One of my favorite joys in life is reading features of inspiring women pursuing their dreams and happiness. I find that stories that resonate more deeply with me are stories about everyday women, seeking happiness and joy, as well as a beautiful lifestyle. So after reading tons and tons of amazing features on sites like The Every Girl, The Feisty House and Trendsetters @ Work, I got inspired to create an interview series of everyday women who focus on the little joys in life while joggling their dreams and life’s pursuits. I believe in the power of sharing our joys with others. So through these interview features, I hope these stories inspire you just a little more, to live your life joyously and deliciously.
Starting off the series is my interview with the uber talented and fabulous wedding photographer and branding expert, Petronella Lugemwa. Founder of By Petronella Photography, Petronella and I first met when we both worked at Avon, and we literally got on like white on rice. We bonded over a love for culture, beauty and style, and have been good friends ever since. She has been a huge inspiration in my life….from turning her passion into a career to being humble while pursuing her dreams, Petronella is a true role model to all of us. I hope you get inspired by this interview as much as I did. Enjoy!
1. How did you get started in your line of work & what do you enjoy most about it?
I have a chemical engineering degree from the University of Virginia and an MBA from Northwestern Kellogg School of Management, so the question everyone always asks me is: how did you transition to photography?? I’m fairly quiet and reserved in person, so photography has always been my way of communicating my thoughts. In 2011, a friend asked me to photograph her wedding, and I re-discovered what I’d always loved doing as a little girl. I photographed her wedding and fell madly in love with all things wedding related: the couple’s story / details / traditions/ family dynamics. Basically, I reconnected with my love of telling stories. Today I own Petronella Photography, a New York area based wedding and portrait photography company that specializes in celebrating a couple’s multicultural story, heritage and traditions.
2. Describe your typical day?
Every day is different, but at the very least I always eat breakfast with a hot cup of tea, then I write down the 3-5 things I want to accomplish that day. Lately I’ve developed a bad habit of checking Instagram first thing in the morning, but I’m working on changing that.
3. How do you incorporate culture into your everyday life?
My life is infused with so much culture; I live in a very multicultural neighborhood so I’m constantly exposed to different music, food and it heavily influences what I listen to, I pick up different languages easily and what I eat. I always joke that my future husband better be ready to eat all kinds of multicultural foods because one day we’ll be having some variation of Thai, the next day Ecuadorian day or Indian.
4. How would you define your fashion style?
5. Where do you shop for clothes?
I love a good bargain; so every so often, you can find me browsing sales online and in person at BCBG MaxAzaria, J.Crew, Marshalls or Kate Spade. I design all my African print attire by specifically selecting the fabric when I’m in my birth country of Uganda and then I have a seamstress make it.
6. What are your fashion must haves?
Lots of very feminine skirts and dresses. I also try to always wear a statement piece with a pop of fire engine red since it’s one of my favorite colors. Tieks – I’m on my feet a lot when I’m shooting, so I need comfortable stylish flats and Tieks over deliver!
7. What are your beauty must haves?
I have really oily skin, so Phillips Milk of Magnesia (which you introduced me to) as a base before I apply makeup is a beauty fav. I also rarely leave home without putting on CoverGirl Lash Blast mascara. The eyes are the gateway to the soul and I believe you should adorn them with mascara.
8. What items are in your bag right now?
- C.O. Bigelow mentha lip shine
- iPhone in a red Otterbox case
- A red Jambox mini music system
- iPad filled with books I’m trying to finish
9. What 3 songs are playing on heavy rotation this week?
- Radio and Weasel’s “Amaaso,” a Ugandan song about a lady’s eyes who have this guy trippin’
- Beyonce’s “XO”
- Kimbra’s “Settle Down”
10. Any advice for aspiring career/entrepreneurial women on how to juggle work & life?
It’s tough to be a career woman since we naturally juggle many roles. What I try to do is figure out what 3 – 4 things really matter to me and focus on developing habits that allow me to take time for those things, so when I’m distracted I still make time for those things. This year I’m focused on God, family, love, laughter and health. It takes 21 days for an action to become a habit, so I have the Way of Life app that helps me track my habits.
11. How do you find the balance in life?
Haha, it’s hard these days especially since I have such big, lofty goals, but I try to spend time with God just pouring my heart out to him openly and honestly, and I ALWAYS feel a sense of peace.
12. What/Who inspires you and why?
My heart & soul, my sister May!! She’s crazy brilliant and has accomplished a lot personally and professionally, though you’d never know it because she’s one of the most down to earth, sweetest, kindest people I know. I love her heart and it inspires me to be kinder to myself and others.
13. What is the best advice you have ever received?
My summer internship roommate from Puerto Rico used to always tell me: “Trust Him. Trust God.” Over the years, I’ve learned that He always always comes through.
14. What are your best life lessons?
This is the only life you get: be present in every moment and do what you love!!! Life is too short to live a mediocre existence or let fear dictate how you live. Take time to love on the people who truly celebrate, love and support you. I really have to work hard at this since my life can get busy, but I’m lucky to have people in my life who gently reel me back.
15. What brings you the most joy in life and why?
Laughing, sharing and loving on my closest friends and family.
16. How do you keep the “joy” alive in your life
Spontaneous, uninhibited dance parties & a trip somewhere with sunny skies and clear blue water.
- Photographer: Kat Harris
- Stylist: Selina of Vainglorious Brides
- Makeup: Abby of Juicy Looks Makeup
- Hair: Guslene of Guslene of Guslene Bubak
- African Print Designer: Petronella Lugemwa
- Seamstress: Nabukeera Mildred & Esther Wiafe
Enjoy life joyously & deliciously,