Bold Beautiful Perfect: Tonya
Bold Beautiful Perfect: Tonya
“No one else has the exact circumstances, knowledge, experience, influence, and direction to accomplish what you’ve been purposed to do.”
Tell us about yourself, Tonya!
My name is Tonya Hamby; I am a wife, a mom, and a business owner. I’m a survivor, and I’m also a mentor. I’m an example to my three daughters and a motivator to my husband. I wear many hats and serve in many roles, but ultimately I am a child of the King, and in Him I find my identity. I am redeemed, and my Redeemer carries the weight of my life for me, mistakes and victories both!
How did you come to understand your beauty?
For many years, I struggled to understand my own beauty. I looked everywhere. I saw the beauty in others and I compared myself. Every negative word that was ever said to me stuck. It didn’t matter how much positive was spoken, the negative was what I embraced. I tried to convince myself that it was good motivation to improve myself, but I found that I was only living to gain the approval of naysayers!
I was raised in a church-going Christian household, but growing up I never felt as though I was good enough. I feared that one toe out of line would erase my name from The Lamb’s Book of Life, and therefore I felt a constant despair.
I spent 13 years living in an abusive relationship, all but resigned to my fate, which only increased the sense of despair that weighed me down daily.
Finally, I began to seek God. I needed answers. I needed to know why it was so hard to measure up! The more I dug, the more I learned about God’s grace and His mercy for my mistakes! There was hope for me – not only hope but belonging. There was LOVE! My Father loved me in SPITE of myself. My inner beauty – the Tonya He created – was found in that love. I’m washed clean by that love, and THAT makes me beautiful! I still get a lot of things wrong, but in Christ I have this hope, and a peace which surpasses the understanding of any who don’t know it first hand.
This project is all about inspiring women to see their beauty. What parts of your story can you share to help women to understand their own beauty?
No one can see the you that you see inside. You know your flaws and you see them every time to look in the mirror. You feel your own unworthiness, and you wrestle with your own gripping fears. You face these things, yet you put on “the face” and you step out into the world to be the you-est you possible every day. You know what I’ve learned after doing these things for 40 years? It’s okay to be tired. It’s okay to want to scream! But look at yourself…. look at what you overcome every day just to keep participating in life! You’re still here on this earth, and that means YOU have a purpose! There is SO MUCH beauty in that! No one else can accomplish what you can, because no one else has the EXACT circumstances, knowledge, experience, influence, and direction that you do. You are beautiful because you are unique. And, you may be unique, but that doesn’t mean you are alone!
What did the shoot mean to you? What did it feel like to be selected?
The shoot was a stark reminder of the need to celebrate who I am NOW, not who I was or who I think I might want to be in the future. I needed to remember that it’s ok to be where I am. Anyone who has started down the path I’ve chosen was once a beginner. Celebrate it, and celebrate all the little victories along the way! The shoot helped me focus on the “me” part of why I do what I do, and at the same time humbled me to know that God has this plan for me and is guiding me through. To be selected for this shoot was almost a confirmation that His hand is still guiding me, and He will always put the right people in my path for me to be able to serve Him and others better!
I went into my photoshoot with Brandi not really knowing what to expect. I certainly didn’t feel like I should be there, and I couldn’t figure out why I would be chosen when there were likely tons of other women out there “better” than me. I was a little afraid, but determined to make the best of it.
I don’t typically enjoy being center of attention. I’ve been behind the lens and behind the scenes as a cosmetologist for hundreds of shoots, and loved every minute, but I typically avoid being in front of the camera unless it’s for family photos (and then only for my family’s sake!). After the experience of being the one getting all “dolled up” and modeling for Brandi as she directed my movements during the shoot, I felt so at ease! I was surprised at how easy it was, and the atmosphere was so inspiring! Brandi is a complete joy to talk to, and we had so much in common. She made it very easy to remember the reason I was there, and to stop feeling so inadequate.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Don’t let your fears paralyze you. Take the risk. Learn how to love yourself, but know you can only fully, truly know love if you know Christ. Be strong. Be courageous. Be who you are, and know that sometimes it’s ok not to be ok. Surround yourself with those who speak truth – not yes-men. Find something that inspires you and chase it down! If that doesn’t work out, find something else to chase, but do it with your whole heart. Enjoy creation, but don’t worship it. Find joy in the smallest things. Take the time to see what’s around you – to REALLY SEE it. Most of all, take the time to see yourself through God’s eyes – for better or worse – and let that be what changes you.
Let’s celebrate who God has created you to be!
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International Award-Winning Portrait Photographer
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.