A Look Back: A Year of Photographing the Covers for Gulf Coast Woman Magazine

This past year has been an amazing journey photographing the covers of Gulf Coast Woman Magazine. The opportunity has stretched me as an artist in ways that I don’t think would have happened in other way. I’ve been able to work with an extraordinary team full of talent at GCW, the talented make up artist Jackie Merlau, talented hair stylists, local boutique owners and I’ve met and photographed some of the most inspiring and extraordinary women on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

It all started when I photographed the beautiful Tiffany Bell. She doesn’t recall this, but while looking at images in my studio she said, “You should be photographing the covers of Gulf Coast Woman magazine. You need to meet Dorothy Wilson.” Little did she or anyone else know that it was a desire in my heart to photograph covers of magazines that probably began when I was a little girl, but the Lord knew. My favorite scripture is Psalm 37:4 “Take delight in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” I’ve been blessed to receive the desires of my heart throughout my life and this one was no exception.

Dorothy and I had our first meeting to discuss partnering together. We both had the same vision of empowering, encouraging and uplifting women. It was a great fit! What amazed us the most about that meeting was how present the Lord was in that meeting. We knew something really amazing was about to happen. It was the beginning of something great!

A year later, I am looking back at what it’s meant to me and others to do this project and to ask the questions of what it’ll look like going forward. When looking back one sweet little blessing is that a cover team was forged consisting of Crystal Scretching, Jackie Merlau and myself. Little did we know that we would become the Dream Team!

I still remember seeing the first Gulf Coast Woman Magazine that I photographed the cover for. It was exciting! I giggled with delight remembering all that went into creating the image of Jerika Vincent and how nervous I was on how it would be received by the GCW team and the public. Goodness! I remember the pressure I put on myself! I still sometimes get nervous when I submit images, but not for the same reasons. Now it’s more about how do I top that last cover???

I’ve been asked what cover is my favorite which is like asking me what of my client shoots is my favorite. They are ALL my favorites for different reasons. There is one cover that I am challenged to top now and one that impacted my life in a way I’ll never forget and that is the one with Lori Harper. This was the 2018 Success issue. The concept was power. I treat the cover models to lunch so that I can get to know them before I photograph them. I want to hear their stories. How did they get to where they are? Who are they? What is important to them? Then we go in search of the perfect wardrobe to feature on the cover in local boutiques.

I expected Lori to be this powerhouse that took over the room. She knocked my socks off! Here was a woman that is known on the international defense stage and she walked in TREMENDOUS humility. I was completely wowed by her. She was a powerhouse in humility and a quiet strength. Amazing! She was easy to fit for wardrobe as she was game for anything trusting me and Grants for Her to make her look fabulous and boy did she! The cover was the first black and white cover with a gorgeous matte finish which is my favorite finish. Then on top of that you have Lori in this gorgeous Badgley Mischka dress with her perfectly curled hair and eyes that just pop! Well that would be enough, but the icing on the cake was the experience we had together in the studio. It was just a gentle reminder that she had all the power because the Holy Spirit lives in her….and…oh my goodness!! The Lord showed up in a BIG way. He just took over. And THAT is why Lori’s cover is the one to top.


Much love,

Brandi Stage



White woman curly hair portrait and headshot photographer standing confidently arm on hip wearing black top and earrings

Brandi Stage is an international award-winning portrait photographer based in Bay St. Louis, MS. She creates an exceptional magazine-style photo shoot and timeless heirloom portraits for women, men, children and pets in her studio or on location.