I call it the “Smolder”. It is a look my good friend and model, Mandei Fogarty possesses when she does shoots. It’s a beautiful look that has thrown her into finding new approaches. I personally find it alluring and powerful, but after attending a few casting calls and working more regularly with different photographers she strived for a different expression and to appear “softer.” Each new face she skillfully crafted still had bits of the original “smolder” foundation.

My inspiration for writing this piece is the evening; for one glorious shot. I had managed to “smolder” and understood exactly where it came from.

Most people express thoughts, feelings, and reactions in their face. The sad pout, the love struck puppy eyes, the excited bursts of blush that cascade across an individual’s face are part of what makes interaction amongst human beings so meaningful. I have a problem, if you want to call it that, with concealing what’s really going on in my head from my face. The poker face dilemma is something Mandei also has. If Mandei is enraged it will pour from her eyes and down her face like floods of Spartans storming toward their next conquest. It can be rather frightening. If I am heartbroken and in pieces, every deep thought seems to seep through my pores till the name of the person responsible can be read across my face. This is just how emotionally in tune we both are. We have known and respected this about each other since we were young.

Alternative photography by Subtle Shades

Cooling off with Mandei

I remember the phone call from Mandei that began our working relationship in developing Mistresses of Mayhem Unique Artistry and Promotions.

I personally was drawn to the public relations aspect, never thought myself a model – still don’t. I prefer to think of myself as a character to be used in whatever way needed for M.O.M.U.A.P.
Our shoots have matured over the last year, including Mandei’s modeling & business approach. With several happy local bands and businesses enjoying our support and promotions, our hard work didn’t come without personal trials. Mine took turns I didn’t expect. My self-esteem drained, trying to impress one person in particular, I found myself a part of the group – but no longer a character.

After the final blow and the abandonment of that one person in my life that I worked so hard in all aspects to impress and loved without equal reciprocation, I fell hard on myself. In the process of mending myself, I ended up at Mandei’s for a visit. Kids were settled down at play when Mandei told me that one of our M.O.M.U.A.P friends was coming to practice some shots. I asked if I could practice as well. I figured if anything it would pull my mind out of my heart and there’s nothing more therapeutic than a girl feeling pretty, even for a moment.

We played in make-up, tried on hats, styled hair, and dug through Mandie’s closet. Mandei has always been a selfless person in knowing what a hurting friend needs to cheer up. The time came for us to set up a few places within Mandei’s living room to create backgrounds.
I went first and in my awkwardness I positioned myself onto her couch in a totally predictable pose. Feet up, head hanging slightly. I am 5’3 and 138 pounds, any length I take away from myself is not good so with a few adjustments and a tip or two from the one I have crowned the Queen of poses, we were ready to start shooting. The first few shots were your normal, “You’re taking yourself too seriously, let’s try it again,” type shots.

With confusion, anger, and heartbreak fueling my every thought, something inside me clicked: to make a change, to make a stand that I am not broken but born again, I am alive, I am beautiful…I am Me.

Alternative Art by Subtle Shades

Model: Mandei Maayhem

Confidence slowly dripped out until it came in waves and with every shot I opened myself up a little more and dared to do things I hadn’t before. I silently like to think that Mandei was proud me that evening.

Then, the smolder came. Mandei had told me to hold what I had just naturally done at rest. The camera clicked. “Perfect,” she said, going back to the shot to show her fiancé. “She made my face.” She giggled. I looked away, my heart skipped, and for a moment I felt a reassurance I hadn’t in a while.

She turned the camera to me and there it was…The smolder.
That exact moment while at rest was a moment when my subconscious was at work. My emotions took over my face and it was then my entire being at that moment was born of a crack in my foundation that was starting to fill itself to make me whole again. Mandei and I have seen things in our lifetimes. The great and the not so great. The difference between us is, Mandei had concluded early on – “Enough is enough.” In her face you can see “Never again, I refuse to be a prisoner.” Look at her and try to find any sign of weakness or vulnerability; good luck finding it without a map.

My inner self in that second of being relaxed told me, “You know what? Never again. Enough is enough, now bring me that horizon.”

Next time you flip through a magazine or catch the eye of a woman expressing the smolder, keep in mind that when it looks as if villages burn with the inhabitants of those who have broken her, when blood seems to pour from her lips, it’s because she has had to learn that life is not pretty and that is the look of a woman who has become wiser for it.

Models: Mandei Maayhem and Trace Matheson from the Mistresses of Mayhem Unique Artistry and Promotions

Written by Trace Matheson

Images by Subtle Shades Photography