Model: Rasheera Dopson
Craniofacial condition

This past summer, I went through my 104th surgery! Throughout the entire process – from when I was rolled into the operating room to my recovery at my parents’ house – I felt weak. This was a new sensation for me because I had always been accustomed to putting on a strong appearance.

When you’ve had a childhood like mine – having multiple procedures, hospitalizations, and medical treatments – you hear the words, “You’re so strong,” more times than you’d like. In hearing these words for so long, you start to believe that maybe you are invincible, and you will never break. But this isn’t exactly the truth. As humans, we can be both strong and weak. I realized, this time around, that as much as I wanted to be strong, it was more expedient for my personal healing journey to lean into my weakness.

I’ve often alluded to many of my medical experiences with the image of a flower. Flowers, for the most part, are abstract, being full of life and color, and just like humans, they go through seasons of being planted, growing, and even blooming. I learned, in this human experience, that as women, our lives are not linear, and we can embody two things at once.

I decided to name this portrait, Steel Magnolia, because I’m giving space for the gentle flower behind the steel to be seen. Yes, I am strong like steel, but I’m also tender like a flower. His strength is made perfect in my weakness. – 2 Corinthians 12:2


Photographer: Brianna Lopez