Austin, Texas-based photographer Nicole Mlakar recently worked on her first project for People Magazine, a set of portraits of Lexlee, a woman who lost 187lbs after a year of rapid weight gain. Nicole’s dynamic photographs show the subject riding horses and serve to illustrate her inspiring story.
The article, published in the magazine’s annual weight transformation issue, chronicles LexLee’s weight loss journey. After gaining a significant amount of weight in just one year, she was determined to take control and followed in her mom and grandmother’s footsteps, who had just lost 75 and 80lbs, respectively.
Sarah Fernando, an editor at People Magazine, produced the story and assigned Nicole the project as she thought Nicole’s photography style would be an excellent fit for the piece. Sarah had previously reached out about other assignments, and Nicole wanted to work with her for a while, but the timing had never worked out until this assignment came up.
We had been trying to work together for a few years now, and we just kept missing each other. This time the stars aligned!
Lexee, the subject, used to ride horses, and her rapid weight gain caused her to lose interest in things that once brought her joy. When she shed the pounds and regained her confidence, she began riding horses again. Her passion for horse riding is deeply linked with her story, so it became an integral part of the creative direction for the portraits.
During the shoot, Nicole photographed Lexlee at a horse ranch in Boerne, TX. The subject had been riding horses at this ranch for some time, and she was familiar with the setting, which resulted in more natural images with a personal touch.
Lexlee was beautiful and engaging. Having the horse on set created a fun and energetic feeling for all the images.
While the location turned out to be the perfect backdrop for the images, an outdoor setting can be unpredictable and always has its challenges. The sun was shining, but that day it was incredibly windy, so Nicole and her team had to work around the conditions.
We had to sail a 12×12 backdrop to give a behind-the-scenes look to some of the images, but we made it work!
Nicole’s portraits of LexLee show the subject confidently looking directly at the camera with a genuine smile. The setting, the subject, and the golden hues used throughout the images result in a warm and approachable set of images that depict a resilient woman. They have a candid quality that showcases the subject’s personality while helping to shine a light on her inspiring story.
Photographer: Nicole Mlakar
Editor, People Magazine: Sarah Fernando
First Assistant: Amy R Smith
Second Assistant: Roberto Nicolas Loayza
Digital tech: Taylor Jones
Hair and Makeup: Beth Lloyd
Stylist: Don Sumada