This week on Skin Wars was a touching episode not only for me, but for all of the models new to the experience! These ladies not only had to bare their skin, but they also had to bare their stories about their fight with Breast Cancer. Me and cancer don’t exactly see eye to eye. It has unfortunately taken many loved ones from me and my family and is still doing its best to take more to this very day. Knowing that I have family at home fighting for their life while I am unable to reach out to them pains me even more. All the more reason to bring a little bit of southern comfort to my beautiful model Amanda Hynum. It is a pairing that will forever change my life and I had no idea what a powerful impact it would make on my life.
Not sleeping well in anticipation for the next challenge the night prior to us arriving on set, I was able to get a little shut eye somehow and I had a dream about my MawMaw Joyce. Now it has been 10 years since she has passed from breast cancer and I unfortunately never dream of her so you can imagine the nice surprise it was when I woke up. In my dream she sang me a melody that I could not understand the words but the feeling I embraced was that everything was going to be okay. I assumed it was my mind using it’s coping mechanisms to get me through the hard times, but when we walked onto set that day and they brought out all of these amazing women and told us what the challenge was all about, I could not even begin to wrap my mind around it all. Call it what you want, pure coincidence or a message from a lost one looking out for me. I was happy to be where I was in that moment! All of the model were standing on stage at this point, but I could not take my eyes off of Amanda. I don’t know what it was but I was drawn to her from afar. Rebecca announces that we will be paired up together and BAM… another great surprise! She was warm and welcoming with this smile on her face that was pure and sweet! I could not feel any more at ease for what was to come!
We meet in the workroom with a big hug, just the way I like to start all of my painting sessions! She was a bit timid to take her robe off at first so I decided to just sit and chat with her a while, knowing that I was losing time and suffering on my painting, but this is no run of the mill day on Skin Wars. This was a person sitting in front of me, who had been through a tragic experience in her life and is about to reveal her scars of it all to the world. I do believe that my painting can take a back seat to the situation at hand. Making Amanda feel comfortable and beautiful was my only target for the day! She was kind enough to share her story with me and relay her message that she wanted everyone to hear from it… Live life with a PURPOSE!!! To always enjoy the experience of it all no matter what odds are against you. I had no idea at the time how much this would actually impact my life- you will understand in a bit! I was just finally in turning point in my life questioning why I was a body painter and what it all means to me, so to have her there helping me to discover that was remarkable. She shared with me that she recently found out that she was only a few weeks pregnant and I could not be more happy for her in this moment. I had no idea what I was going to paint but I knew that I wanted it to be beautiful and radiate as much of a glow that showed on her face in that moment! To go through such a difficult journey but then to be rewarded with the sweetest of gifts in life, was a beautiful sight to see!
Now that 30 minutes or probably more had gone by I quickly realized that I didn’t want to disappoint her with a bad painting for her first time! I told her that I wanted to bring that radiant glow of a sun rising over her belly to symbolize a new beginning. She Loved that idea! I then said that I wanted to paint a hibiscus flower blooming over her breast that was removed to represent new growth. Now I had no reference to any photos of flowers so I chose the hibiscus because it is ultimately my favorite flower and I even have it tattooed on my side so I know it very well. She shocked me when she stated that it was one of her favorite flowers as well ( phew- i was wiping my brow at this point!) I wanted to balance out the composition with something else and was struggling so all my mind could go to was a hummingbird feeding off of the flower to represent her spreading her message and pollinating more flowers! Don’t you know that she had this shocked look on her face and proceeded to tell me about how her parents every morning would sit outside and watch the hummingbirds feed on their porch! No doubt about it that we were in sync by that point and we were ready to paint. Without hesitation she dropped her robe and watched in anticipation as I painted my heart out! Here is the result of our day together!
I didn’t get as much coverage as the other painters because she was not my typical canvas. She was a person, a human being that needed love and compassion. I focused on what I felt was necessary at the time. She was telling me how much her flower tattoo meant so much to her that I felt it was dishonorable to cover up that artwork as well, so I let it come through as part of the piece. Now because she was pregnant, I did not want to use any airbrushing around her for safety reasons. I did not in any way want to jeopardize her health when she has come this far! A little bit of a disadvantage against the other competitors, but so what, she absolutely loved the artwork and that is all that mattered to me! We placed top 3 that day… didn’t take the win according to the judges, but i wasn’t looking for their praise at that time. The happiness on her face for that photo was more than enough! In fact the feeling around the room was more than we could all handle. None of us were ready for that emotional wave that came through the room when all of the women were able to see themselves in the mirror! many tears were shed at that moment!
The judges announce that we will now be heading home to get ready for the elimination challenge in which we have to turn our models into warrior princesses! What an exciting challenge! What an emotional day! Time to go home an prepare. Trying to soak it all in I reflect on my day. It brings up many emotions as I just want to call my grandpa and tell him how much I love him and miss him, but can’t. So I make it mission to make him and all my family proud on this one. I walk into the workroom feeling good. Amanda comes in, with the biggest smile that of course i need to embrace with another big hug! I quickly whip out my sketch to share my ideas and she is taken back. So much of the elements in the design were what she was hoping that I would incorporate but didn’t express them earlier. I was so excited to see that her confidence in taking off the robe was much more quick and she did not hesitate. She was ready to get painted and knew that I was not going to let her down! I didn’t waste any time today… I was on a mission to make her a warrior! Now due to safety precautions, no one was allowed to use airbrush that day. That made me happy that the models were being taken care of! Also made me feel a bit more at ease because at least we were all on an even playing field now!
It was a long days work. we were down to the very end when I was rushing to put the final touches on Amanda, when the situation took a bad turn. Unfortunately her blood sugar was very low caused her to almost go down on me. I had to force her to sit down and stay there for the remainder of the time, regardless if it messed up the paint. I could care less about the paint… i was concerned about her safety. Bless her heart, she was dedicated and didn’t want to ruin my chances! She kept apologizing to me, when I just wanted her to feel better and felt terrible for her experience. She had a baby inside of her and she needed to feed it! I demanded juice and snacks and made sure someone was there fanning her to bring her back to life. What is one supposed to do in that situation, she is human and needs to be nurtured too. Can’t throw her out and call in a new model! You deal with the cards you are dealt and make the best of the situation. Unfortunately this took some time away from me being able to finish to the best of my ability. When you are about to faint, your body goes into overdrive and you begin to sweat… everywhere! We are using water activated paints.. you see where this is going (haha). So I could not paint her face while she was glistening all over. All good, once she was feeling back to almost 100% we started up again, only this time it had to be in a super fast mode! It all came together beautifully! We were a bit stressed on time… a LOT actually, but totally worth it in the end! Here is my warrior!
The look on her face when she was able to see what she looked like was one that I will forever treasure! Being that she is carrying child, I wanted to make her a nurturer. I went with a Mother Nature theme for her. Coming from her chest is a powerful lightening source of which she draws her power. On her arms and hips are Hyacinth flower petals to form gloves and armor. the flower represents healing and thought it was very suiting for her warrior theme. i wanted a heart with ventricles as her bottoms to show that her new life source was her child with in that is now supplying her body with the necessities she needs to keep going. On the back very subtly you will see water drops along her back. Just like every storm lightening has a tendency to lead to rain. It washes away the bad and brings new life and nutrients to new growth. I wanted her to be as colorful and vibrant as possible. I didn’t use any black because I did not want to dull her down one tiny bit! She deserved to be as colorful as I saw her in this moment. Sh walked out on that runway with confidence… I don’t think she realized she was nude on stage and that meant that I had done my job!
Unfortunately the judges had a different agenda at hand! They placed me and Rick in the bottom two. Not a good feeling being there, when I just had this extreme high of a moment feeling like I made her feel amazing to be standing in her own skin without hesitation! It wasn’t the best moment, I will have to admit. Regardless of what the judges told me, if I would have to go home or not, I was fine with their decision. My purpose for that entire challenge was to make her feel good about herself. To share her story with the world. There are bigger problems that I could be up against in life… like fighting for my life, instead of competing for money. My perspective on life changed in that moment of being on stage. What was I doing with my life? If it was my fate to go home, I could think of so many different challenges that would have been worse. My purpose for the day was accomplished!
So after many tears and anxiety for the results… they tell me that I am safe! What a weight lifted off of my chest! For a moment I am happy but then seeing Rick standing there in the same predicament I was in brought me back to reality. My heart was heavy for him and I, being the not so shy person I am, proceeded to tell the judges that it wasn’t fair and he deserved to be here too. Then, out of nowhere they tell us that he is safe from elimination too!!! WHAT JUST HAPPENED?!?!?! We just made Skin Wars history of no one going home! Whether it was because Hans walked off and gave us a free pass or they just didn’t have the heart to put any of the amazing woman on the bottom, I was grateful for the outcome! I get to make it to another challenge and feel proud of what me and Amanda brought to life on that day! Celebration for sure!!!
Live your life with passion and give others the same respect that you would like to receive in return. Everyone has a story to tell in life, sometimes they just need someone to narrate it for them. As beings we crave acceptance and love without judgement, yet we are constantly judging others for being different from who we are. Each person is unique and that is the beauty in life. No two people are exactly the same from body style to ways of thinking. If we can look past our differences and love one another for being true to who we are as individuals, the world would be a much more pleasant place to live. Give love to receive love. Live each moment and experience everything around you. Be less critical of yourself and others along the way and see the amount of friendships you pick up along the way!
“The purpose in life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson