Ten years ago our charity group 46PLUS Down-Syndrom Stuttgart e. V. had the wonderful opportunity of a photo shoot at the Stuttgart Ballet for our wall calendar with celebrities and kids with a little extra. We couldn't have been more blessed with the two models: the outstanding and internationally renowned ballet dancer Jason Reilly and our adorable eleven-year-old Sophie who had been taking ballet lessons ever since the early age of 4. Sophie and Jason immediately hit it off. There lies some magic on the 47th chromosome that breaks the ice instantly with the people they encounter and like. The two of them had so much fun, and Sophie enchanted the whole team on set with her enthusiasm, joyfulness and radiating warmth. She insisted that the music of Sleeping Beauty is played loud and then she danced with her prince through the room as if there was no tomorrow. Sophie's mom Sylvia had tears in her eyes and was overjoyed. Overjoyed that nobody in the room saw Sophie as a child with down syndrome, but as a beautiful girl who loves to dance ballet and to have fun.

 

After our shoot we took two polaroids (one of our established traditions) and had Jason sign them for Sophie. We were all smitten by this handsome, incredibly nice and super talented young man who truly has a heart of gold. Sophie liked him so much that she spontaneously invited him to have BBQ with her and her family (which is another beautiful tradition at Sylvia's and Sophie's - I have so many fond memories of tons of yummy „Hot Dogs" over the last decade in their beloved backyard), and Jason didn't wait a second to accept the invitation and said it would be his great pleasure to come. The rest of us was speechless and quite impressed, because heck yes who in the world wouldn't want to have BBQ with this wonderful guy, the Soloist of the Stuttgart Ballet!? But who in the world would dare to ask him out for that? ;-)

 

As always, life got busy, winter came .... but Sophie had never forgotten about her invitation. Fast forward ten years in July 2016, as luck would have it, Sophie's parents met Jason on another occasion and they reminisced about the wonderful shoot and then remembered the outstanding BBQ invitation. This time they didn't wait too long and immediately made plans for coffee and BBQ. What a great afternoon. Jason came with his gorgeous girlfriend Anna Osadcenko, and Sophie was completely over the moon and in heaven.

 

There is magic in the 47th chromosome. It's absolutely impossible to resist our kids with a little extra once they spread their charme. They enchant you. They win you over. It's pure love. Unconditional love. No strings attached. Something rare to find in our world. I get often asked what I love the most about photographing our kids with a little extra. Beyond a million other things (that would make another long blog post) it is that they break the ice with other people and put everyone immediately at ease. When we do our celebrity calendars, they manage to instantly break the ice and I get the most authentic and pure smile from the celebrity you wouldn't get under normal circumstances. Seriously I thought about a million times. If I would ever have to photograph a „difficult" person, I would take an assistant with down syndrome with me, and I would get the best and most genuine results. No kidding! ;-)

 

Wishing you guys a wonderful and happy summer, lots of BBQs, days in the pool or at the beach, yummy cocktails with colorful straws and lots of sunshine ... and I hope to see you back here refreshed and reenergized in September. School's out tomorrow so I might not get a chance to blog before we leave on vacation. See you soon! xoxoxo

 


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July 25, 2016 // Advice / Artist / My life

Last week I had coffee with one of my wonderful clients (now friend ;-) who is also self-employed ... and we talked about the challenges and rewards of being an entrepreneur and how a typical day of working from home looks like. When I told her that I get up quite early in the morning before the rest of the family awakens to enjoy some peace and quiet time, but first thing check on all my social media and texts ... she looked at me almost in disbelief and said „That's how you start your day?"

 

That morning I learned that the way you start your morning sets the tone for the rest of your day. When we wake up we are still in kind of a vulnerable state. So when we enter the loud and noisy world of social media and scroll through the soundless but loud chatter of Facebook absorbing the word and images of other people's lives or we look at the news with the latest tragic headlines or we read an e-mail that might upset us, we inevitably give ourself the message that the world outside of us and the lives of others is more important than our inner world. She said it's like if you'd have a young child that comes up to you and wants to snuggle with you and tell you something in the morning, and you keep pushing her aside so that you can read your smartphone.

 

And then she told me about her morning rituals and how this book has changed her life. Of course, I immediately had to get my hands on it ... I will read it on our vacation, then hopefully follow through on it and implement all the six habits into my life, and later tell you about it. ;-)

 

The quotes below are out of that book. More Valerie lovin' coming at the end of summer, so please stay tuned! Have a happy Monday (evening) and a great start into this week with people who give you good energy!


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It's been the third year that these sweet girls came all the way from Hamburg to celebrate their special friendship with a photo shoot with me ... and I couldn't be any happier. I can't find words to sum up their unique bond, it's one of the greatest gifts in life. They are girlfriends, best friends, soulmates and confidants. They always enlighten, inspire, and empower each other, and they go through thick and thin. They value each other, they equally give and take, they openly share their vulnerability and they have the most beautiful „band aids" to fix any problem. And when one of them celebrates her birthday, they go out of their way to the moon and back to make sure it will be their best day ever. These girls just have it all ... a beautiful friendship is something you can't buy. It's worth a million dollar, and yet it doesn't cost anything ... it comes straight from the heart.

 

Please enjoy a few images of these three sunshines .... Here's to all our girlfriends! xoxo


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"Girlfriends are therapists you can drink with" ;-)

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We tried to make a decent selfie ... but the balloons came popping back into the picture ...

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My effort to keep them down, so no, I'm not about to hit on Steffi's head, haha!

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July 18, 2016 // Artist / Food / Fun
It's my busiest time of year, but also my most favorite one: Lots of BBQing, summer drinks, hanging out outside with friends and family. What is your favorite summer drink? And more importantly: any cool recipes for the grill or how you marinate your steak? ;-)

Have a great start into this week with the people you love and who are going to lift you higher ... Happy Monday!


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Ten years ago we were all immediately smitten and head over heels in love with the lovely Wietske van Tongeren. I literally met her on stage of the musical „Elisabeth" while shooting her with our adorable six-year-old model Marina for our 46PLUS celebrity wall calendar 2007 in order to raise down syndrome awareness.

 

Wietske is one of these people who light up any room. She beams like a thousand-watt bulb. She's utterly beautiful inside and out. She has the brightest blue eyes and her smile is huge and uninhibited. When you talk to her she makes you feel you're the only person in the room and that you're extraordinary. Her heart is open to everyone she encounters. You leave her happier and better.

 

Also ten years ago, Wietske met the love of her life. Also on stage of Elisabeth. I am not exaggerating when I say that Martin is the male equivalent to her. They have so much chemistry together, they just make the perfect match. He's as handsome and charming as a James Bond (seriously, he'd be the perfect next James Bond!), has an adventurous soul and makes everyone feel at ease around him. He has also bright blue eyes for which others would kill for. These two are full of humor and their laughter is contagious.

 

At the beginning of this year these two gems were blessed with the cutest baby boy. Jonah is such a little heartbreaker - you just wanna eat him up! Please enjoy a few very many images of these rock stars, but be totally aware before you start scrolling down that this post might very well cause some serious baby fever. And for more Wietske goodness, go see her performing on stage of the musical „Rocky".

 

Wietske, Martin and Jonah, you are such a sweet little family. Thank you for a wonderful morning full of bliss and belly laughs! You definitely give this world good energy!



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