Leah and Joseph

How We Met

We met online (not Tinder) and were so wigged out by it at first. Neither of us thought it would work, however after just a couple of weeks we ended up finding each other. After that, we talked for a few weeks before we decided to meet up. I was living in Cincinnati at the time and he was living in Detroit. We Google mapped what the mid point was between the two, and it turned out the mid point was a little town called Bluffton in Ohio. So on Saturday, September 12, 2015, I drove two hours north and he drove two hours south and we met in person for the first time at a little restaurant called Luke’s. We had lunch and then went to a coffee shop down the street and just talked for hours. We fell in love hard and fast, so fast in fact I told him that I loved him that night, and he told me that he felt the same. We dated long distance for about a year until we relocated to my home city St. Louis right after the (complete and utter surprise) proposal in August 2016.

How He Asked

The proposal has a back story. Joe had been modeling professionally for about five years at the time doing various catalog ads and traveling with the auto show as a brand ambassador for a big name car company. So, in February or March of 2016–only about 5 or 6 months into dating–he told me that he had a photo shoot for a name brand clothing company. After the shoot he called me and was telling me all about it and told me he had crazy news to report. He said that he was gushing on and on about me at the photo shoot to the booking agents there and they asked to see a picture of me. They said that from the pictures, they’d like to book the both of us for a catalog photo shoot for a big clothing brand. I didn’t believe it at first. I have never modeled and have never thought of myself as someone that could ever be one. The last “headshots” I have are my senior pictures from high school. There’s no way these people would want to book me for a name brand clothing catalog next to an experienced model based off of images on my boyfriend’s phone and Instagram.

However, after clever language and convincing, Joe got me to believe it was true. Over the subsequent months, he would bring it up every so often and we’d talk about it and how fun it was going to be, etc. To further confirm and convince me of this, he had the makeup artist (that would later be at the photo shoot) send emails to him regarding the shoot, asking for my sizes, sending images of the “wardrobe changes”, etc. that he would show me. He would talk about modeling and photo shoot tips and tricks all while remaining calm, cool and collected. Never a trace of nervousness or unsteadiness in his demeanor or language. So, I flew to Detroit for this photo shoot on the first weekend in August 2016. Carefully primped and primed for my upcoming modeling debut, we left for the photographer’s studio on the morning of August 6, 2016. When we arrived, there was a wardrobe rack on which was a red dress that Joe had picked out himself (little did I know), a makeup artist was there and there was a huge studio space with a large white backdrop with umbrella lights and other special lighting–all the workings of a real life modeling photo shoot.

It turns out Joe had hired this photographer he had known for a while and had done some of his headshots with. The makeup artist often works with the photographer so she recommended her to be the makeup artist “on set” for that day. Joe hired them both to go along with this charade. When we were ready, we actually did do some “modeling” poses and took many images for about forty-five minutes. All to convince me that this was a real photo shoot. Then, the photographer suggested we take a five minute break. When we returned to the set, we were standing opposite each other and getting some “separate shots.” The photographer directed me to look straight at the camera (so I couldn’t see what Joe was doing). Little did I know, a few minutes into this second session Joe would be giving signals to the photographer that it was time for the proposal.

He had nonchalantly actually untied his shoe, so when he did get down on one knee and I noticed it, he actually was tying his shoe (in order to make sure he was in the right frame for the camera.

However, suddenly he pulled out the little white box from his breast pocket and he was looking up at me smiling and reaching for my hand. I was so flabbergasted and absolutely stunned! I burst into tears and the revelation dawned upon me that this wasn’t a modeling photo shoot for a clothing brand.

It was a photo shoot that documented the moment we began our journey to becoming Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Secreto.

Special Thanks

Mary Duprie
Photographer
Emili Cook
Makeup Artist