Bold Beautiful Perfect: Brooke
“My scars make me that much stronger, and my journey makes me that much more beautiful.” – Brooke
Brooke, tell us about yourself!
I’m Brooke! I’m 29 years old, and teaching and music are my two passions. I’m a musician and music teacher, a classically trained pianist and vocalist, and I dabble in musical theater. If I’m not doing something related to that, I’m probably hanging out with my two Pomeranians.
How did you come to understand your inner beauty?
I’ve struggled for a while to find my inner beauty. The past few years have been difficult for me as far as finding myself and loving myself, mostly because what I experienced was out of my control. In 2017, I was diagnosed with a carcinoid tumor in my small intestines along with endometriosis. I had several surgeries within the span of three months, the most intrusive being a small bowel resection which left me with not only scars, but healing that I’m still dealing with today. Because of it all, I ended up gaining a lot of weight; at my heaviest I was 200 lbs. I didn’t like who I saw in the mirror. I knew on the outside I was fighter because of all that I had went through, but on the inside I was broken and lost. I would go through the motions every day just to survive, but I wasn’t living. My social life was starting to suffer, my romantic relationships were taking a nose dive, and I just stayed home any chance I had.
It wasn’t until about a year ago that I realized what was happening. I told myself I wasn’t going to stay home and let my 20s pass me by. I was going to have fun and start to love myself again, even if I wasn’t who I felt like I was on the outside. It was a very slow process.
Then came quarantine. I know most people suffered during this time, but for me it was a blessing. I was able to focus solely on finding myself, and I began the most serious weight loss journey I’ve ever been on. With my best friend beside me, she and I were both able to lost 35 lbs in four months.
I’m not at my goal weight, but I’m definitely happier than I was and so proud of who I am finding within myself. My whole energy has changed and I love being me. I know I’m a survivor, but more than anything I’m a fighter – a beautiful, resilient fighter, and I’ll never let myself forget it.
What did the shoot mean to you? What did it feel like to be selected?
I came into the photoshoot very excitedly nervous. I had only ever had one photoshoot before years ago, so I didn’t know what to expect. It had also been a long time since I had seen pictures of myself that I actually liked, so the thought of seeing myself in a different light was scary! Even so, I was ready for the experience.
I tried to choose outfits that I could have fun in, or that I would have never worn before my weight loss. I wanted outfits that would celebrate me. It took me a while to warm up and figure out what to do with my face, but after a few poses and photos with Brandi, I felt much more comfortable. When you’re used to hiding your body, it’s difficult to be vulnerable and let someone tell you how to position yourself for photos. But Brandi was very patient, encouraging, and uplifting, which made my experience so much more comfortable. It was a great day, and I left feeling so renewed to be myself.
The shoot was very moving to me. I didn’t think I would be selected for the project, but I’m glad I put myself out there. I am happy that there’s potential for my story to motivate other women to find their beauty and love themselves if they’ve lost the sense of who they were.
Brooke’s journey isn’t over!
This journey to find myself and love my beauty had been long, but it’s not over yet. The photoshoot was definitely a boost in the right direction to give myself reassurance that my beauty is there; it always has been. Whether or not I am able to see my beauty, nothing will be able to take it away. My scars make me that much stronger, and my journey makes me that much more beautiful.
You are beautiful!
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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.