Jordan Cohayney and I met 5 years ago, when we were both working as models at Asos 6 days a week.
We worked in the same studio a few times and sat at the same lunch table but barely spoke at all (now we can't keep our mouths shut when we're together).
Reflecting on that time, we can now see how we were both much more introverted, insecure and self-conscious and how this impacted our ability to connect with people, including each other.
Our friendship really began when we both decided to go to a conference on 'Modern Beauty Demands' in London, through this we began the conversations that would fuel a deeply supportive and powerfully creative friendship.
From those initial superficial conversations we had in the photoshoot studio, our communication has now blasted down the opposite end of the spectrum where no topics are off limit and the container of our friendship has helped each of us in moving through deeply challenging phases.
One of the common themes of our journeys has been breaking free from the dreams we grew up with of fitting into the fashion industry's beauty norms and reclaiming our connection to our bodies, to our emotions and to our worth as women outside of our physical appearance.
Through this journey, we have created a 'ritual' where we release fears around 'being seen' through a photoshoot experience. By sharing the photos and the stories that come with them, we aim to reach out to other women, to let them know that they are not alone in the struggles with relating to their physicality and being seen.
This particular story is about Jordan's relationship with reclaiming her beauty through the transition into motherhood. I feel honoured to have such a courageous woman as my best friend, to meet these pains inside herself, to allow them to be released through her body and to allow them to be seen, with the hope of helping others.
Please let us know if you can relate or are touched by this story.
Why did you decide to do this shoot? What was the intention?
The intention of the shoot was to embrace my body and myself as I was at that moment in time. I wanted to feel empowered by who I am and who I have become and to witness my physical and emotional beauty even if it wasn't a time where I was feeling or looking 'typically' beautiful.
How did it work? What happened during the shoot?
It was very emotional, a lot came up very quickly. I realised very quickly that I didn't look the way I thought I 'should' in order to take a nice photo. I felt insecure about my tired skin and messy hair.
During the shoot, my daughter Daisy was crying in the background which made me feel overwhelmed and distracted. The theme turned to motherhood...
As someone who has always relied heavily on youth and beauty for a sense of purpose, motherhood has been one of the biggest challenges I have ever had to face. This shoot made me realise how much time and energy I put into trying not look like a mum rather than embracing myself and my new identity.
I grew up with so many stories and examples of mothers losing their sense of self, becoming serious, taking less pride in their appearance etc. All of which instilled a lot of fear in me, so I clung to what I knew. This shoot made me realise I was still clinging to the person I used to be when in reality I was so far from that person.
There is a quote from Beyonce after she had her twins where she talks about surrendering to how children change you instead of fighting it. She says she was scared she would never get back to how she was, physically, emotionally etc. but then realised that that person no longer exists and that who she is now is so much stronger and more resilient.
"I'm in a new chapter in my life, and I'm not even trying to be who I was. It's so beautiful that children do that to you."
It's like we have to get to know this 'new us.' It takes time. That's what this shoot made me realised, I am still getting to know the new me and it's okay that it's not a smooth transition.
How did you feel at the end of the shoot?
I felt very open and vulnerable, I had a big emotional release which left me feeling a bit shaky but I felt lighter and I knew that I had shed light on something big.
How did you feel when you saw the photos?
It was very confronting. I did not look how I usually look when I see a photo of myself and I think I look beautiful. But it was almost like there was a deeper sense of beauty, something we don't usually associate with beauty, but still beautiful. I think the beauty of raw emotion is beautiful because we can all relate to it, it is familiar and it is real.
What did you learn through the experience?
I learnt that all things pass and shift. These photos were taken at a particularly difficult time in my life, a few months where I had been sick and run down with responsibilities of work, study and being a mum. I was down because it felt like a time that would never pass, like this feeling of overwhelm was my life now.
But seeing these photos a few months later, I realise how differently I feel about all of those things now. I have found more flow in my schedule and have become more gentle with myself through this transition into motherhood. I really do see the power in it and all the strength it took me to not give up during that period, to give my baby and myself what I needed to feel healthy and strong. Nothing ever stays the same and we always have a choice. I'm so grateful to have this memory as it feels like a story of transformation and a powerful reminder of how far I have come.