If there is one thing that is truly awesome about being a creative professional, it’s having so many creative friends. Surrounding yourself by people who inspire you, push you, and encourage you can lead to amazing experiences. I know that this past couple of years has been a whirlwind for me, but it’s been a lot easier with gal pals who stand strong beside me reminding me that “I can,” too.

Natalie Contrera is one of these people. She’s one of my true friends, a business bestie, a friendor, part of my squad, and certainly someone who consistently fuels my artistic side. We’ve worked together on projects with brides, hosted boudoir marathons, she’s styled models for each of our AKP Retreat workshops, and she’s been on the other side of the camera multiple times. It’s probably obvious to state that I love working with her, but I adore her! We have such a great time together and our working relationship has made it easy to appreciate how lucky we are to do what we love.

Why are we here? Well, Natalie turned 27 last week and with her recent move to Philadelphia, we’ve been missing her. I spent the week planting hints that I might be around for an engagement session, going so far as to “hire” Natalie for the bride’s hair and make up before the session, ensuring she would be available. Alicia Wiley and I took the afternoon off and planned a surprise arrival to kidnap Natalie. Alicia and I share a birthday and had taken some celebratory photos last December with balloons representing our new ages. We wanted to take Natalie out and do the same for her!

We arrived a little late, but with Beyonce tunes pumping on our phone, we tapped on the door ready to greet our girl. We had a gold “2” and “7” balloon, champagne, a homemade funfetti naked cake, gifts galore, and a go pro in hand to capture her reaction. We celebrated her birthday by making her her very own highlight reel and taking her to dinner afterward at Stateside in Philly. It was super fun, dinner was delicious, and there were quite a few happy tears.. you know, after she re-opened the door and invited us in. ;)

Love you, Nat! Hope it was the best birthday yet!



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