Reflections on Strength, Personal Style & the Women Who Inspire Me
After starting my own business in 2013, I quickly learned that being an entrepreneur meant getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. Each day I encounter something I’ve never done before — which is just as exciting as it can be frustrating. Thankfully, more days land on the exciting end of the spectrum.
So when Boston-area photographer Chelsea Bradway sent out a call for participants in her latest project — photographing empowered Boston women — it was an easy decision for me to lend support to such an important concept. Championing local women serving as leaders in their communities is at the very heart of our mission at Acampora Interiors.
Be a Lady, They Said
Bradway’s project was inspired by a 2017 poem titled Be A Lady They Said by Camille Rainville, the author of the Writings of a Furious Woman blog. The poem garnered acclaim in February of 2020 when actress Cynthia Nixon recited Rainville’s words in a video produced by Claire Rothstein that went viral. The words were resounding; challenging the contradicting and hypocritical ways women are told to look and behave.
The poem served as a conduit for Bradway, a photographer who credits her fearless, tenacious approach to her mother, an outspoken advocate for women. “I grew up thinking ‘strong-willed’ was normal,” Bradway says. “The poem got me thinking about how many women must feel like they need to shrink to fit in this box of what’s expected of them. I wanted to give women a place to feel strong.”
Bradway launched her project in February of 2020, soon after the viral video caught the world’s attention. “I asked the women I photographed to bring in anything that makes them feel good; makes them feel strong,” she revealed. “I’m really not the director, just trying to capture the person.”
Reflecting on My Own Sources of Strength
But then the hard part came; actually posing for Bradway’s photos. Having someone capture your likeness definitely falls under the category of unfamiliar and potentially uncomfortable territory. Sitting in front of the camera in many ways means making yourself vulnerable.
What had the potential to feel awkward, however, truly did become an empowering and joyful experience. How? It offered the opportunity to reflect on my own sources of strength, to understand how each informs my decisions, and to appreciate the women who inspire me each day.
Intentional, Personal Choices
For the photo, I was asked to wear whatever I felt strongest in. So what exactly does being an empowered woman mean to me? It means being brave, like taking a leap of faith to start my own business. It means being a leader, like building a team of eight talented women and creating a culture where they feel supported, inspired, and challenged. And, it means being the best mom I can be each day, even on the days when it’s harder than others.
Like Bradway, I look to the women closest to me to derive my own strength. That means looking to my mother, my mother-in-law, and even within myself. All three are represented here in Bradway’s photo.
1. Custom Gown and a Labor of Love
Let’s start with my mother, Ann Coluccio. As a woman of fortitude and a pillar of strength for my family, she’s been an important role model all my life. She also happens to be an incredibly skilled seamstress, having come from a long line of seamstresses herself. So when it came to one of the most important dresses I’ll ever wear — my wedding gown — it was essential to me that my mother be the one to make it.
At the time, my husband Brian and I still lived in New York, one of the fashion capitals of the world, so I was fortunate to be surrounded by endless design inspiration. In searching for silhouettes that spoke to me, I fell in love with a spectacular ruffled gown by Oscar de la Renta. In a true labor of love, my mother — using the tenacious, sleuthing capabilities that only a mother has — eventually located the actual seamstress who made Oscar de la Renta’s ruffles in New York’s Garment District. And, she agreed to help my mother recreate the ruffles for my own gown. I proudly wear my wedding dress in this photo as a reminder of the talent — and tenacity — that my mother demonstrates time and again.
2. Statement Necklace with a Storied Past
Then there’s the Cleopatra statement necklace I’m wearing. In the 1960s my late mother-in-law, Carole, worked as a secretary at Revlon’s Manhattan corporate headquarters. It was there she acquired an extraordinary ruby and gold necklace that was used in an ad campaign for “Sphinx Pink” cosmetics. Carole, known for her thoughtfulness and generosity, gifted it to me shortly after Brian and I were married. We were living in Ithaca at the time while Brian was in business school, and Carole came to visit bearing this breathtaking piece.
In addition to her generosity, Carole was a natural aesthete at heart. She was an amazing woman with a deep appreciation for beauty and color in all disciplines — from fashion and jewelry to art and nature. Known for her own glamorous personal style, she was always so well put-together with impeccable polish. Holidays at Brian’s family home felt a bit like walking through Bergdorf Goodman at Christmastime, with lusciously layered holiday decorations so perfectly placed.
I cherish this bold statement necklace as a token of affection from a woman so dear to me. It reminds me of her generosity, her appreciation for aesthetics, and her unabashedly signature style. Today, this stunning piece takes pride-of-place on my desk at home where I prominently display it as a reminder of a woman whose personal style I’ve always admired.
3. My Staple Chambray Shirt
And then there’s me. Anyone who knows me knows that I love a good chambray garment, an easy, go-with-everything-fabric that can be dressed up or down. But in many ways, there’s no better fabric than chambray to describe my approach: classic, steadfast and durable, yet laid-back and casual. These qualities are at the heart of my approach with my clients, my team, and my family.
I’ve always been a believer that when the going gets tough, you’ve got to dig in to find your grit. And that’s why this piece was chosen: it’s a sleeves-rolled-up-reflection of both my personal style and professional approach.
Strength in Numbers
I was honored to participate in Chelsea’s latest photo project; one that carries an important message that mothers, daughters, sisters and friends need to hear now more than ever. It was yet one more moment in my eight years in business where something new brought me out of my comfort zone and ended with a totally joyful experience.
Bradway’s project extends well beyond my own corner of the universe. In launching her series, her original goal was to photograph 100 women — still an ambitious feat! To-date, Bradway has more than doubled her goal, which includes individuals of all ages, religions and ethnicities.
Her project has caught the eye of local arts organizations, too. Now through December 11, 2021, Bradway’s powerful work is currently on view in an eponymous exhibition at the Hanover Theatre Organized by Arts Worcester. Like the artist herself and the subjects she captures, the exhibition is a force — and it is not to miss.
For more information on Chelsea Bradway’s work, visit allthingssparkley.com.