6 Women Who Became Role Models of Empowerment

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Behind every successful woman, is a tribe of other successful women that have her back. We want to share the stories of extraordinary women who conquered their fears to achieve their dreams.

“You’ve Made It Sweetie, You’ve Won!”

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At 22 years old, my body and my experience has only recently become a topic I can comfortably talk about and I can say that for a long time it was struggle, even just looking at myself in the mirror pained me. So with that, my story begins at the age of 13, when I had taken the huge step to study part time dance.

I had always been a happy, outgoing and confident girl who never shied away from any situation. Dancing had been apart of my life since the age of 2 and a half and I had been competitively competing since the age of 7. For a girl who regularly wore (and without hesitation) leotards and on the occasion tight fitting, bedazzled costumes even my body with a thousands crystals lighting up like a Christmas tree on a stage in front of a thousand people never fazed me ever in my life. But that did all change, drastically.


It was an exciting time, deciding to commit to a part time course where I would dance between 20-30 hours a week, whilst completing my school studies at the same time. I wouldn’t say dancing was my passion in the sense I wanted to pursue a career in it, but it made me feel so alive, I was addicted. My new teacher whom I had been taught by prior was someone I believed to be trusted, it was a huge part of my life now and I had expected she would nurture me and push me to become the dancer I had been promised to become. But her methods were the opposite of nurturing.


It happened within weeks of starting and continued right through my two years till the last days of the course. I remember so little from the two years, as half way through the first year, my tactic to survive was to shut it out. I would look out the window and see the birds and imagine myself flying away. When in fact she was yelling at me from across the room, often accusing me of becoming over weight and therefore lazy. I had hit puberty at 13 and a half, my body had spread in all different directions and every day I reminded that I wasn’t the perfect body she had envisioned me to be. She didn’t have to remind me every day how much my body was quickly changing in a way that I myself didn’t want.

Don’t Let Anything Stop You

Eliza Jane


In 2007, Melbourne Cup day, my sister and I were in a car accident. The right side of my body was wrapped around a tree, and the car was trapped in a fence. We were there for an hour until someone stopped to help us.

We both were hospitalised for a month and I moved into rehabilitation for another 3 weeks. My injuries resulted in fractured right hand, broken right arm, torn right quads, scars on left knee and glass in left lip. My sister had a broken left ankle. I felt terribly guilty. At the time we weren’t sure what had happened exactly. I passed out at the wheel, was trembling and was in and out of consciousness during the whole event. We had every medical test taken and the doctors couldn’t find the answer.

Five years later after travelling, partying, working days on end with no sleep and ending a rough relationship, I had a Grand Mal seizure. I was sent off to get an EEG which determined I have epilepsy. It’s believed now the car accident was in actual fact a seizure.

It has taken me 4 years to find the right medication. From trialing different medication, I have experienced side effects such as anxiety, depression, even increased number of seizures, but once you find the suitable pill for you life is amazing.

The Photo Studio Fitzroy; Fashion; James Broadhurst; Ivana Angelovska
The Photo Studio Fitzroy; Fashion; James Broadhurst; Ivana Angelovska

I know there are so many people our there who have their own struggles and all I can say is HANG IN THERE! There’s always another day.

My passion in life is Art, Film and Television. I grew up wanting to be an Actress. I’ve always found drawing therapeutic. When I was a child the best times for me would be the times I would lay in front of the TV watching cartoons and drawing them. After completing a degree in Graphic Design at the Australian Academy of Design I decided to move into animation at Victorian College of the Arts Melbourne. After creating two student films that made successes in the US, Egypt and Europe I was very fortunate to meet and be mentored by the creator of Rocko’s Modern Life’s Joe Murray. Working with Joe helped me really find my voice as an artist and was by my side when I created my third film titled The Christening. The Christening was nominated for Best Animated Short at Beverly Hills Film Festival in 2015 and will be screening in Cannes in May 2017.

Empowering women through sustainability

Sam Leigh


I believe in the basic principle that every person is entitled to equal opportunities. Empowerment and independence go hand in hand, personally I support organisations that use donations to provide disadvantaged people and communities with skills and training in order for them to gain back their own independence. I really live by the moto ‘Empowered women, empower women.

My mum was brought up in a household that did not have much money or luxuries. She was also brought up in a disadvantaged area with a lot of crime and young families living off the government with no ambition to change their situation. My mum was the black sheep, I think of her a Cinderella, except, she didn’t wait for a man to help her out of this cycle.”

ecomono Founder Sam Leigh has been seeking out the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to who, how and where clothes are made. Sam originally started eco|mono as a fashion blog dedicated to educating her readers about the garment industry. Eco|mono evolved into an online marketplace for brands contributing towards fair fashion.


“When I originally started on my sustainable fashion journey, I felt a little overwhelmed. I wasn’t sure what being a conscious consumer actually meant. In the back of my mind I thought ‘I can’t do this’ because there was no-way I could be vegan, eco-friendly, zero waste, minimalist…phew even thinking about that is scary. Then, the more I educated myself, I realised that you need to pick your own battles that align with your personal values. If you are doing something, it is better than nothing. This is why you can shop your values on the eco|mono website.

So that was my sustainable struggle, my business woman struggle has been, honestly, lack of the unknown and loneliness. Seriously, nobody can prepare you for this. There were days where I wanted to throw in the towel because I didn’t know if what I was doing was right (and I am a huge control freak!). Being sat at home on your own…bored and lonely. I overcome this by taking myself off to co-working spaces, cafe’s and catching up with other young female entrepreneurs. I also like to attend small business seminars and events and my best business inspiration comes from podcasts. Listening to other people’s journeys and being able to completely relate to their trials and tribulations makes you realise you are not alone.

Fashion and ethics don’t need to be mutually exclusive activities and wearing beautiful clothing should not be at the expense of people or the environment. We aim to build a one stop shop for sustainable fashion. Generally, sustainable companies are more expensive because the people who made the clothes were actually paid a fair wage, given good working conditions and work normal hours. I think the best quote for this is “buy less, choose well, make it last” from Vivienne Westwood.

Do you remember the days when you would save up for something and then when you bought it, it was an investment. That is what clothing should be, but fast fashion mass market companies have created this idea that cheap disposable clothing is they way it should be.

If you are on a sustainable journey and don’t have the budget to by from local sustainable companies there are many other way you can shop sustainably. I wrote a blog on it late last year after a talk I did at RMIT, you can read more here.”

True Beauty Has No Measurements

Ashleigh Pearce


Ashleigh came to our studio in Melbourne to be part of our “Love your curves” campaign. She saw this as an opportunity to inspire women who have suffered from the pressure of unrealistic beauty standards. Ashleigh wanted to utilise her own individuality to express the idea of self-love, and show the world the amazing power that courage, confidence and self belief can have on one’s life.

The Photo Studio Fitzroy; Fashion; Mette Kortelainen; Kim Freeman


I believe that beauty lies within every woman, it can be seen with the eyes but also felt by the heart. We may have our own unique identity, personality and image, and belong to a diverse range of race, ethnicity and culture, but we are all one and the same: beautiful. True beauty is beyond measurements, it can be expressed by a smile, a loving sentiment or an act of kindness; every one of us embodies unconditional love and limitless potential. I believe love transforms us and we can harness this power to positively motivate, inspire and impact every life we come across.  Most importantly we must learn to love ourselves, all our flaws and blemishes, and embrace our authenticity and individuality. It is then possible for us to love and uplift the spirits of others, with hopes that we can empower their best qualities and allow them to express themselves with no judgement, bias or discrimination. The world can be a more loving, compassionate, kinder world if we replace jealousy with appreciation, insecurity with confidence, and hatred with empathy.

It’s not what happens to you in life, it is how you deal with it!

Josephine Gardner


In 2007, Josie and her sister Eliza were in a life-threatening car crash. In 2013, Josie had a grand mal seizure, caused by a brain aneurysm – 90% of those who suffer from this are likely to have a stroke or die. In 2015, doctors decided to remove part of Josephine’s skull.

After 40 staples and a huge scar, Josie is still recovering from the operation. When you thought it couldn’t get worse, Josie was constantly bullied online. However, her loving family and closest friends helped her get through her darkest times.

The Photo Studio Fitzroy; Fashion; James Broadhurst; Kylie Butler
The Photo Studio Fitzroy; Fashion; James Broadhurst; Kylie Butler
The Photo Studio Fitzroy; Fashion; James Broadhurst; Kylie Butler

Josephine decided she wouldn’t be defined by a scar and bullies. Her life won’t be defined by her seizures, her courage and determination is stronger than her condition. Josie is probably one of the happiest girls we’ve ever met. EVER. She lights up a room with her presence.
Josie came to the studio wanting a fresh new start. Throughout her photo shoot, we were able to see a strong woman, fighting for her dreams.

After the shoot, Josie felt like a different woman, just unstoppable. We are more than excited to show you Josie’s breathtaking transformation.

We absolutely adore you, Josie. You are a rockstar.

Unleash your inner goddess


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Looking up at my photos on the big screen, it’s hard to believe that only 18 months ago I was so unhappy. Overweight, with fake confidence and a relationship that was emotionally empty, I had reached a point in my life where I didn’t recognize myself nor care if I was run over by the next bus. The truth is, I hated the woman I had become and even though I held onto the image of the woman I needed to be, I hadn’t the faintest clue of how or when I would get there.

Then I met Kylie Ryan. I took a leap of faith and did her Goddess Body Quest course and everything changed. Slowly at first. Then more noticeably. Within 6 months I started to feel healthier; I didn’t need the safety of hiding behind my weight anymore and my confidence increased. I started to live and laugh again. I’d spent so long pretending to be something for someone else’s happiness that I had forgotten who I was. I felt alive for the first time in years!
I joined Kylie at the What Women Want Expo in Penrith to share my story and inspire other ladies in need of a drastic lifestyle change. It was here where I first met The Photo Studio. I was asked to take place in a 5 minute ‘mini fashion shoot’. At first I hesitated… It had been years since I saw a photograph of myself that I actually liked and the thought of posing in front of a crowd horrified me. But eventually I was persuaded.

It was the most nerve-racking 5 minutes of my life. After the photo shoot I sat down with the retoucher and my heart was pounding. The first images appeared on screen and my throat seized. Suddenly I burst into tears. The retoucher tried to comfort me before he realized that these were tears of joy. After all these years, I finally saw a true image of myself – of the person who I needed to be. I had redesigned my life and here was the proof.

A few weeks later I was invited into the studio for a proper photo shoot and my new journey with The Photo Studio began. If they could do such an amazing job in 5 minutes, I wondered what they could they do in a whole day? I knew that it was time to unleash my Modern Day Goddess! Only I still had no idea how truly amazing this journey was going to be.


I flew to Sydney for the shoot and arrived at the studio with my suitcase. Despite me shaking with nerves the team was amazing; offering genuine support and encouragement. I could tell that they love what they do and straight away I sensed that they try to make everybodies experience special.

The first hour of shooting I felt ridiculous. I had never “posed” before and I kept apologising for being so stiff. Yet my hair & make-up artist Pernilla and photographer James B never faulted in their reassurance, patience and kindness. James would change the music to create the atmosphere as he continued to calmy direct me, keeping me talking and moving and even laughing. He seemed to know what I wanted out of the shoot and by the second hour it was like dance; seamless… fluid… free!

I was blown away by the creativity of the team and the options and choices they created with what I had brought in. “You can have anything you want in the shoot” James said, and while I was having my second hair & make-up look done I noticed in the mirror’s corner a gorgeous lush red velvet couch. I want that!


At one point James showed me a photo on the back of the camera and my heart filled with joy. The old me was gone. I looked happy and free. I knew that if there was ever a time to shine, this was it. I elected for a more riskae last look and James made me feel like I was the only person in the room. Just him and me. The camera was no longer there.

At the viewing I was lost for words. All I could find were tears of joy and amazement. Thanks to the dedication and professionalism of The Photo Studio I finally saw myself as beautiful both inside and out. A friend later said to me that the photographer captured my essence completely in every shot, and looking at the photos, he did – in all 110!

The tough part was deciding on the final cut, and the ones I chose speak a thousands words of my journey thus far… My wish for you is to embrace & unleash your inner goddess and shine at your shoot – every woman should gift this to herself – so enjoy this day because it is all about you!

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