Editor's Note: 2019. This year is a year for growth. When I saw Kaitlyn's Instagram, I just had to reach out. I had been following her for about a year and it was hard not to envy her success at the gym. I reached out because she was major "gymspiration" for me, and I wanted to be her photographer. I wanted to meet her, because it seemed like there was more to her than her posts and I wanted to dig in and get to know her. There was so much more than a pretty face and fit body. She was so reserved and so shy when we met. She's kind and timid, and sees the beauty in other women. It's been so nice to connect with her and get to know her.
This was shot on location in Indianapolis. I will definitely be shooting here again sometime in 2019 and 2020.
I grew up in a strict Apostolic Pentecostal household. For anyone who is unfamiliar with Apostolic church, it is a Christian denomination that came from the Pentecostal movement. The majority believe the Bible is meant to be interpreted literally. There are strict guidelines to be followed, especially for women. Women can only wear skirts/dresses below the knee, cannot cut/trim their hair, no make up, no tight clothing, and no jewelry. When I was around 16 I started questioning the faith. I saw so much hypocrisy in the church and it sickened me. I slowly started to fall away silently.
My mom and I have struggled the most in this journey, and it's been really hard for me to process. I used to buy make up without her knowing and put it on at school before classes and take it off before going home. One day she decided to go through my backpack and found my make up and journal. I was very depressed at the time so my thoughts were pretty dark. She found out how I was truly feeling, and what I thought about the religion. We had a huge fight that day. Mostly about religion and she didn’t understand why I was so depressed and wanted a way out. We didn’t speak a word to each other for a good week, even though we lived in the same household. Ever since then, nothing has really been the same between us, and it's only gotten worse after I moved out. Now we only see each other on holidays and we barely talk then. There's just so much tension and it's awkward.
My mom and I are just two very different people. I always swore I was adopted because I’m so different from everyone in my family. I'd be lying if I said I didn’t still compare myself to my sister, because I do. While other people envy the way I look, I just envy unconditional love and acceptance. I’m on a journey right now learning to love and accept myself for who I am.
I felt as though I was being forced to be someone I was not; as if I was forbidden to be my true authentic self. Because of this, for a time, I struggled with depression and self harm. When I turned 18, I finally moved out of my home. I started to learn so much about myself. I learned that I absolutely loved playing around with make up. I finally began to feel lighter; like a big weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I could finally be... me. Transitioning into a new life didn’t come without its battles. My mom basically shunned me out of her life. She was angry and disappointed that I had turned away from everything she had taught me. While it hurt, and tore me apart, I tried to keep a positive mindset and continued to venture out to find myself. To this day, my relationship with my mom is rocky. It’s gotten a bit better but it still feels like we just tip toe around each other. I’m keeping hope that maybe, just maybe, one day she will come around and accept me for who I am.
When I tell people I struggle with anxiety and self confidence, they look at me like I’m a crazy person, and maybe I am, haha. I mean, I truly believe that I struggle with self confidence more than the average person. When I look in the mirror, I just pick at all my flaws and tear myself down to the point that I’m in tears. I scroll though Instagram and look at all these beautiful ‘perfect’ women wishing I could be like them. I have always strived for perfection, something that doesn’t even exist, and it’s tiring. I discovered fitness about two years ago. Let me tell you, it has totally changed my life.
I remember walking into the weight room for the first time. It was filled with all these muscular sweaty men. I was scared to death; I didn’t know a single thing about lifting. Fast forward to now, I don’t notice how many people are in the gym much less how many are looking at me while I do my sets. Most people look at the gym as a chore to check off their to do list. They absolutely dread going. To me, the gym is my second home. It has seen me at my worst and at my best. It has seen my tears and laughter, sounds corny, I know. I just love the gym and everything to do with health and fitness. It has given me a purpose. If I walk into the gym in a bad mood there is no way in Hell I will leave in a bad mood. I do not consider myself a fitness expert, but I do have a lot of knowledge that I gained throughout my journey. I still have a lot to learn but I'm excited to see where this takes me. My dream is to one day help others who are struggling to lead a healthier life. I want to help people gain their confidence and show them just how much of a bad ass they really are.
Missy and I met on Instagram and told me she had been following me for awhile and that she loved my positive/inspirational content. She said she would love to do a photoshoot with me. I was like, “Me? You want to shoot someone like me?” I was dumbfounded and ecstatic at the same time. A year ago I actually made it one of my resolutions to get a photoshoot done but I always had an excuse not to. “I don’t look tone enough.” “I’m not pretty enough.” I took a look at Missy’s page and read her story and was sold. I loved her mission, to empower women. I loved how she not only captured the beauty of women but also captured their souls. I said "Fuck it" and set up a time to meet her. I was nervous as hell. I’m not good in social situations due to my annoying anxiety, but once I started talking to her all my nerves went away. She has this presence about her. I don’t know how to explain it, but I love it. We talked for a good two hours and I loved how I could relate to her so much.
The morning of my photoshoot I was so nervous I couldn’t even eat. I was just nervous that I would hate how I looked in the pictures. I didn’t think I was good enough, but oh my gosh was I wrong. Missy made me feel like a model the entire session. Both her and Whitney kept shooting compliments at me and I didn’t know how to take it, quite honestly. Missy gave me something I have been searching for. She gave me a sense of self worth. And let me tell you, nothing feels better than knowing that you are beautiful and worthy just the way that you are. I am so glad I stepped out of my comfort zone and did the photoshoot. I will never regret this experience. If you are tired of feeling down on yourself, if you are tired of putting yourself on the back burner, I encourage you to at least call or meet up with Missy and discuss a photoshoot. I promise you, it will be the best decision you will ever make.