Ali Martell: From Hemlines to Heels


Why Women Need To Say Yes To The Camera

Let's Change The Way We Think About Beauty

Why Women Need To Say Yes To The Camera

There is a photo hanging in my mother’s house. It was the very last photo taken on May 13th, 1990, the day I was Bat Mitzvah-ed in an old once-Church of Scientology in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

I was tired, irritated, annoyed, done.

I loathe this photo. Every time I pass it in the hallway, I cluck my tongue and utter an under-my-breath comment.

My mother, on the other hand, thinks this photo of me is beautiful. She loves the photo, which is why it is displayed so publicly on the walls of her home. She sees everything in this photo that I do not. “It’s a picture of a moment in time, Ali, from one of your best days.”

Recently I decided to stop with the self-deprecating comments about this particular photo.

They are not good for me.

They are not good for my children.

You see, 6th grade was somewhat of an awkward stage for me, and I didn't like to have my picture taken then, and for years after. 


As a photographer, this makes me so sad.

As a mother, this makes me even sadder.


Statistics say that only 4% of women think they are beautiful.* 4%!

And that’s not the only percentage that’s troubling.
Dove’s research shows that:
  • 82% of Canadian women describe themselves as camera-shy—hide from the camera, make an excuse, or simply say no.
  • Less than 3% of women love the way they look in all photos*
  • 9 out of 10 women do not think they are beautiful*
  • The possibility of being tagged in an online photo makes over 63% of Canadian women feel more anxious about the way they look*


As a photographer, this makes me so sad.

As a mother, this makes me even sadder.


Because I am a photographer and a mother, it’s important for me to teach my two daughters (and my son too!) of their beauty. It’s important for me to show them that their imperfections are not actually imperfections, but parts that make them uniquely them.

Emily has 23 freckles on her adorable nose.

Josh has eyelashes that hit his blue glasses when he wears them.

Isabella has funky not-quite curly and not-quite straight hair.


Not imperfections.

These are the things I see when I upload photos from my camera onto my big computer screen. I don’t see the features that make my clients self-conscious—“Oh, Ali, you can photoshop out my under-eye bags, right?” “Oh Ali, can you do something about this patch of reddish skin?” “What about this awful zit I woke up with this morning?”

I see all the wonderful things that make my clients beautiful.

And I’m learning to do the same thing with myself.

Instead of noticing my uneven nostrils or my round face or my thin lips or my crooked teeth or my wattle, I see the things that make me beautiful.

I see lovely green eyes with flecks of yellow.

I see long eyelashes.

I see a really nice smile.

I see really good hair.


I am no longer camera shy.

For me.

For my children.


We need to stop untagging photos.

We need to stop saying "no" when the camera comes out.

We need to stop critiquing photos of ourselves.

We need to stop being our own worst critics.

We need to change the way we see beauty.


In fact, my oldest daughter and I take a selfie together almost every single day. We make funny faces and serious faces and silly faces and happy faces.

And you know what we don’t do?

We don’t critique them.

We just smile about them and race to see who can put them up on instagram first.

(It’s always me—my fingers are just faster, I guess)

Need more inspiration to embrace your beauty? This brave mom is proud to share her worst photo ever and this mom tells us how we can all share our family's story through photos.

†Responses included: Hidden from the camera, Hidden behind someone or something, Made an excuse to do something else, Said “no” and stopped them taking a photo, Felt shy, Hidden your face, Hidden your body, Felt self-conscious. *Based on 2013 (EB) survey of 505 Canadian women.


Watch this eye-opening video and try to pinpoint the time in your life when you became your own worse critic:

It’s time for all of us to celebrate our unique beauty.