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Corporate Women

The Elevated Image: Three Reasons Why Working with a Professional Stylist Should Become a Non-Negotiable for Your Next Photo Shoot

The moment I saw her (let’s call her Patricia), I knew she was a woman who meant business. Everything about her exuded “woman of power.” Her style was effortless. Her make-up, flawless. Her steely eyed stare in the camera dared you to cross or challenge her. She embodied next level. 

The ironic thing is, I had known Patricia for years and had never particularly associated her with “power or success.” In fact, truth be told, I was utterly shocked when I saw her brand images because it seemed like someone else altogether. 

So, what happened? What lead to this radical transformation? 

Patricia discovered that if she were going to get the opportunities she had her eye on, she must take control of her personal brand and part of that process included getting really clear about how she was currently showing up compared to how she wanted to show up. She realized that she couldn’t close that gap by herself. She needed to hire professionals. One of those professionals was a stylist. 

Savvy professional women recognize that it is their responsibility to intentionally curate their image, and never leave it to chance. 

 For the past nine years, I have run a full-service Personal Branding + Elevation™ Agency (Brand id | Strategic Partners, LLC) that specializes in elevating the visibility, credibility, influence and impact of professional women, executives and entrepreneurs. I’ve dedicated my life to helping women “understand” and “own,” how they are showing up. Then, do what is necessary to elevate their positioning. Website:

Professional photography is a critical component to building your personal brand. Whether you are looking for the right executive headshot to accompany the article you are writing for your company’s monthly newsletter, an image of you speaking for your digital press kit or a fierce image to place at the rear of your debut book. But, don’t you dare hop in front of a camera without having an Undefinably Fierce Stylist by your side. Here’s why:  

1.    Skilled at the Effortless Look: Oprah has one. Michelle has one. Beyonce has one. In fact, you would be hard pressed to find too many Boss women who don’t. Having someone on your team help you strategically and intentionally put your best foot forward can be an absolute game changer for your success. Imagine knowing every time you walked into a meeting, new business pitch or on a conference stage, you dropped the mic before you ever opened your mouth. 

 2.    The Tell You the Truth: Face it, most people tend to gravitate toward the same type of look. They operate pretty-well at their current level, but don’t know how to “exude” next level. But a stylist can tell you help you identify your best color, look or signature style. They can help you see the patterns you need to break and the outfits you need to avoid. And unlike, a friend or significant other telling you, it is somehow much easier to hear.  

3.    Stylists Recognize the Significance of the Details: A skilled stylist knows exactly what it will take to convey the look you are trying to achieve. Their job is to make you look as if it was “effortless.” Even though we know that nothing could be further from the truth. Whether it is a turn of a collar. The placement of a ring. Or, simply smoothing out blouse after you move, they will make sure that the “t’s are crossed and the i’s are dotted,” and you aren’t derailed from ignoring the little details. 

Note: The above personal branding photoshoot, of my client Dr. Monique Rainford, was photographed by the personal branding powerhouse photographer, Mary Gardella ( and styled beautifully by the insanely talented Sheryl Scruggs. Dr. Rainford is a Harvard educated OBGYN who is empowering women on the importance of self-care in all aspects if their life, including their relationships:


Jennifer Ransaw Smith, a Personal Elevation Strategist™, is the owner of Brand id| Strategic Partners. She equips women professionals, executives and entrepreneurs with the tools they need to elevate their visibility, credibility, influence and impact. Clients hire her when they are ready to “make a name for themselves,” in their organization and industry. She can be reached at or

The Grooming Process: Three Strategies to Ensure that You Are Properly Preparing the Next Generation of Fierce Women

You will always remember those women in your past who helped you. I do. There have been quite a few who either directly or indirectly are responsible for the woman I am today. The first one was Rhonda Baraka (back in the early 90’s).  Rhonda and her husband, Tony were the owners of Atlanta’s hottest entertainment magazine, Tafrija. They hired me for my first official internship and put in the time and effort to grooming me. They also provided me with amazing opportunities. That one internship is singularly responsible for my career direction because one year, Rhonda hired an advertising executive from Madison Ave. who pulled me aside one day to inform me that I would make an amazing copywriter, a term I was unfamiliar with at the time (even thought I was a journalism major).

Rhonda made me want to be better.

A few years later, I landed my first official job at an advertising agency in Bethesda, Maryland. The firm relocated me from my home in Los Angeles. One day, while sitting at my desk and one of the Creative Directors, Christina called me and asked me to come to her office.  She said I notice that you apologize a lot. Stop it. Why are you apologizing for not being able to take my call if I called you? Referring to my standard messages, “I’m sorry I can’t answer the phone right now…” Christina would go on to drop nuggets that have been immeasurable in my development and growth.

A few years later, I ended up working with a woman named Lavonia Perryman. She was no joke. I had just pivoted from traditional advertising into PR and needed to get some real experience. Well, she gave it to me. She put me immediately to work on a project with Maya Angelou and the King family.  One day, during the time of faxes, I was having a hard time getting my faxes to get through because, “the line was always busy.” Frustrated and thinking that there was really no solution, LaVonia said, “it looks like you will be spending the night here. I bet they aren’t busy at 3am.” She taught me the importance of whatever it takes.

This year, just like last year, I have an amazing young, eager intern from Hampton University. She is smart, savvy and in need of guidance. What I’ve recognized throughout my career is most of the things that will catapult your career are intangible. So, I’ve made it my mission to “groom her properly” during our time together.

I believe that if Khyana Thompson returns to school this fall and is not performing, thinking and committed at the next level, then I haven’t done my job. So whether I am working with her on how to present or why it is critical to “keep her finger on the pulse of what is going on,” I’m thinking about is this making her better.

It is our job to groom the next generation of Undeniably Fierce women whether through a formal program like an internship or an informal situation, like your daughter. If we don’t do it, who will?

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_________________________________________________________________________ Jennifer Ransaw Smith, a Personal Elevation Strategist™, is the owner of Brand id| Strategic Partners. She equips women professionals, executives and entrepreneurs with the tools they need to elevate their visibility, credibility, influence and impact. Clients hire her when they are ready to “make a name for themselves,” in their organization and industry. She can be reached at or

Aren’t You Tired Of Being A Spectator? Maybe It’s Time To Jump In The Game

I remember when I used to be a “professional bystander.” You know, the person who is too afraid to jump in, blaming it on their desire for perfection, poor timing, or lack of experience. The one who looks for any excuse not to engage fully so as not to make a fool of themselves or have to ever hear, “I told you so.”

What I didn’t know at the time was my desire to have everything figured out before I pressed go was actually a tremendous hindrance to my success. I didn’t realize that growth almost never happens when everything works as planned. In fact, it isn’t until things begin to fall apart or break down, do you really start getting good at what you do. I know, it doesn’t sound too logical, but it is true.

The irony is, if we move forward and do that one thing that scares us most about getting our hands dirty, chances are, even if it doesn’t turn out 100%, it will be ok. You will truly be better off for it.

This week alone, at least two major projects didn’t go as planned for my team and me. In fact, one was quite painful. However, within seconds, I was able to identify why it would never happen again and what processes we will need to put in place.  I walked away knowing that because of that experience, I would run an even tighter ship.

Technology has truly put the world at our finger tips. Everyone has a story. A brand. However, most of them strategically only put out the “good, polished stuff.” You don’t get to see the flubs. Or disasters. So you don’t believe that they are there. But they are. As a result, you sit back waiting to get all of your ducks in a row, instead of getting in the game.

The only perfect time is now. Do it now. Stop waiting for perfection.   So my challenge to you is to think about the one thing that you know has been holding you back from stepping into your highest self. Take the first step—now. It’s time to abandon the nose bleed seats and get on the floor with all of the action.  

Recast Yourself: Stop Playing the Victim

It is absolutely impossible to elevate yourself personally and take your personal and professional life to the next level without taking 100% responsibility for every aspect of your life.

100%.  Yeah, I know. That is an incredibly tough pill to swallow. I speak from experience.

In my past, if an organization could have given an award for “best actress for playing the victim,” there is a time in my life when I could have easily won the Gold. Why? Because I went through life making excuses about what I couldn’t do, or go, or have because….

 “So and so didn’t do his/her part.”

“My husband.”

“My children.”

“Lack of funds.”

“No time.”

“I’m a mom.”

You get the picture. When I spotted a roadblock, my immediate defense mechanism wasn’t to ask what I did to cause that particular problem, instead, it was to spot other reasons I was experiencing it. I’m going to be quite honest. Even though it did feel good in the short term to shirk the blame, the results in the long-term were extremely detrimental. Why? Because you set yourself up to be a victim.

Victims never win—because they are always at the mercy of other people.

I can remember when I thought it would be impossible to be an international public speaker with three children at every age bracket (6, 13, 16) until I met someone who was doing it, and was equally engaged with even more children.

My natural default was I will wait until…

The thing about being a victim is often you are the last person to realize that you are suffering from it. However, chances are, those around you (if they are on an upward trajectory) can spot it a mile a minute.

You can never ascend to the level of your dreams and actualize your fullest potential until you take 100% responsibility for where you are and the decisions you made to get you there.

Recast yourself today by choosing a new role. Make the decision today who you want to be. If you had to pick one word to describe this new role what would it be?




Go buy a journal and write everything that you can about the person who would be cast in this new role. What is she like? How does she dress? Talk? How does she handle conflict? How does she spend her free time?

Now, vow to yourself that you will start living into this role until you truly embody it. Quite simply, that is how you move from victim to victor.  

The Most Important Brand Is Your Own—And Therefore Should Be One Of Your Biggest Investments

In exactly 30 days, we’ll hit the half-way mark for the year. Can you believe it? Seems like just yesterday, we were doing the countdown. For some, 2016 so far has been about hitting significant milestones, accomplishing long-term goals and demonstrating what it means to live into your fullest potential.

For others, not so much.  

Ironically, there is a very thin line that separates the two groups. One group has been extremely intentional about how they approach their success, and one group has not. The successful group has recognized and embraced a concept that has literally changed the game for them.

Your level of success will always be in direct proportion to how much you are willing to invest in yourself. Think about that. During the past five months, how much time, energy and money have you devoted to making other brands successful?:

Starbucks, Apple, Amazon, Harris Teeter, Chipotle, Victoria’s Secret, Macy’s, Toyota, etc.

You get my drift. Seriously, as you go about your work week grabbing a latte here, having lunch there, seeing the latest movies on the weekends, think about how much of those “discretionary funds” have you allotted to your Personal Elevation™.

If you are like most American’s, probably very little. Don’t believe me? I want you to pull out a piece of paper and write down the following words: Entertainment








Now, I want you to estimate how much money you have spent thus far (since January first) in each category. Don’t worry, it can be a rough guess. But be honest because I want you to really understand this concept. After you have your numbers, I want you to pull out a highlighter and cross out everything that is essential to your survival: food, shelter, utilities, etc.

Next, I want you to circle everything that is OPTIONAL. Tally up how much you have spent on OPTIONAL items. Then answer the following question:

With the money I have spent on OPTIONAL expenses this year, how much more successful would I be if I had taken a fraction of that and invested in:

A Business Coach

A Brand Strategist

An Industry Conference

An Online or Certification Course

The top 10 books that were published in my industry last year

Industry periodicals

A resume writer

A publicist

You get the picture. Stop investing all of your time, resources and money on everyone else’s brand. I want you to look back over the past 12 months and ask yourself the following, what do I need to do right now, to make sure that I am not in the same spot 12 months from now?

NY Times Bestselling Author Sally Hogshead said, “You are your own best 401.” “You are the most profitable investment you can make in your future. Relatively small sacrifices now can pay massive dividends in the future.”

Invest in yourself. Stop making excuses and start making BOSS MOVES.