Michelle Vanstory | Photo Shoot | Raleigh, NC


February 4, 2021

I’ve known Michelle for years so when I received her text asking if I was available for a photo shoot I said to myself….oh…this is going to be AMAZING! Michelle is truly one of the most kind, intelligent, beautiful, and talented people I know. Did I mention this HOT Momma is SINGLE?

So…I’m doing something a little different with this blog post. I asked Michelle to write her own post to share her story with all of you.

Here’s what she wrote…

It’s too rare, isn’t it? Those times when you see a photo of yourself and recognize Your Self — your real self — in the image? I find that in the handful of “favorite” photos from my own 47 years, I can recall exactly how I felt in the moments when the shutter clicked. Peaceful. Relaxed. Content. Cherished. 

There are dozens of other images in which the face I see nestled next to my children, or my friends, or my mother and sister is the face of someone uncertain. It’s the look of someone who fights to live up to the labels life has assigned her while also longing to break free of them. To not only be herself, but be fully and truly accepted for that Self.

The beautiful irony of middle age is learning to accept, love and cherish Your Real Self — just in time to stop caring whether anybody else joins you in that fan club or not. This brings us to my decision to book a photo shoot. Not a family shoot. But one just for me. What precipitated the idea is between me, my therapist and a few, select friends. What followed is a study in no regrets.

Choosing to work with Catherine was as natural as breathing. We met 15 years ago, when we both decided to take up tennis while our children were in preschool. Then and now, Catherine was someone who could make you feel instantly comfortable, confident and at ease. It’s just who she is. And it’s why she’s so brilliant behind the camera. 

To get camera-ready, I relied upon my very own Fairy Godmother, Emma Britton Carter, founder of Beam Beauty Brand. Emma has been a dear friend for 25 years, and she has a particular gift for translating inner spark into outer beauty. With these two brilliant and talented soul sisters on my team, all I had to do was show up.

Several people have asked me what the photo shoot was for. Or what I’m going to do with the images. With due respect for their curiosity, these inquiries miss the point.
Spending an afternoon selfishly documenting my presence on the planet signals to the world — and, more importantly, to myself — that I am worth it. I am worth claiming my own space in my own history. Separate and apart from all the others who have defined the arc of my story. An afternoon of feeling unique and beautiful and being the center of my orbit is not too much to ask. Or to want. 
Shouldn’t we all demand to be recognized as more than the sum of the labels the world has pasted on us? And to punctuate that demand in an indelible fashion?

Catherine captured some amazing moments that chilly January afternoon, when it was sunny and breezy and rainy and snowy — all the span of a couple of hours. I have delighted in sharing the photos with my loved ones, because everyone has a different favorite. But in all of them, I see the person I feel like on the inside. And that’s one of the greatest gifts I will ever give myself.
I imagine myself 30 years from now, looking at these images with my children and grandchildren. They will say “Grannie, you were a force!” And I will gently correct them: “AM darlings. I AM a force. And so are YOU.” And when they recognize the truth in that statement, their view of their own — and each others’ — places in the world will be forever altered in the best, most meaningful way.

  1. Nancy says:

    My daughter is everything I wish I could be. Her best features are her gentle, kind spirit and love for others. I am so immensely proud of the person she is. She has overcome many obstacles that would drown others, and she is stronger in herself than ever. I love you so, my beautiful snuggle bunny!

  2. Verna Cook says:

    OMG these are gorgeous! We all deserve some self pampering every now and then. She was brave to share her story. It will encourage others to be more self confident. You always seem to capture not only the beauty of your subjects, but their essence.

  3. Emma Carter says:

    It is truly an honor to witness you, Michelle.
    You and Mother Nature were on the same page that day, freeing yourselves by giving full expression to many of your unique facets! Catherine didn’t miss a beat keeping up with the forces each of you brought!
    By honoring your own self in this way, Michelle, you have given permission to us all!
    Thank you for being a beautiful pioneer.
    I hope to be your Fairy Godmother for another 25 years and beyond!
    Love you, Emma

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