top of page
  • Writer's pictureToni Thomas

The Power of Female Collaboration

Updated: Nov 12, 2021

This past weekend I hosted an event where I was blessed to collaborate with twenty-two women in my community of Helena Montana. I brought a group of local women together to create a very personal project for me and make it a reality. This project was not only important for me as an artist but it was even more important to me as a woman and a mother who is healing from a significant trauma in my life.

I was honored to coordinate this event that brought together local professionals, community businesswomen, and the invited female participants, all of whom had never experienced a collaborative event that involved a gift of portraiture for each of them. To participate in this portrait project you had to be personally invited and each participant had to be willing to give deeply of themselves, step out of their comfort zones, and allow themselves to be stylized for their portrait. They were asked to share with the women around them a bit about why they accepted the invitation to participate in the event and what inspired them to say yes.

Each of the participants, the photographers, the makeup artists, the hairstylists, and the wardrobe consultants who were invited accepted my invite to the 'Reflections Project' without hesitation, they came with no expectations and with little information about what this event meant to me personally.

They just came...

Why gift women with portraits of themselves?

Women are beautiful and even more beautiful for all they do. They are beautiful for who they are, not how they look. They are beautiful for their strength, for their efforts, for the little things they do that no one sees, for the sacrifices they make, for the struggles they face, for the pain they endure, for the little tears they wipe away, for the hugs they give, for the smiles they share, for getting up early, for going to bed late, for surviving and thriving in all that life throws at them.

Most women have experienced trauma on some level: grief, anxiety, pain, hardship, sacrifice, and so much more. They as women all know how much they give each day and how little they do for themselves. This project was a gift each woman was willing to accept for herself in spite of that inner voice that often tells them they are not worthy.

What They Didn't Know

None of the women who accepted my invitation to participate in the 'Reflections Project' had any idea what it was about or what to expect. The only thing they knew was they were going to get their portraits taken by a local photographer and that they were coming to be a participant in a photoshoot where they would receive a professional portrait of themselves at no cost to them. They didn't know they were going to meet other women who were going through many of the same struggles they were going through. They didn't know that they might find friendship, that they might find a connection to a fellow participant, that they would find laughter, that they would find enjoyment, and that they might just find comfort. I truly believe that they didn't know they would find a day to let the struggles of life disappear, if only for a few hours. What they didn't know was they were about to experience the same gift I had received the previous year when I hosted the 1st season. A gift that only comes when a group of women come together with no agenda but to share an empowering experience together.

What Inspired the Reflections Project?

In July of 2020, I was one year into a year of grief and was desperate to find a way to leave, if only for a day, the cloud of despair that had settled into my life. I decided to use my craft as a makeup artist to immerse myself in some much-needed art therapy. I discussed the idea of a photoshoot where we would gift other women with portraits of themselves with my daughter who is also an artist and is also going through her own grief. We put together a plan knowing we couldn't be the only woman in our community struggling with what life throws at us. We knew relief can come from giving back to others so we reached out to a small group of professionals who could help us make the Reflections Project a reality. We began by finding a location and then went to work inviting women who might enjoy participating in the project. The experience lifted my soul and helped me to escape for a day some of the trauma I had just gone through.

This past weekend we hosted the second season of the event and it has given me even more faith in my community and the women who make life so much easier for others. Through this community project, I have begun to understand that if we could all come together with a mission to give ourselves a little love we might all walk away with a sense of gratitude.

I am grateful...

Thank you

Season I: Reflections Project, July 2020

re·flec·tion /rəˈflekSH(ə)n/


1.the throwing back by a body or surface of light, heat, or sound without absorbing it. "the reflection of light"

2. serious thought or consideration. "She doesn't get much time for reflection”.

Event Coordinator @ Toni Thomas

Location @ Marysville General Store

Photo by @ Christen Loendorf Photography

Hair and Makeup @ Sydney Detienne

Makeup @ Josha Crawford

Makeup @ Toni Thomas

Reflections Project Season II

Beauty begins when we allow ourselves to be seen through the eyes of those who love us.

You are loved!

Event Coordinator @ Toni Thomas

Location @ Lori Fearon Barn

Photo by @ Christen Loendorf Photography

Photo by @ Jinny Jandron Photography

Photo by @ Keisha Garrett Photography

Photo by @ Katie Sue Photography

Hair and Makeup @ Sydney Detienne

Hair and Makeup @ Mallory Herzog

Makeup @ Josha Crawford

Makeup @ Toni Thomas

Get Connected & Collaborate

Collaborating is important but taking those connections and creating real relationships will mean long-term support in your personal and professional life. I have spent most of my life collaborating on projects that have brought me great joy. If you don't have projects in your community that you can participate in then I say create one. The gift of collaboration is one that keeps on giving.

As a working editorial and fashion makeup artist and local skincare specialist, my collaborations have led to long-term friendships and some of the greatest moments of my career. But the best part of collaborating is that it has given me friendship with women and men who I may never have known without the connection of a project. I am blessed to have the most creative people in my life who started out as collaborators and become some of my closest friends. Keisha Garrett is one of those women. Had we not collaborated on a project we would never have met and if we would never have met my life would not be the same. Her persistence keeps pushing me into my craft and showing me that no matter what we do, where we are at, or what endeavor we are on, we will always show up. Even if we are the only ones there!

"Beauty begins when we allow ourselves to be seen through the eyes of those who love us."


27 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page