By Kathe Tanner
For 26 young women, red will never again be just a Crayola color. For the Central Coast beauties to be featured Friday, Aug. 5, at a photography show and book-release party at the Harmony Creamery, red is now the symbol of beauty and self confidence.
At the event that starts at 7 p.m., the models also will see their portraits for the first time.
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Cambria photographer Joe Dominguez had dreamed of photographing a variety of lasses wearing red outfits, lipstick, shoes — and attitudes.
Then, at a January high-school basketball game, he shared that dream in an off-the-cuff discussion with go-getter and stylist Monica Raethke of Cambria.
From there, the “red project” was underway, with photo shoots from Jan. 29 through June 17.
Raethke found local young women, ages 15 to 36, plus makeup artists (Kari Ballestreros and Amber Frescas of Sephora and Cambria artist Tracy Covell) and hair stylists (Maggie Bridges, Debbie MacTavish and Jenn Marie Hix). Raethke shopped and created a variety of looks for the young about-to-be models.
Dominguez plotted the technical side of the shoots, from backdrops to angles, and launched his own creative process. “The ‘red’ girls are beautiful without question,” he wrote in the book’s preface. “I’m just there to record the moments when they allow themselves to be stunning. Red provides just the right ingredient for capturing that instant. It empowers the girls, filling them with the medium to become something more. It untaps confidence and sharpens the feisty.”
Dominguez’s photos are striking. His work and the book capture simply the beauty of the young women within its pages.
What they really can’t portray is what the project meant to the models it features.
At 15, Emily Gallup of Cambria was one of the youngest participants. Even though she loved playing dress-up as a child, Emily had never considered modeling as a career. Instead, she really wants to be an FBI agent.
But the “red” experience proved she could model if she wanted to, and it will help her with her goals, she said, because now she feels more confident about who she is and her ability to portray that.
“I’m not really the most outgoing person, but after ‘red,’ I felt a lot more confident. I think I’ll be able to open up to people, let my inhibitions go and be able to show people who I really am and that I’m the right person for the job.”
For 17-year-old Templeton High School graduate Kari Dearie, daughter of Coast Union High School principal Karl Dearie, being a “red” model was “a real confidence booster. They made us feel great, with the makeup, clothes and hair styling.” She and her fellow-model friends “are always talking about how excited we were to be part of it.”
One of them, Sammar Smesme, 16, said being a “red” model “has been one of the most surreal experiences. Walking into the studio the day of shooting felt like stepping on to the set of VH1 knowing I was going to be forced out of my comfort zone and into the view of a camera lens was a mixture of nerves, curiosity and excitement.” She said the experience “gave me confidence in myself and in my ability to try new things I never imagined I could.”
Harper Sassaman, a 17-year-old Coast Union grad, already is an experienced performer. “I really love dressing up, getting dolled up and pretending to be something I’m not.”
She thinks experiences such as the “red” project would be especially valuable for “girls who lack the confidence to do sports and plays,” two experiences she said build a lot of self-assurance. “Going out and working hard for something helps build your confidence.”
Rolling out the ‘red’ carpet
The “red project,” featuring the work of photographer Joe Dominguez and coordinator Monica Raethke of Cambria, launches at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 5, at the old Harmony Creamery. Models will attend. A $5 donation is requested for admittance and appetizers; beer and wine will be available.
Models include: Mckenna Smith, Emily Gallup, Kristina-Michelle Gonzalez, Christy Isbell and her sister Corrie Ratzat, Lizzy White, Reanna Gray, sisters Autumn-Dakota and Andrea Raethke, Elida Moore, Doris Steen, Hallie Sesser, Harper Sassaman, Erin Brandt, Mackenzie Cunningham, Kari Dearie, Maggie McCall Bridges, Francis Jackson, Rachel Barnes, Rochell Daney, Kate Rouse, Elisa Torres, Kerry Ballesteros, Abagail Will, Sammar Smesme, and Alexis Brigante. At least 18 have ties to Cambria.