In 2012 I published my first photographic coffee-table book titled Women of the UAE. It was a labour of love that saw me personally reach new heights in my career and as a person. Never did I imagine in the entire time I was photographing and writing my book that I would receive a letter of recognition from Hillary Clinton.
I spent 2.5 years in total to complete the Women of the UAE. During the pre-production of Women of the UAE it involved 12-hour days, 6 days a week. On the 7th day, I would spend most of the time thinking about the days to follow.
Twenty-two of the twenty-four months prior to receiving sponsorship I could have quit. I often wondered if anyone would notice. It was easier for me to give up since I didn’t have the funds I needed to see my personal project through to the end. Plus I was one of those mums, juggling the work life balance. I had a 2 year old, was pregnant with my 2nd, running a home, trying to be a wife while doing my utmost to hold down my career as a Photographer. Not surprisingly at 7 months pregnant I was hospitalized for 3 nights after falling ill from the stress.
What kept me going? The same core values that I believe keep all of us working mums going. To pursue ambition. Pure determination. The need to retain your own identity. Mental stimulation. For the greater good. To have your voice heard and as Sheryl Sandberg says ‘the will to lead’.
Over the years it is inspiration of like-minded women who are continually striving for excellence in their chosen fields that I both admire and have been drawn to. For me, and I know for many others, Hillary Clinton not only falls into this category, she helped define it and now owns it! Hillary Clinton has supported, and continues to support women around the world realize their God-given potential.
When I completed my book Women of the UAE I posted a copy to Hillary Clinton, anticipating she saw the ripple effect of her own women empowerment campaigning and a parallel in my own ambition. I did not expect a response!
It wasn’t long after I posted the Women of the UAE to Hillary Clinton that I received her reply. It was a day I will always remember. I jumped up and down frantically waving my hands through the air around my entire home, called my husband (whilst still jumping), my mum, my closest friends, ran to my neighbours and radiated the brightest glow through my entire body that even caught the attention of strangers passing (or maybe I was still screaming with joy at this stage?!). My energy was infectious and my friends all around me came to celebrate one of my most momentous occasions of my career.
All those days filled with doubt prior to printing, were fading into the background. Together with a physical copy of my book Women of the UAE and now a letter from Hillary Clinton, I felt as though I had finally pushed through to the other side. I had solid proof and recognition from one of the greatest women of our time of my own campaigning of inner beauty and women empowerment. I was overwhelmed.
If there is one quote by Hillary Clinton that summarises my experience and rings true to me it is this:
‘Always aim high, work hard, and care deeply about what you believe in. And, when you stumble, keep faith. And, when you’re knocked down, get right back up and never listen to anyone who says you can’t or shouldn’t go on.‘
Hillary Clinton, one day I may be your first choice portrait photographer. Until that day I hope you become the first female President of the United States of America. But if you don’t, you will always be an inspiration to women alike, and me, around the world.
Women of the UAE is a celebration of the inner beauty of all women and their contribution to the region. Women of the UAE aims to break down stereotypes, give women the confidence to use their voice and celebrate who they really are. It is a cross-cultural communication tool being used by both the Australian Embassy and UN Women Abu Dhabi as state gifts. Women of the UAE is available across all major bookstores in the UAE and on my shop.