zing!!) is my homegirl deluxe- paired with the other biggest Wonder Woman fan in the world, Dirty D aka Diana Chouinard of Jubilee Events, Cheshire CT
Top Left: Ashley Schnippel of Destinations by Design in Las Vegas; right- Belinda Belk of Blue Gardenia Events in New Orleans and those white gloves….! Say whaaaaat! Ryan Davis and his wife Alise Davis of Cloudless Films based in Irvine CA are expecting their first baby next year, so exciting!
Legs Magoo aka Lydia Redmond of The Ritz Carlton Naples, Florida; Jessica Martinez (WOW! I love this shot of her!) of Master Connection Associates based in Rancho Santa Margarita CA; and sweet Katie Cotton of Montage Kapalua Bay in Hawaii
Brian Leahy, a sweetheart of a man and a killer photographer to boot of Brian Leahy Photography based in Santa Monica CA; Sarah Horowitz of Sarah Natasha Photography in Marina del Rey CA and Hannah Kohler owner of Brooks and Barnes in Dallas Texas, who I just adore so so much!
Sylvia Weinstock. Need I say more? Didn’t think so!
These handsome devils are the man, the myth, the legend that is Paul Morse of Paul Morse Photographs based in New Orleans; Andy Cisick (way too much commentary to write here!!) of The Ritz Carlton, St. Thomas; and Brian Leahy because apparently I have a thing for him in color and in black and white! boop!
Laura Murray of Laura Murray Photography in Denver (who helped Joel and I not miss our flights home omgggggg thank you high five chest bump!) and the power couple that is Dane Gergovitch and Kimiko Hosaki of K.H. & Co. Consulting Group out of Kihei Hawaii + the sweet soul that is Amanda Allen of Newly Wish + the smile that is Gretchen Culver of Rentivist in Minneapolis
Kerry Beach (one of the most energetic performers, like.. EVER.) with Elan Artists based in NYC; My co-author and CT Bestie Chappy aka Beth Chapman of The White Dress by the Shore in Clinton CT + Beth Chapman Styling and Calder Clark again, because, shhh. Why not. I love her!!!
top right: Kaleigh Wise of Melodeon in Austin Texas; My Welcome Party date Karen Greenoe of Lily Greenthumbs in Charlotte NC
Lauren Fish of Jasper + Prudence Floral + Events in Woodstock VT- I love this portrait of you! Super Smile dot com!!
Seriously. Tedd Kapinos of Jasper & Prudence Floral and Events in Woodstock VT (this is one of my favorite portraits ever) Jimmy Guzman (um. I love your name, dude!) of O Luxe Design in Boston MA and the laugh-y Henry Heaton of Sapphire Events in New Orleans! I love this trio of men!
KRECKLEPUSS!!! This lady. My BFF. I luuurrrvve her. Vanessa Kreckel of Two Paper Dolls Design House in Philly!
The Mindy Weiss. Boop! Love her so much!
Sparkle-town Oneisha Richards of Cayman Islands Department of Tourism on Grand Cayman (one of my favorite islands ever!) bottom: My girl and that awesome dress Mary Wright Shah with Diamond Affairs Weddings + Special Events in Dallas
My fabulous team of photographers for Engage!16 Sea Island: John Cain Sargent, Moi, Joel Callaway, Elisha of Love Life Images, Jennifer Domenick, Gigi DeMaio and The Paul Morse! Love you all so so much! XOXOXO