Jen’s nonprofit, founded in 2013 provides personalized photoshoot experiences for those suffering from life-debilitating diseases and trauma. Jen and her team help survivors reignite parts of their identity lost during the process of healing through the power of wardrobe, hair and make-up. Each “Phoenix’s” photoshoot is individualized and curated specifically for each model and memorialized in a gifted coffee table book.
When I first heard about the photo shoot, I was a little nervous because that’s not the type of thing that I Would usually agree to do. However, I was really excited to do something to honor CAMMY and do something special that I knew she would look down on me and enjoy. When I first arrived, I was a little nervous but the more I met people and the more I got a chance to talk about CAMMY in a little bit about my story I suddenly felt comfortable with everyone, Like it was a safe and comfortable place. When I first saw The Cinderella dress, I would be wearing I was a little hesitant, but once I put that dress on and saw myself with all the hair and the make-up I truly felt like a princess. That feeling continued throughout the whole day it was truly magical and I felt something I never felt before, like a princess. As I looked around the beautiful location that we were at I felt CAMMY everywhere and when I would look up to the sky and smile, I felt as she was looking down on me and she was proud and smiling back at me. When Sandy and I were gifted the incredible Disney necklaces I was instantly moved to tears such a special piece of jewelry that will mean so much to me for the rest of my life. This experience will stay with me for the rest of my life, the feeling that I am a princess, the feeling that I can do something special to honor CAMMY will be something that I will never forget, and I am so incredibly grateful for this experience.
My Day with The Phoenix Effect Team
Although my cancer journey was one of the toughest parts of my life, it did shape me into the person I am today. Being 14 at diagnosis I was self conscious and often wanted to shrink away and avoid everyone. I seldom left the house without a beanie on because I didn’t want to draw attention to myself. Six years later I have gained confidence and am proud of my scars and past because it shows how far I have come. And this is what Jen and The Phoenix Effect Team are all about, empowering survivors.
Prior to my photoshoot with The Phoenix Effect Team I had never had pictures taken professionally, let alone hair and makeup. Once I arrived and sat down to get dolled up I couldn’t wait to see the finished look. Throughout the whole process I felt so empowered and began feeling less nervous for the photoshoot portion of the day. The hair and makeup team were so meticulous with their work, and once I saw the final results I felt like I was teleported back into the 70s. Looking at my reflection I felt so beautiful, and couldn’t wait to take pictures.
Once we got to Topanga Canyon, Jen revealed all the different looks I would be styled in as my excitement settled in.
With some encouragement from the Phoenix Effect Team I finally felt ready to take photos. Every outfit I shot in had its own designated shooting area, and I truly felt like a professional. During the photoshoot if I felt awkward or unsure everyone there supported and uplifted me. For the first time in a while I felt so powerful and it was as if every stubborn feelings of insecurity had subsided.
One of my favorite parts of the whole day was when Jen gathered the team in a circle to say a prayer after we finished the last photos. It felt nice to take a moment to reflect and appreciate being healthy today. Jen’s prayer made me realize that I went through cancer for a reason, and it was to help others going through the same thing. Throughout the entire day I felt proud to be a cancer survivor, my past didn’t feel like a bad memory. And I am beyond grateful that I now have pictures to remind myself of my resilience.
There is so much gratitude in my heart for what you have done for Audrey. Selecting her as your Phoenix has gone beyond just a day of making her feel beautiful and special but has embedded in her personality and given her a confidence that I have not seen since her diagnosis. Living with Cystic Fibrosis has been such a strain on Audrey, not just physically but the emotional damage can sometimes run even deeper. The love and care that you showed her has helped her believe in herself.
Participating in the Phoenix transformation is something so out of Audrey’s comfort zone that I feared she would not engage, and she would stay within herself protected bubble. However, the compassion you and your team showed her from our first meeting filled her with an anticipation and excitement that rarely comes. When we set the date, Audrey was diligent with all of her medications and daily treatments to ensure she wouldn’t get sick or be hospitalized again and have to miss this incredible experience. She had something to truly look forward to and be the center of attention for something other than her sickness.
Audrey is sick more often than she is healthy. Every day she battles to just breathe. CF can be an invisible illness that has taken so much from her and for one day, you gave her the ability to forget how much CF has taken from her. I saw a smile come through, that was not forced or fake, but a genuine smile that reached her eyes. She radiated from her core. I don’t think Audrey, or myself, truly grasped what being a Phoenix meant. From listening to who she is, her likes and hobbies, dreams and aspirations, you created a world that catered to her version of perfect.
As I write this letter, my eyes continue to brim with tears of complete thankfulness. Audrey is more alive than she has ever been and so much of that is attributed to the confidence you were able to awaken in her. Thank you again from the bottom of my heart for choosing Audrey and for allowing her to see herself as the beautifully radiant girl she is. Thank you for reminding her that CF is part of her but does not define who she is.
-Love From Audrey’s Mom-
Thank you for picking me. I had the best day being your Phoenix. My favorite part was looking so pretty and taking pictures. Thank you for being so nice. I feel so good about myself and know that I can get over anything. I know that I can do anything. Thank you for picking out all of the clothes that made me feel good and look pretty. They were all my favorite and I can’t pick the best one. I was so excited to show all my friends. They all thought it was so cool. I can’t wait to wear the dress you gave me to graduation. I feel very lucky. Having CF isn’t fun. You made me remember that my life isn’t just CF and the hospital. Thank you for being awesome. I love you.
-Love From Audrey
I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived today. I arrived to a group of wonderful, kind and talented people who made me feel special and forget for a while about the cancer I am battling. I have not felt myself since I was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer. Jen was amazing in picking out clothes, shoes and accessories that made me feel pretty and glamorous for a couple of hours . Both the hair and makeup guys worked simultaneously and kept me comfortable. In every wardrobe change Jen made me feel comfortable, I am very self-conscious of my stomach as it is very swollen from my cancer , she helped me change and kept me comfortable. I felt like a princess for the day. Losing my hair was really rough so feeling pretty in beautiful outfits and hair and makeup made me so happy. I was so touched my the prayer box and what a wonderful surprise at the end to see my boyfriend, parents and so many of my friends that have been in this journey with me. Jen and Christina made me feel comfortable to tell my story which I think is so important. Most people have no idea that there is toxic nuclear waste that was never cleared in west hills /Santa Susanna area where I grew up. I was very nervous to be away from home for that long but her team was incredible. It is a day I will never forget. Thank you for this incredible gift.
Eleven months ago, I found a lump in my right breast that ended up being triple negative breast cancer, a very aggressive form. Through MRI, the doctors found a second estrogen based cancer in my left breast. Two different types of cancer in both breasts and I have no family history. I spent the last year having a triple lumpectomy, followed by five months of chemotherapy and 32 rounds of radiation. I lost all my hair, eyebrows and eye lashes. All my joints ache, my hands and feet are numb from nerve damage, I have Lymphedema in my breast and I feel like I’m 90 years old. I’ve been struggling to adjust to the new way I feel and the new way I look.
I met Jen Principe 6 years ago when she helped create some looks for me in my closet. I immediately saw her talent and her natural energetic way of being. I am a TV producer and in 2016, I booked her on a show with complete confidence she could do it and she knocked it out of the park.
So when she reached out to me this summer and said she wanted to give me a gift – a gift of a photo shoot post chemo and cancer treatment, I was touched. I still don’t know what I did to deserve this. I’ve had a career of creating makeovers for other people on The Oprah Winfrey show, but being on the other side of the camera had me a little perplexed. I wasn’t sure how to feel. I knew I didn’t feel good and didn’t feel like myself.
So yesterday was the shoot with Jen and her husband Tony, who took the photos. They are an incredible team. Jen pulled many fabulous outfits, hired a make up artist and had her very positive assistant Kayla, put me at ease.
When I arrived, I still felt stumped, not sure what to think about all this fuss being made over me and why? But as the afternoon went on I began to feel …well… confident. And this is tough for me to say but I felt sexy and I felt strong and like I was rocking my new short salt and pepper hair. Jen’s photo shoot was the first time since getting cancer that I wore make up and dressed up and felt like I was a Phoenix rising from the ashes.
The power of the gift that Jen gave me…(just because she wanted to) has really put me in a better, healthier place. It’s as if she threw me a rope and pulled me out of a ditch or a hole.
Driving home last night, I felt like I was floating and I began thinking about how I’m going to purge my closet and start incorporating more color and happy clothes to go with the new me. The thing about getting cancer is it’s impossible (at least for me) to go back to being your old self. I’ve changed on the inside and the outside. And Jen with her very selfless and loving gift, helped me discover who my new self is and what she looks like. It’s like I was touched by earth angel. It’s like I was touched by earth angel.
Sid is an inspiring 18-year-old, with strong will and determination. She refuses to allow her past to define her. Homeless at the young age of 13 and in and out of the foster care system, Sid managed to continue working hard to achieve her dreams in becoming a college student. The Phoenix Effect team wanted to give her a once in lifetime high school graduation present and gifted her a 70s inspired photoshoot. Sid was overwhelmed with the amount of love that day and said “I will remember this day for the rest of her life”.
For Zoe There is an old saying that words just aren’t enough. When it comes to Jennifer and what she did for our family, there could not be a more true statement. That being said, I will try and put it into words. When your child is sick, every day is about them. The problem is, the reason every day is about them is a horrible reason. They are not feeling well, they have to get a test, they have to get a blood transfusion, etc. What Jennifer did for our family and specifically for our daughter Zoe was give her a day all about her just like in a fairy tale. So many people, too many to count, helped us during our journey but Jennifer was a true angel that came out of nowhere and gave us memories that will last forever. I look at the book she made for us at least two times a week and I have a smile on my face for the rest of the day. It might sound cliché but it truly was a magical day for both Zoe and our family. I could go on and on but I think you get the point. Any family that is lucky to have Jennifer make a special day for their child will truly understand what I am talking about and the impact it has on your daily lives. Thank you Jennifer for what you did for our family and just as important, what you continue to do for so many others. We love you!
Thank you for being such a significant light in my life and my career. Our photoshoot taught me and showed me an abundance of feelings and inner thoughts. To begin, it taught me the effort of true human kindness and what people with true hearts pose. You have such a light and this light guides you to help others. During our shoot and the time we worked together, you truly cared about my comfort and my feelings as we worked. You made it apparent that I have as much say in the project as you did as well as so much more in order to create the beautiful photos that we did. Secondly, you showed me that being disabled is beautiful, and that no matter what obstacles I have faced, I truly can use it as a gift to inspire others. You betrayed me as this force of beauty and nature and brought forth traits I knew I had but never put spotlight on. I look at those pictures now amazed that two people worked so well together to create such a beautiful representation of beauty, all led by your kindness, acceptance and strength. It made me feel comfortable being around someone who not only made me want to be beautiful but, at the same time used her talent and her craft to do just that. The outfits, the makeup and the vibe you put me in and conveyed through your pictures were absolutely stunning and I am extremely grateful that you said something to me that I was not able to at the time, in order to make me confident, beautiful and badass.
Since this shoot I realized how I can use these to promote something positive and inspirational in the world of social media. You know better than anyone that it has always been my dream to be in the entertainment industry. Frankly, we’ve spoken about it dozens if not, thousands of times. These pictures really inspired me to go forth and do it. Because of these, I have had the opportunity to inspire others, do other shoots conveying our joint message of beauty despite adversity and promoting diversity and inspiring viewership on disabilities and debilitating illness. My social media has strengthened more than I ever thought it could or would, even though I know that’s not the most important thing. My confidence has risen bigger than I expected it to and I realized that I am stronger and more resilient than I thought I could be. People have spoken to me and told me that my presence, both through the media and in real life, has inspired them to not judge so quickly and look at disabilities differently. Honestly, none of this would be able to happen without you and I hope you are aware that I am so happy and grateful that you are in my life and that all these opportunities to inspire people came from a vision you had and allowed me to expand your craft and to showcase how beautiful your heart really is.
Finally, I hope you know your purpose and your craft. I truly believe it’s going to take you far and it already has. I am so happy that I could be part of this with you and I know that one day when I make it, It’ll be because you took a chance on a young woman with a walker and a dream to inspire and break barriers. I love you forever
I met Jen through Instagram. I saw her talent for clothes and style. I reached out to her and shared my story. I was born with Spina Bifida and later was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy. My muscles have deteriorated so much so, that it’s become almost impossible to dress myself anymore. Sometimes I end up wearing the same clothes for a week because I just don’t have the strength to change.
I was in terrible wheelchair accident and have had 72 surgeries since. One that required me to stay in bed for a full year to heal. If I thought I knew pain before, it was nothing compared to now. The after effect of being in a body cast for that long has taken a toll on my health. II even had trouble breathing. Recently I was diagnosed with Hypercapnia and my lungs have begun to collapse. I was recently told my condition has become have terminal.
Jen knew I had modeled in the past. She knew my style and my hopes to model at least one more time again before I can’t anymore. She knew how I felt about my diagnosis, my looks, my fears, my hopes. I didn’t really have to tell her much. She is so Intune, she just knew.
She also knew I was too sick to come to California and when she told me that she was coming to see me, I felt my heartbeat so hard for the first time since my diagnosis. I started to feel a little more hope, a little more alive and she gave me something to look forward to.
When I met her and her team, my heart was full, and tears ran down my face from the joy I felt. Everyone on her team were professional, kind, fun. The moment I rolled my wheelchair through the door It felt magical, like I was in a dream. Suddenly I was back to my modeling days. My body was feeling the same strength as my spirit. For a few hours I could turn back time and not feel sick.
Each outfit Jen picked for me had a special meaning to me. There is one where I’m wearing this beautiful scarf as if I am going to sail away and everything is alright. Another where she put butterflies in my hair. It felt symbolic for my body felt like a was trapped in a cocoon and with the help of her team, I felt free like butterfly! I was wearing makeup which I hadn’t done since my terminal diagnosis. I felt beautiful, classy, sassy and bold. I had no fear and had longed to feel way one more time.
The icing on the cake was her dressing my service dog, Ella who developed a crush on Jen’s sweet husband Tony.
This treasured gift doesn’t just remain in my mind or my heart. It has changed me! It has given me strength to move forward and accept what life throws at me. I can look at these pictures and feel my power and the fullness of my heart. I can treasure the memory of the laughter and love that I experienced that day. I truly felt like a Phoenix rising from the ashes.! My cup runneth over…
One of hardest parts of being assigned this role is knowing that some of my phoenix’s will lose their battle. I don’t get to choose, God chooses for me. This beautiful woman reached out me knowing that she was at the tail end of her life. She wanted to do a mother-daughter photoshoot with her teenage daughter before her passing. On hospice and with limited energy, she brought every ounce of here love and light into each photo.t was a beautiful and an emotional day. There were tears and laughter but mostly there was love. The kind of love that only a mother knows, one that gives you the strength to do the impossible for your child. I feel blessed to have been able to do this for her and her family. She was the epidemy of grace. Rest in peace.