KaSandra Mitchell

HOW DID YOU IDENTIFY YOUR PASSION AND THE WORK THAT SATISFIED YOU VERSUS WORK THAT JUST PAID THE BILLS?

I’ve loved photography since I was a child. I wanted to be a photojournalist, but my 18-year-old self didn’t want to put the work in to get there, or perhaps was too intimidated to. After studying abroad twice during university and interning abroad shortly after I graduated, I loved sharing my experiences through my photos and writing with my community through my blog The Humble Lion, and my community seemed to appreciate it as well. I started this blog shortly after going through some of the best experiences of my life while also experiencing multiple traumas within my immediate family. I wanted to share my story honestly and with humility. Yes, I was traveling often and had a really cool internship overseas at the time, but I was still trying to learn how to live with depression and anxiety after trauma, and what felt like abandoning my family in the midst of our worst storm.

My short stint working in the corporate world in international education proved to me that if I couldn’t be happy in a corporate setting in an industry I love with people I adored, I probably wasn’t cut out for it. I kept leaning into my creativity more and more, and it consumed my thoughts when I needed to be focusing on the desk job I left. That’s when I knew the right thing to do when my contract was up was to just go for it. So I started my freelance photography business — an extension of the blog I created nearly three years prior. It has helped me form deeper connections with the women in my community through what I call “Empowerment Portrait Sessions”. I offer discounted portrait sessions to women who want to simply have photographs taken of them because they can, to celebrate nothing more than exactly where they are in life at that moment. It has been my favorite project to date.

WHO WILL ETERNALLY BE A WOMAN YOU ADMIRE AND RESPECT, AND WHY?

There are so many. I suppose I will name my top three: Gloria Steinem – a leading feminist, journalist and organizer throughout her life. Not only am I a fan of her life’s work, but I admire her personal story. She is a traveler and a homebody — two things that people might find contradictory unless they could relate to it, and I do. She has tirelessly fought for what is right in her adult life, and continues to even in her mid 70s. Roxane Gay – writer, professor, editor, and commentator. Her writing is eloquent, brutally honest, strong and vulnerable. It amazed me when women today haven’t heard of her or read her work. She is unapologetic, incredible, and completely honest about her own struggles and failures despite so much success. The traumatic events in her life seem to have propelled her forward, allowing her to give voice to the struggles of countless women who have experienced paralleled struggles. Annie Leibovitz – legendary portrait photographer. The final work of Leibovitz is always incredible. From the composition, creativity, editing; everything. But it’s not just the final result I’m such a fan of, it’s the way she approaches and works with her subjects. She puts emphasis on telling a person’s story authentically and putting them at ease. She is intrigued and (appears to be) humbled by mortality and how it is portrayed through photography.

IN LIGHT OF YOUR UNDERSTANDING OF OUR HASHTAG #WHYITRIBE, WHY DO YOU THINK IT IS IMPORTANT TO CELEBRATE WHO WE ALREADY ARE TODAY?

Absolutely. As a living, breathing female in the 21st century, I can attest to how many times in a day we are told who we could/should be and how to get there. While I think it’s important to think about your future and daydream, I think it is even more essential that we embrace who we are RIGHT NOW instead of who we think we will turn into in the future if we do X, Y, and Z, and I think it’s important that we help others see and celebrate who they are presently, too.

NAME A TIME RECENTLY WHEN YOU SAID SOMETHING GOOD ABOUT YOURSELF/HOW DID THAT MAKE YOU FEEL?

I acknowledged my creative eye and ability to genuinely connect with others in multiple ways. It’s empowering, especially if I have fallen in a habit of comparing my own work to the work and art of others and start to doubt myself. It was a good reminder that while there are many, many talented individuals out there, we all have something different to offer — and that something different is our raw, authentic selves.

WHY DO YOU THINK WOMEN SHY AWAY FROM CELEBRATING OR PRAISING THEMSELVES SO MUCH?

We are taught from a young age that “good girls” are humble and don’t draw attention to themselves, but no one criticizes males for being bold and proud of their accomplishments. And that’s another reason why I started my blog and brand in the first place. It’s important that women keep pushing the envelope and moving the world forward, and that means breaking barriers and defying the norm. There is no written life rule that says woman shouldn’t celebrate themselves, only centuries of history and behaviors of generations before us have led to us thinking and believing that. But when we do embrace and celebrate what we’ve done, where we are, and where we could one day be, we inevitably give other women permission to do the same, and when that happens we are creating more seats at the table for all women.

HOW DO YOU OVERCOME THE TENDENCY TO DISCREDIT COMPLIMENTS YOU ARE GIVEN?

Acknowledge it in the moment, excuse yourself, and then say “thank you”. After a while, just like any habit, it becomes easier and more of a “normal” response.

HOW DOES SOCIETY REINFORCE THE IDEA THAT WE, AS WOMEN, ARE NOT ENOUGH AND HOW CAN WE TAKE THAT POWER BACK?

Lack of education. Marketing. Media. First and foremost, we need to take part in educating others about the realities of women and underrepresented people and communities, and advocating for education where it lacks. My favorite quote this year is “you don’t know what you don’t know”. Many people aren’t fully aware of how frequently we are told how we are not enough in such subtle societal and systemic ways (and even in very blunt and obvious ways), but oftentimes it just takes one person to pull back the curtain and show someone a new light and a new way. I think by accepting and celebrating who and where we are as individuals, we gain the confidence to put one foot in front of the other and start making small steps that will make a giant impact. The overall goal can be crippling if you’re just looking at the bigger picture, but it’s the small steps that will get us all there. If that means you have to unfollow multiple accounts that make you feel insecure or less than, do it. If you’re friend group makes you feel stupid or unequal, start separating yourself. Start taking note of things that make you feel confident, or comfortable at the least. When you start feeling your confidence grow, put the work in to help others with theirs as well. Then use that confidence to have the hard conversations when they’re needed, invest your time and resources into things or causes you believe in, and embrace your roll in society.

WHY IS THE TRIBE MOVEMENT IMPORTANT?

The Tribe Movement will help pull back that curtain to help women from a multitude of backgrounds see things from a fresh perspective. Everyone could use an encouraging group in their lives, but unfortunately many people lack one and may feel stuck in their situation. The Tribe has the potential of introducing women who otherwise wouldn’t have met and will lead by example in how to treat and support one another, and I am so thankful to be a part of it.

Occupation: International Photographer

Website: thlphoto.co

Instagram: thehumblelion_