(continued from “Photo Shoot with Mario Testino (!!!)”) When it was time for us to have our hair and make-up done, we proceeded to another floor where we were given white robes and terry-cloth slippers to change into, while in another room racks upon racks of designer clothes were being steamed and accessories and shoes laid out. As I mentioned earlier, I expected that my wavy hair would be given a blow-out, but to my surprise all it got was an expert scrunching or two from the masterful hands of Christiaan Houtenbos, so that my hair looked as close to how I naturally wear it as possible. Sitting in the chair of brilliant London-based make-up artist, Laura Dominique, felt more like getting a super relaxing facial with more emphasis placed on prepping the skin than covering it up and the results were naturally beautiful (each of us even had our own set of make-up brushes, in individual cups labeled with our names). After hair and make-up (and a mani-pedi buffing to boot), it was time for a little one-one-one with New York based, super fashion editor/former creative director Paul Cavaco and Mario Testino himself. Surrounded by a boutique-sized selection of designer clothes, Paul asked me what I usually wore as we went through the clothes I brought, and I was flattered when Mario and Paul pointed out some dresses that I designed and said they were very pretty. After trying on a couple of my dresses, we unanimously decided on a favorite dress that I designed over a decade ago when I first started designing! (I will preserve it and consider it my lucky dress from now on 🙂 ) When it was time for our photos to be taken, we were each called in one by one for our portrait sitting. It was the first time I got to meet the rest of Mario’s creative team, MARIOTESTINO+ (being photographers themselves, they were very hands-on and involved with the shoot and BTS documentation process–they also happened to look like male supermodels, but who’s complaining???), and I tried not to let my nerves get the better of me. Mario was extremely kind and complimentary, putting everyone at ease with his laughter and easy-going demeanor. He used natural light, which I loved, and as I relaxed and looked into the camera, the thought of who was behind it would suddenly get my adrenaline pumping, so I cleared my head and imagined it was Ito taking the photos instead 🙂 That seemed to work, and soon we had the shot that the wonderfully supportive Dove clients and everyone was happy with, myself included. I thanked Mario afterwards–I couldn’t help but fangirl–and I received a double-kiss for my enthusiasm (faint!).
After most of the women had been photographed, we broke for a late lunch and everyone enjoyed another gut-busting, mouthwatering spread with lots of treats to bring home in take-away boxes afterwards. What a day!!! I can honestly say (next to Ito’s and my newly-wed blessing from St. John Paul II), that this was probably the most amazing, unforgettable experience that I’ve ever had. Who would have thought that a very personal journey to acceptance–learning to embrace myself, and others, just as we are–would lead to this incredible #RealBeauty journey? 🙂 *Thank you so much to everyone at Dove, the Edelman UK team, MARIOTESTINO+ and, of course, Mario Testino for this amazing, whirlwind experience of a lifetime!