Langham Court Theatre


Black Bollywood: Photos by Darren Hull, Concept by Jenny McKinney

PHOTOGRAPHER: Darren Hull – Darren Hull Photography
MUA/CONCEPT/STYLIST: Jenny McKinney – Jenny McKinney Makeup Artistry
HAIR: Kris – Inspirado Mobile Hair Designs

I last worked with makeup artist Jenny McKinney when I did a Demi Moore inspired cover for my print magazine when I was 9 months pregnant with my first baby. That was…almost 10 years ago. She made my belly sparkle. We’d been in touch through Facebook over the years, and decided it was time for our once a decade shoot.

Jenny proposed a Bollywood feel, which I loved. I was also hesitant to jump into any cultural stereotype… Fashion is fun for this – taking elements of traditional cultural wear… but it can also be easy to offend as well. She suggested Darren Hull was the perfect photographer for the concept. I went with it. This was the first time I completely let go of the reins and just had to show up the day of the shoot. With Jenny, I was completely confident to do that.

When I showed up I was completely blown away. She had gone above and beyond anything I could’ve come up with.

“I’ve been thinking about what you’ve been going through the last few years,” she started… “there’s been a lot of loss for you.” Yes. I’d lost my mom a few years ago, and it triggered me to leave everything and everyone I knew, including an amazing husband and family. It triggered me to get into a very unhealthy relationship where I thought someone could wear the pants for once, and I ended up giving away my pants – that I had also left.

“So I took the Bollywood idea and combined it with loss, and came up with this black idea.”

I loved it – she’d combined elements of an Indian wedding – headpiece and a sari-like piece of fabric – with elements of Catholic mourning – black for one year – with a totally contemporary twist of sex and exhibitionism – stilettos and underwear – to come up with fusion of cultures, and a fresh feel.

“I want you to be able to get into character, to feel it,” she told me. It worked. I wasn’t just modeling: I had just walked into catharsis. As I threw off the piece of fabric, with just lingerie underneath, it felt like throwing off the last few years, getting down to basics, down to a raw state of strength and vulnerability at once.

And just to top it all off…she sewed a see through trenchcoat. Who does this?  Jenny McKinney does. Her talents are neverending and always changing.

She had also chosen an amazing hair stylist – Kris Rostecki of Inspirado Mobile Hair Designs created hair I never knew I had. She used four different hot irons to create a look to hold the headpiece, and didn’t stop until it was perfect. Another contemporary twist I loved – the hair down with the headpiece, instead of the traditional pulled back.

We headed out to what would be a nine hour, three location day, with a two kilometre hike up Knox Mountain in Kelowna, Jenny’s husband Mike in tow as our PA (and a great PA he was).

Darren Hull was everything Jenny promised – professional, quick, and a great director. His style is really organic – he knows what he wants but also steps back to pick out moments that come naturally and work them. His direction was precise – how to hold hands, turn head – but also experiential. “Pretend you’ve just left your lover at the back of the parking lot,” he said as I walked angrily and threw the fabric. How did he know how easy that would be for me to access?

Long shoot days are not easy, and Darren was such an amazing sport. Remember the two kilometre hike? Darren wagoned his gear up that hike.

I walked away letting go of a very heavy load I’d been carrying for some time. I got to reconnect with an old colleague/friend, meet a fantastic hair stylist, and fall in love with Darren Hull’s vision.

Leanne Allen


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