Beauty, An Authentic Exploration, a Personal Documentary Story
At Home, New York City
This is a story about Beauty. A non-conforming, untraditional beauty forged by experiences of darkness and light. To know her is to see differently, to feel completely, and to be whisked away into the fantastic facets of her imagination where her perception of untamed beauty resides. She is a woman who often finds herself standing in the spotlight of legendary stages as an exquisite model of the operatic arts, and at other times, alone in her room wrestling with the overwhelming pressure of societal norms, traditional beauty standards, and the distorted expectations life demands of a person, who on a daily basis, feels so fundamentally different in comparison to these conformities.
She is currently exploring a pathway towards authenticity. To be herself is to be comfortable with her unique and complicated story. She is cloaked by an impenetrable grief for her mother, whom she lost when she was 18 to breast cancer. A woman she still speaks of in the present tense, and rightfully so, recognizing the ferocious spirit of her mother consistently present in her own immense and bigger-than-life presence. She is driven through this grief by the family and dear friends she cherishes, and an all-encompassing spiritual universe where, during times of clarity, she manages to glimpse God in all things.
To know her on a daily basis is to experience her deep and infectious belly laughs, to be enraptured by her gorgeous singing voice, to witness her self-proclaimed nerdy love for comic books, and to listen to her stories about beauty: the beauty of the old and storied things she surrounds herself with, the beauty of her mother, her family, her music, her spirituality, and the physical beauty she struggles to embrace in the wake of harsh self-criticism. Despite her insecurities, to know her is to know an incredibly charismatic woman who defies traditional standards and reinvents beauty for all that it truly is - with authenticity, heart, soul, truth, and the fight to forge a better version of herself each and every day.
This is a portrait of Krysty Swann as she explores the authenticity of her beauty.
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Her home reflects the juxtaposition of her passionate individuality. Her vocal scores find themselves in harmony with her comic book collection; the super heroes find themselves draped in lovely feminine effects, and all of this is immersed in classic and fantastic literature that challenges the ordinary and explores a heightened sense of reality. A few moments spent with Krysty, and you are enraptured by her effervescent posture and animated countenance. She is all of these things, all of the time… beautiful, incredibly talented, deeply passionate, funny, lovely, learned, and a little bit Wonder Woman.
She is also a lover of the feminine aesthetics of hair and makeup and an expert in application. Hoping to capture all facets of her beauty, I asked her if she wouldn’t mind taking us through her process. She happily obliged and began by choosing a vibrant red dress to wear as she put on her makeup. Red, she felt, roused an inner confidence hidden deep below the surface and helped her to feel more comfortable in her own skin.
While she changed into her red dress, I noticed a theme of rabbits throughout her home, and asked her to share their background. In her own words:
As Krysty sat down at her makeup table, she visibly relaxed. This is where she felt at ease as a woman, harnessing her regimented beauty routine, hair falling in gorgeous curls between her fingers, makeup moving adeptly from brushes to her face. A controlling and manipulation of lines molded to her own particular and unique standard of beauty, but not entirely without the inescapable undertones of societal pressure to conform.
And yet, she reminded me, it wasn’t a mask to be interpreted she hid behind, but rather a ritual in which she found a true and uncomplicated joy. Makeup. Hair. The Art of Beauty. The complications arose with the expectations of beauty standards in general. She enjoyed this part so far as people understood that being accepted in whatever form of beauty she chose, with makeup or unadulterated, would bring her peace, something particularly hard to come by as a performing artist. Something nearly impossible to come by as a woman today.
However, it is in the realization that as long as she continues to seek the approval of others, that this inner peace would continue to elude her. Her choice to tell her story and capture all of the uninhibited angles of her life, her home, her natural face and body, and her prepared beauty are an effort to cultivate a sense of self-acceptance for her true authenticity.
She asked me to take a closer look at her fiery red and pink lace applique.
I noticed it wasn’t the dress that glowed, but the woman in the dress, as her inhibitions fell away and her inner-comfort radiated outwards.
As Krysty completed her beauty regiment, we spoke about the eclectic artifacts collected on her window sill. Each, she explained, was a representation of the many religions and spiritual outlets she encountered on her world travels and together they were a unification of spirituality in general. This, and the added layer of significance that several of these items were given to her by her dearest family and friends, brought her immense comfort. I asked her why it was so important to her to have so many different religious and spiritual symbols, and she said...
An inward and outward exploration…
Our exploration, in those several hours, truly felt like a Beginning, a forging of the beauty within that so many of us naturally radiate outwards when lifting the self-punishing and societally pressured constrictions imposed upon our authenticity.
For Krysty, this is a journey that she has just begun to embrace. For those of us on the outside looking in, it is the story of Beauty that ought to be told in recognition of one’s honestly beautiful personhood.