The internet’s going crazy for Jenelle Wexler’s fancy dress photos of influential women throughout history. But Wexler herself isn’t the subject of the pictures. Her baby daughter, Liberty, is the one impersonating the historical heroes. She’s simultaneously melting hearts and lifting ladies up with her adorable yet educational photo shoots.
Wexler is a hairdresser and mother-of-two from Illinois who found a passion for crafts and baby photography with her first child. One Halloween she made her son, River, a burrito costume and posted the photos on social media. The images went down a storm, so Wexler decided to continue the hobby with her daughter, Liberty.
The idea really took off when Wexler noticed her daughter’s resemblance to a famous historical figure. She told lifestyle website Popsugar about her realization – and the resulting decision – in March 2019. “I first came up with the idea to shoot Liberty as Frida Kahlo, as I thought the two had similar physical features,” the hairdresser revealed.
Kahlo is a renowned Mexican artist perhaps best known for her self portraits and rightly unabashed monobrow. Her paintings, which were rich with symbolism, largely featured trees and roots to indicate both entrapment and growth. Although her work received increased attention in later life, the public’s appreciation for her talent largely occurred after death.
Britain’s Tate Modern gallery has labeled Kahlo as “one of the most significant artists of the 20th century.” However, there was much more to her than art. She was also bisexual, which has resulted in the LGBTQ community embracing the artist as an icon. Furthermore, the civil rights-centered Chicano Movement for Mexican empowerment also recognized her as an influential figure.
Wexler decided to pay tribute to Kahlo via Liberty, and wasn’t disappointed with the results. “The shots came out wonderfully,” she told Popsugar. “And it was soon after that I thought about other women in history that have contributed to the betterment of women, and people, as a whole.”
This line of thought then gave Wexler the idea to continue representing powerful women with Liberty’s costumes. “I feel it is important to try and instil the types of traits these women portrayed,” Wexler explained. “Intellect, courage, athletic ability and a multitude of traits I hope I can teach my children.”
But Wexler wasn’t content just buying the costumes, and revealed that she made most of them herself. “Making the costumes is so much fun,” she said. “One of my hobbies is sewing. So I have a plethora of supplies in my craft room to make the majority of these outfits.”
Wexler continued, “I also love finding items at thrift stores that I can easily re-create for the photos. I would definitely say the majority of these outfits are D.I.Y. [do-it-yourself] from pipe cleaners for earrings to [using an] electric rake to make stripes on clothing.” Indeed, it’s fair to say that the results of her hard work are equal parts varied and impressive.
But anyone with a baby knows that getting your child to do something is never an easy task. So how does Wexler get her daughter to pose at all, not to mention look so happy, during a shoot? The secret, it seems, is preparation and speed, as she revealed to Inside Edition in March 2019.
“I try to find a really good reference photo and one that we can recreate with Liberty fairly well, Wexler said. Then I go ahead and make the outfit. The actual photo process is pretty quick. I try to get her in a good happy mood in the morning.” Preparation, then, is clearly the key to success.
The mom-of-two then went on to describe how her process appears to work for her daughter, who is clearly a natural. The cheerful little girl seems to love the attention, and her mother spoke of how easy the photo shoots come to her. “[Liberty] is very comfortable in front of the camera,” Wexler elaborated.
The Idaho native decided that she would turn the photo shoots into an entire series, representing 100 women in total. For example, pioneering airwoman Amelia Earhart is one of the influential figures that she dressed Liberty as. The outfit is composed of an adorable knitted aviator hat and long white handmade scarf. She even has a little cardboard plane for a cot!
The actual Earhart wasn’t just a renowned pilot and explorer, though. She was also a best-selling author and a patron of equal rights, having joined the pro-suffrage National Woman’s Party. Despite being an experienced airwoman, however, Earhart vanished during a round-the-world flight in 1937. No one ever found any confirmed trace of her.
Suffrage is such an important part of women’s rights that it’s a frequently-visited theme for the aptly-named Liberty. For example, she posed as the iconic British Suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, against a backdrop of campaign posters. In the picture, the little girl does a great job of portraying her subject’s confident demeanor against adversity.
Pankhurst created the female-exclusive Women’s Social and Political Union in 1903, which fought for gender equality. Its members endured extreme treatment from law enforcement, including forced feeding as a result of hunger strikes while in prison. Ultimately, though, their sacrifices made societal conditions much better for women, both then and now.
Liberty also portrayed the famous anthropologist Jane Goodall in a similarly adorable fashion. In the photo shoot, Wexler dressed her little girl in a stripy safari getup, complete with knee-length shorts. Her accessories include the sweetest pair of binoculars, a safari hat and, best of all, a grinning plush monkey.
Many in Goodall’s field consider her the leading authority when it comes to chimpanzees. She’s founded two conservation organizations – Roots & Shoots and the Jane Goodall Institute – and is 2002’s UN Messenger of Peace. In addition, the esteemed World Future Council group welcomed her into its ranks in an honorary capacity.
Female American spacefarer Sally Ride is next up in Liberty’s inspirational fashion show. Wexler provided her with the cutest tiny suit with designs reminiscent of an astronaut’s. The baby even has Ride’s first name written on her collar! The oversized space helmet not only completes her outfit, but it’s also a charming tribute.
The late Ride, who passed away in 2012, would, no doubt, have appreciated the attention to detail. She achieved fame as not only the first American woman in space, but also the youngest U.S. astronaut ever. Alongside her expertise in engineering and physics, such achievements are worth celebrating.
In the meantime, Liberty is oblivious to the cause she’s helping her mother spread, but she’s happy doing it. “She’s loving it, but she has no idea what I’m doing,” Wexler told ABC News in 2018. And the little girl isn’t the only one having a blast making the heart-warming images.
Indeed, Wexler is also enjoying the time she’s spent on the project, from making the costumes to researching her subjects. In 2018, she told Good Morning America as much. “I was having so much fun looking up all these women and reading how empowering [they] are,” she said.
Liberty has definitely represented a broad range of potential role-models over the series of images. For part 15 of the project, Wexler dressed her daughter up as the incredible young woman, Malala Yousafzai. A beautiful purple and bronze fabric over pink clothes made up the little girl’s version of Yousafzai’s cultural clothing.
The real Yousafzai is the youngest person to ever win a Nobel Peace Prize, which she did at just 17 years old. She’s originally from Pakistan where she stood against the Taliban’s ban on women’s education. As a result of her resistance, they shot her in the head. Thankfully, she survived and continues her activism today.
Another photo showed what a chameleon Liberty is when she impersonated none other than Great Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II. The little girl wore a hat echoing the iconic ones owned by the monarch. In addition, she posed in a purple dress, reminiscent of the Queen’s own regal-colored coat.
Queen Elizabeth II isn’t just the queen of Britain, though; she technically reigns over six other countries as well. To be more specific, she’s also the regent of South Africa, Pakistan, New Zealand, Australia, Sri Lanka and Canada. The monarch even celebrated her Sapphire Jubilee – marking her 65th year on the throne – in 2017. That makes her the longest-serving British ruler in history.
French historical hero Joan of Arc is Liberty and Wexler’s 19th entry into the photographic series and it’s adorable. In the image the little girl looks every bit the innocent saint in her chain mail-patterned silver suit and red emblazoned white tabard. Her mom even added a sword and shield as props.
Otherwise known as the Maid of Orléans, the Roman Catholic Church made Joan of Arc a posthumous patron saint. In life, she was the leader of the French army in a successful battle against English forces. She was just 18 at the time, but her bravery has earned her a place as a positive, powerful female role model.
In addition, Wexler has made Liberty some more contemporary costumes, such as LGBTQ icon Ellen Degeneres. With a little jacket and tiny white shirt, she looks so happy in her role as the upbeat presenter. Furthermore, the little girl’s grin is just as wide as Degeneres’ own is during one of her show’s famous giveaways.
Degeneres is a multi-talented TV personality who’s a philanthropist, actor, comedian, writer, producer and talk show host. She’s also been an activist for LGBTQ rights since coming out as gay in 1997. Her current series, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, is a light-hearted mix of celebrity guests, fun, games and comedy.
And it’s not just Liberty’s outfit that links her to Degeneres, either. In fact, they both bring a huge amount of joy to people’s lives, as Wexler told ABC News in 2018. “People are saying it brings a smile to their faces,” she said of her daughter’s photographs. “And that makes me happy.”
Wexler and Liberty have already covered so many famous and powerful women. Indeed, they currently have over 90 social media uploads to lighten your day. And they’re not just random, either. They’re often aimed to celebrate monumental days in history with relevant additions to the growing list of icons.
For instance, Wexler paid tribute to civil rights activist Maya Angelou for Black History Month in 2019. Liberty looked adorable in her multicolored headscarf and large faux earrings like those worn by Angelou herself. The photography backdrop is also decorated with pages to represent Angelou’s other significant achievements.
Alongside Angelou’s political fight for freedom, she was also a prolific writer with many books under her belt. Some of them were autobiographical – seven of them in total – and others were poetry or essays. Angelou even worked on movies, TV programs and plays for more than five decades.
At the time of writing, Liberty is up to her 94th inspirational woman: retired judge Sandra Day O’Connor. To celebrate O’Connor’s birthday, in fact, Liberty donned a long wig and black suit, just like the lady she represented. She then took to her stars and stripes background with a gavel prop.
In fact, O’Connor wasn’t just any female judge. She was the first American woman to enter the Supreme Court as an Associate Justice! Not only is this an achievement in itself, but then-President Barack Obama presented O’Connor with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009. Many people consider her one of the world’s most powerful women.
So now the pair are fast approaching their milestone 100 pictures, how are Wexler and Liberty going to celebrate their achievement? The hairdresser wants to choose someone particularly meaningful for her daughter to represent, but she’s not sure who yet. However, the little girl’s fans are eager to help out, as she revealed to Inside Edition.
“I keep getting recommendations and suggestions from people and from Liberty’s followers,” Wexler said. “And it’s fun, so it’s always going on, [I’m] always researching and getting good photo ideas. I definitely think it’s important to highlight the women we have chosen.” The mom also told Popsugar that she wants the little girl’s photo shoots to be something she can enjoy in the future.
“I am hopeful that when Liberty is older and looks back at these photos, she finds them to be fun yet informatively positive,” Wexler explained. “I attempted to capture these women’s essence in Liberty . . .[And] bring attention to their specific stories. To show how important these women’s actions were in helping to shape our current society for the better.”
“I believe these women continue to inspire the young females of present day to push boundaries and strive beyond equality,” Wexler concluded. “I feel it is important to pay tribute to the women who fought for and helped protect and further women’s causes. I only hope these are the individuals that Liberty herself chooses to admire and aspire to be like.”