What's Up With The Sharpies, Michelle?

Everyone always asks me about my "Sharpie picture," like "what does it mean, Michelle?" Well, quite honestly, the whole thing was kind of an accident. Here's the story…

If you know me well, then you know that I always carry a handful of Sharpies and a blank book to draw mindmaps, take notes, and explain things using diagrams and drawings (it's the ex-math teacher in me… but that's a whole 'nother story). I also often use Sharpies and flip-charts in my workshops to keep things spontaneous and fun.

So what happened on the day of my headshot photo shoot (with Gio Alma) was, after we'd taken several very serious, professional, traditional "headshot" type pictures (see below), I wanted to take some fun pictures just for me. So I grabbed a a bunch of Sharpies from my bag and started hamming it up. Gio played along and snapped away.

When I got the proofs, I thought the Sharpie pics were silly, obviously not something I would use professionally (haha). I went ahead and chose a regular, "professional" head shot (at right -->) and posted it everywhere - LinkedIn, Facebook Fan Page, Twitter, etc.

Michelle Villalobos Original Headshot No Frame

A few months later at the end of a speech about personal branding and networking, one audience member tentatively raised her hand and said: "But your portrait doesn't reflect your brand - you're fun, young and vibrant, your headshot is sedate and boring. It's beautiful, but it looks like it belongs on Match.com - it's not the you we met today."


So I asked the audience, "raise your hand if you agree with her?" Almost every single one raised her hand. I swallowed my pride and went back to the drawing board. There was no way I was going to do a whole new photo shoot, so I pulled out all the proofs that Gio had sent me. 

And I came across those Sharpie pics. I started playing with them and I found one, ONE decent one that I KIND OF liked. I cropped it (cropped my roots out!!), put a frame around it, retouched it a little around the eyes, beefed up the color... and voilá! (See the transformation I created with Photoshop, below.)

So I tentatively floated it out on Facebook first… and the positive response was overwhelmingly positive. Some people HATED (and still HATE) it, but I continue to use it in spite of that. Why? Because it's memorable, and it's aligned with who I am - the colors, the smile, the authenticity (I truly love of Sharpies and other office supplies), and it's memorable - and that's the purpose of a good headshot for personal branding.

Sure there are some people who don't "get" it. Guess what? That's quite all right. Those are not the people for me... The right people are the ones who love it. It's actually quite a good filter.

Michelle Villalobos is a personal branding expert, motivational and inspirational speaker and personal branding consultant based anywhere and everywhere.
Michelle leads a location-independent business and enjoys a nomadic lifestyle, traveling to new places to speak, consult and deliver workshops, seminars and keynotes,
especially for entrepreneur and women audiences. Contact Michelle by phone (888) 531-3830 or by email