I had this crazy idea to do a glam safari themed birthday photoshoot while in Kenya. The vision was to take editorial pictures in unexpected outfits with the animal filled savannah as our backdrop. But 1, you can’t just walk around most game parks, because ya know, lions. And 2, I’m deathly afraid of animals. All animals. But especially big animals. In the wild. So yes, the idea was crazy. Nonetheless, I asked my intern Lontia to put together a mood board, pulled a few outfits, and reached out to the one Nairobi photographer I knew well enough to trust with this idea – Rich, who took our engagement photos!
Rich suggested we go to Crescent Island, a privately owned (by whom, is a bit confusing – some sources say its Kenyan owned, some say its white owned) wildlife sanctuary on Lake Naivasha, a two hour drive from Nairobi. Zebras, giraffes, wildebeests, antelopes, and many other exotic species were brought to the island (which is actually now a peninsula) to film the movie Out of Africa. Since there are no predator animals, people are allowed to walk freely amongst the animals without any fences or barriers.
So we show up, I’ve done my makeup in the car without messing up my clothes, which is enough accomplishment for the day, and even got both lashes to stick on. As we drive into the park, we’re immediately greeted by zebras, wildebeests, and giraffes, as if they were waiting our arrival.
I change into my first look, a heavy beaded gown that inspired the whole shoot. It was my reception dress for our wedding, and I was determined to wear it again while it still fit. We step out of the cars, ready to get started. But then Jonathan, my assistant for the day, needs to leave for a bit, and then it’s just me, Rich and his team, and the animals. I’m wearing 4 inch heels, in a dress that’s too tight after four straight days of eating chapatis, so my ability to run from danger is totally gone, and the one person I trust to save my life is no longer there.
With each shot, Rich tries to encourage me to take another step closer to the zebras. I approach them gingerly, and after a few paces, they retreat. I’m relieved, because that means they don’t want me any closer so I can stop moving. Rich is unconvinced. “Get a little closer,” he keeps telling me. “I can’t,” both my mind and my mouth convey. Yet my feet keep moving. For me, the point is not to get close enough to the animals to touch them. It’s to conquer one of my fears – my fear of animals – by placing myself squarely among them.
“I am deliberate and afraid of nothing.”
I always like to meditate on a specific word or mantra for each year, and this upcoming year of my life is all about being deliberate and unafraid. Being unafraid of taking risks, of the unknown, of change. Being intentional and deliberate about the things I want and deserve. Fear and lack of intention go hand in hand – one is an emotion and one is lack of action – both keep you from going after your dreams, fulfilling your destiny, and living your best life. Here’s to year 28: my year of being deliberate and afraid of nothing.