Imagine a Beautiful Southwest Florida with Megan DiPiero

When I reflect on the women in my life, I see nothing but beauty.

My mom… radiant!
My best friend… stunning!
My daughter… gorgeous!

MDP Beauty portrait 1And it’s not just the women closest to me. I can walk down the streets of Southwest Florida at any give hour, and all I see is beauty, beauty, beauty.

In my eyes, there is beauty all around. And yet, when it comes to judging our own personal appearance we women tragically devalue our own beauty and in turn our own worth. According to the Dove Self-Esteem Project, “A global study … revealed that 6 out of 10 girls opt out of important activities because they’re worried about the way they look” ( Statistics like this abound.

The worldwide self-esteem crisis is troubling.

I have always been deeply connected with women’s issues. In 8th grade, when the yearbook staff asked me “what do you want to be when you grow up?” I answered unblinkingly: “the first female president and/or pope.” (And/or… why not?) When I was a teenager, I loved my summers as a Girl Scout camp counselor, leading girls in spirited activities and daily adventures. Now as a mom and business owner, I champion causes in Southwest Florida that support women and girls: I’m an active supporter of PACE Center for Girls and a founding member of Impact Initiative and SparkSWFL.

MDP BeforeAfter 3I’m convinced that if women and girls could see their own beauty, truly take it in and reflect it back with confidence and charisma, the world would be a transformed place. As a portrait artist, I’ve realized my calling to bring about empowerment and self-discovery through the Beauty portrait experience.

What is a Beauty portrait experience? Beauty portrait sessions are designed to showcase the many sides of a woman and bring out her true, authentic self. Is she powerful? Funny? Feminine? Bold? All of the above? Combining the best of Glamour, Fashion, and Boudoir, I strive to create a modern portrait of a woman. My clients and I meet together at a Style and Concept Consultation to flesh out the look of her shoot. We discuss what she wants to bring to light. I create poses and looks that speak to the way she feels most beautiful.

MDP Before After 2It is so rewarding to see a woman look at herself through the mirror I’ve created, reflecting back a spark within that she didn’t know existed. To get personal, I’ll share my own portrait experience. For as long as I’ve been a feminist and women’s rights activist, you would think a thing like negative body image would not hold me back. Unfortunately, for much of my life, I have struggled with body dysmorphia. Every morning in the bath, I would look down at my thighs and be deeply disgusted with what I saw. I’d cover them up with my arms and imagine a me with hips six inches smaller. Imagine starting every day with this bath time shaming ritual. I was eternally self-conscious about the way my clothes fit and embarrassed by my pear shaped body.

Megan DiPiero headshotThat all stopped after my portrait shoot with Tamara. Like me, Tamara Knight is a Beauty portrait photographer. She drove across the state so that we could do a Beauty portrait swap in my studio. Like so many of my clients, I started the session filled with anxiety. Though I had demonstrated the poses a thousand times, it felt quite different to be on the “wrong” end of the lens. Fortunately, as the shoot progressed, my fears subsided. With Tamara’s coaxing, I began to blossom. I felt my confidence rising click by click.

Megan_by_TamaraKnightPhotographyThe moment of truth came at my portrait reveal. Tamara had created a special artistic edit of her favorite portrait of me. The focus of the portrait? My glorious, rocking hips! I never in a million years would have considered my hips to be my favorite body part, but there they were drawing me in and looking absolutely fabulous! I couldn’t believe that was me! I couldn’t believe I was so gorgeous! I love that portrait so much that I now have it hanging front and center in my studio AND in my bedroom.

These days I wake up every morning and greet my own reflection. Not the twisted, skewed mirror I once knew so well– the picture of me through another’s eyes. I am the radiant mother. I am the stunning best friend. I am the gorgeous daughter.

Imagine if all women started their days not by covering up, but by opening up? What part of yourself will you let shine today? How will you let your beauty glow from the inside out? We have so much to offer the world, but it begins with believing in ourselves.

Just Imagine a Beautiful SWFL.

I won’t stop my Beauty portrait mission, until all the women of Southwest Florida can know and recognize that yes… You are beautiful! I believe in you! You will believe in you too!