Introducing Yourself to the World

Inroducing Yourself to the World - Leyla Najma's Belly Dance Blog

This past weekend was really a joy because I did a combination mother/daughter and professional photo shoot with photographer extraordinaire Michael L. Miller and his beautiful wife Tish. The best part was seeing my 16 year old daughter Savanah before the camera holding her own and seeing a glimpse of the woman she is to become. She is starting to leave her mark on the world and it became evident to me that she will be a force to be reckoned with.  Her foundation is strong so she is off to a good start. Our funny moment of the day was Savanah’s dog, Rocky who came with us to be photographed. She growled the whole time she was being positioned on a box used as a prop. It was hysterical to see her Doberman/red heeler personality come out, complaining about being photographed!

I on the other hand agreed to be apart of a project that Michael is doing called, “Women of a Certain Age” and actually did some of the photos partially nude. It was very liberating to just let go and not worry about what was showing or worry about what I needed to hide. Michael is inviting many women to come in to be photographed dressed or undressed (women’s choice) to be apart of this special project. So if any New Mexicans or those of you close by who wish to be apart of Michael’s project contact him at: [email protected]


Yesterday’s photo shoot got me interested in looking into what the typical belly dance photo was like especially in today’s market. So today as I surfed the internet looking at dancers photographs I realized that the belly dance image, the feminine archetype of this dance is not only recognizable by our costume but by the typical poses most dancers use. I have to say I saw many beautiful photographs but after awhile they all looked the same and they didn’t really tell me anything about the dancer outside of belly dance. I say this because we are not all belly dancers 24/7.

Okay, some of us might be in the belly dance mind zone most of the time but there are other things that we do that make us who we are. For instance I sent in an article to Chronicles Belly Dance Magazine for their next issue that has a few things in it about belly dance but it’s really about my studying with Native Americans, going on vision quests and talking about the teachings and symbology of the teepee. Chronicles accepted it partially I think because it was different from the normal articles I write but also because it shows other aspects to me that make me who I am other then just a belly dancer. I am indefinable because there is so much to my learning process that I haven’t discovered yet and because there are so many paths to travel that can lead to other interests. When I danced for Salima Ikram and Aidan Dodson here in New Mexico, two of the most distinguished Egyptologists in their field, the Egyptologist in me went bonkers. So obviously my alternate ego is……… guessed it an Egyptologist in the field looking for none other then Cleopatra’s tomb!

Since I am not an Egyptologist “yet” I have found that being a member of ARCE was a close second to being the real deal. So as you can see my love of Egypt isn’t just belly dance. But now I’m getting away from myself;  what I am trying to say is that your photographs say so much to the world about who you are and if there isn’t something that makes you a little different, well then your photos and website won’t be as distinguishable from everybody else’s. You have to let people know that you are vibrant women and that you encompass so much of life along with diverse interests that in some ways may parallel belly dance but can stand on their own too. So this means  your photos show the world they are looking at a woman who has a vast array of interests, desires and personalities.

I’ll give you some examples of some of the photo shoots I have done.


  1. I tapped into my Cleopatra fem fatale impersonation and found that we all have a little Cleopatra in us………I found mine!
  2. Body Painted and photographed in the sand dunes South of ABQ as Anaksunamun. It stands alone as one of my most favorite photo shoots because the day was just beautiful and I felt like a Goddess.
  3. Photographed with Timber Wolves Raven and Forest at the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary. The photographer was none other then Michael. It was the initiation of a lifetime. Working with animals is a joy besides stress beyond belief. I was exhausted but for all the right reasons!
  4. Photographed in the Badlands of NM with coral, amber and turquoise necklaces as focal point for Native American jewelry. The great part of this photo shoot was the necklaces were covering my breasts and nothing more. It was very liberating and to me more sensual then any costume bra or beaded top. I had on an elk belly dance skirt that a medicine woman made for me that has a piece of tiger eye in it and a prayer she sewed into the skirt. I feel her prayer every time I wear my skirt.
  5. Body painted as an Egyptian warrioress, ready for battle. I had hieroglyphs painted down my arms and legs. Egypt was alive and well in me that day! Plus I had a fake sword, but a sword none the less that kept getting me into trouble called too much imagination.
  6. My Feather Fantasy photo shoot was inspired by a handmade peacock costume and feather head dress. This was more of a belly dance theme but I had the costume and headdress made to my taste. I also did Greek poses with only my veil as a cover. Again this was very liberating with a twist of the turn of the century vogue look to the photos.
  7. I had a group photo shoot done with some of my students representing New Mexico in all her glory. This meant that everyone brought in the colors of the sunsets, landscape and diverse cultures of people living side by side. So we did a melting pot of feathers, corsets, gypsy skirts and painted faces. In the end Michael did a marvelous job of capturing all of us and our personalities.
  8. One of my all time favorite photo shoots was taken with my Clydesdale mare Molly in my Native American wedding dress. It was a time in my life when I was actually living in a gypsy wagon and teepee at the same time. In the same photo shoot I was photographed on Molly in my gypsy skirt. She died shortly afterwards so I am to this day grateful I did the photo shoot with her.
  9. One of my first photo shoots was with world renowned photographer Richard Byrd who photographed Presidents, diplomats, movie stars and major rock bands. I was photographed behind one of my face veils that I brought back from Maadi, a suburb of Cairo. The suppression I felt wearying the face veil can be seen in the photos.

So as you can see I am not just a belly dancer but a cowgirl, medicine woman, lover of wolves, gypsy, Egyptologist enthusiast, horse lover and woman advocate. I want you to see all of me in my photos so that when you take classes with me, you know a little bit about the woman standing before you. In the end we are all standing side by side living life if not together at least on video or in our photos.

Give people a little more then just a dance pose, give them a window into the woman that is in the photograph who is so much more and indefinable. In the end most people will remember the woman who told them a story instead of a woman that conceals her life in an average pose.