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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

If The Solution To Your Biggest Problem Were Behind This Door, Would You Open It?

I’ll bet you probably said “yes.” Or, “of course, I would.” When in fact, it may be the furthest thing from the truth.

Think for a moment about what is standing in the way of you elevating your personal brand, increasing your visibility and playing a much bigger game, right now? Why haven’t you done anything about it—even though you know exactly what needs to be done?

Why haven’t you “opened” the door?

What is the reason that you feel the need to watch another video, take another course, read another book, connect with another industry expert…only to gather all of that information, and do nothing?

Elevating your game is a scary proposition for a lot of people. You feel vulnerable. What I want to do is challenge you to walk toward that scary door. The reality is, there IS a great big door standing in front of you and it is called Personal Elevation. All of your growth, successes, and triumphs are on the other side of it. Until you get the courage to walk up to it, put your hand on the handle and twist it open, you will never be able to escape the curiosity of not knowing “what if?”

Go ahead…walk through it.  

Jennifer Ransaw Smith is the Founder of The Personal Elevation Lab, a division of Brand id | Strategic Partners, a full-service Personal Branding + Elevation Agency. The Personal Elevation Lab™ focuses exclusively on elevating the visibility, credibility, influence and impact of women executives and entrepreneurs: If you are ready to Boost Your Status, sign up for our 30-Day Game Changing Program Here.

If You Aren’t Excited About Your Brand, How Could I Possibly Be?

A few days ago, I had the privilege of judging a contest in Baltimore City. The competition provided an opportunity for one winner to become the CEO for a day with a top company in the city. The competitors were all aspiring women entrepreneurs, most of whom were in other careers but aspiring to build a company and leave their current 9 to 5 position

The experience was extremely fun and yet, very eye opening. I walked away with two new philosophies I want to share.

1.     Treat every opportunity as if it is “the” opportunity: Too often, we bypass great opportunities because we are waiting for something better. Or, because we don’t feel ready. Guess what? You will never be 100% ready…and if you feel you are, that only means you waited too late. You need to train yourself to pull the trigger before you think it is time.

Example: Several women from the program decided at the last minute not to present because they didn’t feel ready. However, by not doing so, they passed up an incredible opportunity to get expert feedback that could have been game-changing to their organization. Furthermore, they missed out on an opportunity to win money because one of the judges brought his checkbook and was prepared to invest in his next opportunity that very day.

Moral: Get off the sideline and into the game…now!

2.  Act like you like what you do, or don’t do it: If you aren’t excited about what it is you do, how do you suppose others are going to be able to muster that excitement? When it comes to your product or service, your energy should be palpable. I should look to whomever I am with and say, “I’ll have what she’s having.”

Example: One of the participants was extremely knowledgeable about her service. She knew every detail and as much as I wanted to give her a high score, I couldn’t because she had absolutely no enthusiasm during her delivery. At All. She didn’t smile once. It was so bad that we were all stunned into asking, do you even like your own product?

Moral: You must make people want to jump on your bandwagon and the easiest way to do that is to act as if you are happy to be on the bandwagon yourself.

The bottom line is if you expect others to believe in your brand or product then you must be prepared to be your own brand cheerleader first.

Internal Branding: How To Program Your Mind For Success

When you look in the mirror, what do you SEE?

Be honest. An industry game changer? A successful entrepreneur? A smart or savvy woman? Or someone others are lucky to have on their team?

When you walk in a networking event or a conference room for a meeting, how do you FEEL? Do you feel confident and assured in your ability? Do you recognize what you bring to the table and feel others would be lucky to have you?

When you talk to yourself, what do you SAY? Are you smart, creative and always come up with the best solutions? Boy are you lucky, the world is always conspiring in your favor!

What about when you fail at a project, miss a deadline or come up short, do you feel that that particular circumstance sums up all of you, or are you able to isolate it and see it for what it really is…a project.

The way you speak to yourself is pretty much how the world will talk to you as well. So you want to make sure that if anybody has your back and is going to be affirming and supportive of you—it is you.

When I launched Brand id | Strategic Partners 8 years ago, I had no idea how much of an integral role that “internal branding™,” would play in our agency. In fact, at the launch of our agency, I hadn’t even come up with the concept of internal branding™ yet.

But over the years, I can’t stress the amount of times someone hired me for traditional personal branding and it was quickly determined that until they actually elevated how they viewed themselves, the world would never accept their Personal Brand. 

Here’s what I have come to recognize, “the world can’t see you any higher than you see yourself.” If you are struggling to truly recognize your value, your worth, what you bring to the table and what makes you so great, you had better believe that others are going to struggle with it as well. Here are a few ideas to help you break free of a disempowering internal dialogue. 

1.      Identify your Internal Dialogue: Get really clear about how you talk to yourself when others aren’t looking. Spend 36 hours finding out. Record the thoughts that float through your mind on your Smart Phone, jot your findings on a notebook that you carry around. Pay attention. Don’t judge, just pay attention. You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge.

2.     Personal Assessment: Next, ask yourself what you want to be known for? Are you known for that now? How do you want others to see you? Where are the gaps between how you would like to be known or seen and how you are currently seen? What can you do right now to begin closing it? 

3.     WOW File: What do you do to remember how great you are? It’s time to start an on-going file to remind you of all of the great things you have accomplished. Put everything from the latest congratulatory email to articles and awards. Visit it often. Let it serve as a foundational tool for your Internal Dialogue.

The amount of time you spend on elevating your mindset and making sure you see yourself at the highest level, simply can’t be overstated. It needs to be a priority. From this day forward, do what is necessary to be able to look in the mirror and see a WINNER.