Tuesday, February 2, 2010

“Always Be Yourself”

In high school, Bonnie Fox and I thought we were the new Rogers & Hammerstein. We worked on our own version of High School Musical, the first students to contribute a completely original song, both music and lyrics, to our annual variety show. I was the lyricist; Bonnie played piano and composed music completely by ear.

I was in awe of her talent. Not just that, she came from the most musical family I’ve ever met. Her parents were a handsome couple, always out doing some community theater gig. Each of their five children was gifted musically. I felt like a dunce with two left thumbs because I could only play the piano by reading music. Ironically, Bonnie admired this skill I had that she lacked.

Mr. and Mrs. Fox inspired me in more ways than I’d ever imagined at the time. Bonnie taught me one of their soft shoe numbers. I don’t remember much about the dance, but I’ll never forget the lyrics to an original number in one of their shows:

Always be yourself.
Don’t be a fraud ‘cause no one buys it.
More people ought to realize it,
So always be yourself!

Honest to a fault, I’ve never had much problem with authenticity. But there are other things that creep into our ethical struggles, especially if we “live” on the Internet. The name of my ongoing struggle as a writer and blogger is Image.

Last fall, I had new photos taken. It was a fun day in the Capitol Park Rose Garden in Sacramento, especially since my photographer, Roni Java, is a friend. Her affection for me showed as she made me work to show my best with lots of sweet words of encouragement. She took tons—I mean, tons of pictures. My smile muscles still hurt!

Out of more than 60 shots, with my husband Tim looking over my shoulder at the computer, we both knew instantly the one that would be my new public face and “avatar” on Blogger, Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites. We both chimed in simultaneously, “That’s it!”

I’ll be honest; it’s one where I look the youngest and most vital, where the fewest wrinkles and other telltale signs of aging show. More than that, I think we both loved how it captures my goofy grin, sense of mischief, and my love of beauty. Who could resist a peach and coral colored rose? Especially a Venus Girl?

There’s nothing like a photo shoot to bring you in close contact with your feelings about your image. I admit I have issues with vanity, but I’d like to think they’re not over the top. Everyone needs to do this now and then, if only to ask yourself why you love the picture you choose. It will be revealing. I found out: I want you to know that beauty and fun are the roses of my life … but I suspect you’ve already figured that out yourself. For me, this photo also provides a visual affirmation to remind my inner workaholic to take time to smell the roses.

This picture is as close to the real me as I’ve seen captured in a long time. Or is it just the me I want you to know?

It’s not every single facet of me, but it’s most of me—and it’s me shining. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

Treat yourself to a new photo this Valentine’s season. It’s a way to love yourself, and if there are flashbulbs involved, they’ll help you let out your Light Within.


Photo Credit: © Roni Java Photography

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Eileen Williams said...


I've been lucky enough to have seen that fabulous photo of you a number of times. And I've been luckier still to see you in real life. I have to say that the shot is delightful. It captures your lively spirit, your sense of fun, and your warmth. There is no better candidate to embody the spirit of "stop and smell the roses" than YOU and it shows in this wonderful photo!

Joyce Mason said...

Thanks, Eileen. That's so sweet! It's good to know that others who know me think it's "the one," too. You're the best!

mimi said...

Or better yet, pay an artist to paint a nice portrait of you.

It's an interesting dilemma. In painting a portrait, you must capture the person, do not want to make them look older or less attractive than they really are, and you want to compliment them, not so much that people are going to say "Oh come on, she never looked like that" but enough that the person can look at the painting, see themselves, and be happy about it. I can see now that this is also true for photographs. Trouble is, you don't usually paint 100 portraits and let the person pick one. (scratching my head)

Joyce Mason said...

Mimi, I looked at your site and your portraits. Wow, I'm impressed! I think painting portraits is a unique gift. I had one done as a young woman by a street artist in New Orleans. This is definitely another option I'd recommend by personal experience. It takes more faith on the subject's part because it is a "one shot deal," as you point out. Just a thought, as long as it wouldn't interfere too much with artistic freedom. Maybe having the person bring in their favorite photos and saying why they like them would be a way of getting beforehand what the multi-shots give the subject afterwards. Then the painting might be a combo of how they see themselves and how you see them? If you ever try it, I'd love to hear if it works.