It’s our NINTH BEAUTYfull post and I’m so excited to share this unique and spirited red-headed beauty with you all! Our latest subject is a personal friend of our photographer, and that relationship at our shoot really reinforced how feeling comfortable and at ease allows for natural inner beauty to radiate. (Probably why we feel most beautiful around those we love and those who love us back.)
BEHIND THE CONCEPT: What is BEAUTYfull™
Spread beauty. It’s our mission. And our goal in spreading beauty is that it reaches everyone. It is inclusive, not exclusive. We believe beauty comes in all ages, races, genders, features, abilities, sizes, shapes, body types… in all the unique elements that form each of our unique whole. There is a FULL spectrum of BEAUTY and we all exist in it. With our own personal experiences, stories and voices. And with that, originated the concept of BEAUTYfull™.
For the ninth post in the series, we serve up the red-headed beauty and vintage style embodied by Miss Niki Dankner.
THE NINTH SUBJECT: NIKI DANKNER
Niki Dankner is a native New Yorker who was raised on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. She says city-life is in her blood, and growing up a city girl had its unique perks. Niki shares, “I wasn’t brought up with a backyard but had Central Park as my playground; I never learned how to ride a bike but know the subway system like the back of my hand. It’s hard to imagine living anywhere else.”
Niki loves flea markets and vintage stores and “digging for treasures to display in my apartment or to fill my closet.” A hobby that was born of another childhood city perk. “My mom used to bring me to the Chelsea flea market when I was a little girl every Sunday morning and I think searching for one-of-a-kind pieces has helped me appreciate finding beauty in what is unique – including myself.“
Niki currently works as a Photo Producer at One Kings Lane, a position she previously held at DailyCandy. In her role, she schedules photoshoots around the country at homes of influential designers and personalities. “I love meeting the people who invite us into their homes, viewing a slice of life very different than my own, and capturing the essence of their personalities.”
When asked why she wanted to participate in the BEAUTYfull series, Niki explains, “I studied photography in school and usually stand behind the camera, not in front of it. So when the opportunity arose to be part of a project that would push me out of my comfort zone, I took it! I love the concept of BEAUTYfull and highlighting different types of beauty, especially being someone who doesn’t always feel beautiful in the traditional sense of the word.”
THE INTERVIEW: Niki on how social media affects self-esteem, how fashion can make you feel beautiful and why she loves her curly red hair.
Where do you think you (or all women) get their cues about how they “should” look?
I get my cues mainly from my peers. I don’t typically look at magazines and wish I looked like the models — although, who wouldn’t want to look like Gisele? — but I am always in awe of my friends who have such confidence and poise and wish I could be more like them. Growing up with curly red hair, I was always jealous of the girls with straight black hair – it seemed like the boys gravitated more towards them. It took a lot of soul searching to embrace my curls and different look.
How do you think social media plays in with both impossible — and in many instances, retouched to perfection — beauty standards on the one side and the democratization and diversification of beauty standards on the other? How does social media affect your views on beauty?
Social media has completely changed our standard of beauty to a fault. I can’t imagine how many photos it takes to get the “perfect” Instagram shot, and yet we as consumers digest it as real life and wish we were just like the bloggers we constantly scroll through. You are forced to compare yourself with the selfies that are actually FaceTuned, bodies that are Photoshopped, and posed smiles with greasy food that was probably never even eaten. Most mornings I wake up and say I’m not going on social media that day – it’s hard! – but I am determined to stop some of the comparisons I hear myself making in my head so frequently.
When you were younger, was it important to see women in Hollywood or advertising or in music or the modeling world who had red hair or curly hair or freckles? Is it important to you now?
Looking back on my childhood, I’ve noticed that my favorite characters and shows revolved around redheads: The Little Mermaid was my favorite movie, Dorothy my favorite Halloween costume, Ginger Spice my chosen pop star. I think it was important for me to relate to the women I saw in Hollywood and in the spotlight. To this day, I still notice a smile on my face when I see a redhead with her freckles showing in a beauty ad.
You created a book in which you photographed and interviewed all redheads. Was it important for you to share their beauty and voices?
Growing up, I hated my red hair. I was the only redhead in my family and thought being different was a bad thing. But as I’ve gotten older, I have definitely embraced it as something that makes me feel beautiful and part of a special “club”. I always wondered how other redheads felt and took the opportunity to interview my subjects while I had them posing for the camera. I voiced questions I had frequently been asked: “Are you attracted to other redheads?” “Are you offended by the name Ginger?” And loved the variety of responses that proved we are not simply a stereotype. I thought of my project as a type of documentation of my species; especially since they say we are declining in numbers.
What do you love about yourself physically? Why?
I love my eyelashes – is that weird? I frequently get compliments on how long they are, even once asked if I was wearing fake eyelashes at a Monday morning meeting. I usually only wear mascara for makeup – somehow just the little bit makes me instantly feel dolled up.
When do you feel beautiful? What makes you feel beautiful?
I feel most beautiful when I am true to my eclectic style, whether that is wearing a big vintage necklace or chunky earrings. I have a large collection of vintage jewelry that I have acquired over the years and they are my favorite pieces to layer and to make an outfit complete. Also, a good hair day- there’s nothing better than having your curls dry just perfectly.
What is your beauty regimen? Has it changed over your life?
Growing up, I never cared or thought twice about my skin. I hated wearing sunscreen and thought getting a bad sunburn was just part of a normal beach day. Now that I am older, I definitely put more time and effort into taking care of my skin – especially as a fair-skinned redhead! My favorite products are all from Aveeno, from SPF to face wash to body cream; probably because Jennifer Aniston told me so.
Any beauty advice you’ve been given that you particularly appreciated?
My mom has taught me that if you feel beautiful on the inside then you will automatically look beautiful on the outside. My mom is an incredible breast cancer survivor who looks better today than ever before! So, to emulate her advice in treating your body right to make you feel strong and beautiful is exactly what I plan to do. I always feel best after I walk out of a yoga class – sweaty and frizzy – feeling like I treated by body and mind to a gift.
What is beautiful to you?
My grandma always said to me, “If you got it, flaunt it!” I’ve been trying to embody her confidence and work what my mama and grandmama gave me. Loving your body, flaws included, is beautiful to me. I work on it everyday.
Please note this post is not sponsored. All thoughts are unbiased and my own and the subject’s own. For this post I used the products featured below. Products were provided for editorial consideration and/or my use as a professional makeup artist. All photos are property of DIVAlicious and Stephania Stanley Photography.
Lauren Cosenza is the creator and editor-in-chief of DIVAlicious, a trusted beauty/fashion expert, an on-camera personality and spokesperson, a leading NYC-based professional makeup artist, a published contributor and writer, a brand consultant, a product junkie and an insatiable style seeker — with a former life at Cosmopolitan and Shape magazines.
Serving up style with a side of attitude, her site DIVAlicious gives women (and men) the confidence and permission to be fabulous. The site, with a goal to SPREAD BEAUTY, is filled with must-have products, pro tips and tricks, how-to DIY tutorials, makeovers, style inspiration and insider access. Topics range from beauty, fashion, culture, career, fitness, wellbeing, men’s and unisex offerings.
Stephanie Stanley (or Stephania, as her Greek family calls her) is a New York City-based advertising and editorial photographer who specializes in fashion, beauty, and lifestyle. Her work can be found on ELLE, Harper’s BAZAAR, Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Marie Claire, TODAY, DailyCandy, and TeenVogue. Her client list includes Levi’s, JCPenney, Clean & Clear, Microsoft, Olay, Banana Republic, Old Navy, Garnier, TRESemmé, Estée Lauder, Nexxus, GAP, Secret, and more.
Stephanie holds an MFA in Photography from Parsons and lives in Brooklyn with her husband and puppy, Ophelia, where she can be found running along Brooklyn Bridge Park and enjoying chocolate croissants from the local Italian bakery (typically in that exact order).