Today we’d like to introduce you to Melissa Vlahos.
So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I call my art emotionalism. I’m interested in the wide range and capabilities of emotions and how they play a role in our physiology. I find that one of the beautiful things in life is that we can create art as an expression of who we are and how we feel. I studied art education at my small-town University in Youngstown, Ohio. I had a desire to teach art because, I believe so much about ourselves can be learned through art. I felt very proud to see the students cultivating and expressing themselves artistically with my guidance. Shortly after, I got married, left my whole upbringing and moved to Athens, Greece for 6 years. During that time, I had the opportunity to explore and cultivate myself as an artist. Surrounded with culture, art history and nature I began to see and feel how nature – the sea in particular – reflects our emotions. Being interested in how our thoughts, feelings and emotions play a critical role in our physical well-being and considering that our bodies are 80% water I dove into exploring that connected relationship in a series of photographs titled “Sea In Yourself”.
By studying and examining water during “Sea In Yourself”, I learned through meditation how to connect to my own feelings and emotions that wasn’t always easy for me. That was my first spark of inspiration for Unleashed.
So, one day for the first time my husband and I went to a nude beach, so I could continue my series. A flood of apprehension and shame arose when I got undressed. I had a decision in that moment that really changed my life, I could leave my clothes on out of fear and embarrassment or face the fear of being completely vulnerable without any clothes on. It was symbolic of my life, clothes became my masks, but being nude, I couldn’t hide and was faced with the real me. Unknowingly to me, I had built a resentment and aversion towards my body: I had endometriosis and it wrecked havoc on my physical body and emotional/mental state. I had a lot of growth from that experience on the nude beach because being nude literally stripped me of any masks, so I could connect with my body and learn to love it and myself. After many months of learning and practicing self-love through self-development courses, workshops, books, Red Tent and women’s circles. I realized that the key to a healthy life was to love my self; to really love my inner self AND outer self.
I was helped so much along my path and so excited about my discoveries I wanted to share elements of what I learned. I knew there had to be other women out there disconnected from themselves and their bodies, dealing with body shame, influenced by societal expectations of being a woman and/or lacking love for themselves and their bodies. I strongly desired to inspire and empower other women to love themselves fully. So, with me guiding them into their hearts, and by them using paint to express on their body as a canvas what they felt from the inside out, The Unleashed Project was conceived.
I chose to guide and document 108 woman’s journey and process individually through film and photographic art. By tuning in to this symbolically powerful number we can connect to our higher selves, weaving and intertwining us all together. Because, together we are stronger and more empowered, together we heal the feminine, together we get to be heard and decide what we believe true beauty is, together we erase body shame entirely and shift the paradigm.
My vision is for the beneficial impact of The Unleashed Project to ripple out, into the world, through the relationship with ourselves and with each other, because when we come from a place of love and acceptance then we can truly be ourselves — UNLEASHED!
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Sure, there were days I struggled. I still have insecurities surrounding my artwork. I’m working on them, it’s a continual process. The beauty is learning from my struggles and turning them into something meaningful when possible.
So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Melissa Vlahos Art story. Tell us more about the business.
I’m a painter, photographer and dancer. I specialize in healing arts and therapeutic dance guidance. My brand Unleashed represents the fusion and embodiment of expressive and healing arts to guide us on the feminine journey towards our purpose and higher selves.
Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I believe we have the power to create and manifest our life. Luck (good or bad) doesn’t happen to us, we attract it. I’ve attracted a beautiful, fulfilling life, I love it!
What are your plans for the future? What are you looking forward to or planning for – any big changes?
I look forward to exhibiting The Unleashed Project! One photograph from each session will be chosen and exhibited to further empower women to love the skin they’re in. Also, I have hours and hours of interview and testimonial footage from the women who participated to put together for more impact and inspiration. I’m currently looking for sponsors to achieve those goals.
My PLANS are to create a comprehensive book of the photographs with interviews and testimonials included in it.
My DREAM is to tour The Unleashed Project exhibition around the country, continuing the Unleashed process with selected women in each city that it visits.
- Website: www.MelissaVlahos.com
- Phone: 330-646-5666
- Email: Artist@MelissaVlahos.com
Hank Henley(personal photo), Jamie Bendola