Headshots For Empowerment

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We are so humbled by all those who came out to support Teen Empowerment through our Headshots For Empowerment fundraising event. Since 2003, Teen Empowerment has employed hundreds of Rochester youth who have engaged thousands of their peers, adults, and community leaders in youth-led initiatives.You all blew us away with your dedication to your careers, ambition for new endeavors, and passion for making Rochester the greatest it can be! Thank you again to our sponsors, Haigh Wealth Management Group and Haven Hair Salon, and ALL those who participated! We hope your new headshots bring you SO much success and prosperity. Special thanks to Shawn Brown, Erin Julian and Lauren Gallina for helping make this event run so smoothly and for all you do for our wonderful community!

Here are photos from TE's Let's Be Friends event, at which the youth of TE performed spoken word pieces they had written themselves. We were blown away by the courage, skill and depth these students demonstrated in the poetry and lyrics they prepared and performed for a room full of adults. We could not be happier to have the $2000 we helped raise go towards supporting them in their future endeavors.

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Real Women of Rochester | Lisa Ostrander

 

Lisa Ostrander   |  Age: 50  |  Profession: Pharmaceutical sales specialist

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Q: Tell us about your journey through womanhood

A: How much space do I have (lol) - my journey through womanhood has evolved. As a young girl I had a very clear vision of my life and what I wanted it to be. I wanted children, a husband, and  a successful career. I was not always sure I would have any of that. I have been a late bloomer throughout my journey. I went back to school at 32, started my amazing career in pharmaceuticals at 33, was married at 40, and had my daughter at almost 41. Prior to going back to college I had doubt that I was ever going to accomplish much in my life. The truth is that I did not feel I had a clear identity of who I was anymore. It had been mixed up in the relationships I was in, and those had been my focus. However, I had a desire in my heart to accomplish as much as I could. I am not really sure where I found the courage to go through the obstacles it took for me to finish school and break into a very difficult industry - but I did, and I persevered. I refused to give up and every door that slammed in my face made me more determined to keep going. That time in my life showed me that I had one quality that would carry me through my life above all else: courage. 

Q: What would you say to another woman who may be going through something you've been through?

A: I have had a lot of experiences that have molded me into who I am today. I sometimes feel I could really write a book! For anyone going through any difficulties whether it is self-doubt or a career move and or cancer, which I was diagnosed with last May, the single best thing that helped me was having someone who would listen. We all go through seasons in life where we hit rough patches and speaking to someone who will simply be there to listen allows you to sort out your thoughts and be able to dig within yourself for the answers. And while it's helpful to have a listening crew, ultimately the momentum and action to create change has to come from within ourselves. 

Q: What surprised you most about your photography experience?

A: How comfortable I was. I felt confident and relaxed. Natalie did an amazing job of putting me at ease. 

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Q: How do you feel when you look at your favorite photo of yourself from your shoot?

A: Proud. Not because of my appearance, but because the image captured who I am today. It captured my true essence and that is what I wanted to portray.

Q: What would you share with a woman who doesn't think she is beautiful enough to be photographed?

A: First, this question makes me sad. I see many women struggle with self-esteem and it’s not an easy society we live in with so much emphasis on appearance which is a real thing, but I would share with women my favorite quote which is to "walk in faith and not fear". Beauty has such a spectrum . I teach my daughter that when she is around people to pretend everyone has a spacesuit on ...if you could not see their appearance- would that person still mean the same to you and would you want them in your life. Our exterior is only here while we are here. Our soul and the legacy we leave behind is what will shine on, and we all have something to share. 

Q: What message would you like to share with other women?

A: It is never to late to chase your dreams and impact others lives. Do not let others discourage you from achieving what you desire, and have the courage to follow through. Also surround yourself with like minded people who will elevate you. 

Q: What are your thoughts on beauty?

A: This is a tough question. I am the only daughter in my family and as a young girl growing up, my father put a lot of emphasis on my appearance. As an adult looking back now and as a mom I know he did not do it to be harmful and that he was proud of me - but a lot of that commentary really stayed in my brain for a long time. For many years I felt that the value I brought was based on my appearance, and so I worked really hard at looking good. It was not until I was much older and began to get recognized for my achievements in my career that I was able to separate myself from that thought process . I do still work hard at taking care of myself and the truth is that there will always be that young teenage girl inside me remembering those comments, however the difference is that my appearance does not define me. It is just one part of the big puzzle that makes me who I have become .

Q: What are your hopes for the next generation of women? What advice would you give to them?

A: To have courage. To not allow fear to hold you back from following the journey that was meant for you. Leap in, and take a chance - when you do amazing things will happen. I know this to be true because they happened to me!

Q: What would you say to your sixteen year old self?

A: I would tell my 16 year old self that your gonna have a rough journey and you will be tested in many different ways, and just when you think you may not be able to overcome a challenge you have to dig deeper - because you will overcome it. Don’t let fear stop you. It is going to hard and you will want to give up but don’t do it, and most importantly remember to live in the moment. 

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Q: What empowering message would you like to share with young women today?

A: Be prepared for every opportunity that comes your way and go for it. It was brought to you for a reason and you never know where it will take you. 

Q: What's the biggest hurdle you've overcome career-wise as a woman?

A: If I am being transparent it would be appearance. Unfortunately we still live in a society that judges you very quickly on how you look and so I have had to show both men and women that I deserve to be where I am. 

Q: What's the most empowering experience you've had as a woman?

A: My most empowering experience has been speaking at the Angelo del Toro Hispanic youth leadership program in Albany. I was able to share with this amazing group of future leaders the importance of melanoma education. Being of Hispanic descent I always felt that I was "safe" - that melanoma would not occur in me, but it did and I'm lucky to be alive. Having these future leaders resonate with my journey and understand that they should advocate for their own health was so important to me. Cancers from melanoma have increased over the last 30 years and it all starts with education. When you are aware then you are prepared! One person dies every hour of every day from melanoma and Hispanics and African Americans typically get staged higher when diagnosed because they have missed the signs. I am absolutely moved to action to continue to help educate and continue to spread the message of awareness. Don't forget- it all starts with a skin check!

Q: When do you feel the most beautiful?

A: I feel the most beautiful on a Saturday morning with a great cup of Spanish coffee and reading the newspaper . 

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Q: What do you love about being a woman?

A: I love the possibilities that are still out there for women to make an impact in our community and in the lives of others. 

Real Women of Rochester | Jenny Thomas

Jenny Thomas  |  Age 42  |  Profession: Motivational Mentor

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Q: Tell us about your journey through womanhood

A: My journey was filled with hills, valleys, and mountain peaks. I lived under the radar and my worth for many years due to overwhelming feelings of rejection, and lack of identity. For many years I felt like a lost little girl looking for love and validation. I made a lot of mistakes; however I got married and raised (still raising) four children, and managed to attain the career (Nursing) that I felt I needed to be in. As an adoptee I always felt like a human question mark. I finally received the gift that I’d prayed for, and that was finding my biological family. Only, finding them didn’t bring the love and peace that I’d dreamed of. The quest to find the answers about myself brought me to a place of awareness and understanding. Realizing the answers that I’d sought, I’d always possessed. My journey unearthed my purpose and passions that had been buried by shame, and abandonment for most of my adult life. 

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Q: What would you say to another woman who may be going through something you've been through?

A: Let faith be your catalyst. Everything that you’ve endured has given you everything that you need to be the pioneer that you are. 

Q: What surprised you most about your photography experience?

A: How fun and relaxing it was!

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Q: How do you feel when you look at your favorite photo of yourself from your shoot?

A: Empowered 

Q: What would you share with a woman who doesn't think she is beautiful enough to be photographed?

A: We don’t give ourselves permission to be our own kind of beautiful. Not the beauty that we compare ourselves to. Remove the labels and allow YOUR beauty to be released and exist. 

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Q: What message would you like to share with other women?

A: There is nothing that you’ve done, or endured that can cancel who you are destined to be. Don’t ever dim your light to fit in. Instead hit them with your high beams. 

Q: What are your thoughts on beauty?

A: Physical beauty is totally subjective. Kindness, love, and the ability to make people feel special are the most beautiful.

Q: What are your hopes for the next generation of women? What advice would you give to them?

A: I hope women will be innovators, and no longer live within limits. If you haven’t found where you fit in, create it.

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Q: What would you say to your sixteen year old self?

A: I need you to know that you were born with purpose. There are no mistakes, and you will understand everything you’ve endured. I love you!

Q: What empowering message would you like to share with young women today?

A: Don’t wait to be told how great you are. Know your worth for yourself, and if people don’t acknowledge that, let your success leave them with no choice. 

Q: What's the biggest hurdle you've overcome career-wise as a woman?

A: Realizing that what I initially chose as a career wasn’t ultimately what I was born to do. Overcoming the fear connected with “letting go” and becoming an entrepreneur. 

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Q: What's the most empowering experience you've had as a woman?

A: Understanding that I can conquer fear. One of our biggest setbacks. My saying is: “be scared and do it anyways”.

Q: When do you feel the most beautiful?

A: When I’m happy 

Q: What do you love about being a woman?

A: Our ability to battle back. 

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Real Woman of Rochester | Pia LoRusso

Pia LoRusso | Age: 41 | Profession: Brow Sculptor at browbiz.cm

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Q: Tell us about your journey through womanhood

A: I have always been one to color outside the lines.  When I was 5 years old, I was playing with a friend outside in my yard and I had a stick in my hand, waving in front of my friends face and my mom yelled out for me to stop before I hit her in the face... well I continued and eventually hit my friend in the face.  My mom came out and yelled at me, which in turn embarrassed me.  So I yelled back at her and stormed off to my room where I cried and cried. My mom came up to calm me down and she said to me ‘now what it is that I always tell you?’  She was hoping my response was... ’that you always love me’. I responded ‘don’t drink and drink and drive!’

Never following rules except to never drink and drive... I’ve always been a bit anxious and ADD but these are truly gifts!  it has given me more compassion (because I never want anyone to feel anxious) and has allowed me to notice everything, like feelings, energies in a room or situation... very aware of my surroundings.

Q: What would you say to another woman who may be going through something you've been through?

A: Oh if you are anxious my dear.... look at it as a gift!  It gives you more emotional intelligence than you ever thought you could have!  Once you are on the other side of feeling bad (because the feeling always does go away) the magic happens!  

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Q: What surprised you most about your photography experience?

A: Just how beautiful Natalie made me feel!  Like deep down inner beauty.... whoa. It was such an amazing morning working with Natalie..

Q: How do you feel when you look at your favorite photo of yourself from your shoot?

A: OMG - I can’t believe that is really me!

Q: What would you share with a woman who doesn't think she is beautiful enough to be photographed?

A: Everyone is beautiful. Everyone. 

Q: What message would you like to share with other women?

A: Be easier on yourself, life is hard enough sometimes, give yourself more credit. 

Q: What are your thoughts on beauty?

A: It must come from the inside - true beauty cannot be photoshopped!  We never really see what other people see anyway.  because think about it... what do we see?  A one dimension reflection? That’s 2 whole dimensions that are missing!  Everyone sees us in 3D, but to look at our 1D of yourself?!? Believe the person that says you are beautiful- they see something you will never see!

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Q: What would you say to your sixteen year old self?

A: Always be kind, everyone has story that would break your heart. Look for the goodness in this world and that is what will always surround you. The universe has your back - seriously. what you put out there (including social media) comes back - put out kindness and love and compassion- that’s what you will get in return. Your fear is full of shit.

Q: What empowering message would you like to share with young women today?

A: Some one is always watching you! (Not in a creepy way)  Be gentle with your words but fierce with your message. 

Q: What are your hopes for the next generation of women?

A: Everyone needs to know they have power!  One of my most favorite yoga teachers at breathe, Theresa, reminded me of the Viktor Frankl quote:

“Between stimulus and response there is space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” -Viktor Frankl

In my career I am able to talk to all different types of people and when I tell people they have power, they look at me funny... kind of like I just gave them a gift that they never expected... For me, sometimes the goal of my meditation practice isn’t just to quiet my mind, but to give me a chance to pause, give myself some space to get my power.

Q: When do you feel the most beautiful?

A: Right after doing yoga!  Do it - then when you get in your car check out your reflection in your rear view mirror. It’s amazing- I can see my eyes are lighter. 

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Q: What do you love about being a woman?

A: Everything!  But mostly my boobs... (can I say that here?)