Lessons from Lola | Part One


Have you ever felt inspired to do something, but then, for whatever reason, you tell yourself I can’t. I shouldn’t. Never mind? Or you let yourself believe that this *something* isn’t important enough to fight for, and you give up at the first sign of struggle? This is a story about how I did just that. Or I tried to.

But no matter how hard I tried to say I can’t, I shouldn’t, never mind, another voice said YOU CAN. YOU SHOULD. LET’S DO THIS.

Enter Beauty Revived. Beauty Revived strives to bring to light the real beauty in each of us. It’s not about what size jeans you wear, or how many Facebook friends you have, or where you went on your last vacation. It’s about the smile on your face and the kindness in your heart. It’s about being smart and empathetic and loving. It’s about being truly beautiful. I had wanted to submit an application to be part of their 50 Most Beautiful Children campaign. But was I good enough? That annoying voice inside me planted a seed of doubt. I applied with little expectation of being chosen, besides, I had NO idea what extraordinary child I would photograph if I WAS chosen. Then, suddenly, it hit me like a ton of bricks.



Sweet, freckled, red-headed, 9 year old Lola. Lola lost her mom unexpectedly 2 years ago. Lola is creative. Lola is kind. Lola cares about others. In the face of her own tragedy, she has chosen love. NOW, I was excited. Excited to give this bright light of a little girl a very special experience. And I hoped and prayed that if I was meant to do this that I would be among the 50 photographers chosen. I waited in eager anticipation for the announcement of the 50 photographers chosen to be a part of the campaign. I saw it pop up in my Facebook feed and immediately scanned for my name. It wasn’t there. Instantly, I felt defeated and deflated.

I can’t. I shouldn’t. Nevermind.

But all day, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. But I wasn’t chosen. I couldn’t stop thinking about Lola. I would have to buy a plane ticket and travel. I wondered, how could I possibly pull this off?

I can’t. I shouldn’t. Never mind.

Then, funny things started to happen. My *NO* was met with militant can-do forces who struck it down with YES after YES after YES. I mentioned the campaign to a friend who is a hair stylist: YES! I was on a conference call for work when I was asked to come to Milwaukee for a meeting (the very same week I would have to be there for this session): YES! I asked around to see if anyone knew of any children’s clothing boutiques that may be willing to donate a dress, and my talented seamstress friend responded: YES!

But would Lola say yes? I emailed her grandmother, my dear friend. She talked with Lola and the answer was a resounding, collective: YES! I didn’t care anymore whether or not I was part of the official Beauty Revived campaign. The movement isn’t about me, it’s about lifting up someone else. It’s about giving Lola a day she’ll never forget. It’s about a community coming together to tell a little girl, You can. You should. You matter.



Oh, and guess what?  As soon as I said YES! I got an email from Michelle at Beauty Revived asking me to stand by as an alternate. For real. Can you even believe it?

Lola taught me that sometimes you have to stop saying No. I can’t. I shouldn’t. Never mind.



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Michaela Ristaino

Michaela Ristaino

Michaela has a deep passion for all things creative. With a background in professional music and theatre, it came as no surprise when one day she picked up a camera and fell in love. As a child she was obsessed with the boxes of old photo albums and slides in her parent’s basement. Seeing this other world amazed her. Black and white images printed on linen that had been painstakingly “colored” by hand with soft watercolor beauty. Pictures of her grandparents as teenagers…and her great grandparents on their farm in rural Wisconsin looking just like “American Gothic.” Somehow, even then, she knew that photographs had the power to change people.

Ristaino Photography was born in 2014, and Michaela is in her happiest place when working one on one with a client to create images that sing with their truest inner beauty. She was thrilled when one of her images was featured on the cover of the Beauty Revived 50 Most Beautiful Children magazine. Her heart is still overflowing.

Michaela is the heart and soul of The Photographer’s Element Student Lounge. Having the ability to create a safe and nourishing place for the TPE community to continue to grow and collaborate (even after your course is over!) fills her heart with joy. She truly believes that the nurturing environment at TPE is what sets it apart from other photography schools.

When she’s not traveling, you can find Michaela in sunny Florida, where she lives with her amazing husband and best friend Cap’n Tony. With way too many unfinished latch-hook rug kits in her childhood closet, she is a tiny bit amazed with herself for being super close to finishing her first Project 365.
Michaela Ristaino

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