New York Fashion Week, DSW and Create & Cultivate Runway Redone
“Don’t change who you are for what society is telling you to be.” – Hunter McGrady
We were sitting in a beautiful room at the top of the Redbury Hotel overlooking New York City. It was New York Fashion Week and here I was, once again, the “Mother Hen,” 3 decades older than the inspirational group of young women, a disparate crew, I was quickly getting to know.
This beautiful universe brought us together through the good fortune of winning a contest with over 4500 applicants to walk the NYFW Runway in an entirely new way. It was a show brought about to change the way fashion shows are done and what they represent. Designer Shoe Warehouse and Create & Cultivate combined forces to make the magic happen.
We weren’t models. At least, not most of us. What were we? A diverse melting pot of women, mostly in their 20’s except for yours truly, streaming from all walks of life.
We shared a united desire to change this crazy world to one that’s more positive and open to diversity. It wasn’t long before we were opening our hearts and sharing our stories. We had just finished a day filled with workshops and styling sessions, along with hair and beauty makeovers. Our hearts were busting with compassion after inspirational talks featuring Body Positivity Maven, Hunter McGrady. and burn survivor and America’s Got Talent Finalist Kechi Okwuchi.
We pulled our chairs closer together and let our shields fall to our sides while our hearts opened and vulnerability began to pour through.
One after another, we began to open up about our personal stories and what brought us to NYC. We began talking about how we didn’t see ourselves reflected in our society. We talked about Ageism and shifting the perception of older women as well as taking the fear out of aging. We talked about realities and misconceptions. We talked about “token” inclusivity and diversity versus the real thing. We talked about true beauty and the illusion we see on social media.
Tears began to flow quickly. Emotions began to stir. Bonds began to form. One of the young women, not long ago, was a man. She’s a beautiful “trans” woman who happened to be born into the body of a man. Her light was magnetic. Her passion and energy palpable. We began to get an education on what it means to be a transgender. Regardless of our age, we were equally hungry for authentic and heartfelt conversation. These youngsters were ready to go deep.
Jess, my new “trans” friend and I quickly developed a bond. I couldn’t help but be magnetized by her gorgeous soul and beautiful energy. She opened up about what it was like to know that she was a woman yet she was born into the body of a man. It takes a brave soul to fight the good fight, the fight for the rise of the authentic self. She had suffered from depression that led to thoughts of suicide. Living the life of a woman trapped in a man’s body was killing her. Not being able to live as her authentic self was crushing her soul and dimming her spirit.
Jess was only 18 when she made the decision to transition. She was fortunate to have a loving family that supported her on a challenging path forward that would include painful surgeries along with hormone replacement among many issues along the way.
I believe we were all touched by her story and her bravery. I was in awe of this young woman who was clearly a guide for other souls to follow her lead.
We began to realize that, although our stories and journeys were very different, we shared a common thread that brought us together. We had fought for the right to be ourselves, our true selves, rather than the “conformist” self society would prefer us to be. One of the most important things we shared was knowing that the pressure to conform to a false self was killing us while the freedom of being our true and authentic self was life giving. Every single one of us overcame a great deal of adversity, yet it was through our challenges, that we came to meet our authentic self and that would change our lives forever.
We looked very different from one another on the outside yet we shared much in common on the inside, in our hearts and in our souls. We shared compassion. We shared empathy. We shared a lifetime of friction and overcoming adversity. We also shared a passion for leaving this world a brighter place. Each of us wished to leave behind a positive wake, a legacy that would change lives for the better.
The next day, the group of us, united through our hearts, would have the once in a lifetime opportunity of strutting down a NYFW Runway in The DSW Runway Redone Show, busting through barriers and glass ceilings. The night was electric. The experience was magical.
I’ve had a lot to process after a week filled with experiences and connections that will forever change my life. The most magical moments of the week weren’t those found on the runway. They were the moments off the runway. The real magic was found in the lively and emotional conversations that busted our hearts wide open and connected a diverse group of women from all walks of life together, forever.
Life is a Runway. The most beautiful life is a life of true diversity and inclusion, one that reflects the glorious melting pot of disparate humans from all walks of life.
May the magic and conversations that began with The DSW Runway Redone, artfully executed by the Create & Cultivate Team, continue off the runway and out onto the runway of life. When society is insisting on who you should be, it takes Moxie to be your authentic self. Say it loud and wear it proud!
I’d love to hear your thoughts on being your authentic self!
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