Jul/Aug
2016

I Am A Beautiful Rochester Woman: Amy Monson Shines Her Light

Written by Photography by Dawn Sanborn and Tracey McGuire
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Gathered around Sarah and Amy Monson, as witnesses to their fruitful lives together, were Sarah’s mother Kathy Hanson, their Daughter Lynnea Lehmeier, and treasured friends. Sarah’s admiration for Amy became a rendition of their love story as she read the I Am A Beautiful Rochester Woman nomination letter aloud, not holding back, letting tears flow between the lines of love and laughter. 

Nomination Love Letter 

I am writing to nominate Amy Monson because without question, she is the most beautiful woman I have ever known. Despite years of trying to help her see what I see, Amy still struggles to see her true and undeniable beauty.  

Amy doesn’t really see herself as beautiful but is grateful that I think she is. She wishes to be a prism, so that when people see and know her, they will see God’s light and love reflected because of who she is. If this isn’t beautiful, I am not sure what is.

 When she was young, she was told she was smart when she asked her mom if she was pretty.  She isn’t the typical pretty kind of beautiful in the way we are taught girls are supposed to be. Amy is so much more beautiful than that—she is strong and possesses an incredible presence that is difficult to describe. Amy has long arms and broad shoulders that have held babies, hugged kids and worked well to carry the weight of the load she carries in life. (Her arms) have also limited some of her fashion choices, because Amy doesn’t always fit into prescribed boxes or roles, and broad shoulders don’t always fit nicely into small places. Why should we make ourselves small, or something else we aren’t, in order to fit into someone else’s definition of beauty?  

Amy’s eyes sparkle and dance, and her asymmetrical smile lights up the room. Her laugh is infectious! She is kind, generous and has the biggest tender heart. Every day she gives her whole self to her kids—the kids of this community—spending countless hours working and re-working lessons and working on ways she can reach kids where they are. She works to teach them lessons that reach beyond text and time.

Among other things, Amy is an English teacher and the artistic director for the theater program at her school. But Amy will tell you, “I don’t teach English; I teach students.”  Amy’s approach to life is about “growing living things.” Sometimes that looks like passionately teaching a lesson about a literary question or growing tomato plants or guiding actors, musicians and crew members to create a community capable of making magic on stage. Amy has given so much to this community and to her friends and family. At this point in her life, she has the opportunity to make some choices about where she will use her talents and how she will shine her light on the next thing she chooses.  

I would like Amy to have the opportunity see just how amazingly beautiful she is.  My hope is this might be a chance for her kind of beauty to be honored, recognized, and celebrated.
–Sarah Monson

Dispersion of Light

When she heard the nomination letter read aloud at the reveal party, Amy’s beauty shone through her like a prism, displaying the colorful person she is, redirecting the light to others, giving them the credit. In a thoughtfully written email prior to her photo shoot, Amy acknowledged her friend and photographer Dawn Sanborn and the sponsors who provided her clothing, hair and makeup services. “Dawn is a long-time friend, so that alone helps me to feel more comfortable and assured,” explains Amy. 

“I felt that all too familiar cautiousness going into Knight’s Chamber Clothiers, but Svaar Vine was respectful and helpful. He didn’t shame me for wanting to find a professional jacket that actually fit ‘me,’ which was one of my fears. He paid attention to me, to my body shape, to my concerns about looking as though I was ‘masquerading’ in men’s clothing and to my apprehensions about even being in his store to look around. I felt respected as a customer and as a person, which is not my typical shopping experience. I’m really happy to have been introduced to a clothier who understands my clothing struggles.  

Mostly, I want to thank you for your vision to celebrate beautiful women of Rochester. The idea is an important one. As a teacher, I encounter hundreds of young women and men every day who wrestle with the social concept of beauty. They don’t want to have to fit into a concept or manifest themselves in a way that doesn’t ‘fit’ them but is ascribed to them, leaving little choice but to fit themselves somehow into confines of socially prescribed beauty. 

I’m sort of allowing myself to get excited about (seeing) the photos—the physical images, yes, but also what’s visible from my inward transformation. Thank you for being willing to showcase a variety of beauty in women in Rochester, and thank you for providing this incredible celebration of my beauty—what an amazing and novel concept to me!”–Amy Monson

In addition to our I Am A BeautifulRochester Woman program gift sponsors and Svaar Vine at Knight’s Chamber, we recognize the Richard Wendt and Rocco Altobelli team for the special treatment they gave Amy. We thank Richard for the haircut, Cheryl Scranton for hair color, Michelle Hilsman for makeup and Kendra Kruse for the pedicure. They graciously offered their services and met our scheduling requests.

Congratulations Amy

The Med City Beat, an independent online news source, announced 2016 Rochester's Finest people and places on Saturday, May 21. Winners were selected following two rounds of voting, in which more than 7,000 total votes were cast. Amy Monson (Mayo High School) won Educator Making an Impact in our community.