Photographer and ‘hype person’ Tayanna Nelson is on a quest for the city’s best steak

Tay Nelson
Photography by Adri Guyer

When Tayanna Nelson and her husband started looking for a wedding photographer, they searched high and low for an inclusive photographer. “Everywhere I turned, people in our city had a stacked portfolio, but it was full of thin, white and conventionally attractive folks,” Nelson says. 

The frustration from that experience inspired her to leverage her portrait photography skills and launch Hey Tay, a Midwest-based and LGBTQ+-focused wedding photography business. She serves as a self-proclaimed “hype person” for all types of clients, and her mission is to provide a safe space for marginalized couples to express their love.

Last year, Nelson ramped up her other photography business, Good Bodies, where she provides boudoir photography sessions for all folks “without shame.” In just five years since the KC native left her corporate career to go freelance, she has empowered countless humans to feel worthy of photography, and she’s just getting started.  

When did you first pick up a camera? I started photographing people in high school because a friend of mine was constantly taking these impressive self-portraits. I tried that, but I wasn’t nearly as good at it, so I tried photographing other people instead and fell in love with it.

What inspired you to leave your corporate job and pursue your photography business full time? When my husband and I started dating, I looked everywhere for a photographer who photographed people who looked like me, and it was impossible. I knew then that I had an easy niche to fill. People were too scared to do it themselves because there’s some myth that you have to pose people differently. You truly don’t. People just want to be treated like humans and want to feel worthy of photos. 

Tell us more about the Good Bodies project. I’m super open about the fact that I have arthritis and live with daily and very serious chronic pain. I casually started photographing boudoir in 2015, and then during the pandemic I thought for my safety I’d need to focus more on things I had control of, so I ramped up my boudoir business. I found out how good I feel sharing images with folks, letting them see themselves through my lens, and meeting people from such diverse backgrounds with such different reasons for getting a boudoir session. It was the perfect companion to weddings. 

What gets you most excited about being a Kansas Citian right now? I’ve found it very easy to make friends who are like-minded, and there are a lot of people who just want to see each other win. We’re all pretty open and excited for what’s to come. 

KC Favorites

 

First, Brunch “I usually hit up Third Street Social for a good brunch. Their drink menu is amazing, even without the bottomless mimosas, but on top of that, their biscuits and gravy is drool-worthy.”

 

Coffee Break “I’m not a very sophisticated coffee person, but the best coffee I’ve ever had has been either at the Wild Way coffee cart, who made it so accessible to a noob like me, or Messenger Coffee” 

 

Fries for Lunch “I was recently taken to Ça Va for some drinks and what were literally the best french fries of my life”

 

Steak for Dinner “I will go anywhere on earth for dinner that has a good steak. That used to be ’37 Steak, but the Gordon Ramsay restaurant [replaced that]. Avenues Bistro did have an amazing pineapple marinated steak that I loved, but Covid has me searching for a new favorite steak place. If you read this and know where I should be, I’d love you forever.” 

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