Michelle Tyler

Occupation: Hair and Makeup Artist, Newborn Photographer & Environmentalist

Website: www.michelle-tyler.com

Instagram: mt.sustainability

HOW DID YOU IDENTIFY YOUR PASSION AND THE WORK THAT SATISFIED YOU VERSUS WORK THAT JUST PAID THE BILLS?
Working as a young hair and mua was a passion that paid the bills and while it wasn’t always easy to make ends meet, I was single and had only myself to worry about. However my life has expanded over time to include a husband and three children. Going back to work while breastfeeding was difficult so we made the decision to cut our family budget to allow me to stay home full time while the children were little. To be honest the childcare costs made working almost pointless anyway. When our third child started school I launched my sustainable fashion blog so I could remain at home for them while generating a small income. It worked well until we moved to the U.S and I quickly realized my little London blog disappeared into a sea of mega bloggers. After answering an ad in an online local newspaper, I retrained as a photographer for Bella Baby. Turns out it wasn’t too difficult
since I already took my own blog photos and had some knowledge of lighting and composition from my makeup days. Almost two years ago I began working at the local hospital where I photographed newborn babies up until Covid-19 hit. I have no idea what I’ll do next however I am working on a presentation on sustainable fashion for my local library and campaigning for Black curriculum in my children’s schools, so at least I’m being productive although it would be nice to earn some money again.

WHO WILL ETERNALLY BE A WOMAN YOU ADMIRE AND RESPECT, AND WHY?
This is a really difficult question to nail down to a single person because I’ve learned different things from different women throughout my life. The first woman to have a big impact on me was my Great Aunt (my Grandmother’s sister) we were incredibly close. She used to tell me stories about her life as a little girl with polio during the London blitz which, as you can imagine, were always peppered with “life lessons” on how to overcome adversity. As I grew up and left Australia for an adventure in London, it was her bravery and tenacity that spurred me on. And whenever I needed advice, I was never afraid to ask her because I knew she wouldn’t judge me and would always tell me the hard truth.

IN LIGHT OF YOUR UNDERSTANDING OF OUR HASHTAG #WHYITRIBE, WHY DO YOU THINK IT IS IMPORTANT TO CELEBRATE WHO WE ALREADY ARE TODAY?
I think it’s important to normalize being wrong and saying sorry so that we can continue to learn and grow. It took me a long time to really love who I am but when I finally did, I realized my life’s work is simply to keep educating myself. Telling other women how great they are and supporting their work is also how I continue that growth for myself as well as them. Sort of like a Feminists duty of care, I suppose.

NAME A TIME RECENTLY WHEN YOU SAID SOMETHING GOOD ABOUT YOURSELF/HOW DID THAT MAKE YOU FEEL? Last week my friend took some photos of me for my blog as a thank you for taking her and her son on our family holiday. When she showed me the photos I was genuinely surprised how good I looked especially as I hadn’t made much effort with my hair and makeup. I said to her, wow I look amazing! This led to a discussion about how comfortable I am in my skin now as opposed to when I was younger. I hadn’t really thought a lot about that before but it’s true, my confidence grew exponentially with my self-worth. It was a wonderful feeling to finally acknowledge that my younger self only pretended to be confident whereas now I AM confident. WHY DO YOU

THINK WOMEN SHY AWAY FROM CELEBRATING OR PRAISING THEMSELVES SO MUCH?
We tend not to celebrate ourselves because we’re afraid of being judged as “too much”. Self deprecation is much more palatable to the observer.

HOW DO YOU OVERCOME THE TENDENCY TO DISCREDIT COMPLIMENTS YOU ARE GIVEN?
This is a great question! I definitely don’t do this anymore but it took years of work to learn how to accept a compliment. That’s why whenever I compliment another woman (which is something I like to do a lot) I ask her to take it onboard.

WHO WAS THE FIRST FEMALE TO TEACH YOU OR INSPIRE YOU TO FEEL THAT #YOUAREENOUGH?
My first born child, my daughter Kiara.

HOW DOES SOCIETY REINFORCE THE IDEA THAT WE, AS WOMEN, ARE NOT ENOUGH AND HOW CAN WE TAKE THAT POWER BACK?
There are so many ways society reinforces that we, as women, are not enough. The obvious one is that we still don’t have equal pay but the less obvious one I think is where the absence of pay is concerned. When a woman gives her time and/or labour but isn’t paid, her effort which is work, is taken for granted. For example a Mother who stays at home to raise her children isn’t paid therefore what she is doing has no status in wider society. Our value shouldn’t be contingent on how much money we earn, if it was, nurses would be billionaires not Jeff Bezos.

ARE WE TOLD ENOUGH AS YOUNG GIRLS THAT #WEAREENOUGH? IF NOT, HOW CAN WE CHANGE THIS
MESSAGING FOR YOUNG GIRLS TODAY?

I hope young girls are told that they’re enough in 2020, I certainly think ALL girls are awesome. Gay girls, Trans girls, Black girls, Brown girls and White girls of this generation are amazing and never cease to inspire me with how knowledgable (I’d say woke but my kids would cringe) they are. When I was a girl, if I knew half the stuff my daughters (and their friends) know at 10 and 15, it would have saved me a whole lotta tears.

WHAT WOULD YOU GO BACK AND TELL YOUR YOUNGER SELF, TO ENCOURAGE SELF-ESTEEM AND SELF-LOVE?
This is easy to answer now, although it took many years to learn. I would go back to my younger self and say don’t compare your successes to another woman’s idea of success and don’t measure it by your possessions.

WHERE DO YOU THINK THE NEED TO COMPETE WITH OTHER WOMEN COMES FROM? IS IT TAUGHT?
Sadly I think the need to compete with other women comes from seeking approval from men. Only when we realise we don’t need “a man to complete me” do we stop seeing other women as our competition. Men have a lot to answer for when it comes to stereotyping women and pitting us against one another in order to fulfil their needs or requirements. I think it is taught from an early age, there is conditioning of boys to see girls as inferior, helpless, weak. It’s subtle things like asking a boy to do the heavy lifting and the girl to help with dinner or not explaining menstruation to a boy because it doesn’t affect him directly. As a parent now, I have agency to change that narrative and I do so through my son and two daughters.

WHY IS THE TRIBE MOVEMENT IMPORTANT?
THE TRIBE Movement is an online toolkit where women can connect and support one another on personal and professional journey’s. A platform of positive affirmations to build emotional strength and confidence. The Tribe Movement is important to remind ourselves that we don’t have to do everything perfectly, the point is we’re always learning and growing. Sometimes what looks like the right path, actually veers off to a completely different place you would never have considered before. When you have courage and confidence, that different path is an exciting opportunity instead of a disappointment or failure.

HOW ARE YOU TRYING TO KEEP YOUR SELF-ESTEEM UP IN THE MIDST OF THIS GLOBAL PANDEMIC AND WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO OTHERS READING THIS?
I’m doing OK actually, I tend not to think too far ahead and that would be my advice to others also. I’m not sure of anything at the moment but I know for certain, we’re living through a revolutionary time perhaps the evolution of humanity. I don’t know if my kids will go back to school in the Fall, I don’t know if I’ll go back to photographing newborn babies (which is sad because I miss them) and I don’t know if my family will be allowed to stay in America. Yet, it’s the Climate Crisis that still keeps me awake at night. At least the pandemic has pushed this looming catastrophe to the front of the political agenda like never before. The urgency of the pandemic seems to be powering a sustainable response which is definitely the way forward and a good reason to be hopeful.