Photography by Sunshine Soul Photography
Meet Kiana. She is Beauty Revived.
Kiana is a senior at Kubasaki High School — an overseas Department of Defense school located in Okinawa, Japan. As is typical of military brats, Kiana has experienced a life on the move. On average, she has moved every two years — Hawaii, South Carolina, Kansas, Washington, California, Alaska, and Japan. While it may sound adventurous, it is a difficult process — changing schools, making new friends, and adapting to new cultures.
Military life has been especially hard for Kiana. Not only has she endured the hardship of a parent deploying to war, she has experienced many PCSes. The military loves its acronyms — this one stand for “Permanent Change of Station.” It means the whole family moves from one military base to another one. For Kiana, it means saying good-bye to friends, gradually developing new ones, and then… too quickly saying good-bye again.
Some military brats are very good at this process. They get to a new location and make friends instantly. But Kiana is naturally shy and she desires deep meaningful relationships. She is unwilling to go along with the crowd to fit in. These traits do not add up to popularity. So for Kiana, each move means the first year is very lonely while she attempts to make new friends.
Like a modern day Belle, Kiana likes to talk about books, new ideas, and what she is currently studying in school. Unfortunately for Kiana, many of her classmates find these topics dull. A kindred spirit is hard to find when it is more popular to discuss the latest gossip, so Kiana often feels like an outsider. She has learned the hard way that to ask kids to stop saying hateful things about others is not considered cool.
But Kiana has become an example of beauty revived by not dwelling on the obstacles, she chooses to live life in thankfulness for what she has – and not dwell on what she lacks.
Kiana overcomes the loneliness by staying in touch will old friends. You will often find Kiana on the computer, skyping a friend in a distant time zone. It may be the evening for her friend in California, but it’s tomorrow morning in Japan. They can be heard discussing books read or planning the books they want to write.
Kiana overcomes shyness by acting. As a faithful member of the Kubasaki chapter of the International Thespian Society, she has been involved in several plays. Her classmates are surprised by her transformation on stage. And her teachers have remarked, “Wow! I didn’t know Kiana could be so talkative! She is a different person on stage.” The truth is: the person on stage is the one recognized at home and the one recognized by her true friends. Acting gives Kiana a way to be herself.
Kiana overcomes isolation by giving back to the community. Instead of adopting a “Woe is me” attitude, she chooses to embrace the new community that she finds herself in.
In her last three “duty stations”, Kiana has committed herself to the military chapel community. Over the last six years she has taught Sunday School to elementary age kids. She character-acts for every Vacation Bible School that our chapels put on. In Okinawa, she volunteers at all three of the VBSes, which equals three weeks of her summer vacation.
Here in Okinawa, Kiana has found another way to connect. She has devoted over 200 volunteer hours with Okinawa Hands-On non-profit organization. She is the only American in this Okinawan cultural youth club. Together, they serve the elderly; put on cultural dances and plays; and do projects throughout Okinawa. Twice a week, Kiana, by invitation of this club, teaches English to Okinawan elementary schools kids.
Kiana’s beauty is her determination to connect and embrace new situations, even when it’s difficult or foreign.
About the Photographer
Jen Buchanan is the girl behind Sunshine Soul Photography, who specializes in senior and teen fashion photography and is currently living in Okinawa, Japan. She is a veteran, the wife of a Marine, and the proud mom of two littles who are her light and joy. She is looking forward to settling down and restarting her business for the last time in Denver in the summer of 2018.