BEHIND THE COVER
PHOTOGRAPHY: BRANDI STAGE PORTRAITURE
MAKEUP: JACKIE MERLAU
HAIR: THE MANE SALON
BACKDROP AND ALL FLORAL ARTISTRY: THE FRENCH POTAGER
The images are exactly what those familiar with Brandi Stage’s work have come to expect: lush and lovely, yet bold and impactful.
As owner of Brandi Stage Portraiture in Bay St. Louis, Stage strives to make each client feel like a star — pampering her and capturing her beauty. For her second-annual collaborative photo shoot, held at her studio in January, Stage was determined to create something special with the help of other exceptional talents from across the Coast.
“The concept for this shoot was all about soft, romantic and something really, really pretty.” – BRANDI STAGE
“The concept for this shoot was all about soft, romantic and something really, really pretty,” Stage says. She enlisted Jackie Merlau of J.MerlauMakeup LLC, floral artist Martha Butler of The French Potager and hair stylist Gerry Berry of The Mane Salon to help realize her vision.
Modeling for the project were Miss Mississippi United States 2019 Jennifer Cain; FT45 agency model Ashley Abrusley; artist Leanna Garcia; and nutrition expert and author Alyssa Ashmore of Passionate Portions Inc.
“We had reached out via social media looking for models for this project; to our surprise we had a great response,” Stage says. “We had too many, really.”
Soon after closing the call for models, Stage heard from a husband asking her to consider his wife — even offering to take off work and watch the kids so she could participate.
“How could I say no to that?! I couldn’t,” Stage says. “Alyssa joined us and had a spectacular day with us.”
In her work, Ashmore says she constantly encourages other women to love and accept their here-and-now body.
“As a postpartum mom myself, I thought this was a good time to practice what I preach,” she says. “It was such a fun day witnessing the beauty that comes from women supporting women and the brilliant creations that exist when we put ourselves out there and embrace who we are.”
BEYOND THE STUDIO
Being renown for portraiture, Stage says people may not realize the other work she does by commission — or projects she undertakes for her personal growth and creativity. One recent example is an art show in Los Angeles for Jews for Jesus — which became virtual due to COVID-19.
Other lesser-known facts about Stage: She is a part-time missionary and a “true-blue introvert.”
“I love people and being around them; I just prefer one-on-one and small groups of people to enjoy deeper conversations with,” she says. “And I definitely recharge by being alone, which I value greatly.”
The Diamondhead resident, who is wife to John Stage and mom to sons Brandin and Tyler, got into photography as a curious child observing the world around her.
“I studied with the New York Institute of Photography and built a portfolio that I loved and could market,” she says. “It is a joy to capture the beauty of people and show it to them.”
MAKING A DIFFERENCE
Outside of her business, Stage often uses her skills to give back. One of those efforts is the Bold, Beautiful and Perfect Project, for which women can apply to participate in a photo shoot, blog series and Facebook group. Based on their answers, participants are chosen to connect with other women who struggle with who they are and their understanding of what real beauty is.
Each year, Stage’s studio also gifts over $2,500 in portraiture to a candidate who has endured recent trauma. Last year’s recipient was a widow, she says, and the shoot was the family’s first portrait without their loved one.
Community may include family and friends, but to Stage, is has a broader definition — and carries a greater responsibility to help meet various needs.
“Success to me is measured by your positive impact on others,” the photographer says. “I credit the way I treat my clients to my faith in Jesus and the commandment to love others as yourself.”