Sundress. Thank you for all the votes, comments and compliments! I am frankly overwhelmed by the level of interaction I have received. I posted three photos, Red, Yellow earrings and Sundress, on my personal Facebook and Instagram pages, as well as on a group for women entrepreneurs that I follow on Facebook. I have received close to 2,000 comments/votes. Some gave a simple indication of their choice, but others gave detailed feedback.
I have voted on similar posts myself and could see that it was a popular way to get feedback on an image that should have public appeal. I thought it would give my upcoming novel a bit of PR but, most importantly, it would save me from making the decision I couldn’t take myself.
I felt I looked old. I could hardly look at them. I knew intellectually they were good photos and that they looked like me. But I struggled to accept that this was what I looked like.
For the greater good of my self-publishing career I was advised to have a professional author shot taken, even though I didn’t like the thought of it. I had my hair and makeup done and used an incredibly professional photographer, whose work I admire, to take the pictures.
I chose outfits and accessories I really liked. I had my signature red lips and painted nails and wore my mum’s charm bracelet so she could be in the picture with me. Kevin and crew came to my home to make me feel comfortable.
It was all planned to perfection and I should have loved the experience and the result – but I didn’t, because I was worried about how they would come out.
Kevin sent me lots of raw shots to choose from. I have worked with him for years on True Anguilla and I know the drill – the shots were ‘raw’. I should choose I liked best and then he would edit and adjust them to make the final version. I opened the Dropbox file and felt sick. I did not want to look like that. I could not find a favourite.
It was awful to look at close-up, incredibly detailed photos that showed every crepe and crinkle on my face and neck. What stuck out were my small eyes, my greying hair, my short neck.
Unlike my casual social media shots, there was no glorious background to distract the viewer, no funky mirrored sunglasses to hide behind, no phone filter to smooth the skin and make the eyes bigger, no glass of wine or novelty drinking vessel to use as a prop. It was all me.
Struggling to choose I asked friends and colleagues to look at the images. Did they like them? Did they look like me? Apparently so. together we created a shortlist of three.
The photo that won, Sundress, was chosen by the most people at that shortlist stage. It nearly didn’t make the cut because I didn’t like it, but I couldn’t ignore the experts, so it went in. My reluctant choices? Red and Yellow earrings.
In Sundress people say that I look friendly, that I am engaging the viewer and it feels Caribbean – that is great feedback – it works for my novel and I will take the very good advice I have been given and run with it. It is perfect for what I need.
The next most popular was Red – a LOT of people also chose this option. They say I look professional, they like my smile and that it is classic and will not date. I really like this picture now and want to use it more. Hurrah.
Yellow earrings was the red-headed stepchild of the voting process – although it still got some nice comments. And I do not care what anyone else says – I really love those earrings and they say a lot about me.
Why did I hate the whole process so? What is wrong with having a nice professional shot of yourself taken? Why couldn’t I just say thank you, Kevin, they are lovely rather than ask him to ‘work some magic’? I think it is because I’ve always struggled with what I look like.
I reacted badly initially to Sundress because in that one I look the most like my mum, and looking like my mum used to be a big problem. Marlene Nixon was a pretty lady, but she was going through a bit of a frumpy phase when I was a teenager and was open about the fact she wasn’t happy with her appearance in the early 80’s.
At that time, I too was struggling with a lack of confidence brought on by being (I thought) overweight, having big boobs and wearing glasses. I hated being compared to her all the time.
Being told constantly “Oh, you are so like your Mother” when you want to look cool and arty, resulted in me snapping out “No, I don’t”.
Eventually I understood how hurtful it was for Mummy when I denied the resemblance, so I stopped. Later in life I was able tell her and anyone who remarked on the resemblance that I was proud to look like her. Thank goodness.
I saw Sundress and I saw her. Looking like her is bitter-sweet now. Both my parents died last year. I miss them so much and it’s hard to be publishing my first novel, Endless Turquoise without having them there to cheer me on.
I guess I still want to look cool and arty and that is why I liked Red the best (and Yellow earrings because they really are fab!). But seeing my similarity to Mum so clearly in Sundress is good and right.
It is important that she is with me throughout this journey and I am very thankful to everyone who helped me make that choice.