The 40 Over 40 Project: Empowering Women to Rediscover their Authentic Selves

In a world often obsessed with youth and the ever-elusive fountain of it, one woman has embarked on a mission to redefine beauty and self-worth for those who have crossed the threshold of 40 and beyond. Get it’s Laura Broad sat down with the project’s creator, Vanessa van Straaten of VVS Portrait to discuss overcoming society’s expectations.  

What is the 40 Over 40 Project?  

Our tailored makeover and photoshoot experience is designed exclusively for everyday women aged 40 and beyond. We aim to make them feel like celebrities, instil a sense of self-worth, and provide a significant boost of confidence. The culmination of this project is an exhibition and a real-life magazine that serves as a joyful celebration of all the fabulous women who have participated. 

How did your own life experience influence the 40 Over 40 Project?  

At 46, I came to a pivotal realisation that I didn’t recognise myself anymore. I had taken on the roles of a devoted mum and a busy business owner, but somewhere along the way, I had become a mere shadow of my former self. It was high time to reconnect with the person I once was, to find meaning within myself and in society’s eyes. That’s when the idea of a makeover photoshoot materialised. Little did I know just how incredible the journey would turn out to be, how it would impact not only my life but also the lives of others, and how it would lead to so many amazing friendships. 

What does sharing these stories mean to you?  

Seeing these women embrace their stories through my camera fills me with pride. It’s not just about me but also about the incredible women who stand in front of my lens. I’ve seen firsthand how these empowering photoshoots can completely transform lives. It’s amazing to witness the change that happens during our sessions. I often show them a quick peek at the photos on my camera, and almost every time, they’re blown away by what they see. They usually ask if my camera has some special filter because they can’t believe it’s really them! 

How can women get involved? 

The next project will start early in 2024, you can book in when sessions become available by jumping on the VIP list here 

Can you share a moving story from the transformations in this project? 

There are so many moving stories, but one that will always stand out and gives me goosebumps is this one. This gorgeous lady rang me as she’d been gifted this photo session from a friend. She wasn’t too keen to come in as she was so shy, I spoke to her for a long time until she felt comfortable. When she came in, the nerves were still there, after makeup we took it slow. I showed her some photos, and let her know how amazing she was doing. She relaxed a fair bit and was having fun. A week later when her husband and her came to look at the photos, there were so many tears! Hubby wanted all the photos as it had been so long since he’d seen her so happy. That moved me, they bought their photos, and it was a special time. I didn’t think too much about it until I received a call from my client about a year later. She wanted to thank me, I assumed it was just because she loved her photos. It was so much more. This beautiful woman was in a very dark place that first time she rang, wanting to end it all due to an injury at work which had left her unable to do many things. Apparently after the photo session, and then seeing her photos turned her life around. She felt different, confident and worthwhile again. So much so, she thought she’d try her hand at modelling and extra work! I feel so grateful that I have the power to change lives like this.  

What words of empowerment would you like to bestow on women over 40? 

Embrace your authenticity. Your life experiences, wisdom, and self-discovery have shaped you into a truly unique individual. Embrace who you are today, and let your authenticity shine through in every aspect of your life!  

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