Mandy White Eskelin retired from competing in physique sports five years ago. She was a WBFF Pro, one of the best in her division, beautiful, fit, and presumably on top of the world. But she wasn’t. Truth be told, what she put on stage for the world to look at admiringly was merely a facade covering the chaos inside.

She’s traveled a long, winding and rocky road to get to today but the bruises and breaks and bloody noses were the impetus to change, but change for the good this time.

You can’t avoid, and I’d argue you shouldn’t avoid, the hard parts of life. It’s been said that a cowboy can complain about the cold, the rain, and the dusty trail; or he can embrace being a cowboy and let the hardships toughen him up, making him impervious to discomfort and pain. When the dust and cold don’t make you feel sorry for yourself, the flowers and trees and endless skies come into view.

Mandy chose to face her demons, strengthened her relationship with God, surrounded herself with good people, and along the way, she learned to love herself.

This photoshoot was a sort of celebration of how far she has come. It wasn’t her first time in front of the camera, but it was the first where she accepted and truly loved herself. She also competed in a WPC Contest on August 18th and won her class. It was her first show in five years and she put a much different version of herself through the process of getting ready and going on stage. She did it this time because at forty four she wants to inspire other women. That’s a champion.

I sent her the pictures and when she saw the first one she cried.

That’s what I love about being a photographer.

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