The Essence Campaign is a special photography project by Cory Powell Photography. My mission is to empower women through creating beautiful portraits showcasing their true essence of strength and beauty while reminding them how extraordinary they are. There is nothing more beautiful and powerful than celebrating your true, authentic self. More than ever, right now the world needs us all to allow our light to shine through – that’s why I’m so passionate about this project – the Essence Campaign.
This is an invitation to YOU to celebrate who you are and be a part of the Essence Campaign. Real transformation comes from investing in yourself, from filling yourself up first and allowing it to overflow. The true power of this and success of this project is that it invites women to value themselves.
Each woman selected for the project gets to experience her very own luxury portrait session and share her story and perspective on beauty and strength. This is Kimberly’s story:
Where to begin…
My name is Kimberly Shook. I am 55 years old, a wife, mother, Younique small business owner and what I feel is my most important role, YaYa. My husband and I have been married almost 10 years. 3 years into our life together we became Grandparents raising Grandchildren…but we will get to that part of my story in a bit.
As a teenager I never truly felt like I fit in at school. I had friends and was social but something always felt wrong inside of me. I never felt pretty like I saw my friends being. Teens turned to Twenties and I sought out bad relationship after bad relationship. At 22 and single I had my daughter. I continued the same relationship path. When my daughter was 6 I married my first husband after only knowing him for 10 days. He made me feel pretty, used all the right words and did all the things I considered romantic…for 2 months. Then the abuse started. This marriage lasted almost 5 years. I took physical, emotional and psychological abuse too many times to count. I thank God, to this day for the day that man said to me “If we don’t get divorced one of us will end up dead and it will be you.” I packed my daughter up and moved back home feeling a failure and ugly. Not long after I met husband #2. He really was/still is a good man. However, we eventually grew apart. I wanted more than living in a small town. We divorced and I moved to Springfield.
Fast forward to 2009…I was working for the Missouri Division of Youth Services as a Youth Specialist. Early June of that year I was severely injured by my horse and had to resign from my position. Once I was back on my feet, literally, I began looking for a job…everything I applied for was a no go….for almost 4 years I tried to find a job. Then in late May of 2013 a bad car wreck resulted in my 2 grandchildren being placed with us by the Children’s Division. After things I had heard from the boys I worked with at DYS there was no way I would allow CPS take custody of them. I immersed myself in them. They had been witness to so much trauma for far too long. I tried to no avail to get CPS in Webster County to do something but each call I made fell on deaf ears. Not so much in Greene County…they took it seriously and so did we. I sought out counseling. They had and still have medical issues that could not be addressed in Springfield so we went to St Louis for specialists. We still travel there for follow-up appointments just not as frequent. I was taking care of them before taking care of me. Finally in March 2016, feeling overwhelmed, lost and alone in this journey I started looking for a support group for grandparents raising grandchildren….none could be found locally. I spoke of this to my husband, a cousin who was with Head Start and the kids’ counselor. I was encouraged to start one on Facebook….both Janita and Julian (Janita is my Head Start supervisor, Julian was the kids’ counselor) assure me I was not the only grandparent walking this path. I did a lot of praying about it and one day just decided to jump in and do it. By early April, my group, Grands Raising Grands in and around Springfield MO was up and going. It took time and word of mouth and actually contacting KY3 myself to get the word out…the first year ended with 55 members…the group now consists of 728 members, a few of which are professionals for resources such as counselors, attorneys, Head Start and CPS.
Fast forward again to 2018…I’m still pretty much immersed in caring for the kids and now my group. I’m still not taking care of myself before them. I feel old, fat and ugly. Important only to the kids. I started following a lady, who is now someone I consider a wonderful friend. She was such an inspiration and always had something positive to say. I followed her for a year on Facebook and one day decided to join her and the huge sisterhood she brought along with her. LIttle did I know this was one of the best decisions I could ever make. Mary and the friends (I met through beauty brand YOUNIQUE) I gained through knowing her began teaching me that I AM THE BEST INVESTMENT I COULD EVER MAKE! As I approached 54 I started looking at who I was and who I wanted to be, not only for the kids and my husband but most importantly for me! I looked at what my heart was feeling about me and what my mind was thinking about me. I started to change my focus. I started seeing not just pretty in the mirror but my heart was beginning to feel lighter and my mind began telling me nicer things. I have 2 grandchildren, so I have to model positive behavior and energy for…while they are still a huge responsibility and a major part of what I do and worry about I am seeing pretty in the mirror more frequently and feel as though I matter to ME! I am more than just what they need….I am what I need….still a work in progress but I am ME!
I look at the stories, my own as well as those of the 700+ other Grandmas in my position and I see the Beauty not only in my heart by theirs as well. 2016 was a major wake-up year for me where raising grandchildren is concerned, I found a community and friends that completely understood where I was and what I was facing….And if you are reading this and are walking this journey know you are not alone, reach out to me!
2019 was a major awakening for my inner self….I found another community and a sisterhood that is here to cheer me on to be MY BEST SELF and Live My Best Life. I continue to work on myself everyday chasing kids and lift others up.