Giving Gown 2018

Image by Michael Martinez Fine Portraits

Hi everyone! It’s good to finally share a bit with you about Giving Gown with you. I had an AMAZING time getting to speak some value and worth into the girls that attended our self-esteem workshop, “Let Your Light Shine.”

In case you don’t already know what The Giving Gown Foundation is, it is a non-profit organization that I am involved with that “collects donations of new and like-new formal gowns and accessories and provides them free of charge to high school girls who would otherwise be unable to attend their formal events.” Giving Gown is “dedicated to promotion confidence and self-esteem to high school girls and strive to help them attend their formal events in style, regardless of financial circumstances.”

This foundation speaks to me because my background is very similar to these girls, and I believe my life would have been changed by attending such an event as a young lady. I believe it would have been one of my favorite memories from high school. I worked a part-time job as a high school senior, and could barely afford my prom dress and hairdo. It was definitely a budget job! Giving Gown would have completely changed the game for me, and made me feel wonderful.

“When you shine, everyone benefits.”

I believe that Giving Gown was sent to me by God in order for me to realize my own true beauty. As I grow through the years, I am able to pass on what I learn to the girls. What was most profound about this year’s personal journey was that I learned that the more I accept myself for who I am and what I look like, the better I felt. I have been “hiding” for a very long time, not wanting to look the way I look or be the way I am, afraid of what people may say or think. Through a year’s journey of self-acceptance, self-love, and appreciation, I was able to come into a light that I had not known before, and was able to share that light with whomever would see it. Have you ever heard the song, “This is Me” by Keala Settle from The Greatest Showman soundtrack?  If not, you need to! It feels like an anthem for everyone. In it, the heroine states:

“I am not a stranger to the dark
Hide away, they say
‘Cause we don’t want your broken parts
I’ve learned to be ashamed of all my scars
Run away, they say
No one’ll love you as you are.” ~”This is Me” lyrics

Well, I was told the same thing, almost verbatim, as a young girl. I was hiding in a dark place, waiting to be called or noticed, and when I came out, I was told, “Get back in there, no one wants to see your ugly nose.” At that moment, I had a choice to make. I can throw it away or believe it. Well, I was only 6-8 years old at the time, so I believed it, and have been “hiding” ever since. Always afraid to succeed or get noticed, because I didn’t want my picture taken, I would always scale back on what I knew I could do and settle constantly in thousands of ways. I would be willing to bet there are many others that have been told something similar in their lives, or understand what I mean, otherwise the song itself would not connect with so many.

“When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
Gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I’m meant to be, this is me
Look out ’cause here I come
And I’m marching on to the beat I drum
I’m not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me.”  ~”This is Me” lyrics

We played the song for the girls as they walked into the workshop and many of them knew the lyrics. It was so fun to watch them be inspired by it. My wish for them during each session was to realize that they are beautiful just as they are, they are important, and if it were the last thing anyone ever heard from me again, it would be that they everyone is valuable. That’s the idea behind The Giving Gown Foundation’s workshop, and I appreciate the stage they’ve given to me and my workshop partner, Carmalyn McCracken from You Got Joy to communicate it. Together, Carmalyn and I do our best to help these girls feel worthy, empowered, and loved.

“While the girls may be focused on their dress, we are focused on them. Our mission is for each girl to be treated with respect, grace and love. Every young woman deserves the opportunity to realize positive experiences regardless of their financial or family circumstances.” ~The Giving Gown Foundation website

Please enjoy a quick slideshow I put together for the event. I was able to shoot a little while on the last day, and enjoyed seeing all the smiling faces in the boutique.

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