Two women with a vision, endless passion, talent and oodles of wit– truly a force to be reckoned with.
Andi Roberts and Jesse Hyde of Hot Tomato Pin-Up Academy brought retro back to the MOV, and quite fabulously, I must say. Timeless fashions, attitude, empowerment and an abundance of sass embody the darlings of Hot Tomato. I am honored to have the opportunity to pick their brains about what it takes to be behind the scenes of this beautiful journey.
What was your original mission when starting Hot Tomato Pin Up Academy?
Andi: Our mission has always been about creating a body positive portrait experience that gives women the opportunity to celebrate their bodies and have some fun.
The mission of Hot Tomato goes far beyond portrait taking. These women have a strong desire to empower every single body that steps in front of the camera. Andi and Jesse are inspired by you. Yes, you. You inspire them by being you, and they want to capture the beauty you embody just as you are.
Who/what inspires you?
Andi: I am inspired by the bodies that appear before my camera. I am inspired (maybe enraged is a better word) by the beauty culture in our society. I have been studying how beauty is constructed in our culture for almost 20 years at this point and I know a couple things about the women in front of my camera. I photograph more ‘types’ of women in a year’s time than any other person I know. Each woman that appears in my view finder comes to me with a similar set of beliefs about bodies that have been instilled in them by the messages from popular culture. It does not matter if they are thin and fit, curvy and soft, bearded, a sorority girl, a hipster, size 2 or size 22. The body you are in right now is beautiful and ready to give and receive pleasure. End of story.
Andi really hit the nail on the head. The refining of beauty culture is of utmost importance.
We often see so much body shaming in our society—by the media, and more importantly, by ourselves.
We are our worst critics, but to what extent are we damaging ourselves with over criticism and constant negativity?
Jesse: The biggest source of inspiration for me are the clients themselves! Every woman that comes in for a consultation has amazing ideas whether she realizes it at first or not. Once I help them open the mind to literally endless possibilities, the ideas flow easily. We become more versatile, flexible and equipped with each client, amassing a wonderful collection of things from pink fuzzy telephones to authentic Mexican bullwhips!
How do you feel that you have contributed to the culture expansion of the MOV?
Jesse: The MOV has notoriously been behind the times as far as fashion trends. We were the first to wholeheartedly embrace the ‘new retro’ craze the moment is started popping up in Vogue magazine. We used this visibility and energy to catapult Hot Tomato into so much more. Yes, victory rolls and false lashes are fun but Andi and I were able to quickly see that the need for most clients wasn’t a ‘One and Done Pinup Party’ but that they were hungry for acceptance. Not from others but of THEMSELVES. They wanted to love who they are on the inside AND the outside. They were ready for more.
Andi: My brand of feminism demands that I honor your truth. This means you don’t have to love your body. I do wish you would stop hating your body. That isn’t doing anyone any good at all. We talk about these things. We address it. We show all body types in our advertising. We are building a tribe of women that want to empower and lift up other women around the Hot Tomato brand. I think that is how we contribute to the culture expansion of the MOV. We expand what it means to be a sexy, empowered woman in the Mid-Ohio Valley.
The Pin-Up era has sparked many feuds from feminists and naysayers alike. Some view pin-up as scantily clad and demeaning to women. Others see pin-up as nothing more than half-naked women in compromising poses. While there is no shortage of immodesty in pin-up, it is so much more than that. WWII pin-ups were actually regarded as mascots to boost the morale of the servicemen, especially in the Army and Navy branches of the service. Pin-ups were of all shapes and sizes – the first era to really pioneer the equality in beauty. From the Gil Elvgren paintings to the real-life pin-up models of the day (Betty Grable, Tempest Storm, Bettie Page, Hedy Lamarr – just to name a few), pin-ups were portrayed without body type bias. Somewhere along the line, society has skewed that vision. We’re taking it back.
As a former and returning client, I have to say that watching the transformation of Hot Tomato has been awe-inspiring. I had the pleasure of being one of their first clients, and there is certainly a reason I have been back. I absolutely love seeing so many women in the MOV become inspired by this tribe of women, and watching my favorite era come back to life in my own town is exciting! I have always had a strong desire to revitalize the pin-up era (I have been rocking this winged eyeliner since high school). Though they started the pin-up revolution of the MOV, they have done many types of vintage shoots—60s mod, flapper, steampunk, and everything in between. Their boudoir sessions are the newest craze, and quickly growing. Since the formation of Hot Tomato, I have watched many women in the area dare to think outside of the box and put their inhibitions aside. The new esteemed beauty culture that Hot Tomato so flawlessly delivers shows outside of the studio.
Any words of advice or encouragement to new or returning clients?
Andi: Your state of mind is the sexiest thing you can bring with you to your portrait session. You don’t have to be scantily clad to feel empowered by being photographed. Being seen is transformative. If you are feeling intrigued but a little nervous, just come hang out with us. We are the nicest naughty girls you are ever going to meet. Come join our tribe!
Jesse: Rock the body you have right now. RIGHT NOW. Whether you’ve been here before and need to come back but life/ kids/ baby weight/ stretch mark. Or you’re waiting for that perfect time/ ab dimple/ scale number/ brow lift, etc. – STOP! You are perfect right now. Come to me and we will plan a session that celebrates exactly where you are! Can’t afford a full session right now? Okay. We do other stuff, ya know? Makeup demos, head shot events, sexy hair class, pre-soaks, after parties, costume contests, etc. We can often be found at charity events, live music, drag shows, festivals, local breweries, parades and fairy picnics. You don’t have to buy an album or a giant piece of wall art (although these are WONDERFUL things to do) to get your empowerment card filled. Just find another Hot Tomato. There are hundreds in the MOV alone! Tell her you need a boost. She gets it. We’re in this together—right now.
Make Up Artists: