meet a magpie: faleena hopkins

I met Faleena Hopkins a little over three years ago.  She has a huge smile and a loud laugh, like her personality: strong and beautiful. 2009 was a difficult year for me, and Faleena rose to the call of friendship with presence and grace. When I created The Magpie List, it’s people like Faleena who immediately came to mind—not only invaluable friends, but also self-motivated, compassionate, inspiring artists determined to contribute to a larger community.

In 2003, in the midst of a nasty divorce, Faleena was feeling lost and confused about her life’s trajectory. “I heard a voice whisper in my mind, ‘Why don’t you try photography?” One year later, she was making her living as a photographer, self taught, self-motivated, and already quite successful. Now, her photos have graced the covers of magazines, album covers, and billboards.  Los Angeles actors covet her headshots, and families enjoy her portraiture of their newborns. She photographs with an eye for the magical (case. in. point).

Recently, she has combined her talent and her boundless empathy to create The Smile Portrait Project.

Smile Train inspires me, as a charity. When they repair a child’s mouth so that the child can speak better, close their mouth, eat more easily, and not have the ear problems associated with cleft lips and palates, they improve the child’s life forever. It’s a simple surgery that can erase a lifetime of potential heartbreak. I just love them for it.  When I see these children’s before and after pictures, I often cry.  It moves me to my core.

The last thing I’d like to say is I’m also doing this project because of the state of the world right now.  Everyone is so bogged down by fear.  I’m tired of it and I want to help people smile again.  We create the world we are in by how we feel and think, and when people play, they open up.  We need to open up.  Silliness breeds optimism.  Playfulness reminds people what fun is like.  And negativity is a virus that we can cure by smiling.”

Faleena is going to take her portraiture talents and offer her services around the country to anyone and everyone willing to smile for her camera. Please follow her progress at and

See Faleena’s Magpie List here!

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