Babes: Up Close | Cynthia Bettencourt
At The Babetown Collective, we are passionate about sharing YOUR story. You are beautiful. You are unique. The challenges you face require the particular courage you possess and your triumphs are worth celebrating because you are worthy of recognition and joy.
Today we are sharing an interview with Winnipeg, Canada wedding photographer Cynthia Bettencourt. When Cynthia walked up to our table her first joke was about her Lumber-Sexual attire-- red plaid shirt and matching red plaid scarf. All of us at the table had a good laugh at the comment, and later into the interview the flannel made a few conversational appearances about spotting lesbians in bars before flannel was everywhere-- especially Canada in Winter!
After the introductions were made, we began chatting about her work, her story, couples she loves to photograph, and how being a member of the LGBTQ2+ community has influenced her business. We also had a chance to meet her brother, who, as the siblings say, make the ‘gay sandwich’ of the family with her straight twin sisters between her brother and herself. Cynthia’s authentic and loving personality radiated from within to every story she told and you could feel that she is genuinely honoured to be able to do what she loves each and every day-- photograph love and the special moments between two souls uniting into one.
Babetown (BT): What are you passionate about?
Cynthia Bettencourt (CB): I am most passionate about connecting with my clients. The connection is as equally important as providing the best quality photography you can. If you don’t connect with your clients, you’re not going to get the best out of the them or they won’t trust you enough to be themselves. They need to know they can trust you. I let my clients know I’m going to learn very embarrassing facts about you and they will learn some about me! I find being a lesbian is an advantage because I know what women are going through and can relate. I can also bro out with the guys; I keep track of how teams are doing. The guys can say ‘did you see the Jays game last night?’ and I can say ‘Yes’. I want to have a connection with the guys so they are comfortable around me, too.
BT: How have you added inclusivity in your business?
CB: I don’t think I’ve consciously added inclusivity; I just provided a safe environment for any client to come to me whether they were gay, interracial, polyamorous, or any other way the couple identifies. I provide a company that has no limitations when it comes to who I serve. I figure as long as you're willing to open yourself up to telling me your story and letting me capture your day, i’m willing to be there for you. Being a gay immigrant has definitely helped inclusivity come out naturally in my business.
When I first came into the industry, I met a gay male photographer who actually told me not to feature same sex couples in my portfolio. When I asked him why, he said the majority of couples who will hire you will be straight and when they look at a same sex couple they will have a hard time envisioning themselves in place of the couple as a bride and a groom. I listened to him for a few months and I realized quickly that not posting all couples isn’t fair. When I got my first same sex client, I was working with them and I thought ‘why would I not feature this love?’ I posted an image of the same sex couple on my social feed and I lost followers immediately. It didn’t phase me. I knew that it’s more important to feature them. Those followers I lost aren’t the people I would want as clients anyway!
BT: What do you want to be known for?
CB: I want to be known for two things:
1. I want to be known as someone who is easy to work with; as someone that is a great person. No one wants to be known for as photographer who is rude or snippy. I want to be authentic. I want clients to know that they are my number one priority. When people are talking about photographers and my name comes up I want them say ‘yea, she’s a great person!”
2. The second thing I want to be known for is to be the best photographer in my city. It’s a male dominated industry and I don’t want to just be the best female photographer in the city-- I want to be the best photographer. I want to offer my clients what any other male photographer could do but from a female perspective.
BT: Have you ever been approached by a client who was apprehensive about sharing their sexual-preference with you?
CB: I received an inquiry through my website from a couple, Morgan and Chris, who were looking for a wedding photographer. I was chatting on the phone with Morgan and I was going on and on using the terms bride and groom based on their contact form saying Morgan and Chris and it didn’t seem to bother her at all. About half way through the conversation she said they had something to tell me and it sounded really serious! She said she wanted to let me know that they were two lesbians and she wanted to know if I was comfortable with that. I started laughing (which, may have given the wrong impression)! I told them that I was a lesbian so I wouldn’t have trouble shooting them.
Turns out they had been having a difficult time finding a photographer that would take them on as clients so they had to hide their names. They used the name Chris instead of Christy because they were worried I wouldn’t want to do it!
BT: Tell us three success you have had in the last year.
CB: Oh gosh! Ok, the first one is I’ve booked more weddings this year than the year before; to know that my company is growing is an achievement.
The second is that I’ve shot 8 international weddings this past year, meaning I’ve travelled more for weddings in the last year than I ever have before!
The third is this interview. To be recognized as someone who doesn’t look at a client as a money or dollar sign, but as someone who looks at them as a person who is telling their story is an honour and achievement.
BT: What advice would you give to new photographers?
CB: Open your mind to any opportunity that comes your way. Whether it’s extremely lucrative or to volunteer your services to help someone out. Never judge anyone based on their journey and approach all clients with the same integrity and love for what you do no matter who they are. You never know what kinds of opportunity will spring up from one client so take any opportunity you get as an opportunity to grow.
BT: What is something you’ve always wanted to do, but have been too scared to do it?
CB: I’m not scared to do anything! If an opportunity presents itself, you should never approach it with fear. I have climbed a mountain for clients-- actually, two mountains! One in Colorado and one in Austin, Texas! I’ve shot out of helicopters! I think fear should piggy-back excitement just to have the opportunity...
Actually I do have one fear.. That I will let my job dictate my entire life and I won’t find love.
PS- She’s single.
PPS- We made Tinder jokes at this point in our oh, so professional, interview.
PPPS - She never confirmed if she has Tinder or not… just saying… ;)
BT: Think of someone you truly admire. What qualities do you admire about this person?
CB: I admire my grandma. She was fearless in life. When my grandma came to Canada, she had four children, was pregnant, and ran a dairy farm. When she immigrated to Canada she wanted to make sure that all her kids had post secondary education and her grand kids. Right before she passed away, her and my dad were with each other and she said that she can die now because she knew everyone was taken care of. Her strength and resilience to defy all odds is what drives me every day. If she can do what she did, there is no way I can’t do what I do. She inspires me to be a good, strong person.
Cynthia brought honesty and so many laughs during this interview where she also opened her heart and gave us refreshing honesty that we are sure will inspire others to proudly be who they are while embracing all others and showcasing them in their best light and with their true love shining bright.