Wake Up Call

This Austin Photographer Wants Women to Find Their Inner Light

Awaken the beauty within.

By Katherine Fluor

Freelance photographer-turned-small business owner Riley Blanks is on a mission to give women everywhere a gentle push towards knowing themselves, loving themselves, and being themselves. A professionally trained photographer and visual artist, Riley provides women with a safe space to confidently explore and awake one’s inner beauty through her content studio, Woke Beauty.

“The mission of Woke Beauty is to provide an uplifting photography experience that liberates and empowers women,” she says. “My goal is for all women to recognize and appreciate their own inherent beauty through the art of photography.”

Based in Austin, the brand also brings together a powerful community in the form of gatherings and events, providing a space for encouragement, activism, and inspiration. Woke Beauty isn’t about lipstick and photoshop… it’s about awakening the beauty within through authenticity, self-awareness, and grace. “Every single one of you has ownership over a delicate, powerful, one-of-a-kind beauty. I believe it’s my calling to show you what that looks like. I want you to love you,” Riley says.

We turned the lens on the ever-so-stylish beauty herself in her bungalow in Austin, chatting all things wellness, beauty, and what it takes to create a niche brand that fills a space in the photography industry. Scroll on for a look into the light-filled morning routine of Riley Blanks.

riley blanks austin creative

Tell us the story behind Woke Beauty.

The brand was born out of my desire to provide a photography experience that didn’t just fulfill my own creative identity; but more importantly, enhanced other’s lives. My mom is the catalyst behind Woke Beauty; she’s an incredible human and mother and has thrived despite childhood trauma. She has always been one of my favorite subjects, and photography has aided me in showing her just how valuable, worthy and beautiful she is. When I really thought about what I wanted to do with the medium, I came to the conclusion that liberation from one’s own preconceived notions about self was vital to the process.

I decided that I’d use my camera to make women feel better, to empower them, and to see and celebrate their own intrinsic beauty.

I started out with sessions that I’ve deemed ‘photographic therapy’. They are intimate, personal, and involve elements like in person consultations and wardrobe styling. I now provide a membership program for those in need of recurring content for their brands or businesses, as well as portrait session gatherings that bring together community and allow women to indulge in a portrait session while being surrounded by supportive women encouraging them.

Woke Beauty is a safe space for authentic connection and unity. With that spirit, I also host seasonal panels and have started working on a podcast.

riley blanks austin creative

What time is your wake-up call? And how much sleep do you usually get?

6:30am; I aim for 8 hours.

What’s the first thing you do when you wake up?

I kiss my fiancé.

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Healthiest morning habit:

Taking 10 minutes to sit in silence.

Worst morning habit:

Hitting the snooze button…more than once.

riley blanks austin creative

What do you eat for breakfast? 

Art of tea earl grey crème with a splash of homemade cashew milk.

What are your morning media rituals?

On Being with Krista Tippett and This American Life are a couple of current favorites.

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What’s something you do in the morning that gets you excited or feeling your best for the day ahead?

A walk with our dog, Willow, through our neighborhood; it’s filled with majestic oak trees.

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What does a typical workday look like for you? Walk us through it.

I take an hour every Monday morning to plan, prepare and visualize my week ahead. I time block everything (Google Calendar is one of my best friends) and if I don’t get to it in time, I move it to a different slot without shame or disappointment…especially since I tend to underestimate how long things take. 🙂

My career consists of owning and operating Woke Beauty, commercial acting and modeling, writing, speaking engagements and events. No two days are the same, but I do my best to organize based on the kind of work I’m committing to so my brain doesn’t have to jump around like a mad woman.

riley blanks austin creative

What are your 3 best tips for building a brand online?

  • Connect with your audience and supporters in real life as often as possible.
  • Be consistent and authentic with your message.
  • Have a presence online that isn’t social media (i.e. website).

riley blanks austin creative

Describe your morning beauty routine from start to finish. 

I truly believe our skin is a reflection of our gut, so I drink warm water with lemon before anything else, and I take a Probulin probiotic.

My morning skin routine is less involved. First, I splash warm water. Next, I tone with Kalos Miss Congeniality (a rose water hydra-mist), moisturize with Botnia face cream, and then apply Elta lightly tinted SPF. Unless I’m in front of the camera that day, I don’t wear makeup besides a swipe of Milk mascara.

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In the evening, I add High Sun Low Moon Golden Oil as a pre cleanse, then cleanse with Avène lipid-replenishing cleansing oil. Next I apply Vintner’s Daughter Botanical Serum, and True Botanical’s Pure Radiance Oil.

For my body, I use SeaCalm Skin’s program that’s specifically designed for those living with eczema and psoriasis. I’m also getting hydrofacials monthly with Viva Day Spa here in Austin in preparation for my wedding. They’re incredible!

riley blanks austin creative

Bath or shower? 

Both! For shower, I use a Skimdo curl styling cream and for bath; High Sun Low Moon Sacred Soak is heaven on earth.

Do you work out in the morning? If so, what do you do and for how long?

Morning movement is vital to my well being – I rotate between Solidcore pilates, yoga, and my fiancé and I have started personal training with Pat Cook at Athletic Outcomes. We used to be high level athletes (him a swimmer, me a tennis player); it’s invigorating to be challenged in a way that’s familiar. 

riley blanks austin creative

Daily uniform:

Admittedly, it changes often depending on my mood. Right now, I’m really into kaftans like the one I’m wearing (by The Forest Said) and jumpers. I love that they’re one piece looks; eliminating decision making.

I never leave the house without _____________.

Go? oil.

riley blanks austin creative

If you had one extra hour every morning, how would you use it?

I’d write more, pen to paper.

Describe your mornings in 5 words or less.

Slow burn.

riley blanks austin creative

Name your 5 favorite spots in Austin.

Sukha Yoga: I feel like I’m stepping into home when I enter the studio; the space is filled with plants, smells emitting from incense, palo santo and flowers, happy faces, spiritual, wise books, sweet trinkets and the best energy. Erinn Leigh is one of my favorite instructors of all time and has become a key teacher in my life.

eleMINT skin: non toxic skincare, a beautiful, light and airy space and one thing on the menu: facials.

Justine’s Brasserie: one of the first restaurants my dad took me in Austin.

Austin Film Society: they play everything from cult classics to underground films and modern day documentaries. They’re all about empowering the community to appreciate film and creative media. The space is sophisticated and classic and the seasoning they put on their popcorn is magic.

Barton Springs: …on a weekday at sunrise.