“I worked in accounting for less than a year and it was then that I realized that all of the money in the world could not make me happy if I hated my work. My first job out of college was at a marketing firm. And after being there for about a year I found myself always making excuses to ask the creative department questions about an invoice, credit card statement, expense report, or whatever. Whenever I stopped by everyone always seemed so happy. They were always smiling, looking at photos, and doing fun, creative things like producing T.V. commercials, hello! I don’t hate accounting or finance, but I thought, ‘If I am going to spend most of my day doing anything why not spend my time doing something I love?’ When I had that epiphany that is when I made it my mission to find my life’s passion.
I discovered my passion on one of my saddest, darkest days and I remember it as if it were just yesterday. After some soul searching, tears, and most oddly, reading an inspiring magazine article – which I still have – I had found it, a career I could be passionate about. I never knew what I wanted to be growing up. As a little girl, adults always thought it was cute and funny when I expressed my concern or would tell me that I had plenty of time. The thought of it is hilarious to me now too, but back then it was a serious concern for me. After discovering my passion and starting to work I didn’t feel comfortable charging people for my photography because I felt like I was ripping them off or I would greatly under charge them. It felt weird to charge someone money for something I enjoyed so much. For a longtime I had equated earning money with hating my job. Silly, I know, but true.
I have been a photographer for almost 12 years, but I starting working professionally, also known as earning money, in 2006 and started shooting full-time in 2008. I’ve worked for companies like Essence, OK! Magazine, ShopSmart, and Maxim. The wonderful thing about my job is that my days are not really typical. Each shoot and client are different in their own way and each shoots presents its own set of challenges and excitement. Before I learned about photography as an art and a business it always seemed so glamorous and exciting and a lot of times it is. However, I think a lot of people would be surprised to see how much actual time photographers spend on non-shooting work.
When I first started out I reached out to one of my favorite photographers, Kwaku Alston. Mind you, he is a world renowned photographer and has shot probably any celebrity you can think of including Barack Obama and the first family. I would look at his work in magazines and dream of meeting him and working for him. I contacted and harassed his studio for months, but it got me an internship and I learned valuable lessons that I still use to this day.
I don’t find being a woman or woman of color in this business to be a stumbling block at all. If anything, I believe being a woman in photography gives me a bit of an advantage because we’re detail oriented in ways that men aren’t and we have a different perspective to offer. The photo industry is changing for the positive more and more everyday. Some of my favorite photographers are actually women. Life is what we make it and my career is what I make it. We all have something great to offer the world and the resources are there for us to make a living doing what we love. Riches and abundance that is meant for us have our individual names on it, we just have to go and claim them. Unfortunately, some of us are too afraid to take the necessary steps to find out if it is true or not.
Failure is inevitable. It is what we do with it that sets us apart and makes us successful. We can take that failure and learn from it or we can take that same failure and use it as an excuse to give up and settle for whatever someone else decides for us. Once you’re pursuing your passion you will be so happy and fulfilled that failure will be the last thing on your mind. Really. You will be so energized and on fire with inspiration the last thing you will think about is failure. I remember not being able to afford the latest fashions and dinner sometimes came from the restaurant I waitressed at, but I was still happy. I think thing that helped me the most was defining what happiness meant for me like love of family, time to pursue photography, and leisure time. Having an expensive car, hair do, or designer clothes was not it. I remember wardrobe styling some of my models in clothes I dreamed of being able to afford one day. I must admit that it feels great to be able to afford those clothes today, but I still don’t need them. I am just as happy scoring a $10 thrift find as I am rocking a $100 shirt.
When it comes to black women and our natural hair and what the world thinks, to be perfectly honest, popular media, for more than the most part is not a friend to black women, so we should not be interested in what they or their ‘studies’ or ‘statistics’ have to say about something they know nothing about. For the woman that believes that the media is right, she has a lot to learn.
Some people have a problem with professional black women with natural hair. But, I can be bit of a rebel. I am one who would go to work and ‘wish someone would’ say something to me about my natural hair. I remember I was working for the corporate office of MGM and I had started wearing a head scarf like Musiq Soul Child, but with a little more color and design. I thought it looked afrocentric and cool. A woman at my job decided she should take it upon herself to say something to me about other people in the office having an issue with my scarf and thought that I might be gang affiliated. Mind you, she was a black woman and not my supervisor or someone above me. I think she was the one with the issue. I simply told her to direct that person or persons to me and I will personally tell them which bus to take and where to get off at. Funny, no one else approached me about it.
My hair is beautiful and I’m beautiful. This is how God made me and he doesn’t make mistakes. I’ve been natural since 2002 and I am happy and unapologetically proud to have kinky hair. I used to be a product junkie, but now I am a serious minimalist. My holy grail is water. I also love shea butter, aloe vera juice, coconut oil, and essential oils. That is all I use. I don’t use commercial shampoos or conditioners either. I only do clay washes.
My favorite feature is my ‘big’ forehead. I got teased so much that I hated it and alway covered it with bangs and dreaded a windy day. Then one day I had a long look in the mirror and told myself I was beautiful inside and out and believed it. I let go of being teased and stopped letting other people’s opinions about me dictate my happiness about my appearance. I march to the beat of my own drum.
I believe we can have whatever we set our minds to. I ‘have it all’ because I define what ‘it’ is. I believe we can have it all if we don’t let society dictate what ‘having it all’ is. I am a new mommy to a beautiful baby boy and he has rocked my husband and my world in every way, but I also always plan to be working woman because I enjoy having a job and I enjoy what I do.
The woman I am today is more than I ever imagined. I am not just getting by, I am thriving, and living a life that I would inspired by if I were out the outside looking in.” – LaRie