Cheers erupted throughout Jack Adams Hall Friday night as women of all shapes, ethnicities and gender identities walked confidently down a runway to promote who they are and what being a woman means to them.
Associated Students, Inc.’s Women’s Center hosted its fourth annual fashion show with a new theme: “Come As You Are.” The organization’s goal for the year is to promote intersectionality and make the Women’s Center a more open place for all people on the gender spectrum as well as male allies.
“The thing we did differently this year was instead of going to individuals we perceived as women or looked as women because that’s problematic on its own, we actually posted flyers and on social media that we want all women to participate,” said Anisha Chuahan, director of the Women’s Center.
Each of the participating 14 models was ready to share their stories and accomplishments with the audience, creating a powerful narrative of what women are capable of. Chuahan and Kalyla Lam-Little, assistant director of the Women’s Center, read off each model’s biography as they strutted down the runway in outfits of their choice.
The models wore outfits ranging from jeans and t-shirts to fancy gowns and cultural garments, and even a Wonder Woman costume. The models were encouraged to wear attire that made them feel the most beautiful.
Fahima Chowdhury is an international student from Bangladesh and is working toward her electrical engineering masters with a goal to break stereotypes and become a successful woman in technology — currently a male dominated industry. Chowdhury walked in a traditional Bengali garment and carried her flag on her arm.
“I think (Bangladesh) is the only nation where our prime minister is a woman, our opposition leader is a woman, and our speaker is a woman,” Chowdhury said. “I’ve always been a strongly vocal about women’s empowerment, so I thought okay I should just flaunt it, I should just go and walk it.”
For many models, celebrating their culture was important and for others it was about feeling confident about their body shape. Helen Berry, a second-year creative writing major, has always been an advocate for feminism and was vice president of the feminist club at her high school. She dressed in a punk style and was adorned in dark, dramatic makeup, a flannel and high-waisted jeans that accentuated her curves.
“Sometimes I look in the mirror and I’m like: ‘do you know how much better I would look if I was just 10 pounds skinnier,’’” Berry said. “Why do we do that? I’m healthy, I’m fine, I’m beautiful — it’s just so embedded.”
Chantel Heard sat in the audience and cheered on all the models. She said she was proud to see so many ambitious and confident women of different backgrounds and body types.
“There were some with their neutral pronouns, I saw a lot of my friends representing different brown people, different cultures. It was great.”Heard said. “For me, as a queer woman, I just loved it.”
Black, White, Latina, Asian, short, tall, skinny, curvy and queer walked down the runway, with each showing a different representation of women.
“The fact that society puts a label on what a woman is, is an issue in itself,” Lam-Little said. “I think that society just views women to be feminine, delicate, fragile and rely on men to do things for them. We have to redefine what defines a woman. Everybody comes as they are differently, there’s something really special about that.”