There was no shortage of glitz and glamor in the Venetian Room as ladies gathered to celebrate the enduring strength and allure of accomplished women at the Beautiful You Campaign Gala Saturday.
The venue in Downtown Chipley was a perfectly elegant backdrop for Keisha Williams, owner of Keisha Williams Fine Art Photography, to host the gala showcasing a project to capture the stories of triumph over life struggles and artistic portraits of about 30 women over the age of 40.
“We’re just here to empower women and celebrate them for the day,” Williams said.
Williams kicked off the campaign in February with an invitation for ladies to apply for the opportunity to share their inspiring stories and get dolled up in full hair and makeup for a studio photo shoot.
“We did the shoot, and the women told their story of what they had been through,” Williams said.
Williams finished up the portrait sessions in July, and the culmination of the campaign was revealed at the private gala.
The campaign’s participants were invited to the gathering to mingle, enjoy hors d'oeuvres and win door prizes with each lady’s final result on display.
“It’s important to love yourself and not to feel bad about attracting the right people to be around and to put out energy supporting each other,” said Conniejo Umphrey, one of the campaign’s participants and special guest speaker.
Williams invited Umphrey to share a message of self-love and what it is in today’s society to be a woman in business.
Umphrey owns House of Sass Sunless Tanning, a spray tan salon in Marianna, that she was inspired to open after she was diagnosed with melanoma 20 years ago.
“When I decided to open my business in Marianna, I was insecure about it because it is a small town and I was worried just doing spray tan. It was kind of new,” Umphrey said.
Umphrey said mentorship is an important thing for women in business to have, as well as the support of family. In Umphrey’s case, her niece, Magdalene Hinson, gave her the nudge she needed to open up shop despite her apprehensions.
“Magdalene said ‘just do it’, and that’s what we did. We did it really fast,” Umphrey said.
Umphrey never regretted her decision to go into business for herself. Other ladies at the gala had similar stories of persevering after losing loved ones, divorce, a health crisis, business setbacks, single parenthood, and other life challenges they found the strength to overcome.
The final product of the Beautiful You Campaign proved to be an enriching experience that helped the participants feel beautiful in their own skin.
Williams shared with the guests how many of the ladies came in for their shoots nervous that they would not take good pictures. In the end, each woman looked beyond beautiful – they looked regal.
“It meant so much for you all to come out and do this for me and share your stories. I made so many friends,” Williams said.
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