in partnership
Make up artist Carla Petrulli applies makeup to Monika Hawkinson's face for her first professional makeup session at Sorella Photos in SODO. "I would say that 80% of my business is my work with trans women and men who cross dress," Petrulli said. "I feel like I can provide an experience for them that really is in support of who they want to be." (Sy Bean / Seattle Refined)

Uncommon Beauty: Meet the makeup artist who works primarily with transgender clients

A colorful palette and a bundle of brushes are the tools of the trade for Carla Petrulli.

"You could say that skin is just a different canvas than say if you were a painter, but it's a similar conversation. You get to decide what to enhance, what to bring forward," she explains.

Petrulli is a makeup artist. With each brushstroke she's applying cosmetics to the skin - but she's also helping clients discover and uncover their authentic selves.

"I would say that 80 percent of my business is my work with trans women and men who cross-dress," she said. "And I feel like I can provide an experience for them that really is in support of who they want to be."

"I've been feeling really good about my transition," said Monika Hawkinson, whose getting ready for her session at Sorella, a photography studio in Seattle.

It's been about three years since she started her journey from male to female, but she's known that she wanted to for decades.

"It was not a possibility, so I kind of put it away for a long time," she said. "Then when I was 40, it finally became possible for me so I said - 'I'm gonna do it now.'"

As Monika, she's getting the skills to do something most women do every day.

"I still really haven't learned makeup," she admits. "It was one of those things where I was like okay, I'm gonna do all the other stuff, and then makeup wasn't such a big deal for me. But, I'm realizing now I need to learn this."

Photographer Erica Sciarretta, snaps a "before" picture and Petrulli gets to work.

"What I want for Monika today, is for her to feel celebrated and honored and have a new way of seeing herself inside of makeup," she explains. As she applies the makeup, she explains the process so Monika can recreate the look on her own.

"This is gonna be interesting. I'm excited and nervous. I really trust Carla," says Hawkinson.

Petrulli believes there's magic in makeup.

"My joy comes from my ability to help other people in their quest to finding themselves," she beams.

For Monika Hawkinson, getting made up is not about concealing, but revealing.

"This is the icing on the cake! I've been doing awesome so far, and this is just that extra step."

As the "after" photos are taken, each click of the camera captures an image of a confident woman, whose makeup accentuates her true beauty.

Also beautiful - the way Carla Petrulli shares her gifts with others.

"If I can help somebody else show up inside who they want to be and what they want to say to the world with their appearance, then when they win, I win... and that's really how it works."

A Makeup Artist and Stylist for 10 years, Carla Petrulli loves the freedom that makeup and fashion gives her to transform anyone's appearance. Much of her business is focused on providing makeup lessons and personal shopping to meet the needs of trans women and men who cross-dress.

Sorella Photos is committed to celebrating humanity through photography. They want people to know that everyone is welcome in their studio and that they celebrate diversity, color, age, size and everything in-between.