GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (ABC 4)- Many people are familiar with the phrase, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” and if photographs captured by Elise Kutt could talk, they would instill messages of female empowerment, body positivity, inclusivity and the beauty of womanhood!

Elise is not only the multi-passionate entrepreneur behind Mod Bettie portraits, “an all-inclusive portrait boutique,” or the founder of Naughty Bettie, “West Michigan’s first and only European-influenced lingerie boutique,” she’s also one of four trailblazers featured in our Remarkable Women of West Michigan contest.

In honor of Women’s History Month and to acknowledge the ways local women inspire, lead and forge the way for others in our community, eightWest and ABC 4 are sharing the stories of the four Remarkable Women finalists making a significant difference across West Michigan!

We invite you to learn more about our first finalist, Elise Kutt!

Discovering her calling to empower

Elise’s journey into photography began while building a portfolio in art school based on self-portraits. While exploring and experimenting in front of and behind the camera, Elise learned to appreciate her inner and outer beauty, and discovered her true calling–helping others to fall in love with themselves.

Connecting with my body at that time in my life was something that I realized I could give to other women and my clients here in West Michigan. So, I knew that I was going to build and empowerment studio.”

Elise Kutt

Creating a space for self-expression

In 2014, Mod Bettie opened in Downtown Grand Rapids with the idea that “we’re all a bunch of Modern Bettie’s.” This all-female photography studio offers contemporary glamour, boudoir and retro photos, but most importantly, provides a safe and supporting environment to its clients.

Knowing that diversity, equity and inclusion is such an important value in the Mod Bettie space is, I think, especially as a woman of color, something that’s so important to me. It’s because it’s not just a business. It’s not just a photographer. It’s somebody who cares about you, and loves you, and wants to empower you, and challenge you, and coach you and remind you that like, you are perfect all on your own. And I’ve never experienced that anywhere else in life.

Jessie Reyes, Mod Bettie/Naughty Bettie client
Kenzie Brooke, captured by Elise Kutt

In 2018, Elise’s mission expanded with the launch of sister company Naughty Bettie, a lingerie boutique located inside the Mod Bettie studio, which provides women with an array of lingerie sizes and styles to boost their self-confidence, body positivity and feel like the sexy “queens that they are.”

Our mission is to empower women by creating a safe and supportive environment for female self-expression. And I think that’s important because nowhere in our mission does it talk about photography, does it talk about lingerie. It’s about the space. It’s about holding space for others. It’s about coming together as a community. And we just happened to use a camera as the tool.

Elise Kutt

An impact felt beyond the lens

Elise’s impact extends beyond the walls of her studio, boutique and the West Michigan community. This impact has been felt internationally at the worldwide retreats Elise has hosted in Costa Rica and Sicily. It’s felt through her education course, “The Modern Retail Method”, and in her inclusive online Facebook group #SquadBettie.

Launched in 2018, #SquadBettie encourages its members to feel shameless in posting the selfies and photos that makes them feel stunning! Members are also encouraged to cultivate friendships and support one another in chasing their dreams. The group’s rules are clear, #SquadBettie is a non-judgmental and body-neutral community. Today, the group is nearing 5,000 members.

Surround yourself with the right people. There are remarkable women out there that want to see you succeed and that will hold space for you, and that will cheer you on, and that will sit with you when it gets crummy. I feel like I have this power because I’m surrounded by these really confident women and that allows me to exist and hold space for others!

Elise Kutt

Photo courtesy of Elise Kutt

Congratulations, Elise! Watch her eightWest segment here, and catch the reveal of our second Remarkable Women of West Michigan finalist on Wednesday, March. 15!