Empowering Women: Q&A with TRUE ME Founder, Sonali Satsangi
Editor's Note: This week we're highlighting women who are working to truly empower women. Our first feature is Sonali Satsangi, the founder of the TRUE ME project. TRUE ME embodies Polarity's belief in the beauty and strength of women. For more on TRUE ME, check out our previous post. To stay up-to-date on Sonali, check out her Instagram, Facebook , and the TRUE ME hashtag (#APTrueMe).
How did you start TRUE ME? What was the original inspiration?
In today’s world, beauty is defined by enhancing characteristic features like fair skin, rouge cheeks, high cheekbones, chiseled jawline, rosy full lips, big eyes and flawless complexion, either by makeup or post-processing. This puts a lot of pressure on women as well as young girls, who spend hours trying to achieve these high standards of beauty from a very early age. I believe WE - the women of today have the ability to change all of this.
This year, I decided to make a difference and contribute towards this cause. I changed my perspective to think big and show the world how beautiful and empowering women can be, with no makeup, no hair styling, no fancy clothing & no retouching; instead just by being themselves . I started a non-profit project, TRUE ME, that smashes all the norms we are taught about beauty and REDEFINES it. This entire year, as a side project, I am shooting free portraits for women of different age groups, professions and varied races without any makeup, fancy hairstyles or any retouching.
What has been the greatest lesson you've taken from TRUE ME?
TRUE ME has taught me that photoshoots are not merely clicking photos of subjects, instead is an intimate experience. I met many talented women for this project, heard their stories and the struggles they have faced. The act of clicking a photograph is capturing personality. I learnt that superficial appearance is just one facet of true beauty.
What is your biggest goal with TRUE ME?
Through TRUE ME, I want to inspire and raise awareness around the globe of redefining how beauty is perceived. Instead of the smoke and mirrors of makeup and post-processing, TRUE ME portraits attempt to show what natural beauty truly is.
What message do you have for people who struggle to put their true self forward?
The world is constantly changing, and so are the norms. We shouldn’t adjust to the world’s perception of beauty, because what we believe/perceive today will completely change tomorrow. Stay true to yourself, feel beautiful inside, and when you do, beauty will radiate on the outside. It is easy to hide yourself behind a mask of makeup, but you are TRULY YOURSELF when you learn to embrace your imperfections. This is what makes a woman strong.
What has been the hardest part of TRUE ME?
Every woman that has come forward to be part of this project has hesitated in one way or the other. They do not feel confident when exposing their imperfections in front of the camera, without any makeup, or the knowledge of the lack of post-processing.
My first challenge is to make them feel comfortable by building trust during the shoot. I speak with each woman before the shoot to understand their non-physical qualities, why they shy away from the camera, and body features they love. With this knowledge, I walk them through the entire shoot, and even offer my suggestions to choose the right outfit. To make them feel comfortable, I share the same information about myself, which builds a trust between us. This trust that every woman shows, while baring their true self, means a lot to me. Respecting that is paramount to me.
The second challenge is to capture the real personality of the women while also protecting the
vulnerability they feel when exposing their imperfections. It’s also important to reflect on their
non-physical qualities that exemplify their personality during the shoot. This allows their true quirky and playful self to come out and they start enjoying the feeling of being photographed. Capturing that is the essence of TRUE ME.
This leads to the last and the most important challenge of making women see themselves in a new light. I want women to walk away from the shoot feeling proud of themselves, and be elated with joy and confidence after seeing their personality reflected in the photos.
How has your perception of beauty and confidence changed since you've started TRUE ME?
In the process of changing the way everyone defines beauty, I started seeing women in a whole new perspective. TRUE ME introduced me to many strong women, whose scars were beautiful, pimples highlighted puberty, stretch marks showed their motherhood and curves showed grace. I started appreciating and falling in love with all the features that are considered less beautiful in a woman. As a fine art photographer, who creates magical artistic portraits, I was pleasantly surprised to see how gorgeous the TRUE ME portraits turned out.