I’m no model.

My mood is typically plastered on my face whether I like it or not. I’m terrible at doing things on cue or by force, so when something is demanded of me my first instinct is to say no. I need the ‘yes’ to flow out of me. I’m a recovering adrenaline rush junkie that currently falls somewhere between going with the flow and considering every possibility before taking a leap.

So, how did this photo come out so organically wonderful?

This photo was taken by one of my best friends, a Brooklyn raised Boricua I met at the age of 18 during our college orientation. This is a girl whose pain became my pain, joy became my joy, and family became my family. We initially bonded over talking each other out of making questionable decisions, being able to have fun doing absolutely anything, and love (we’re just two big hearted gals). We sometimes bicker like an old married couple (it’s usually her fault). We each have strong opinions that we aren’t afraid to share and our opinions are usually in opposition with one another (although we both agreed trumping America was not an option, black lives do matter, and at the end of the day Love and good vibes rule). She is undoubtedly my opposite in almost every way.

She decided to pursue photography. In the summer of 2015 I was recruited as her muse.

The plan was to beat the sun to the beach for a sunrise boudoir photo shoot. Because she and her husband were permanently leaving the east coast for the “best” coast in just a few days, this was the only morning we could attempt to make this shoot happen.

However, a night spent together in a Virginia Beach living room preceding “the plan”, prevented that. A living room filled with 2am margaritas, off-key singing, dream sharing, happy tears, sad tears, and lots of “my-bestie-is-moving-blues-and-I-love-you’s” prevented that. An unexpected monthly visitor prevented that. Leaving late the next morning and then forgetting the camera at the house? You got it, prevented that.

Although we did not beat the sun, it was on this perfectly planned and imperfectly executed day that our patchwork of a friendship created something real, raw, beautiful, and new. Due to the soil we’ve unknowingly spent the last 10 years nurturing, a soil that welcomed plain and open honesty,  disagreements, encouragement, and vulnerability with a promise to never judge, we were able to effortlessly create beautiful photos; ultimately we were able to flourish and have fun doing it.

I’m in my most organic, vulnerable, creative, confident, and loving state when I feel safe. It is in this state that I feel the most beautiful. It is in this state, that my best friend is confident, creative, bossy (in a good way), and most beautiful too.

People most often allow themselves to be vulnerable when they know the love being given to them is unconditional. People are more likely to open up when they feel that their views, opinions, or pain will be heard, addressed, and felt (if not understood) as opposed to shut down, justified, or carelessly dismissed.

My best friend and I created a safe space that required openness, allowed for mistakes and differences, and encouraged forgiveness.When a space such as this is created, no matter the differences, each of you are BOUND to flourish.

When two flowers, from two totally different places and life experiences,  are placed in an unconstrained environment they flourish. When those two flowers feel free to grow at their own pace, in their own space, and with the promise to be loved always, they flourish.

During a time that our country is determined to be divided, I ask that you take special time to nurture the friendships around you; especially those that have different values, beliefs, and/or life experiences than your own. I ask that you learn how to foster an environment of openness and honest dialogue even if it makes you uncomfortable.

It is out of discomfort that beautiful changes are made.

I ask that you learn how to listen. I ask that instead of assuming you have all the answers, instead of assuming that your way is undoubtedly right, that you ask God for an open mind and again, LISTEN to the people you claim to love. If not for a better world, country, or relationship listen for a better you.

And as comfortable as you may feel in your bubble of sameness, it is nothing in comparison to the love, light, and fulfillment that God can bless you with through diverse relationships. It is so easy to stand against things and people that you have actually spent zero time trying to understand. It is much more difficult however, to stand against those people once you’ve invested time, understanding, and a pure heart into those relationships.

Good, bad, or indifferent, my friend and I have proven to one another that despite our differences, we are in it for the long run. We have proven that despite our differences, love and respect will prevail.

So, how did this photo come out so naturally wonderful? Good soil. It was created by two people that embraced their differences. Two people that encouraged open dialogue even when it was uncomfortable/offensive/difficult to hear. Two people that encouraged love when it was not easy to love and encouraged growth even though our views on how to grow were in opposition. We became better women together by choosing Love.

To see more of her photography, click here!

Stay Polished Pistil,

Maquita Donyel



Alexandria + Native | Arlington + Resident | Late Twenties
| I Love = God + Mini + Simple Thrills + Art + Love + Humility

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