Guest Blogger: Candace Michelle, Editor-in-Chief of Black Pinups

Please welcome our guest blogger, the fabulous Candace Michelle. Get to know Candace and visit BlackPinups.net to learn more about her passion.
— Christi

Why I Created Black Pinups

What is a “pinup”? A pinup is a picture of a model or celebrity that is “pinned up” on a wall of their fans. This has been going on since the early days of print publications and entertainment. But it gained more traction in the 1940’s particularly with actress Betty Grable who was “America’s pinup”. Many “pinups” were to follow; Marilyn Monroe, Rita Hayworth, Jayne Mansfield, and the Queen of Pinups, Bettie Page who was more of a pinup in the sense that she wasn’t a singer, dancer, or actress, just a model, a pinup model.

 

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When people think of old Hollywood and the word pinup it is of the aforementioned actresses and model that are thought of. But what about a black pinup? Who was a famous black pinup? Were there any black pinups? Did black pinups even exist due to racism? Well, yes! Due to racism many cultures had their own magazines, their own clubs, movie stars, models, etc. The three most famous black pinups known are Josephine Baker, Dorothy Dandridge, and Eartha Kitt. Josephine Baker was the first major black superstar, she was a singer, dancer, actress, humanitarian, activist, feminist, and Nazi spy. Dorothy Dandridge who was famously married to Harold Nicholas of the famous tap-dancing duo, The Nicholas Brothers got her big break as Carmen in Carmen Jones, she was nominated for Best Actress, the first Black actor to be nominated in a leading category. Eartha Kitt who was a singer and dancer and is most known for her role as Catwoman in the 1960’s TV series, Batman was a famous pinup due to her sexy costume, and perfect purr as the nemesis of Batman. Her costume is still a go to in today’s time.

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So now that you have an idea of what pinups are and who were famous pinups of the years gone by onto why I created Black Pinups. Due to the lack of seeing black pinups of the golden age of Hollywood or black pinups in general including black celebrities not recreating the pinup look I noticed the absence of it. When the female celebrities like Gwen Stefani, Christina Aguilera, Katy Perry, and even J.Lo recreated their looks to be pinup, there were none to be found of black female celebrities unless it was a for movie role. I always thought it strange and why this look wasn’t recreated if only for a short time (like how Christina Aguilera did an album and era as a 1940’s pinup). Halle Berry played Dorothy Dandridge in her biopic, Beyonce’ and Jennifer Hudson only did a few vintage photos because of their roles in Dream Girls. But none were for a period of time or widely shown at the time I created Black Pinups. I would go to car shows in California only to be the only black pinup there. I felt completely alone and that no one understood me. I loved my classic movies and would dress vintage going to vintage events but felt alone not seeing anyone that looked like me. Was there a black pinup out there? Someone that lived and dressed vintage? Someone that loved Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe as much as I did? I didn’t see any of that, so I changed it.

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On January 12, 2012 in the library of Art Institute of Hollywood, I created Black Pinup Models on Facebook. I looked up old black pinups and of course the first ones I saw were Dorothy Dandridge and Josephine Baker, but they were actresses not models, I came across Madeline “Sahji” Jackson who was an exotic dancer and was stunningly beautiful at that. And then I came across, Angelique Noire. She was stunning! She was a beautiful tall brown skinned model, who dressed vintage, she was a pinup model! Even though she is a model and has been cast in music videos and commercials as well as being featured on the runway, she also did pinup! And it was there that through her connections I saw more black pinups! I saw the ladies that followed her and were friends with her and befriended them and took their pictures and posted them on Black Pinup Models. Two models became my cover models because of Angelique’s association with them; Ashleeta (March/April 2014 issue 2) and Jenny Rieu (November/December 2014 issue 6).

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The page quickly grew, and I was shocked that there wasn’t a magazine for it! So, I decided to start work on a magazine and on December 30, 2013 I released Black Pinups, the first vintage modern publication of black pinups. Angelique was my first cover model. I’m amazed at the impact because I didn’t set out to be anything special, I just didn’t see anyone that looked like me and I felt alone. I felt that there wasn’t a place for me out there and in creating a place for black pinups, I have been told many times that they felt the same way I do. Black pinups from all over the world have submitted to be in my magazine and are fans of it. Fans from all over the world follow Black Pinups. These two words “representation matters” are very important to me because I didn’t see anyone like me, I felt alone and sad and wished there was someone out there that was like me. Everyone wants to see a representation of themselves out in the media whether it’s in mainstream media or social media on a platform in the entertainment industry, or any public forum whether it’s cosplay, burlesque, book nerds, activism and so on. People want to see a version of themselves out there in the open, someone that has the same interests and likes and feels welcomed. I just wanted to showcase the beauty of black women in the vintage world and because of that black pinups have come out of the woodwork to be a part of what I have created and that makes me happy because we all want to feel that we belong.

Representation matters.

Top 3 things you can do to live your best life now

We all want to live our best lives and go through our days feeling joy rather than pain, right? As true as that may be, life can throw curve balls your way, or you could have a shitty night’s sleep, which will turn the next day on its head. It’s hard to radiate all that is good when you are utterly exhausted.

Life happens. It’s true. But even as life is happening, there are ways for us to take it by the balls and show it who’s boss: you are. Here are some ways that I do to live my best life now.

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1) Amplify your joy:  When people ask you how you are, you may be tempted to give them a real answer, even it’s crappy. I challenge you not to, though.  “In any given day you have moments of awesomeness as well as moments of negativity.  So, when someone asks how you are or how your day is going, challenge yourself to amplify the awesomeness rather than any irritation. Positivity is contagious  and in your answer, you may remind whomever you are talking to about something similarly joyful that happened to them. By making a conscious decision to be happy and that will make it easier to make the people around you happier too.

 2) Get out of your head: It’s no secret that many of us suffer from anxiety. I know I do, but one trick I have found to help me minimize those feelings is to try and get out of my own head.  If I am doing something nice for someone else or thinking about how I could be of service in general, I cannot get lost worrying  about if I said something wrong or am not where I should be. I use the following tricks to get out of my head; you should try them, too:

1) Try to notice something positive about one stranger and one friend today. Pay them a heartfelt and specific compliment. This could be in person or online.  Witnesses are a bonus. “I’ve always loved how you talk about your children”, “The way you’ve been styling your hair really brings out your eyes”. It’s free and it can be contagious in a good way.

2) Do something extra without expecting it to be noticed.  When you see that something needs to get done think about something nice someone has done for you and just pay it forward. No need for anyone to notice or acknowledge you doing it; just do it to add joy or reduce stress for someone else, not for the pat on the back.

3) Take a minute to breathe and count your blessings. Do your parts work? Do you have someone to love? Can you still rock your favorite socks? Think of all the people in your life that struggle in different ways than you and send good vibes, prayers, thoughts whatever you can send.  The process of sending is good for you and for them. When you are thinking of others you cannot get lost in your own thoughts.

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 3) Your oxygen first

This may sound contradictory to that last one, but each tool has its turn.  You also need to take some time to do something for yourself. You work hard to care for your people, but there is that “put your oxygen mask on first” idea that if you are not at full power you cannot help others.  Think of the last time you felt amazing. Did someone compliment you? Did you accomplish something? Did you try something new? Spend time with people you care about? How did you feeling spectacular affect the other people you interacted with?  If you have a crap day or even a fine day you come home with different energy than if you had an amazing day. Think about some things that might equal an amazing day for you. Some ideas for me are 1) hiking in the woods 2) nail salon day 3) hammock & a book 4) makeover for a fancy night out 5) doing something memorable with my friends. (Did you know you can do group shoots with your best friend, mom, daughter?)  

Disregarding shameless plug, I want you all to take care of yourselves, and I would love to hear about what you do to live your best life. 

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Get to know Grinkie hair and makeup artist, Lela Wright

I am fortunate to work with great clients, as well as great partners. Lela Wright is one of those great partners.

A hair and make-up artist in her own right, Lela and I began collaborating over five years ago. I love having her by my side, and if you haven’t already, I’d love for you to meet her so you can understand why I’m so happy that she’s part of the team.

Enjoy this Q & A and get to know why I simply adore this woman!

Question:  How did you and Christi begin working together? 

Answer: It all started with a photo shoot and it has evolved into both a partnership and a rather beautiful friendship. 

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Question:  What do you do for the Grinkie models?

Answer: I will never forget the first time I set foot in front of the camera. I was excited—but DAMN I was nervous! My general personality is nurturing and kind, and I bring that to every photo shoot to help create an environment that is non-intimidating and fun. My job is to ease tension and encourage. My goal is for our models to feel at home and to see Christi and me not only as a professional team, but as two people who are also easy going and comfortable to be around. 

Question: What do you like best about working with Grinkie models?

Answer: I absolutely love making a difference in people’s lives and I truly believe that is what we do. We offer people the opportunity to step out of their comfort zones in a safe environment. We create an experience that is fun and nurturing. We allow people to see themselves through someone else’s eyes. 

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Question: What's the most rewarding thing about working with Grinkie models?

Answer: As I mentioned previously, the most reward thing about my job is impacting people’s lives in a positive way, and I know for certain that this is true for Christi as well. I love meeting people and getting to know them and more often than not the photo session turns into a major love fest—tears, hugs and all!  

Question:  Where else do you work and what else do you do?

Answer: I stay very busy. When I’m not holding a make up brush or a curling iron, I’m teaching yoga, playing volleyball, gardening, cooking or visiting local breweries (most of these activities are done with my best friend and partner by my side!). My life revolves around my family. Both of my sons are in local bands and I get out as often as I can to support them. I also have one-year-old twins who add joy and adventure to each day! I am a big believer that life is what you make of it and the universe will always provide. I have a deep sense of gratitude for every single day and all the people in my life. It is truly a gift.  

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Question: Where are you from, and what do you like best about the Twin Cities?

Answer: I am from Madison, Wisconsin. I moved to the Twin Cities with my son nearly 21 years ago! It’s hard to believe I’ve been here for that long. Minnesota is my home. There is so much to do and see here and the communities are strong. I appreciate the diversity and the culture and though I love to travel—I will never leave. I will go off and explore often, but I will always return home.

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Question: Anything else you want to add? Can we get your website and social media channels and contact information?

Answer:  Though I love doing pin up/vintage/period MUAH—I also do a lot of work with brides and bridesmaids, preparing for senior photos, special events, headshots, cooperate identity photos and much, much more!  

Please feel free to connect with me on my website, getstyledbylela.com, Facebook page, Get Styled by Lela, and/or Instagram, getstyledbylela. You also can call me at 651-269-9380.

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The Grinkie Mother/Daughter Experience

I’m not sure who was more excited for our “Mother and Me” photo session with Christi at Grinkie Girls, my 11-year-old daughter or me.  Although I’ve known Christi for about seven years and I’d seen lots of her photos, I truly was not sure what to expect. And my daughter, Sasha, had no idea what was in store, either.

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We got to the studio a little before 4:00 pm on a Saturday looking forward to what awaited us. When we walked into the Grinkie studio, Christi met us with a warm smile and offered us some water and a tour.

Then, it was time to get down to business. We met Lela, the hair and make-up artist (and that’s truly what she is), and we started to think about our wardrobe for the shoot.

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Christi has a room dedicated to vintage clothes of all sizes for most shapes, and the shoes – oh, my. Does she have shoes!

At first, I admit I wasn’t sure what to look for, but with some guidance from Christi, I was on my way. Or, actually, Sasha began taking out dresses for both her and me to try on.

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Once we agreed on what we were going to wear, Lela worked her magic on us. She set my daughter’s hair, then mine. Then she did my daughter’s make-up and finished up her hair, and finally she did the same to me.

I won’t lie; it took some time. Christi says that to do one person’s hair and make-up usually takes about 60-90 minutes, and that was true for us. Times two.

But, wow. She made us both look amazing. I didn’t want my 11-year-old baby to look too grown up, and she didn’t. She looked so naturally beautiful, because she is, but in a way she hadn’t looked before because she hadn’t had her hair and make up done this way before.

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And, not to brag, but I looked pretty damn good, too.

With my daughter’s hair and make-up done, it was time for her to get in front of the camera. I can’t tell you how much fun she had, and I think Christi was enjoying her time, too. From my chair, I heard lots of laughter, lots of banter back and forth, and even some suggestions from my daughter, much to Christi’s delight.

Just as Lela finished my hair and make-up, my husband and 13-year-old son arrived because we were going to toss in a couple of family snaps, too.

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But before we did though, it was my turn to get in front of the camera. I’ve never been a pinup girl before and certainly never photographed as one, but Christi made it easy. Her comfort behind the camera helped me feel comfortable in front of the camera, even as my family watched from the side.

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After about 15 minute of me posing, the rest of my family joined in and we took a few pictures of the four of us. By this time it was about 7:30 pm, and although my daughter could have stayed for another hour or two, I could tell my son was getting antsy.

And, just like that, we were done with the pictures. The great thing is, we got to look at every single one right then and determine which ones we wanted and which ones we didn’t. I won’t lie; it was difficult to choose because they all were really, really great. Christi guided us through this process as well, just as she had been guiding us all evening.

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We settled on the ones we would keep, and then changed back into our street clothes. After saying good-bye to Christi, my family went out to dinner at a restaurant nearby. Although we were in jeans and sweatshirts, our faces and hair were still glammed up and it was a fun way to eat a burger.

Later that night, Sasha told me that her brother mentioned to her that she should be a model. “You looked really great in every picture,” he said, proudly.

She’s already thinking about our next Grinkie session, and so am I.

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Go on location with Grinkie Girls

Go on location with Grinkie Girls

While it’s true Grinkie Girls has a very comfortable photo studio in St. Paul, did you know Christi can do both pin-up and boudoir photo shoots out of the studio and on location?

It’s true, and it’s a lot of fun. In fact, Christi has done photo shoots in one-stall garages, grand ballrooms, and everything in between. And what makes these on-location shoots interesting typically is the location itself.

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“Either the location is interesting on it’s own, or I can bring a simple backdrop to make it so,” says Christi. “Sometimes we need to accommodate a large prop, like a plane.”

That’s right. If you have an airplane, Christi will be happy to use it as a backdrop.

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Why go on location?

People choose to take their photo shoot out of the studio and on location for many reasons. Some are on location to accommodate groups, and more still are booked to incorporate a large prop or backdrop that simply cannot get inside the studio (like that plane we referenced above).

Still others choose to do a boudoir shoot in the comfort of their own home, and Christi has been known to go on location across state lines for a large group shoot.

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Regardless of where the location is, you still get hair and makeup done for you (remember to ask Christi about the time she was shooting in the woods and the challenges the hair people had with the curling iron!). And, it takes about the same amount of time, so there’s no extra charge for Christi to go on location (of course, if you are renting a place out for the shoot, then that would be an extra charge you incur).

Do you have an idea for an amazing on location photo shoot? Contact Christi to discuss! And see the upcoming location shoot schedule.

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Grinkie Does Pet Photography

 

Grinkie Does Pet Photography

Pets are people, too. OK, not really, but pets are definitely a part of the family. I, unfortunately, cannot have any pets in my home due to allergies, so I get my animal fix by working with other people and their pets.

That’s right; Grinkie does pet photography.

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In fact, I love working with people and their fur-babies. There is something magical about watching a dog or a cat with his or her person. Seriously.

The unconditional love they have for their owner is so sweet and so pure. And, I love watching and capturing the love people have for their pets.

In fact, I love it so much, I want to do even more pet photography.

Animal Imagemakers Conference

You may or may not know that I am a proud board member of the Twin Cities Professional Photographer’s Association.  We are sponsoring the first pet photography convention in the U.S., the Animal Imagemakers Conference,  on April 13-16, 2019, and I am super excited!

The conference will kick off with an Haute Couture Pet Fashion Show that I am coordinating, and will continue with speakers, exhibits and other educational opportunities. The whole idea is to serve pet and animal photographers with a comprehensive event that is all about the business of photographing our four-legged friends.

I look forward to taking what I learn from the conference and applying it to help animals show their personalities in front of the camera. Because they all have personalities!

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So, if you and your pet want a photo shoot by me, please let me know. I’d love you have you come in to the studio, or if it’s easier and more comfortable and convenient, I can certainly come to you. Or, we can choose a different location altogether.

Whatever works best for your and your fur-baby. Just let me know. Contact me today for details, pricing and to reserve your time!

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Thank You For Your Service

Happy Birthday, America!

I read somewhere that Americans consume 150 million hot dogs and 700 million pounds of chicken on the Fourth of July. Seven. Hundred Million. Pounds.

That’s a lot.

I love the holiday that commemorates the 13 original colonies’ adoption of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. I love the parade and fireworks that accompanies the celebrations, and I love picnics with watermelon and yes, fried chicken.

I also love veterans for many reasons, one being for all the sacrifices they give to our country. And, I really love my grandfather, who fought – and was a POW – in World War II.

He was captured in France and has many amazing stories about his time in the Air Force as well as his capture.

So it’s very important to me that I support veterans any way I can. One way I do this is by giving all veterans who come in for a pin up shoot one free image.

And, for the month of July, all veterans who come in for a solo shoot will get one free 16 x 20 photo printed on metal (valued at $499).

Are you a veteran and considering a pinup photo shoot?

Two veterans I’ve recently worked with agreed to share their stories. First, please meet Janelle, who was in the Air National Guard.

“The photo shoot with Christi was so much fun! There was swing music playing in the background (I believe it was the Squirrel Nut Zippers). I remember a huge collection of retro clothing for me to try on, and I fit into everything. I always had self-image problems, and they were all gone that day. I was fully celebrating what God gave me and it was a nice change from the regular pinch and poke at myself.

“For anyone considering a shoot, I’d say to do it. In your gear, you are hidden. You are the same as everyone else. But in this shoot you are transformed into the woman or man that you are! You are free to express yourself in any way you want. Christi is so energetic and loving, and is completely different than the officers you work under.”

And now, hear from Aimee, who was in the U.S. Air Force.

“I wanted to do a Grinkie shoot because I never really felt very girly or attractive. Also, I had just gone through a divorce and I really needed to feel like a woman again. It was so nice to be dolled up.

“I most remember how comfortable Christi made me feel. I am a very awkward person, yet she managed to get so many beautiful pictures of me.

“I did a photo in part of my military uniform for myself. I didn’t share it with anyone via social media, and I love the way I look. I want to do another shoot with her and bring in items that are significant to me, like my wings I earned as a flight attendant and probably my dog tags from the military. I know with her creativity she can find the best ways to use them.”

Thank you for your service, Janelle and Aimee, and thank you to all veterans!

If you are curious about what’s involved in a pinup shoot, give me a call. And remember, if you come in for a solo shoot in July, I’ll give you one free 16 x 20 photo printed on metal, valued at $499.

Contact me to learn more, and Happy Birthday, America!  

Identity Portraits – Creating a safe space for transgender people

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So much pressure exists for each of us to fit into a certain mold. But the truth is, we are all unique and we each have our own mold to fit into. So, every day when I work with clients, my mission is to help them tap into – and feel comfortable with – their inner and outer beauty. Two recent clients made me realize just how important that mission is. Both are transgender and are transitioning – one from male to female, and the other from female to male. The experience of working with both was so powerful and fun that I realized that although they are both unique, their stories might not be. I also realized I want to help more people like Michaela and Justin confidently express just who they are though photos.

And so, the idea of Identity Portraits was born to provide a safe place for transgender and non-binary identifying people to decide how they want to present themselves to the world. I admit that working with Michaela and Justin was one of the most powerful experiences I’ve had in my professional life (with all due respect to my other clients, of course). And, based on the tears shed during each session, I think it was a pretty good experience for each of them, too.

Justin says:
“I had wanted to do a shoot like this ever since I had top surgery, and I admit that I was a bit nervous going into the shoot. But Christi made me feel at ease. “I went in knowing it would be fun, but I didn’t realize how much fun it was going to be. Christi’s passion for what she does is reflected throughout the entire experience. She captures so much beauty, her energy is infectious, and her compassion for people will leave you speechless.” He is so pleased with the end product that he is hosting a party to unveil the photos that we took that day.

Michaela says:
“I won a photo shoot from a Valentine’s Day drawing, and Christi and her team were amazing from the very start. “I had not told Christi that I was trans, but it didn’t matter. From the beginning, I was treated as me without anyone batting an eye. I felt accepted as the woman that I am. “Being the center of focus was amazing, and this photo shoot was one of the most affirming things I have ever done. I had never seen myself like I did that day, and Christi helped me realize that’s how other people see me. “It truly changed how I saw myself. When we looked at my pictures, I cried.”

What’s included?
All Identity Portraits are custom-designed for each participant. That means that participants will receive a pre-shoot consultation with me to brainstorm and discuss ideas. Hair and make-up are also included. The goal of the session, along with some quality pictures, is to ensure the participant feels like the exceptional person they are.Pricing for the shoot and any prints are at my standard rates. In addition, I have set up a private Facebook group for my Identity Portrait clients as well as others in the transgender community. I want to extend the safe place beyond my studio, and this Facebook group is an invite-only resource for discussion and questions. For more information about Identity Portraits, including the cost and how to book your appointment, please contact me directly by clicking here.

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