Model for a day - 3 make up pads and few lost eyelashes

Blog Post by Cyrille Abitbol Cotugno

before and after transformation of a mom

   For my 43rd birthday, my husband decided to surreptitiously sign me up to a "21 women" photography shoot contest which aimed to make women who neglect self-care feel on top of the world for a few hours. He submitted a beautiful letter extolling my virtues and presenting reasons why I was deserving of being selected, and lo, and behold: I was selected! I was touched but mortified all at the same time. Did I really want to be a model for a day? Did I really want to be the center of attention? I have a hard time being in family pictures as is - did I really want to be the only subject in the photo?

   The thing is, I have a severe case of PPD: People Pleasing Disorder. So even though I don’t want to do half the shit that I do - guess what? I still end up doing it.

   So I read the long, detailed instructional guide two nights before the big day - oh yeah, did I mention, I lack organization skills when it comes to ”me” things - and this list of to do’s was never ending. Hair dying, mani/pedi, waxing, facial grooming, wardrobe and jewelry selection, skin treatment, lotion - fuck, I hardly get bathroom time, how da fuck was I going to get through this to do list in two days?!

   I made myself an essentials check list: facial grooming and hair dying. I figured they were the bare essentials for looking "normal" - overnight model makeover was just not in the cards.

   After powering through a full day of self care, I had done it ! Ok, not everything - but in my head, I was targeting realistic beauty - not Hollywood red carpet ready !

   It was time for wardrobe selection. So I took out the Spanxs and a fucking body suit made out of gut-sucking vacuum material - I figured those were the only things that were going to get me into the only dresses I owned - which were incidentally purchased 10 years prior to having 4 kids and this great gift my husband invested in. (Thanks again, Joe!)

   Two broken zippers and an injured spirit later, I had selected what I was able to squeeze into. (Why, oh why, am I afflicted with PPD I kept asking myself?!?) Any normal wife would have asked for a certificate to the spa. But no... my inner people-pleaser dialogue convinced me that my husband put so much thought into this, how could I tell him to stuff it? Silver lining: at least I wasn't required to pick out shoes!

   The morning of the photoshoot arrived: the kids completed their morning routine with a lot of force, Joe decided to drive them to school, so as to give me some more pillow-snuggle time. (Why couldn’t he get me that as a gift? I digress...) I get my ass up, shower, get ready, and face the mirror in horror. But I manage to self-sooth with my favorite affirmation "I’m good enough; I’m smart enough; and gosh darnit, people like me!" ( SNL copyright infringement - lol) 

Joe insisted on driving me, so off we went.

   Ten minutes later, we arrived .... the one time you wish it was a long ride - you get the short end again... Murphy, why must you be so hard on me!

  Upon entry Charlotte and her assistant were engaged in setting up. New equipment had just been delivered, but a piece was missing, so there was a delay. I suggest coming on another day, but Charlotte said: " No, don’t be silly, we’ll make it work!". (There's that Murphy again!)

   Thirty minutes in and I’m wishing I didn’t have PPD. All that’s going through my head at this point is "make the best outta this".

   After a quick wardrobe review, I'm thrown into hair and make-up. A short while later, I emerge, feeling like a bad Picasso portrait with clown hair - but in all honesty, I am my own worst enemy and have a hard time seeing the "pretty" in me. A few minor touch-ups, to feel a little more "me", and off we went.

   Five outfits, a few hundred pictures, and 6 set changes later, I did it!. And to be honest, it was far from as bad as I had anticipated it. I am far from a model, but Charlotte managed to make me feel great about myself - if only by the kind words that came out of her mouth. I could have been wearing a garbage bag and she would’ve still made me feel fabulous!

   Although sometimes a little bossy, Charlotte has quite a way with words. She was blunt with direction - but her goal was attained. She didn’t just make me feel like a model - she made me feel powerful and beautiful! Although I know the photos of me aren't worthy of a low scale magazine page - I am amazed at how gifted one woman can be at making another woman feel good in her skin. I left that photo studio feeling like a star!

   Three make up pads and a few lost eyelashes later, I realized it wasn’t the outfits, the make-up, the jewels, the hair, or even the photos that made me feel great - it was the kind words that were constantly being thrown at me (all it took is one talented woman!). What started as a PPD moment with a lot of resistance, ended as a day I will never forget. Thank you, Charlotte for making me see the beauty in me! (And thank you, Joe, for signing me up for this gig!) 

I learned a powerful lesson that day: A few kind words go a long way! (The fact that Charlotte is a photography guru,  didn’t hurt either;))