I'll bet you have never had the chance to discuss fashion and style with a nun, have you? Before last Saturday I hadn't either, but on Sat. Aug 27th, there I was chit chatting it up with Sister Cecilia about our shared love of fashion magazines, bargain shopping, classic trench coats and timeless twin sets. What event paired me- a struggling fashion stylist- with a fashion loving, chic sweater wearing street smart nun? The "It's a Girls Thing Conference" sponsored by the Renee Jones Empowerment Center!
The event was held at the Collinwood rec center and I presented the Style Me F.L.Y. (Feel Like Yourself) Workshop that included a self esteem and personal style discussion with a group of girls ages 12-17. It was so cool! My awesome model friends came out to help me: Ohio Ent. Awards Model of the Year Nominee, Mahogany, fitness, runway and print model Harmoni Stone and Yasin Cuevas, creator of Project Model brought in four Latina models including Miss Ohio Latina Paulina Jewel!
I rode over to the venue with Ms. Jones and almost as soon as we got there my models arrived which was great cause baaybee let me tell you! Sometimes they don't show up at all and I had prepared scenarios for 10 models, but was prepared to rock with only one or two lol. I've been in this too long not to have a Plan B-Z... I had already prepped two of my models on a cute but very brief skit that basically covered self esteem, personal style, shopping on a budget and the difference between fashion and style all in one.
Mahogany played the mean materialistic girl draped in all designer, bragging to her homegirls (all dressed in white shirts and jeans to illustrate style preference and individualism) about all the money she just spent on herself from Saks, while Harmoni breezed through dressed in a simple little black dress (LBD) and sandals. A girl from Mahogany's crew commented how cute Harmoni looked and asked her where she got her outfit. When Harmoni replied "The thrift store", Mahogany turned up the hate and her nose while her girls continued giving Harmoni her style props.
The next scenario included a basic fashion formula outfit that consisted of a plain white t-shirt and jeans and the multiple ways to style a simplistic look by using accessories and a few style tricks. I used the Project Model girls for this one and had instructed them to wear solid white tees and a pair of jeans and that was it, the fashion gawds came into play because even though they had on what I asked them - they all wore different styles of shirts, pants and shoes. It was perfect! I laid all of their add ons onto the table and just went down the line adding blazers, scarves, jackets, chunky chains, long pendants, pushing sleeves up, cuffing and rolling pants legs and other tips to help the girls realize you don't need money to look good! The way to stretch your wardrobe is by styling your items differently every time you wear them ...
My power point was long (truthfully too long lol) and discussed everything from ways to build self esteem, how to achieve personal style, how to read fashion magazines, how to build and plan a wardrobe and many other things and I ended it by quoting the chorus of TLC's "Unpretty" cause it fit. I did not talk the whole time lol, and the girls participated in ways that surprised me by answering questions about self esteem and empowerment.
Tamiko Ruby J, owner of Studio LL50, came in right after me with a "Knowing Your Value" talk and helped the girls reset their energy by doing breathing exercises (which I definitely participated in and felt relaxed AF after). She not only spoke to the girls, but asked them questions and actually listened. Sometimes we adults talk at kids and we hear them, but don't listen. She listened as they explained what their definition of the word "weird" meant to them- somebody who was different, stood out and did their own thing in a good way- which proved how sometimes the generational gap is so large because of archaic definitions and a lack of clear understanding.
That was followed by an Art Therapy session with Art Therapist Gretchen Miller. The girls were instructed to trace their hands on a sheet of construction paper and were given a sheet of paper with affirmations on them. They were to choose five that stood out to them and then write them out inside of the hands to decorate. It was pretty cool to see what each of the girls chose and how they decided to decorate them and the reasons behind their choices.
We closed the workshop out by getting started on esteem/personal style vision boards using fashion and lifestyle magazines donated from the Carnegie West branch of the Cleveland Public Library but ran out of time before we could complete them. I promised the girls I would return to the center on Thursday to finish them up.
I had the best time! I loved being around the young ladies talking about fashion and style but also just seeing where their heads were when it cames to how they thought of themselves. This age group is constantly bombarded with images and content telling them what they are lacking, what they need to get, what they will never have and is out of there reach- way more than what we had to deal with at that age... This particular group of girls were so strong and opinionated it made me feel good. Many might not have known exactly what they wanted, but they did know what they did not want and had no problems speaking up for themselves. In other words they would not be silenced and/or spoken for and that's a major key to self esteem.
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I'm excited to announce that I will facilitate a 'Style Me F.L.Y' Workshop this Saturday, August 27th at the Collinwood Rec Center. This workshop is a part of the 'It's a Girl Thing' Conference sponsored by the Renee Jones Empowerment Center and will be held from 11am-4pm for young ladies ages 11-19.
The Style Me F(inally) L(oving) Y(ourself) Workshop will focus on building self confidence and personal style through combining old school methods with technology among other things. We will discuss unique challenges that young women face today and develop action plans to figure out what will work best. We will talk about fashion, style, and beauty and discover what it takes to create something out of nothing...
This workshop is free and lunch will be provided, but you must register! Time is running out and space is limited! Sign up here: It's A Girl Thing
When the gorgeous Mahogany hit me up to be styled for the Ohio Entertainment Awards after being nominated for Model of the Year, I was too pumped lol! I was excited for her nomination because she is one of the hardest working models in Cleveland and she was great to work with on the Cruelty Free fashion video a few years ago, I was super happy when she called me to dress her for the red carpet event.
Mahogany had an idea of how she wanted to look and after showing me a few pics, I got to work putting in calls to all my designer friends and boutiques to see if I could borrow something. Over the course of a week I made arrangements to beg, borrow and steal a deal if I could lol.
Our first stop was Lillie's Fashion Bar where I had a fitting room full of dresses for Mahogany to try on- some very similar to what she showed me, others not so much. As a stylist, my job is not to tell my client what is wrong, but to show what looks right on their bodies and why. Many of her choices were floor length gowns with lots of materials that would have overwhelmed her petite frame, so I chose a few mini dresses, and if the pieces were long, then I made sure they were sheer and showed lots of skin to create balance. She tried on at least four dresses in the store and one custom designed dress from Anton Zbarhz that was gorgeous but would have swallowed her 5'4 self right up on that carpet.
She surprised herself by falling in love with a sexy royal blue convertible dress that was no where near on her radar but she looked so good in it that even she could not deny it. She wanted to buy it right then, but we had at least two more stops to make. She did end up buying a really cute and trendy tie dye dress from Lillie's. We continued our adventure on to downtown Bedford and ended up at CC's Fabric and Design, where the owner and designer Candence Caprice ended up being a distant cousin of hers! Small world right lol?
We went through several dresses and was ready to head on to our final stop when Candence pulled out the sexy show stopping number Mahogany didn't even know she wanted. We both gasped in delight and I stood on pins and dang on needles as I waited for her to try it on. She came out and the dress looked amazing on her! Even better because it was custom made and she would not have to worry about having a "bish stole my look" moment on the red carpet lol.
Once again she was ready to wear it out the door and decided to forgo our last stop lol. The only thing left to get was the accessories and we agreed to do that the next day. We left the dress with Candence to alter and went our seperate ways. The next day we were on a mission. We picked up the dress, did a final fitting, and then hit the streets to go accessories shopping. With the dress being short, black and mesh, although tastefully covered in strategic spots, I knew it could straddle the line of being just sexy enough or too hot for TV based on the accessories we chose, so I kept that in the back of my mind as we hit up the shoe stores and other specialty shops piecing together the last bits of her look.
We hit every point in the city and finally after a long exhausting search we got everything she needed- shoes, clutch, jewelry, even a small compact mirror and fashion tape for any potential wardrobe malfunctions on the carpet. The day of the awards, Sunday- I again waited on pins and needles for that full body photo to come through and when it did boooy I tell you! Mahogany looked hot AF!! The dress fit her like a glove, her accessories were understated, her hair and makeup was on point and she just looked great! I was proud to have styled her for this event. She did not win the award, but shoot- you can't tell me she didn't look like it lol!
Do you have an event coming up that you would like to get styled for? Hit m e up: firstname.lastname@example.org and let's discuss how to make you look and feel like a celebrity...
Typical of any fashion show, hair and makeup was meticulously applied backstage by the Bella Toccare salon team at last Saturday's Runway Freedom Multicultural Fashion Show- but honestly there was not a highlighter on the market that could match the natural glow of the ladies walking that runway!
The show was held at St John's Episcopal Church in Ohio City, the Gothic style building on 2600 Church Street that has it's own historical significance as the "Station of Hope", the last stop of the Underground Railroad and that has continued to work for social justice since 1836. The message was loud and clear: people have needed help getting on their feet for centuries due to many circumstances, but it doesn't make them any less human, and it doesn't mean that their contributions to our communities should go unnoticed.
While I was helping the ladies to get ready behind the scenes, the show opened with remarks from Ms. Renee Jones, the president and CEO of the Renee Jones Empowerment Center. For the last fourteen years, Ms. Jones has helped address the after effects of human trafficking by "providing life coaching and aftercare services to those with the courage to break the human trafficking cycle."
A flag ceremony followed with facts provided by two students at Case Western Reserve detailing the statistics of known human trafficking countries and the tier rankings which identifies whether or not their governments were attempting to do something about the problem. After the ceremony, Tamiko Jenkins, owner of Studio LL50 and the night's emcee introduced the first look as the ladies came out in their colorful native garments, then in their fancy gowns and the grand finale which featured them in show stopping dresses fit for royalty. There was also a choreographed dance number that two of the young ladies came up with that got the crowd going and one raced backstage to get dressed in her final look in record time. I was so impressed!
All the ladies looked amazing and so confident and sure of themselves strutting across that stage (helped out by runway coach Diondra Heard earlier this month) as Tamiko read off little tidbits about them. The dresses were donated by Rockin Frocks- a program that gifts gowns and formal attire to girls and women in need, allowing them a chance to shine and attend special occasion events. My good friend and designer Anton Zbarzh also lent out a beautiful gown for one of the ladies to wear.
The evening ended with all the ladies standing on stage and receiving their well deserved applause and then went out to mingle in the crowd in their gorgeous dresses. We snacked on authentic ethnic foods and my picky self hesitated before tasting a grape leaf but was pleasantly surprised! I also attempted to taste hummus again (still nope) tabbouleh, pita bread and some other something I can't remember that was very wet and had lots of...chopped green stuff in it lol. I mainly grazed the veggie and cheese platter lol.
"It was my first time (walking),' said Annette Mango, who successfully changed three seperate outfits, accessories, shoes and even hairpieces in a matter of minutes. Speaking of the experience she simply said, "I have no words for it, it was amazing!"
At the very beginning of the show, backstage there was an anxious/nervous energy, the young ladies waited and ran around frantically chatting each other up, popping the heck out of gum (which of course I made them spit out like an angry headmistress- NO GUM ON THE RUNWAY!) waiting on the moment to go out on to the stage. If they were nervous walking out the first time I could not tell and by the third time, you would have thought they were pros and the audience ate it up! It was beautiful to watch.
This show was unlike any fashion show I have ever been involved with because it was a vehicle to not only promote cultural diversity and beauty, but also used as an aid to spread awareness about our local and global human trafficking epidemic. I really had no idea that thousands of women and children from Northeast Ohio are kidnapped, sold and forced into involuntary servitude- slavery, where they are forced into commercial sex or forced labor. But I learned all that and more at the fundraising event held in collaboration with US TOGETHER, an organization that provides services for immigrants and refugees which help strengthen the communities we live in.
We know that fashion can sometimes be superficial with traces of vanity, but we should keep in mind that it is a great way to bring awareness to topics that are hard to discuss, that we might turn a blind eye to, or just don't know enough about. I learned so much and it made me want to do more. Did you know that young boys are being kidnapped and held captive just as much as young girls, if not more? Did you know that all new beauty school applicants are now required to go through training to learn how to spot a human trafficking victim? And that when events like the RNC come into a town where money and power are spread among wealthy men is a crucial time for human trafficking? I didn't know any of this and many other heartbreaking statistics until I volunteered with the center.
Guest and owner of Blow Salon, Tymeka said, "I learned all across the board. I did not know about the boys."
You will see many collaborations between me and the Renee Jones Empowerment Center starting with the 'It's a Girl Thing' 2016 Young Women's Conference on Saturday, August 27th from 11am-4pm where I will facilitate a Style Me F.L.Y Workshop for young ladies ages 13-19. The workshop is free but you do have to register here.
Do you want to help out at the Renee Jones Empowerment Center? They always need volunteers to offer their gifts, skills and talents to help arm these ladies with the tools and knowledge needed to maintain. If you don't have the time then how about money? Ms. Jones has been running the center for the last fourteen years alone by the grace of God and was blessed with a grant last year, but the center still needs a list of things as big as a brand new building to as small as water bottles cause it is super hot in the center without fans (also needed) or air conditioners.
Please give what you can, if you can, because human trafficking affects us all and is something that needs to be discussed in our communities and in our homes.
I believe in divine intervention, I have to because of the people who have been placed in my life- all of my life. Each individual that has been put into my path has impacted me in some way or the other, some more than others but nevertheless I pay attention. I was brought to the Renee Jones Empowerment Center by something bigger than me at a time when I was distraught after receiving a piece of potentially life altering news. A ball of raw nerves and emotions, I walked into that center to talk about blogging for their upcoming show but after speaking to Ms. Jones about what she does, I left with a new found purpose: to use my talents, skills and gifts to help those in need. Particularity disadvantaged women who most have ignored, forgotten about or pretend they don't exist.
Human trafficking is real and here in Ohio the statistics are staggering. I learned so much about what the center does and how they help empower the ladies that are brought there. I was so enamored that I volunteered on the spot and will be working with the Renee Jones Empowerment Center by providing self esteem workshops with a fashion slant to the ladies. The very first day we met, Ms. Jones granted me a whole two hour time slot for a women's conference at the end of the month. She believes in people and that matters so much in what she does.
To put it plainly, the center needs money to operate and is teaming up with US Together for 'Runway Freedom', a multi cultural fashion show and fundraiser on Saturday, August 20th from 4pm-8pm. Ms. Jones took time out of her hectic schedule while flying cross country to answer a few questions:
WHAT DO YOU DO AND HOW DID YOU GET YOUR START?
I'm the president & CEO of Renee Jones Empowerment Center- I got my start by stepping out on faith and getting the support of friends and family to open the center in 2002.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN DOING THIS?
WHEN DID YOU GET YOUR “BIG BREAK?
Last year when the Center received a Victims of Crime Act grant from the Ohio Attorney General which allowed the Center to go from part-time to a full-time operation, which included providing a salary for the director and part time coordinator and funding to provide additional contracted services to victims.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST ACCOMPLISHMENT SO FAR?
Sustaining the Center for 14 Years...
WHO, IF ANYBODY, HAS REALLY HELPED YOU ALONG THE WAY
Vision Partners who made monthly donations, great dedicated board members who are engaged, and many dedicated volunteers who provided their knowledge, skills, talent and time to help with the center’s programs and services.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
The Bible, deep faith and people who are passionate and care deeply about helping people restore their lives.
WHAT ARE YOUR HOBBIES AND WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR SPARE TIME?
I enjoy planting flowers and making outdoor flower arrangements. I also enjoy interior design and collecting unique Asian art pieces.
HOW DID YOU PREPARE FOR THIS SHOW?
By using a task plan that outlines everything that is needed for an event including contacts, progress and expected time frames.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE?
Have passion for your work is number one, surround yourself with people who have more knowledge than you, be committed to learning new things and expanding your network.
WHAT IS NEXT FOR YOU?
To continue to expand and grow the programs and services we offer, to open a new center and to expand the Center ‘s presence on the east side of Cleveland.
WHERE CAN WE FIND OUT MORE ABOUT YOU AND YOUR WORK?
Visit our website at rjecempower.org, Facebook and Twitter.
ANYTHING YOU WANT TO ADD?
Runway Freedom is a unique opportunity to promote cultural diversity and spread human trafficking awareness locally and globally.
I will be both blogging and working with the ladies behind the scenes the day of the show. My awesome model friend Diondra Heard came in and taught some of the girls to walk the runway and she did a great job! Shoutout to women like her who don't mind using their talents for a good cause and expect nothing in return! If you would like more information about the show or to purchase tickets, buy them here. And if you are interested in volunteering or donating to the Renee Jones Empowerment Center, visit their website.
This past Sunday I attended Fashion Under the Big Top: the Greatest SEW on Earth produced by W. Vaughn Glover's Waki Wear Productions at the Embassy Suites at the Hilton in Independence, Ohio. There are fashion shows, and then there are fashion events- and this right here, this right here was a FASHION EVENT ok! A show within a show within a couple more shows lols. Guests arrived at 4:30 pm (most gloriously dressed in white with pops of color as requested on the invite) mingled with each other, browsed the vendors, enjoyed small bites and a cash bar before being ushered into their seats by Vaughn's dedicated staff.
Hosted by 2015's Plus Size People's Choice Model of the Year- the awesome Samantha Walker- who did a great job of keeping the crowd entertained and engaged in between the action packed and fast paced show. We were first treated to the Xalter Zaughn Collection, Vaughn's ready to wear line in his signature fabrics and distinct tailor made aesthetic. I live for Vaughn's shows cause he selects his male models carefully and believes in giving us women eye candy- very rare at fashion shows lol.
Fashion Under the Big Top was the perfect title for this production because there were a number of competitions and showcases under one roof. There was the "Three Ring Runway Competition" which featured the 19th annual Fashion Knockout Designer of the Year, the 1st annual "Queen of the Needle" crochet competition and the 1st annual "People's Choice" runway model competition. Not to mention a lit hair presentation by Sir Pooh, an encore showing of last year's Designer of the Year winner Gwen Hodges from Indianapolis, Indiana and special guest designer Fly Ty from Detroit, Michigan. I had to leave around the time for the little kids presentation, but I did manage to catch snippets and they were too cute!
The entertaining host and the crowd participation helped move the show- with the audience being able to vote for their favorite designers and models you could feel the crowd really getting into it. Usually for a show of this length and with an intermission, it can be too much for my short attention span to take, but there was never a dull moment and from the time the first model walked out, the runway was never empty- a pet peeve of mine.
I was so excited to attend this event. Not just because of the show itself, but because of what it means to our city. See Vaughn has been doing this for the past 26 years and he has helped bring recognition to independent designers from all over allowing them a place to showcase their talents. Cleveland, Akron, Indianapolis and Detroit designers and models represented in this show and they all received equal amounts of love from the crowd
"It is my purpose on earth to provide a venue for designers to showcase their gifts to the fashion world," Glover states. "I don't pursue my passion for the income, I pursue it for the outcome."
And that's so real...cause it seems like when it comes to fashion, the Midwest- Cleveland in particular is always passed over and not included in the dialogue. And it's even worse for urban/minority designers, but for close to three decades Waki Wear Productions has given talented designers a legitimate platform to showcase their work and win awesome awards, cash and prizes (he has had a deal with Baby Lock sewing machines and has awarded winning designers with pricey industrial sewing machines over the years).
For so much to be going on the production ran smoothly and even when I visited the models backstage there was a calm that is never usually present behind the scenes, which is how you know that the production itself was top notch. I mean yes there were last minute fittings and hair and makeup touch ups and small minute things, but there were no designers running around frantic trying to find out the order of the show, or trying to locate their clothes or models, no models looking for a misplaced high heel, or not understanding who they were walking for... no burning candles near highly flammable fabrics and weave lol.
After starting from the bottom as a show dresser, to styling scenes for my own runway shows and other's, and now gaining backstage access as a blogger, any Cleveland fashion show I attend is like a mini family reunion. I run into models I have worked with over the years, new faces that I've seen at other shows, hair stylists and makeup artists who make their rounds, as well as up and coming and established designers. Many fashion show guests become familiar faces too as they go from show to show supporting a model, designer or just the overall love of Cleveland fashion and style, and it's just a beautiful thing.
I ended up sitting close to Vaughn's family, including his sister and aunts who were clearly his biggest supporters and offered up hilarious commentary the whole time lol. One aunt told me that she has only missed one show in twenty something years and his sister made sure I was in a prime spot for taking my photos and videos lol, even bringing me back a plate of fruit after intermission as I chatted through the break. I had a blast and was amazed at the amount of talent in that room, everybody from the hair and makeup artists, to the models who WALKED that runway and especially the designers that dressed them. See for yourself in the video below and make sure to leave a comment!
*Designer of the Year Winner: Nelli Millard
*Model of the Year Winner: Martika Dabney
*Queen of the Needle Winner: Stephanie Morris Nunn
About the Blog
The main goal of this blog is to connect my readers to everything dope, fresh and stylish- All the Fly Things.
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