New Orleans, Louisiana.

Where do you find the words to describe a place so unlike any other? From crawfish to frog legs,  Jazz to Zydeco, voodoo magic to catholic rosaries. The countless juxtapositions that embody “The Big Easy” are anything but easy to digest. 

Ayshane, one of our subjects, said of New Orleans, “the highs are high, and the lows are low…NOLA lives and celebrates them both.” You celebrate the life and music of the French Quarter amongst post-Katrina veneer. It’s so much more than beads and bourbon street. 

There's a certain energy in the people of New Orleans. We spent the day with Ayjshane, Charm, Denisio and Kenetha. Each of these women brought a mystical air to the room. The magic of NOLA ever-present as we danced on the balcony of iconic, and said to be haunted, Muriels, and as we moved our way through Jackson square. As Holly delicately danced her camera through the crowd, it was beautiful to watch the women dance their hearts out to the sounds of an incredible New Orlean’s street band.

No matter what magic you believe NOLA to possess, it was clear that the magic was in the hearts of the beautiful women we photographed. -Shari 

Ayjshane Winslett, 25,

“I was a very introverted child. I mostly liked to make up games and stories and plays. I grew up with two younger brothers and a lot of time to myself. When I was in first grade, my teacher asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I told her ‘I want to be a supermodel.’ She wrote model on the board. I corrected her and said, ‘No, supermodel.’

“I don’t dress up to do tarot. I wear one of my more of my flowing dresses because it looks more goddessish and also because it’s so hot. This is such a small town and reputation is so easily acquired, so I would feel ridiculous dressing up to read tarot and not dressing that way in public, because people would see me read tarot in costume and see me in real life and regular clothing, so I just keep it simple and just dress like myself.”

Charm Taylor, 32

“My house has been dubbed ‘the House of Joy’: It’s full of colorful art, the scent of magnolia flower, blue sage, sweetgrass, and frankincense. New Orleans feels like an island in climate and culture. At my house, I have a small chime tree and old porch swing perfect for day playtime with my friends and family. The doorway is surrounded by glass windows draped by bamboo. The porch is brimming with passion flower; iris; and herbs, peppers, and okra in small pots. The eggplant is taking a while, and lavender doesn’t grow very well on this island.”

Denisio Truitt, 34

“I was born in the U.S.A., but my household was very West African — my mom is originally from Liberia — so I think the first time I came to New Orleans I was shocked how similar it felt to like my home culture. The way people talk, even the way they pronounce certain vowels, is very familiar. It was déjà vu, and I felt a connection to the city that I have never experienced before.

“I’ve come to accept that probably nowhere will ever truly feel like home, but New Orleans is the closest I’ve felt. But I’m very aware of the past — from Katrina to the rapid gentrification of the city and all of the black people who have been displaced. I still need to be very mindful of my status as a transplant.”

Kenetha Lanée, 35

“I teach theater and speech in the Jefferson Parish public system. I want to reach disadvantaged students, and — I’ll cut to the chase — I really want to help uplift my people. As an African-American female teacher, I think my presence in a classroom is important. I can’t imagine what it was like to be a teacher back when I was growing up, and I’m not even that old! And you know, as a black teacher, I still feel like I have to prove myself.

“I have family from Louisiana who migrated to the North in the 1950s. So, even though I grew up in Chicago, I always had this affinity for Louisiana, but New Orleans was just something different. I can list all the things everybody does — the food, the people, the culture, the heat, the dialect, the music — but really, I feel free here. If you love her, she will love you back tenfold, but you have to love her all — the good and the bad. It’s like how you love a person.”