Inner Beauty Shining Through in Retirement

By Megan Giles: Retirement Transition Consultant.

Sonya Maree Kok of Little White Light Studio is one amazing woman whose dream is that by ‘being beautiful souls and helping others to do the same we are collectively creating a beautiful world that is sustainable for many generations to come’. Through portraiture photography and creative life coaching Sonya Maree empowers women of all ages to feel visible, uplifted and confident. She recognises that this is particularly important among women preparing for retirement. Our identity changes as we step away from the workforce and in a society that places so much emphasis on youth, one can suddenly feel less visible and relevant.

What is her driver for this work? She believes that every woman should look and feel beautiful in the skin they are in.

This arose from personal experience a number of years ago when Sonya Maree realised that she didn’t possess a single photo of herself from the past twenty years that she loved (not even one!). As a photographer she had hidden behind the camera for years and as such hardly ‘existed’. She had an ‘a-ha’ moment when recognised that she was role-modelling poor behaviour for her daughters by subtly suggesting that that as a mum and an older woman, she didn’t need to be visible. 

Not only that, but Sonya found that this experience was not unique to her. Through photography she has come across many similar stories, but one that really struck her was an 84 year old lady who admitted that from her entire life she had only two photos of herself that she liked - one from when she was five years old and the second of her as an eighteen year old. From this point on Sonya’s mission was clear.

With such an inspiring approach to work and life, I jumped at the opportunity to interview Sonya Maree and I’m thrilled to share our conversation with you.

1. In terms of women who may be preparing for retirement what are the key benefits of working with you?

I photograph transformational make-overs and portraiture sessions to bring out the beauty that lies within each and every woman. I use photography as a mechanism to help women be heard and feel understood, and to create new and positive beliefs about themselves and what they are capable of. As a result, women walk away from my sessions with not only an album of beautiful images but feeling happy and confident also.

2. From your experience, what is key to creating amazing images that make women feel beautiful and uplifted?

 1. Good lighting. As we age, the lines on our face become more pronounced, and good lighting reduces lines and shadows and makes you look (and feel!) full of life

2. Celebrating each and every beautiful body. I focus on bringing out the feminine energy of women, emphasising the heart, curves and soft, flowing lines. The risk is that without drawing this energy out, photos can appear flat and uninspired.

3. Connection with the photographer. The job of a photographer is to make their subject feel safe in order to allow their inner beauty to shine through.

3. What key piece of advice would you offer to women considering a transformational makeover and portraiture session?

  •  Do it for yourself and those who love you – don’t think that your kids don’t what you to be in a photo
  • Be mindful of the message you are sending to your kids (and grandkids!) if you are hiding in photos

4. Can you share a story of one of your clients and the benefits they gained from working with you?

 Interestingly, a common theme I find amongst women is the tendency to create negative images in our mind about how we believe we look, for example it might be overweight, tired or old. We hang onto to these images and over time become convinced that they’re true. As a result we develop limiting beliefs about what is possible for us.  
My aim therefore is to not only challenge this perception, but to show women that they are anything but! I get to know my clients and help them to relax. It is usually 15 to 30 minutes into a shoot that they feel comfortable and I then start to capture truly beautiful moments. At this point I will often show them a photo. That instant is magical in that they see with fresh eyes (and feel) that they are truly beautiful for the first time in a long time. It is a privilege to help them rediscover this part of themselves.  

5. What is one great resource that you can share with readers (e.g. an app, website, tip, physically resource)?

There are two!  
The first is the Oh Wow What Now Guide which is my own guide for helping ensure that women get the most out of their session with me and create beautiful images. It includes everything from what clothes to bring, suggestions for hair and make-up and what to do on the day.
The second is the My Style Profile from Birdsnest. By completing this online questionnaire, you will receive a personalised style recommendations guide. This can be particularly beneficial for women transitioning from a corporate look to a more relaxed retirement style.
[Note: both of these resources are fabulous, whether you are planning a portraiture session or not! – Megan]

About Sonya Maree Kok

Sonya Maree Kok.jpg
  • How to fall in LOVE with you and never feel you have to hide again.  
  • If you're ever dared to DREAM that you can fall in love with you and make a meaningful difference in the lives of others, then this is for you.
  • Never give up on believing in the beauty of your dreams.
  • I dream that by being beautiful souls and helping others to do the same we are collectively creating a beautiful world that is sustainable for many generations to come.
  • Beautiful Souls = Beautiful World
  • You have the power within you.
  • One small act of kindness creates a ripple effort worldwide.
  • Beautiful change starts from within and flourishes when we are giving and receiving in an authentic and beautiful way.

To find out more or to contact Sonya Maree visit the Little White Light Studio Facebook page or

In planning for a holiday we always think “we need to go there” and “we should see that” but when Day One of our holiday arrives, we draw a blank…What were all of those things we were going to enjoy? In the busyness of life they’ve slipped our mind.
Don’t let this happen to your retirement. Download the My Retirement Planner and start capturing those ideas and inspiration so that you’re ready to step into retirement with gusto!