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Ebony Fashion Fair Models 'Run It' on the Runway (7185 hits)

Having a model job has its downsides

Being an Ebony Fashion Fair model, wearing fabulous designer clothes and strutting your stuff in front of big audiences looks like constant fun -- but it's a job.

"People think it's very glamorous traveling all the time, but it's a real job and it's work, like any 9-to-5 job," said Robert Griffin Jr., a model in this year's show.

Thirteen models (11 women, two men) are in the 48th annual traveling fashion show, which came to the Lexington Center's Bluegrass Ballroom on Tuesday night. The event was presented by the African American Fortune.

The theme this year is "Fit to be Fabulous."

If you like seeing beautiful couture clothes, this show was a treat.

There were ballgowns, suits, casual clothes and furs by 82 designers including Bill Blass, Bob Mackie, Carolina Herrera, Missoni, Christian Lacroix, Givenchy, Nina Ricci, Yves Saint Laurent and Issey Miyake.

Models audition, are selected in July and rehearse three weeks in August before the show goes on the road in September. It travels nine months, with three weeks off around the holidays.

By the end of November, Griffin said, they had been to 60 major cities in the eastern United States. After a three-week break, they head to the West Coast for a similar schedule that takes in Canada and the Caribbean. "Every night is a different city," he said.

Griffin, 25, is a graduate of Southern University in Baton Rouge, La., with a major in criminal justice. He worked in surveillance and fraud for Dillard's department store, was in line to be a cadet in the next academy class of the Louisiana State Police and had started his own record production company. "But I wanted to do this because it was a great experience for nine months, to get to travel," he said.

Models range from size 2 to size 16, said Yanique Moore of Fort Washington, Md., who graduated in May from Spelman College in Atlanta. "Our models show that you can be 'fit to be fabulous' at any size."

But staying trim is part of the job and monitored closely, said Griffin, who is 6-foot-2, has a 32-inch waist and weighs 209 pounds. "We don't live on carrots and lettuce, but we're on a very strict diet," he said. Models are weighed each Sunday, on a digital scale, and "we can't go 5 pounds over our weight," he said.

What happens if they do? "I don't know," he said. "You get a letter."

Among those enjoying the two-hour show were Jacquie Truax, who comes to see the clothes every year with her grandmother Hazel Oldham of Lexington. "The show is such a different experience," Truax said. "You feel like you're somewhere else and not in Lexington, Kentucky."

I also ran into Kentucky author Crystal Wilkinson, who is teaching creative writing at Indiana University and was back in town to take her teenage daughters, Elainia and Delania, to the show. "They are aspiring models," Wilkinson said.

Ebony Fashion Fair 2005

You know it’s going to be a fantastic fashion event when 2,400 ladies and gentlemen arrive in their Sunday finest. The Kennedy Center Concert Hall in Washington, D.C. was filled to capacity October 16th for the 48th Annual Ebony Fashion Fair. The theme of the afternoon was “Fit to be Fabulous,” and the creations that literally danced their way across the stage were just that.

Unlike a typical runway show, the twelve featured models (ten ladies and two gentlemen) were given individual introductions to an appreciative audience over the beats of the latest and greatest hip-hop artists. Jada Collins, the silky-voiced commentator and former model for the event, sat in a “throne” to one side as the models emerged from a holographic screen center stage.

With amazing choreography and seamless commentary, nobody could tear their eyes away from the dazzling mix of ready-to-wear designs from collections such as Oscar de la Renta, Anna Sui, Monique Lhuillier, Shakti, Zang Toi, Missoni, Roberto Cavalli, Christian Lacroix, Givenchy, Yves Saint Laurent, Vivienne Westwood, B. Michael, Bill Blass, and many more.

Just like a Broadway show, the Fair was divided into two “acts” with “scenes” such as “Colorful Drama,” “Fashionable Felines,” “Cold As Ice,” and “Cocktails for Two,” with mini-scenarios acted out by the models. The comedy was light-hearted and playful, and only served to compliment the designs.

The clothes for both day and evening wear were awash with bright oranges and burgundy, and coats were the essential accent for any ensemble. Models removed their coats with flair to reveal slinky form-fitting bias cut dresses, midriff-bearing velvet evening halters, and embroidered knee-length skirts.

The male models certainly looked dapper in dandy-style suits, Cavalli print shirts, and retro-inspired sportswear. But the ladies stole the show. The crowd oohed and aahed as a model in a Zang Toi evening dress with ice-blue embroidered fringe shawl dropped the shawl to reveal a sweetheart bodice gown—with the “shawl” now as the train of the dress. A Russian fur cap with matching fur shawl transformed into a knee-length coat with trim.

And pants are back for the evening, which is wonderful for ladies who must brave the colder Eastern winters. A Christian Lacroix bolero jacket with matching bustier was paired with slender black silk pants for a polished evening look. For the career woman, the classic pinstripe suit has received an update—stripes are now vertical, horizontal, and a little thicker. Emanuel Ungaro’s suits will jolt any workplace into productivity with eye-popping pink and purple that compliments any woman’s vibrancy. Puffed skirts by Anna Sui were reminiscent of 1950s romance, and flapper-style dresses by Bill Blass could put any girl in a party mood.

It’s not a surprise that the Fair relies on looks from the past decades. Mrs. Jessie Covington Dent inaugurated the Ebony Fashion Fair in 1956 as a fundraiser for a New Orleans charity; the show’s success inspired the tour and the launch of many models’ careers. Mrs. Eunice W. Johnson is the current producer-director, and she has been involved in the fashion world for over forty years. She travels to Europe to handpick clothes from the designers’ collections each year, spending around $1 million dollars. The Fair usually depends on non-profit groups to host the show in each city.

Celebrating the beauty of the male and female physique, the collections emphasized that classiness should always be an element of personal style. The organization that sponsored the Fair, The Washington, D.C. Continental Society, has very classy ladies as its members. Dressed in head-to-toe red suits, they were rightly proud of their chapter’s great contributions to the underprivileged youth of the D.C. area. The D.C. Continentals’ programs and activities focus on enhancing D.C. Public School students in areas of leadership and scholastics. Norma Jenkins Stewart is the Chairman of the Fair this year for its D.C. stop, and Gloria Johnson and Dorothy J. Bondurant are co-chairs.

The Ebony Fashion Fair, which is touted as the world’s largest traveling fashion show, debuted in Tinley Park, Illinois in September 2005 and will continue its tour through May 2006. For a complete listing of the tour dates and for more history, please visit the Fair’s official Web site, www.ebonyfashionfair.com.

Appearing in photo R&B recording star Keyshia Cole, BET’s Big Tigger and Ebony Fashion Fair’s Jada Collins with The Ebony Fashion Fair models after a taping of BET’s 106 & Park
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Sunday, December 4th 2005 at 10:59PM
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