Celebrating body positivity on the runway

By Molly Burke

Youngstown State University students taking the Fashion Show Productions and Promotions course are preparing for the 2023 EveryBODY Fashion Show. 

More than 120 models will showcase the students’ work during the free, public event at 6 p.m., April 12 at the Beeghly Center. 

The theme, EveryBODY, was created to promote body positivity and celebrate a diverse collection of models, which have no requirements to participate. 

Jennifer Frank, YSU fashion and merchandising professor who instructs the class, said the fashion show began as a tribute to a student who lost their life.

“Dr. Priscillia Gitimu started the show right after we lost a student in 2012 … to an eating disorder,” Frank said. “We all struggle, myself included, at some point in our life with our body image, and if we can just raise awareness that your beauty comes from inside — not from outside — then we’ve achieved our goal.”

Frank said the students have been working since January to put on the show. 

“They learn everything from start to finish to produce and promote a fashion show. We create all the invitations, they recruit the models, they decide on what categories of merchandise they want in the show,” Frank said. “They’re involved in everything, both backstage and in front of the house.”

Senior marketing major, Mya Snyder, has her own clothing business called Sew What? Sew This! Snyder said she is looking forward to seeing the runway. 

“I am of course very excited to see my pieces down the runway, and seeing … people who may never have been asked to model before getting that time to shine and experience is really cool as well,” Snyder said. 

A variety of Snyder’s pieces will be featured in the show. Snyder said she primarily sells accessories and tops.

“Most of what I make and sell is all second hand pieces that have been reworked … Bags and bustier tops [are my favorite garments to make],” Snyder said. “I find a ton of inspiration from vintage — vintage styles, vintage patterns, vintage runway shows … anything that’s super colorful I love.” 

Owen Bertram, junior theatre studies major, will be modeling in the show. He said he had fun walking in the show last year, so he is looking forward to his performance this year. 

“Representation is really important, and I know for me at least, I always had a bigger body type … and I really like the idea of seeing people with different body types [in the fashion show] because we all deserve to be confident,” Bertram said. 

Senior communications major, Devon Biggs, is also going to model. Biggs said he is excited to showcase the art of drag with the audience. 

“I do drag and I am a pageant queen, and I do multiple pageants all over,” Biggs said. “It kind of gives me a little exposure here in Youngstown.” 

Biggs said the EveryBODY Fashion Show is the perfect place for drag representation, especially since drag has been targeted by recent legislation.

“Ohio is one of those states that is looking to put in laws to reinforce certain things against drag, and so with YSU being a campus … I believe that even the smallest amount of people seeing things can persuade their viewpoints,” Biggs said. 

Those interested in modeling can contact Frank at jmfrank@ysu.edu. For more information, check out the YSU Fashion and Interior Merchandising facebook page