Before going to this Angel Ministries Photo Shoot, I really underestimated the meaning of mentorship. No matter which walk of life you choose to tread on, at some point or another you may come across mentorship opportunities, no matter if you’re a mentor or a mentee. Whether you take advantage or not of the opportunities, that’s entirely a whole other story to tell. But until this day, I am so glad that I got the chance to meet the wonderful ladies of Angel Ministries Inc. (AMI) (located in San Jose, CA) last Sunday, October 16, 2011. Because my understanding of the word “mentorship” just become that much more open and wholesome.

On paper, it’s simple(r), really. The AMI coordinators want to revamp their current website and one of their mentee, the beautiful and super talented Shai White (who just started SW Productions, which focuses on high fashion / editorial shoots & modeling last month — congratulations Shai!) organized a photo shoot to be used on the new website. Fashion designer Danielle Pettee (Danielle The Dress Maker), photographer Doug Birnbaum, makeup artists Arlene Coleman and Anchi Li, hair stylists Brendnetta Ashley, videographer Aleksey Severyukhin, female and male models (including AMI’s Tara Connor, Vasheta “Tootie” Attaway, other mentors and mentees).

Tara Connor from Angel Ministries
Then I sat down to talk to Tara Connor (CEO of Angel Ministries, Inc.), and my oh my, I admire this woman so much halfway through the conversation. She explained how AMI is a non-profit organization that mentor youth and young adults after high school; helping them with college, work life, and everything in between. More importantly, the mentors want their mentees to be able to bring out their passion, no matter where they come from.

People seeking for help in AMI are either troubled individuals or passionate people who don’t know where to start, and it’s really inspiring that there are organizations like AMI that extends a caring hand to help them out of their darkness and guide them into brighter future. These young people have varied interests; they might aspire to be models, fashion designers, or veterinarians, for example. The 15 mentors then guide and connect them to other people who can take them further. But more importantly, Tara emphasized, these young people learn about integrity, character, and work ethic. And hearing those words coming out from Tara, I was completely blown away.

I can’t help but ask a little bit about Tara’s past; what made her compelled to start AMI back in 2004. (Over time, AMI has mentored 250 young adults, currently they have 50 mentees.) She mentioned her own heavily troubled past and how church ministry and bible (among others) made her realize that she’s not the person she thought she is, but she could become the person she wants to be. Now she wants AMI to help the youth and young adults in need so they can realize that they don’t need to be what their troubled past / situation define them, but they can break free and become what they truly want to be in life. How powerful that mission is. And seeing Tara’s determined eyes, calm and grounded posture and manner, I can see that she and AMI organization are empowered to deliver just that. Monthly meeting, almost daily 1-on-1 mentorship, annual weekend retreat at Watsonville, these are the some programs and services that AMI offers. In conjunction with AMI’s current website revamping effort, the organization also wants to focus on doing its services full-time next year.

I think that’s a great next year focus to have and I can only imagine how much long-term benefit these young people can get from AMI. God bless :)

Shai White
Shai White (pictured above) has been AMI’s mentee for 13 years (didn’t I just mention long-term benefit? :) ) and she’s more than happy to give back to the organization by organizing the photo shoot. Starting the shoot from Academy of Art University Gallery at 625 Sutter St., San Francisco, all the parties involved were full of energy. The first order of the day was Doug directing the AMI ladies for a more formal photo shoot setting.

Danielle The Dress Maker in action
Danielle's DogDanielle’s (pictured above) creations of the day were four white dresses made of bed sheets. Designed and made on the spot. The results are stunning and romantic, and it went cohesively well with the hair and makeup. If that didn’t impress you enough, perhaps I should also mention that Danielle’s 2-year-old pooch (Rosco? Bosco? pictured left) is very well-behaved, stay (mostly) within the sight of his master, and doesn’t bark. WOW.

See pictures below for the dresses, accessorized by chains to symbolize the young people who are bound to their troubles and in tattered clothes. Shai then dirtied the dresses and the models’ clothes later on using ground dirt. The AMI ladies, in return, are dressed in clean, all-white attires to symbolize them giving help and reaching out to them. This outdoor photo shoot happened at Sutro Baths during sunset, and the lighting was just…..gorgeous. Romantic, calm, but quietly strong….I can’t wait to see the new pictures on AMI’s new website :)

Dresses Made of Bed Sheets
Dirtying It Up
To Become an Angel

Here are the complete AMI Photoshoot – Behind the Scenes pictures taken by my lovely Christian Hadidjaja:

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What an inspiring Sunday. My warmest regards for AMI and you all have a great day!

God bless,

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