The phrase “The New Normal” has been tossed around a lot over the past year. We’ve tried to normalize wearing face masks, better sanitization practices, and how we greet one another (I’m a hugger… this has been HARD!). We’ve also had to adjust to new ways of hosting gatherings so that everyone can stay safe.
The only thing that really seems to be normal these days is that nothing is normal anymore. This has opened the floodgates, causing us to question and redefine everything we once thought was normal. Many have speculated that things will never really go back to “normal”, it’s been argued that this pandemic has irreversibly altered the way in which we go about our lives. Maybe that’s true. At the very least, it makes you stop and think, doesn’t it? What things do we want to normalize? What things are we ok to let go of?
This past year has also given wedding vendors a lot of time to think and to play. Over the past year, Sage has participated in four times as many styled shoots as we normally would in a given year. One of the fun things about styled shoots is that they are a great way to reimagine a “normal” wedding. Vendors get to play and show off their skills, taking chances that couples may not always be willing to let us take with their one big day.
Ashley and I have been talking about collaborating on a shoot FOREVER! In addition to be a Creative Director here at Sage, Ashley also owns an Event Planning company called Maverick Event Planning (I know!!! She’s a busy lady!). So Maverick and Sage have been trying to coordinate a shoot for years now but other things have always taken priority (i.e. family, life, and paying clients, haha!). But we finally decided to get our butts in gear and plan a shoot once and for all. We gave ourselves a deadline too so that we couldn’t push the date off in order to focus on other priorities that would surely crop up (and they did – and we were tempted to postpone!).
We decided that our deadline would correspond with launching the shoot on March 31, which turned out to be the Transgender Day of Visibility. And obviously, given the special occasion, we decided that it would be wonderful if our models were trans, so that this shoot could double as a celebration on #TDOV. So that’s what we did.
I decided that I would try to reach out to some potential models… I didn’t have any trans friends though, so I wasn’t even sure where to start. So what did I do? I went to instagram, of course! I searched under the hashtag #transottawa to see what would pop up. My hope was that I would find some community resources so that I could reach out to a business or a community group who could point me in the right direction.
Instead, I found Clarence.
Pop of Colour Agency showed up in my search as a photo of a cheeky guy holding up some name change paperwork from 2019 with the caption, “No live stream tonight, as I have a very important meeting with my post office. Thank you all for your love and support over the last few years.”
I browsed through his profile and thought, “Yeah! I like this guy!” He seemed super down to earth, obviously didn’t mind being in front of a camera (there were plenty of photos of him on his feed), and he is openly trans. I figured, I’ll DM him and see what he says.
So I sent Clarence a private message which, in hindsight probably came across as so strange, asking him if he’d be interested in being a model for a styled wedding shoot we were working on as part of Transgender Day of Visibility. He took some time to reply – which I later learned was because he was scoping us out to make sure we were legit (Totally fair, haha! PSA: When some random company asks you to come out and model for them, you best do your homework!). After he decided we were not going to ask him to do anything weird, he agreed to model for us. We also teamed up with his beautiful girlfriend, Mikayla… and we were STOKED!
You don’t know what you don’t know… you know? And ain’t that the truth?! Having never purposely planned a trans-focused shoot before we had a bit of a learning curve. We had to navigate pronouns to make sure we were addressing Clarence and Mikayla correctly… this is something that, as a society, we’re all getting a little better at doing but it still doesn’t come naturally.
The next thing was bringing in vendors to work with. We always give our vendors a sense of who we’re bringing on as models, but in this instance we felt compelled to let all of our vendors know that we were working with trans models… not because we were worried that any of them would refuse (because we always work with awesome humans)… but because we wanted to make sure that every vendor was as stoked about working on this shoot as we were. We didn’t want to bring in any negative vibes that might make us or our models feel uncomfortable.
Then we had to get down to clothing selection. We scheduled a phone call to work through this discussion and I got to speak with Clarence and Mikayla for the first time since asking them to collaborate with us! This conversation was eye-opening too. First off, I instantly pictured Clarence in a suite and Mikayla in a dress when I imagined this shoot in my head… and then… it dawned on me that maybe that’s not what they would feel most comfortable wearing. Maybe Clarence didn’t like suits! Maybe Mikayla always pictured herself getting married in something other than a typical wedding gown. Who was I to decide how this was all going to go down?
So I asked… “What would you prefer to wear? What would you feel most comfortable in?” We did end up settling on a suit and a dress, but I learned that neither had really worn any sort of formalwear since transitioning so this was going to be a new experience for everyone! In fact, Mikayla hadn’t worn a dress at all yet and we were jumping straight into a wedding gown! This was going to be fun!
Clarence and Mikayla also brought up some questions that I hadn’t considered… like, did I want them to supply their own prosthetics and bindings? Huh! I hadn’t even thought of that but it was such a great question. The couple also wanted to know if their would be washrooms onsite or if they’d have to figure something out for that. Again… washrooms, not something I would have considered as an issue but it’s something that Clarence and Mikayla take into consideration. Michelle from The Knox is amazing… she even offered to remove the gender-specific signage from her washroom for the shoot.
These are things that we often don’t think about, you guys! But we should.
We teamed up with two amazing suppliers for clothing! Sydney at With Love Bridal helped Mikayla find a gown that made her look and feeling absolutely stunning! And Etienne from L’Hexagone pulled a suit for Clarence that fit like a glove and made him look incredibly dapper.
Then it was shoot day: and holy crap, what a magical day it was!!! We got to play in the stunning event space at The Knox, which was amazing… like, what a gorgeous venue! And, honestly, I don’t even want to talk about the flowers and decor, you guys, because even though they were pretty (legit, just look at the photos) the entire day was really all about Clarence and Mikayla.
Shannon from One Fine Beauty and Lori from Showpony totally KILLED IT with hair and makeup! You all know that feeling, when you get ready for a special occasion and you just know that you are looking f-ing gorgeous… well, as soon as our models were done in hair & makeup, they got dressed and DAAAAAAAAAAAAMN! They were total knock-outs and they freaking knew it. Scott’s camera loved them, and Luc & Bethany’s video adored them… and it was all glam and gorgeousness.
Krista from Wishtree popped by to help us style some flat lays for her jaw-dropping stationery and to join us for lunch, which Ashley picked up from Yellow Canoe Cafe. SIDE NOTE: If you haven’t eaten a sandwich from Yellow Canoe it is 100% worth the trip out to Merrickville. SO SO SO GOOD!!!
One of the most fun surprises for everyone was when I asked Mikayla to belt out a song. No one knew it at the time, but Jesslyn and I learned that Mikayla is studying opera at Ottawa U right now – so when we say this girl can sing…. I mean, this girl can SIIIIIIIIIIIIIING!! Like… WOW! Literally, you guys, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room.
We wrapped up the day with photos of the stunning cake, designed by Gabrielle at Couture, and a beautiful dance between Clarence & Mikayla. It was a magical day, you guys… it was nothing like any shoot we’ve ever done… and everyone felt it.
So all of this brings me back to our earlier conversation about “The New Normal” — Since we’re all in the process of normalizing new things… could we also normalize making friends with people we may not have otherwise reached out to? (…not every stranger who slides into you DMs asking you to pose for photos is a creeper). Can we also normalize having awkward conversations about things that are important? Can we normalize love and beauty in every form that it takes? …Because, oh my goodness, there is so much beauty in this world!
Let’s also normalize not getting too comfortable with “normal” because we can always push through to some new, better version of normal if we’re willing to do a bit of work to get there.
Clarence & Mikayla, thank you both for agreeing to come out and play with a group of complete strangers. We’re so grateful to have met you and can’t wait to watch what you’re going to do next <3
#Transgenderdayofvisibility #tdov #transdayofvisibility #tdov2021 #transwedding
Model: Clarence @popofcolouragency
Model: Mikayla @mik.the.countertenor
Venue: The Knox
Planner: Maverick Event Planning @maverickeventplanning
Photographer: Scott Wilson @scotthwilson
Videographer: Grey Loft Studios @greyloftvideo
Florals & Decor: Sage Designs @sagedesignsevents
Stationery: Wishtree @wishtree_invites
Cake: Dulce Cake Design @dulcecakedesign
Hair: Showpony @showponyhair
Makeup: One Fine Beauty @onefinebeauty
Dress: With Love Bridal @withlovebridal
Suit: L’Hexagone @l_hexagone
Linen & Napkins: Chez Lili Party Rental @chezlilipartyrental