I'm Annie. I'm a hairstylist, makeup artist, and a photographer.
Also- I'm the founder and CEO of #Fly.
What a road it has been to get here.
You know how people say "There's a reason for everything"? Well...I'm not so sure I believe that.
I was sexually abused by some neighbor kids when I was young. I was so impressionable at that age. I mean, I was 10! Unfortunately my brain and its development was impressionable and effected as well. At a very young age I developed false beliefs about myself that were embedded pretty dang deep due to the sexual abuse. This lead to poor self esteem, body dysmorphia, eating disorders, and eventually lead me to an unhealthy and abusive marriage.
I've had to navigate my way through betrayal trauma, mental abuse, physical abuse, gas-lighting, abandonment, sexual neglect...and I could go on. Its just a lot.
Needless to say I've experienced a whole lot of pain and trauma in my life. The thought that there may be a reason for some of the pain I've experienced just doesn't sit well for me. Why? Because that means that it was on purpose; that my life was intended to be this painful. Yeah. NO thanks.
So, I've decided to create a new outlook on all of this. There is purpose to all of my pain; growth!
Here is my story of growth.
I was turning 30. I had found myself a soon-to-be divorced single mother to 3 beautiful sticky handed busy bodied children. I was terrified. I was shaky. I was broken.
Turning 30 was a big deal in my mind. And honestly? I was trying to find some way to celebrate. Some way to be happy that I was alive. I was telling myself that I had a great life ahead of me even though that felt like a blatant lie. My big brilliant plan? Scheduling a makeover and photo shoot for myself.
Oh, the nerves. I didn't want to go through with it. Like, not at all. But deep down I knew it would help me tremendously. So I did it.
When I got my pictures back it completely confused me. The girl in these pictures was stunning! She was strong, she radiated light, she was seemingly confident. She. Was. Beautiful! I did not feel those things. I did not think those things of myself. But I sure wanted to! Every single day I wanted to.
I blew up the pictures nice and big, framed them, and hung them in my bedroom. That's right...I hung pictures of JUST me in my bedroom. I needed to see them often so that I could look at the strongest version of myself and fight to be her every day.
Lets rewind a few months to where my oldest brother came to visit me. I'm curled up in a ball on my couch. We talked about all the hard things I was going through and I ugly cried for hours. Finally, he looked at me and said, "I don't recognize you anymore. You aren't Annie. Lets find a way to get YOU back." Before he left he handed me $500 and said "I want you to find yourself with this money."
My 9 year marriage, a marriage I gave everything I had to - had left me so empty. I was drained. I was used. I was abused. I was abandoned. Along the way I had lost myself. I didn't know who I was anymore but I was willing to fight to find that woman again.
I kept the $500 safely hidden in one of those crumpled up brown paper bags, tucked away in my closet, for a year.
As I was unpacking my things into my brother's basement after leaving the home I thought I'd raise my kids in, I was once again scared. I was in a new city with new people. Needing to find a new job and new clients. With boxes stacked to the ceiling all around us, my brothers (I'm the only girl out of my parents 7 kids) and I were talking about what my next step would be.
One brother asked specifically about the $500 challenge and said he had an idea. "Remember the photo shoot you did for yourself and how impactful that was for you? What if you did that for women who've been through what you've been through?" It was brilliant. I had all of the skills to make this happen. This was a totally doable goal!
The next week I contacted the local battered women's shelter and was connected with my first participant. I took her shopping for a new outfit. We did her hair and makeup and then followed it up with a photo shoot. That was the beginning of a journey that has changed my life.
What I thought was going to be doing shoots for just 5 women, using up the $500 my brother had given me, has now turned in to an amazing opportunity to give back to women suffering so deeply inside.
Over the years I have had the privilege of working with various organizations as well as amazing and talented makeup artists and photographers who see the vision of #Fly and were eager to be a part of this movement. With their help, love, and support I personally have been able to photograph over 1,500 women. Women I relate to. Women who I want so desperately for them to see the very same thing that I saw in my pictures for the very first time. I want them to see that they are stunning, that they have light that radiates, that they are strong and resilient. I want them to know of the pain and FEEL of the fire. I want that for them.
#Fly was created during the darkest moments of my whole life but has been the greatest gift of healing that I will treasure forever.
I've found my calling.
I've found my purpose.
And this is my story of growth.
P.S. Speaking of growth: My family has grown! I'm now married to Jeremy, the man of my dreams. He is caring, kind, and has a giant heart. Together we have 8 children and are trying our best to influence them all to be the very best humans they can be!