It didn’t take Emma Taylor long to decide which Disney princess she wanted to be.
“Tiana,” said the 6-year-old to her mother, Nikki, and to Tracie Pugh, a co-owner of Tiaras and Pearls. Soon, the green dress representing the character from The Princess and the Frog was fitted over Emma, who was ready to take to the pink plush runway for a photo shoot.
As part of Rachel Hyer’s senior project, the Greenbrier High School student decided to bring some joy to several girls who don’t usually have the opportunity because they are battling a physical condition that limits their activities.
The senior project itself focuses on photography – natural photography versus altered images through computer programs such as Photoshop.
“I thought it would be creative to involve the little girls,” she said. “My personal opinion is that I believe pictures can be beautiful without Photoshop.”
Rachel enlisted the help of several area business owners to make the Princess Project happen. The five girls had their hair styled at Trendz Salon and spent about 90 minutes at Tiaras and Pearls, where they were photographed on the runway by Rachel’s mentor, Melissa Gordon, of Sofia Colton Photography. The girls then ate cupcakes supplied by Sweet Madness bakery.
“I think this is great,” said Laura Kerr, whose 2-year-old daughter, Ava, was the youngest participant. “She spends so much time in and out of the hospital. It’s good for her to be able to do something childlike.”
Ava was born with esophageal atresia, a condition in which her esophagus did not attach to her stomach during her development. Sometimes, food gets lodged in her lungs, and the family has to take extra care when feeding her.
Nikki Taylor was grateful for the opportunity for her daughter.
“We try to make her feel no different than other children. It’s fun for her to be celebrated for a change,” said Taylor. Emma has a mitochondrial disorder and uses a walker.
Rachel was all smiles as she watched the girls respond to the “paparazzi” and pampering. She plans to go into the medical field after college because she said she enjoys helping people, especially children.