Saturday, May 27, 2017

This Is What I've Learned From Naked Women by Lewis Chaney

"Have you ever looked at a photo of yourself and cried?"

The tears welled up in Valorie's eyes when the image came up on the screen.  The more she stared at it, the less her eyes could hold back the tears until they rolled down her high cheek bones.  Her voice and her facial expression echoed her words as she said, "I look horrible."
        In the photo, she is standing in a cabin with her back against a rock fireplace. A lone shaft of light from a nearby window etches her body. She is staring out towards the window, wearing a look of defeat on her face. It is as if she were wondering how many years it had been since she felt good about her body, her shape, herself. She stands in profile to the camera, her arms across her breasts.

       There was no mistaking she had curves and more weight than she ever wanted to carry. She was transfixed, gazing deeper into the picture, seeing more than the camera showed. She saw every bump, every line, every scar, and every mark on her. She was seeing every single flaw she had in a way she had never seen, through the unblinking eye of my camera.

       This was in stark contrast to how she was in her youth, the athlete who stood up for others when they were picked on for being different. A marriage, child and divorce had left her a single mom. Where had the time gone that had forged her into the 52 year old she is now?

       But as hard as she is on herself, she is the opposite with everyone she meets. If she met you, she would say things like “I love your hair,” “That is a beautiful dress,” “Wow, you look awesome,” lifting you up and brightening your day. She could see the beauty in everyone but herself. This picture seemed to encapsulate every negative thought she had about herself and every negative thing ever said to her, including those backhanded compliments like "You are awfully pretty...for a fat girl."

       It was more than a just a picture, it was a visual representation of repulsion and self-loathing.As the photographer, I only saw a beautiful woman.

       For thousands of years, the female form has led to some of the greatest works of art, such as the statues of Aphrodite and Venus de Milo and paintings like Goya’s Nude Maja and Diego Velázquez’s The Rokeby Venus. In the past 100 or so years, countless photographers have captured breathtaking and stunning images you can find with the click of a mouse. I wondered if I could parlay my 30 years of shooting video into this particular world of art.

      What started as an endeavor to create some artistic black and white pictures, perhaps for a contest or a gallery, quickly became so much more. as the women removed their clothing, they bared more than their bodies; they bared their souls.  

       A very pretty young woman, in her late twenties, asked me to photograph her. She was a size 6, standing 5’ 5” tall, with long dark hair, and it stunned me that she didn’t like her body. I literally had to take a step back, because I was shocked to hear her describing her perceived flaws. Her hope was that this would help her regain her self-esteem.

       Halfway through her session, we were taking a lunch break and I was showing her what we had created so far. She pointed at the computer screen and said “I don’t know WHO that sexy bitch is, but I like her!”

       Within a couple of weeks of the shoot she told me “I have seen the true beauty of MY body, the body God has given me. And I know that regardless of what society thinks, I am beautiful, I am sexy, because I am me.”

        I am no stranger to this topic. I have been married for 22 years to a plus size woman and been witness to her struggles as her weight went up and down. I have felt her joy and her anguish and stand on the cusp of understanding, never really being able to because, let’s face it, I am a man.

        But I can be the conduit for these stories and this is only two of the many I have photographed. From size 6-24, all had one thing in common: they disliked their bodies. Some had zero confidence; some had a little; while others had more with their clothing on instead of off.  A few were very confident, including one woman who, when I asked her size, told me “Well, I like to say I am too awesome for single digits, but since that won’t fit on a tag, I buy 22’s”.

       The stories I heard are so powerful, that they can connect to other women.  They can help every perfectly imperfect woman re-shape her thinking so she can re-think her shape. 

      As I consoled my longtime friend Valorie , I explained that every single curve, line, scar and mark were just part of her map. I told her it’s not a road map; it’s a treasure map, because you are at the end of it.

      Then I tried something. I handed her a shiny penny and a gemstone. I told her to imagine the penny is every insult, every backhanded compliment, every negative thought she has ever had about herself. What’s all that worth? A penny. Not even the value of someone’s “two cent’s worth”.  

      Now, look at the gemstone in the other hand. No two are alike. Some are short, some round, some jagged, some a solid color, some swirled in color. If I laid out a thousand of them, you would be hard pressed to pick your favoritebecause each is uniquely beautiful. 

      I told her that, from now on, when she had something negative come up, squeeze the penny until your fingers are numb and then, put it away/  It deserves no more of your attention. 

      After that, look at the gemstone, and see your beauty. Over time that penny will fade, but the gemstone won’t, and every compliment you get is just someone polishing that stone.

      Within days of the shoot she wrote me and told me she had found her beautiful again and wasn’t letting it go. She said “I LOVE ME, from my natural hair to my mocha chocolate, curvaceous body!” She can now look at the picture and be unfazed. And every time she leaves home, she touches the gemstone on the way out the door.

      Valorie no longer lets anyone set her value or her worth. She refuses to let the woman in the mirror degrade her. She says she wasted so many years letting others con her into believing them, letting them con her out of her confidence.  

Don’t be conned out of your confidence.

Written by Lewis Chaney
I had a very refreshing conversation with photographer, professional storyteller, speech coach, Illusionist, movie producer and director Lewis Chaney.  His story of how all of life's twists and turns has led him down the road to photography is amazing and inspiring.

If you would like to book him for the full presentation or a photo session please visit his site  

Please check out other works at:

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Black Magic Live Art Museum

Black Magic: Live Art Museum

The Black Magic Live Art Museum took place on Friday March 3, 2017 at the DeLo Studios in Downtown Jacksonville.  The event was formed by Tiffney Funches, one of the organizers of isupport dreams inc., along with a few of her closest friends.

“2016 was a rough year for everyone in our circle and we wanted to find a way to deal with all of the emotions that came with the election, bombings, and police shootings.  We needed a way to express our hurt and frustrations.”

Funches says that this is exactly what she and her friends wanted.  They wanted the message to be loud and clear: Black Lives Matter, black art matters, black creativity matters…we matter.  She wanted those positive images to shine through and resonate in our hearts. 

The Black Magic Live Art Museum was a “collective effort” that her and a few friends decided to do in honor of their late friend and brother Jerry Brown.  Jerry Brown was shot and killed in January 2016 while sitting in a car outside of his Aunt’s house. See full story here.

Chelsey Pough, long time friend of Brown and co-owner of isupport dreams inc., performed a very moving poem she started writing one month after his death. Emotions ran high as Pough poured out her feelings of loss for her dear friend with a poem entitled, “Jerry”.

 “I just want the violence to end, admits Pough.”  “And hopefully my words touched someone to put their guns down.” Along with her poetry audience members got to witness a dance that reflected her poetry. 

Other works of art displayed that evening echoed Pough’s plea for violence to end against young black men.  The Black Lives Matter movement was visible in words, photographs, and symbolism. 
Along with poetry there was an array of local talent displayed. 
Visual artists consisted of: KiAndra Jones, Tatiana Kitchen, Christopher Clark, Alfonso Stacey, Walter Lewis, Corey, Phedre J. Delinois (Body Art Painter), Tasha Coney (dancer), Mike Robinson-DJ, and host (Ebony Payne).

Local visual artist Christopher Clark and his wife Kandice Clark were a Black power couple, dynamic team and a force to be reckoned with.  Clark’s art captures black expression in a sophisticated way.  His art entitled “Pray” features a young African American boy with a shirt on that reads “prey”.  His hair is gold and nappy.  Clark says that it represents “precious metal which is what we are.” 

Domo Haynes, a local fashion designer teamed up with iOne Fashion to present their latest collection.  The energy in room was magnetic.  There was art displayed throughout the entire building, and art being created as well.  

Local photographers came to show their support and be a part of the BMLAM as well.  Alfonso Stacey, Cheryl McCain displayed their talent of capturing the essence and beauty of black men, women and children.

Cheryl McCain brought with her, her muse for her latest collection.  She says that her style of photography includes allowing her clients to just be themselves and letting their inner beauty shine through. 

The location of the Black Magic Live Art Museum was carefully selected as well.  The Delo Studios used to be the Richmond Hotel, “one of a handful of historically significant buildings that survived the 1990’s demolition derby party held in Lavilla.”

Funches admits that its rich history played a key role in their selection process.  The RichmondHotel has featured some prominent African American artists such as, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, and
Billie Holiday.

“We’re proud and very humbled, says Funches.  We wanted to send out a message and that message is this: “Black people can celebrate black people.  This is who we are.  We are beautiful and we need to re-teach that to our people.”

To her friend and brother Jerry Brown, she says this: “We love you and miss you wholeheartedly.  Rest in heaven and keep singing for Jesus.”

*Special Mentions: Alexis Harley, Ashley Dickerson, Richard Brown, and JaVaris Robinson

Praise for Black Magic: Live Art Museum!!

- "Beautiful!  I love seeing different people's ideas coming to life.  They are all different but great."
   Keturiah Baker

- "Impressed! Proud. I admire how so many beautiful people came together with so many talents.           And I love how the city showed its support.
    Tammie Nelson

My name is Candace Smith and I am the Creator of for inquires

Saturday, February 25, 2017


I had the pleasure of speaking with Willette Hurst the other day and our 30 minute interview turned into an almost 2 hour conversation that had me up out of my chair and pacing the floor.  We’ve had multiple conversations since and have started what I expect to be a very long and interesting relationship.  I don’t want to specify what that relationship will be because after our initial conversation I imagine that it will be a little bit of everything: friendship, business, spiritual… you name it.
I was totally engulfed in her life story or at least two hours worth of it.  Before I knew it I had over four pages of notes which were more than enough to share her amazing story. 
This year I decided to do the spotlights a little different.  Willette will be the first of many weight loss journey stories that I will feature.  I see so many amazing women sharing their before and after pictures on social media and I always wonder things like, how did they do it?  What did they eat?  When did they decide to just stick it out and make a decision to lose the weight?  It amazes me and inspires me so much.  It also makes me feel less alone in the weight loss struggle that is so real!
Willette weight loss story is still in progress but she truly believes that the hardest part is over and that is the healing that has to take place from within.  She says that she is “on a journey and leaving the past behind her, literally!  She’s doing what we’ve all wanted and may have done at one point in our lives and that is: packing up everything that she can fit into her car and hitting the road.  I can definitely relate to this having done this exact same thing in 2014.  It didn’t feel like it at the time but it was the best decision I ever made!

Willette is an Evangelist on BBW radio where she talks about healing spiritually as well as physically from anorexia. 
As a teenager she struggled with rejection from her Mom and molestation which in return birthed an unhealthy relationship with food.  It was her comfort.  And she says that, “like drugs…comfort can be your best friend or your worst enemy.”  At 14 she was 250 pounds and admits that she didn’t even know that she was over-weight until she tried to get a date and guys didn’t respond.  She was always told that she had a beautiful face but no one ever mentioned her figure. 
By the time she was 18 she’d left home realizing that her mom couldn’t give her the love she always wanted.  She was married by 20 to a man she describes as a “chubby chaser”—a man who only likes big women.  “He didn’t help my weight loss.”  And anytime she mentioned losing weight he would persuade her not to.  She was a full figure model at the age of 20 but had no confidence.
The years passed and as a wife, mother and caretaker to her father, she neglected taking care of herself.  Before she realized she’d gained more weight—330 pounds.
In the early 90s she had a gastric bypass surgical procedure.  She mentions being a guinea pig because it was still relatively new.  She says that, a surgical procedure doesn’t fix everything.”  She lost 130 pounds but “my head didn’t change.”  You know you have a deep problem when you need a surgical problem to fix it.  If you have that deep of a problem you have to go deeper than the surgery to fix the problem.

She left her husband and married into another dysfunctional and toxic relationship for twenty years. 
Now, Willette is recently divorced and working on herself and trying to figure out “what was I running from.”

When I asked Willette what she thought the reasons were for her struggles with her weight she said that one day she was walking down the street and saw a lady wearing a t-shirt that summed her entire life.  It read: “FAT PEOPLE DON’T GET RAPED.”
The t-shirt brought back floods of memories of the molestation that she’d never fully confronted and dealt with.  She’d been worrying about everyone else for so long being a care taker to her kids, husband, and father. Everyone always told her how beautiful she was but she didn’t know it.
That was the moment.  That was the game changer.  She decided that she had to change.  Change for herself, her health, because she wants to watch her kids and grand kids grow up.
Now she’s says that she’s a temperature changer!  FYA NOW!  When she walks in the room she changes the atmosphere.  In 2012 she became totally disabled but God told her that she wasn’t disabled and that she could use her mouth and words to encourage others.
Things have changed.
Tired of being sick.
Tired of only having a skinny face.
Tired of being the victim.
Another moment that made Willette reflect on her weight was when she would be asked to go to certain events and couldn’t fit into any clothes (we can all relate to that)!
She took sugar and flour out of her diet and noticed that she was able to think clearer than ever before.  Recognizing these positive changes encouraged her to continue the pursuit to a healthier lifestyle.
She gives the example of a car with the wrong oil and gas being put into it.  She realizes that’s exactly what she had been doing to her body for so long making unhealthy eating choices.
A healthier lifestyle.
Willette has brought her weight down from 330 pounds to 212 and she’s not stopping there.  She admits that what works for her is No Sugar!  She divorced all sugars, flour and fried foods and realized that “this enabled me to think more clearly.”
She goes to the gym everyday for 1 hour.  This helped her cope with stress and released endorphin's to think positively.
She offers this advice to anyone out their struggling with their weight: “Take time for yourself that
makes you and your body feel good the next day.  Prepare food ahead of time, this allows you to make better choices.  Stay committed to yourself and not everybody else.”

My name is Candace Smith and I am the Creator of for inquires

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Phatabulous Magazine Radio Interview (Video)

Phatabulous Magazine Radio Interview--The Consumer Quarterback Show with Brandon Rimes

I would just like to give a special thanks to Brandon Rimes and his entire crew at iHeart radio station in Tampa Florida!

I met Brandon at a networking function and I've been ghost writing for him for his new up and coming book.  It's been an exciting process and I've learned so much!  When the book is released I will definetely keep you all updated on where you can check it out.  I'm excited to add this to my writing resume.  For more information you can email me:

Saturday, January 21, 2017

iONE Fashions is setting the bar very high for Jacksonville's Fashion Scene

"iONE Fashions" is setting the bar very high for Jacksonville's   Fashion Scene

Geisha The Model
Josephine Haute Couture Jewelry & Accessories

I met Syndy (one of iOne Fashions partners) through a mutual friend from my home town Jacksonville Florida.  From our first conversation I could tell a couple of things about her.  Number one: on a personal level she seemed genuine and "real".  For those of you who have worked in "the business" for a few years you understand that those two terms are hard to associate with people that you meet and work with.  

Model: Sharon Brown
Number 2 she knew a lot about her craft.  This is so important.  I don't know how many times I've met people who say they model, design, write, sing, dance but they have a limited amount of knowledge about their passion.

Number 3: she's not from Jacksonville.  When you've lived in a city for so long you understand the people very well.  Syndy's been a breath of fresh from the moment I met her. So, although I no longer live in Jacksonville, it was these three reasons along with the idea of a fashion show, (I'm always down for that) that I decided attending her event was worth the drive.

I'm so glad that I agreed to come because I was not disappointed.  This event was everything I needed and more.  First of all I've been a little out of touch with the scene with a new baby and all so this event gave me the perfect reason to get dressed up on a Sunday night and get cute.  

iOne Fashions event was held at the DeLo Studio in downtown Jacksonville. A few people including myself was pleasantly surprised by the locations swanky vibe.  It was very classy and upscale.  It was hosted by Kristina M. Hatcher and she ushered the nights event along very smoothly.  The DJ Keaton DjKPTV created a musical atmosphere that was both relaxing and hypnotic.  

As for entertainment there were three designers that showcased their designs on iONE Fashion models. 

Miss Marie
Josephine Haute Couture Jewelry & Accessories

The first designer was Josephine Haute Couture Jewelry and Accessories.  Me and Miss Marie have worked together in the past and she is always a class act.  Her jewelry pieces were elegantly displayed in a very creative way.  Check out a feature article on Miss Marie and Josephine Couture Jewelry and Accessories right here!  I'm sure you will be hearing and seeing a lot more of her because she is definitely on her grind and about her coins!

Fashion Designer Muffinn Edwards displayed her "After Work Attire" as well as Boutique owner JakyT.  

There were sweet treats made available by Deloach's Delectables and a few speakers: Ta'racya DaPoet, Le Amber, CEO of Florida's Next Top Model, Flat Fee Law, Moonrocks Bath and Body Company, and several photographers including: ShadowRose Photography and iamjaxphoto.

I got the opportunity to speak to a few attendees and get their take on the nights events and everyone had nothing but praises flowing from their lips.  Lilly's Shoes Shop interviewed with me.  Kenyatta Ford and Kenneth Ford are the owners and were guests of one of the designers.  They've been at their Edgewood Avenue location for about three years.  Kenneth expressed how impressed he was with the events atmosphere and how great it was that a lot of different black owned businesses could come together and network.

Now, I always have to scan the room for any phatabulous ladies that might be in attendance and it just so happen that I ran into Chelsey.  This beautiful butterfly started an organization with her best friend over four years ago called ISupport_Dreams.  Their organization works with the youth on the North side of Jacksonville helping them the find and mold their talents.  They're hosting their own event March 3rd at the DeLo Studios from 7-9 pm.  There is a $10 advance admission charge and a $15 door fee.  Phatabulous Magazine will definitely try to be in attendance.  Anything for the kids!!!!  I was grateful to have the opportunity to meet this beautiful young lady and wish her all the best in her organization.

Overall, the response of a lot of the attendees was this: they enjoyed being able to mix and mingle and network.  They also felt like the atmosphere was very relaxing and inviting.  

I got a chance to catch up with Syndy a few days after the event to get her thoughts on everything.  She told me that this event was "a perfect representation of what happens when like-minded individuals come together to create a moment."  And by everyone she meant all of the designers, event planners, artists, photographers, models, media...etc.  This event was for everyone that when it comes time to have an event they are at work and never really get the opportunity to enjoy the show.  This event turned the tables a little bit and gave all of the workers a "day off."

Syndy says that she doesn't want to take any credit for what happened on this past Sunday.  She stated that everyone else made that possible.

Model: Dehja Freeland
I had to ask her how she was able to get so many key players to come together and be willing to play together without a bunch of friction.  She said that when they were still in the planning stages of the event she allowed everyone to basically make this event their own.  I thought this was really interesting.

So many times when different organizations try to come together there is always someone over everyone else.  Some one usually benefits the most and key players are always recognized.  This event was different.  Everyone moved in their lane equally which allowed them to operate at 100% of their ability in their own lane.  Wow!

Jacksonville definitely needs to see more events like this.  One where we can all come together and showcase our talents and equally benefit.  

This event was by invitation only so if you want to be apart of any of their future events I suggest you reach out to them asap because they most definitely did their thing.  I felt very honored to even be considered.

iOne Fashions was founded by Syndy Noisette and she shares ownership with partners Candice Alvita  and Justin Hart.  I am definitely looking forward to attending their next event because the bar has truly been set very high.

I would like to add a special thanks to Miss Marie and Syndy Noisette.

If you've enjoyed this article don't be shy REPLY!  Comment and tell me your thoughts below!!! 

Kenyatta & Kenneth Ford
Lilly's Shoes Shop
Chelsey, myself, and friend
My name is Candace Smith and I am the Creator of Phatabulous Magazine for inquires
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