By C. Aileen Blaine
Whether it’s couture or streetwear sparking their interest, there’s one thing hospitality management and merchandising professor Jennifer Frank and friends can agree on: every body deserves to feel confident and comfortable in their own skin.
The EveryBODY Fashion Show returns to an indoor venue to celebrate body positivity and raise awareness for topics such as eating disorders and body-image issues.
“I most look forward to seeing everyone out there, dressed up, having a good time, feeling positive about themselves,” Frank said.
The event, which is coordinated by Frank’s fashion show production and promotion class, is made possible through sponsors such as the Danielle L. Peters Eating Disorder Endowment. Clothes are loaned from local stores and boutiques.
Behind the glitz and glam of the catwalk, however, lies a serious backstory of which the show’s organizers and participants are deeply aware.
Shortly after the July 2012 death of a Youngstown State University student due to complications of bulimia, human ecology professor Priscilla Gitimu began the fashion show as a way to remember Danielle Peters and spread awareness of the issues Peters and others struggle with.
According to statistics compiled by the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, eating disorders are among the deadliest of mental illnesses, second only to opiod overdoses. On average per year, over 10,000 deaths are the result of an eating disorder, and 9% of the U.S. population will have one in their lifetime. Furthermore, those belonging to minority communities are significantly more likely to display disordered eating habits, body dissatisfaction or eating disorder symptoms than their white, heterosexual counterparts, while also being less likely to receive help or treatment for these issues.
In addition to the catwalk, there will be mental health professionals providing information and resources for those interested in learning more about eating disorders and body dysmorphia.
The show will feature a variety of themes, ranging from spring dresses and professional attire to activewear and streetwear. A plethora of body types, skin colors and cultures will see representation as well.
“The show features models of all shapes and sizes, including models with Down syndrome, transgender models, drag queens — it’s all about promoting body positivity and honoring Danielle’s memory,” Frank said.
This year’s participants said they would like to see even more categories added in coming years, including hats, lingerie and gothic and cultural fashion.
Muhammad Khan, a biological sciences senior, said fashion has always been a part of his life, and he’s looking forward to sharing his excitement with others at the show. As one of the fashion show production and promotion students, this is his first year participating with the event but said he sees himself returning year after year.
“For me, fashion is freedom. It’s open to everyone, and I think everyone should be a part of it in some sort of way,” he said.
Fashion and interior merchandising junior Shelby Crites is another student in the production and promotions class. She said she’s learned more about teamwork and collaborating ideas, as well as accepting oneself.
“We all have insecurities of our own, and we all are allowed to feel that way sometimes,” Crites said. “But it’s important that we all remember that we are unique and special in our own way. We just need to embrace it.”
Freshman undecided major Erin Jackson said though at first the idea of walking down the runway may seem a little daunting, it’s a fun way to gain confidence.
“It’s super laid-back, nothing crazy, nothing stress-inducing,” she said. “After, you’re so happy that you did it and you feel 10 times more confident in yourself.”
Nia Simms has participated in the show for four years. She said the show has allowed her to express pride in herself and her weight-loss success.
“I know that confidence is important, and once you exude that confidence, you can do anything that you want,” she said.
Gavin Haus has participated in the show for four years, and his father’s company Haus Auto Group of Canfield is a sponsor of the show. The 7-year-old said he likes coming back each year as a model.
“What I like about each year is you get to see every shape, every size. And I’m excited to see every shape and every size this year as well,” he said.
Above all, Frank hopes participants and spectators alike will be able to walk away from the show with a little more confidence and positivity than before.
“I feel we’ve all struggled at some point in our life with body image issues,” Frank said. “Our goal with this show is to hopefully help people that are experiencing the same struggles [as Peters].”
The EveryBODY Fashion Show takes place from 6–9 p.m. April 13 at Beeghly Center’s main gym. For more information, contact Jennifer Frank at [email protected]