Bachelor of Arts in Psychology
Master of Arts, Elementary Education with a Focus on Reading and Literacy
Middle School Endorsement in English/Language Arts
Coursework: Photography (ongoing)
Coursework: Graphic Design (ongoing)
Coursework: Branding and Marketing (ongoing)
Photographer, Graphic Designer, Business Owner-Jacque Miller Photography (2015-present)
Teachers Pay Teachers-Contributing Author
Internal Communications Manager (2021-2022)
MS Coursework Designer, Indiana University, Bloomington (2021)
Secondary English Teacher, Gavit MS, Hammond, IN (2004-2021)
Substitute Teacher, Gary Community Schools (2001-2004)
I am God's girl; one who struggled to find her identity and made many mistakes in an effort to fit in with others and feel accepted. I have been on the receiving end of an abundance of patience and grace. Everything in my life has worked out for good. One of the greatest goods that has resulted from my life is the God-given gift and ability to see the beauty in others. This is why I am passionate about pictures and words---because pictures and words are at the core of how we perceive ourselves and the world. They have the power of life and death. I choose to use pictures and words to speak life. To empower. To heal. To encourage. To affect change.
This is my story.
I am the fourth of thirteen (twelve living) children born to Lee and Elizabeth Boone. My father was a State Trooper, and my mother stayed home to care for our home, my siblings, and me. Often times, money was in short supply. There were days when I gagged on the putrid smell of powdered milk and the awful taste of that luke-warm beverage as I swallowed it as quickly as possible. There were days when the beans my mom made for dinner for the third time in a week had me longing to be part of a family that didn't struggle quite as much as we did. There were time when, after receiving our serving sized portion of food, I still felt hungry, but not hungry enough to eat another serving of beans. There were days when we sat criss-cross on the worn carpet, sticking our hands into my dad's oversized pickle jar filled with cold, hard coins that we would sort and wrap in the rough, brown paper wrappers, striped with red, green, blue, and orange lines to denote the different denominations of coins. Dad would humbly drive our family station wagon to the bank and deposit those wrapped coins so that the bills could be paid and groceries could be purchased.
Because we had such a large family and money was tight, I often felt like a burden. I was one more hungry mouth to feed. One more child who needed mom to make more clothes. One more child who needed a new pair of shoes. I also felt like just a number. When people saw the Boone family, they would ask, "Which number are you?" I wasn't always asked my name. Instead, it was a number. Therefore, I was simply, "#4". On top of that, as an athletic, dark-skinned girl in the 80s and 90s, I felt like my body shape, skin complexion, and hair texture were all wrong. I didn't see other women who looked like me in magazines. They didn't have starring roles on television shows or in movies. They weren't the main characters in the stories we read in school or in the books I got from the local library. The unspoken message, in my young mind, was that I didn't fit in. I wasn't important enough. I wasn't pretty enough. I wasn't good enough.
I begin playing sports at an early age. It was on the track field and basketball court that I found validation. I remember, in the fourth grade, racing the fastest boy in the school and beating him. I also remember playing basketball with boys and girls and being able to hold my own on the court. As I excelled in sports, I felt so much love and acceptance. It no longer mattered how much money my family had, or that I wore clothes my mother made, (some of them hand-me-downs from my sisters) or that my shoes came from K-Mart, or which number Boone girl I was. I became known for my athletic prowess and clung to this identity, because finally, I felt good enough.
Eventually, I stopped running track so that I could focus solely on basketball. I played throughout high school and even had a collegiate career that was cut short due to knee injuries. It was during my junior year at Bethel University, (then Bethel College), where I had received academic and athletic scholarships and would later graduate with a B.A. in Psychology, that my world came crashing down. I could no longer play basketball. Without basketball, I didn't know who I was. My identity as a basketball player had crumbled around me, and once again, I felt like I didn't fit in. I wasn't important enough. I wasn't pretty enough. I wasn't good enough.
As I got older, my outward appearance changed, as did the world. There began to be more dark-skinned people of color with natural hair in magazines, television shows, movies and books. There began to be a greater admiration of thick, athletic girls. There were more talks of self acceptance and self love. Even though the world was changing, inside, I was still that little girl craving to fit in. Craving to be important enough. Craving to be pretty enough. Craving to be good enough.
Near the end of my junior year of college, while I was searching for a new identity, I met someone who, along with his family, made me feel important. They made me feel like I was pretty. They made me feel like I was good enough. They made me feel like I fit in.
We had a long-distance dating relationship for about six months before he proposed. Many of my collegiate friends were engaged and getting married. It seemed that this was the expected thing to do. He provided the love and acceptance that I desparately craved, so despite my reservations, I accepted the proposal and ended up getting married to someone I really didn't know that well only 2.5 months after graduating from college. But I had a new identity-that of a wife and daughter-in-law.
My then-husband and I took up residence in an inner-city neighborhood. I felt a connection to the people of the city because so many of them looked like me and came from struggle like I did. I thought I would be well-loved and accepted by all, but that wasn't the case.
When I substitute taught in schools as a young, 22 year old woman, children and adults alike would question my "Blackness" because of how I talked, what I wore, what I ate, and the music I listened to. Comments of "You talk like a White girl" and "You don't eat ________? How can you be Black and not eat _________?" and "How can you be Black if you don't wear ______________?" and "You must think you are better than us" ricocheted in my mind and ripped open the scars from the childhood wounds that I thought were healed. Once again, I felt like I didn't fit in. I wasn't important enough. I wasn't pretty enough. I wasn't good enough. It didn't matter that there were plenty of people in my life who encouraged me and loved me. Those thoughts were so deeply rooted in me that it would take years of seeing powerful pictures and reading powerful words before I could truly find my identity.
After working as a substitute teacher for a period of time, I went through a Transition to Teaching Program at Calumet College of St. Joseph and began working as a Sixth Grade Reading Teacher. I later earned my Master's degree from Walden University and my Middle School ELA Endorsement through the State of Indiana. I taught for 17 years. Throughout these years, I took on another identity-that of a teacher. I tirelessly threw myself into my role. It was in this role that I began to recognize the power of pictures and words. Often times when I saw my middle school students acting in a way that was not consistent with the expectations of the school, I knew it was rooted in a need for love and acceptance. That is when something started to shift on the inside of me. I realized that as my students saw pictures of people who looked like them and read books that contained characters like them, their thought processes started to shift. It wasn’t right away. It was a gradual shift. One that, for some, took years. Years of speaking self-affirmations. Years of encouragement. Years of developing a growth mindset. But even greater than the shift in my students was the shift in me. It didn’t happen overnight, but I slowly began to love and accept myself and truly believe what I was putting into my students: I was important enough. I was pretty enough. I was smart enough. I WAS ENOUGH!
At the age of 32, I became pregnant. It was a horrendously difficult pregnancy. This is a pregnancy that had me sobbing as I writhing in pain-the worst pain of my life-in the emergency room of the hospital when a large fibroid came to rest upon a nerve inside of my uterus. It is a pregnancy where the Specialist to whom I was referred due to the level of complications I was experiencing gave me and my then-husband the option to terminate the pregancy at the 10 week mark because he had never seen anyone with complications as severe as mine carry a child to term. This was a pregnancy that was labeled high risk due to large fibroids in and around my uterus and complete placenta previa. This is a pregnancy that led to pre-term labor and a trip to the hospital at 23 weeks, where I would remain on bedrest for the next 78 days before eventually being taken to the cold, sterile surgery room of the hospital for a c-section. This was a pregnancy that resulted in a hysterectomy just three months after my baby girl was born, before my body could recover from what I call "the ordeal." It was a hard year. I had yet another identity. That of mom.
As I fully embraced this new identity, the gradual shift that started when I was a teacher took on a new urgency. I knew I wanted better for my precious daughter. I didn’t want her to struggle with self-esteem the way I had. I didn’t want her to feel like she wasn’t important enough. Or pretty enough. Or good enough. As a very light-skinned, biracial girl in a predominantly Black neighborhood, I knew that my sweet girl would see and hear things that could destroy her self-esteem, so from a very early age, my then-husband and I worked with her so that she could love and accept herself. We showed her pictures of people who looked like her, read books that contained characters that looked like her, bought her dolls that had skin like hers, and, as she got older, shared the success stories of people who came from ethnic backgrounds like hers. And just as it happened as I worked with my students, my own mindset continued to shift. The repetitive messages of self-love, self-affirmation, and self-acceptance that I shared with my students and my daughter continued to grow in me.
When my daughter was two years old, I began my journey as a professional photographer. Up until that point, I was a hobbyist who never had the confidence to take the steps to become a professional photographer. It had been my dream, but I never thought it was possible. With my changed mindset that had been 34 years in the making, I decided to take the risk to realize my dreams. It started gradually, but as I photographed people from all walks of life, one thing was the same: people wanted to feel accepted. They wanted to feel important enough. They wanted to feel pretty enough. They wanted to feel good enough.
When my clients see the images that are produced and hear the words that are spoken over them, their faces light up. They are able to see themselves differently, all because of the power of pictures and words. It may be just for a moment, or a stepping stone on their journey of self-discovery, as they navigate through life, but for at least that moment, my clients know that THEY ARE ENOUGH.
When I photograph and talk to people, there are some things that don’t matter: race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identification, age, status, political affiliation–none of it matters. I choose to use the power of pictures and words to speak life into others and help them see the beauty that is inside of them. Because when we love ourselves, we love others, and through love, we can change the world.
We are stronger together.