District Boss: Leah Beilhart of BEHOLD.HER
“You are more than just a face.” - Leah Beilhart
Leah Beilhart is a local photographer that combines photography with female empowerment. Ahead, you will dive into the origins and purpose of her most current passion project BEHOLD.HER, get a glimpse of the beautiful faces of her participants, and get the chance to know Leah on a personal level . . .
What is your business? Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m the founder of BEHOLD.HER, a happy hour for women that involves storytelling and portraiture. I curate an intimate space for a small group of women to discuss a topic that challenges us to look inward. It’s meant to be a non-judgemental platform where we can gather as strangers, share our opinions, and break down social barriers together. For me personally, I’ve struggled growing up making girlfriends and found myself constantly turning my back on women in fear of getting hurt. It wasn’t until I got older that I recognized how important it was to stop assuming that everyone was the same and to throw myself out there in the “friend dating” world.
I find that women tend to not like each other, but there’s always this underlying yearn to have friendship
What lead you to where you are today?
I’ve danced around in a few states and lived overseas because my father was in the military. I left for a bit of time to keep exploring and imagined myself to be a photojournalist, trucking through mud in a jungle, but I heard my conscious tell me that it wasn’t my purpose and I needed to refocus my energy elsewhere and see how else I could make an impact with my work.
I have never been a city person, nor would I really consider myself one after being here in D.C. for a year now. My partner, Dave, was the catalyst to the move. His opportunity gave me a door to open and I happily accepted the invitation, knowing that I had nothing to support me when I came to Washington. Being a freelancer in any shape or form is scary, but I pride myself on running around and meeting new people. Communication is a key factor to success. If you don’t listen to those around you or to yourself, you’re bound to fall into a hole eventually. I’d say that listening to my heart, my concerns, and my goals is what led me here today.
Tell us more of your story behind BEHOLD.HER. What inspired you to start this powerful project?
I’ve found myself multiple times looking at someone and rolling my eyes at them, as if their clothing or strut was an indication of their character. I found myself on the other end of the stick not being given a chance because my appearance somehow dictated my personality. I grew tired of my mindset and found myself moved by a small conversation I had with a friend back in Asheville, North Carolina. She told me to not be critical about my own appearance because she doesn’t want that to influence how she may think of herself later. It put things into perspective, that my insecurities, my self-doubts, were spurred by this never ending cycle to be tormented by my own thoughts exclaiming that I wasn’t good enough.
With that being said, BEHOLD.HER took on organically. What became a small gathering of women to photograph, morphed into an evening of encouragement, self love, and a small discussion on where we all came from. From there, after being outreached by a local business (Kicheko Goods) to conduct my series with her brand, I started to realize that I may have something unique to pursue. That’s when I moved forward with the current concept behind the series. This is quickly growing into a community of ladies who are seeking out an opportunity to speak their minds and make new friends authentically, not a dry, forced, networky way. What’s motivating is reaching out to different parts of D.C. and having everyone join together and not know each other. Relationships are being grown in its most rawest form. As humans, we have the tendency of sharing the most with strangers because we either 1) make the assumption you’ll never see them again and 2) you don’t fear losing their friendship because it was never there to begin with. So these women are going in with their whole heart without worries of losing something they never had. Instead they gain something they never expected would happen.
". . . my insecurities, my self-doubts, were spurred by this never ending cycle to be tormented by my own thoughts exclaiming that I wasn’t good enough."
What’s the most difficult part of being an entrepreneur? The best part?
Uncertainty is my best friend. Whether it’s waking up to empty emails for months or being so busy you don’t know if you took on too much...not knowing what lies ahead is always intimidating as an entrepreneur. I guess that’s the appeal as well, that’s what keeps you on your toes. I wouldn’t say 9-5 jobs can be boring, it could be a really exciting position, but for me I love waking up and being in control of what I’m creating and enjoy the successes that come along with it. It’s more rewarding that way. Routine bores me and makes me feel like I’m not moving forward with anything. Feeling stagnant really stresses me out and I have to tell myself to move with purpose. Purposeful can be not cutting myself down because I broke out on my face or folding my laundry when I really want to leave it in the corner of the room. My partner always tells me, “make note of the small wins,” and it’s guided me to think more positively when the hard days of being an entrepreneur gets the best of me. Feeling stagnant really stresses me out and I have to tell myself to move with purpose
How do you stay motivated and continue to grow, personally and professionally?
Just like my brand, community is important. I know I wouldn’t have gone as far as I am today without the support of friends and family. Whether that was financial help, a crying shoulder, or just giving me a hi-five, I am driven by the energy that surrounds me. Which is why it’s important to interact with people who are just as driven and ready to keep life moving in an upward motion. If you’re constantly surrounding yourself by negative personalities, expect that to not only influence your business, but your well-being. I’ve found myself in multiple situations in the past where I couldn’t understand why I felt so cruddy. It took me a while, but I finally realized it was the type of people I was allowing myself to be around. It’s still a learning process for me today, but now I’m more aware of what drives my emotions. My business and my personal life continues to improve as I connect with people where our support is reciprocated.
"If you’re constantly surrounding yourself by negative personalities, expect that to not only influence your business, but your well-being."
What’s one piece of advice you would give to other business owners?
Love and forgive yourself. You know what’s best for you. You know the signs of fatigue. You know when you’re being used. You may not know how to love yourself and you may not know how to forgive yourself, but walk into a community that will show you that you’re worth it. And if you have trouble knowing where those people are, make time to recenter and evaluate why you’re doing what you’re doing and congratulate yourself for getting where you are today.