I told no one.
I told no one that I was a teenage girl, living out of the back of my car.
It was the late 90’s and aside from a few close friends, the only other person who knew I was homeless was the cleaning lady Val, who worked at the Day Spa where I was a receptionist. She kept my secret as I arrived at dawn to use the shower and get ready for work hours before anyone else got there.
While the situation I left was very unhealthy, and while I consider myself a pretty strong person, nothing could have prepared me for the sadness of not knowing where I would lay my head at night. Being homeless is simply one of the loneliest, helpless, most empty feelings anyone can ever experience and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. There’s something about having nothing that makes you feel so small and so worthless, even if you know in your heart it’s not true.
I know why my passion is inspiring women to see themselves differently. It’s because I wanted to be seen differently.
I wanted someone to see I was hurting and that I was worth so much more than the hand I had been dealt. I feel so grateful that I had a car to sleep in and a job to provide me food. And even though I was able to get back on my feet in a matter of months, the feelings that come along with being homeless are indescribable. It shakes you to your core and stays with you for life.
Learning to see and think differently helps you get out of tough situations and gives you the confidence needed to move forward when all you feel is stuck. I see it happen every day with my own clients when they embrace their fear of being photographed and find a strength and beauty they didn’t even know existed.
It’s the reason why giving back to homeless teens and at-risk youth is so close to my heart. It’s never a child’s fault that he or she is without, but sadly they will spend the rest of their life carrying that experience with them. If I can help just one young person get back to a fair start, to reach his/her fullest potential, that would make it all worthwhile for me. Who knows, maybe one day he/she will own their own business and give back to people in a way that inspires and motivates them.
“I learned to give, not because I have many. But because I know exactly how it feels to have nothing.” – Unknown
HOW YOU CAN HELP
1] Book a portrait or boudoir experience. – For every client booked, Shannon will donate a portion of the proceeds to Bridge Over Troubled Water, helping homeless teens and at-risk youth.
2] Pose for our upcoming “Raw Portrait” series. – Raw portraits are free of charge and celebrate raw beauty by featuring women with little to no makeup. For every raw portrait created, Shannon will make a donation to Bridge Over Troubled Water, helping homeless teens and at-risk youth. To schedule your raw portrait, please email the studio at firstname.lastname@example.org
*Raw portraits are based on availability.
*Raw portraits must include a short statement about what makes you beautiful.
*Raw portraits must be accompanied by a signed model release form [provided by studio].
3] Donate items – The next time you swing by our studio, feel free to bring any items from the Bridge Wish List and we’ll make sure it gets to the donation center.