Future Reflections Convention Report 2012
by Kim Cunningham
From the Editor: To the general public, a fashion show may seem to be primarily a visual experience, and the idea of a blind fashion model might seem a contradiction in terms. Yet, under the direction of Kim Cunningham of the Texas Parents of Blind Children, a group of blind models challenged expectations and learned about style and poise at the 2012 convention of the National Federation of the Blind.
In the fall of 2011 Carol Castellano, director of programs for the NOPBC, approached me about putting together a style show during the 2012 National Federation of the Blind Convention in Dallas. Carol had recently attended a style show that involved blind adult models. She thought that teaching our blind and visually impaired children about style and poise would be a lot of fun for everyone, and I agreed. While I had never organized such an event before, I was willing to tackle the challenge. I believed that the event would be a great teaching tool.
We all know that people are judged by their appearance and level of self-confidence. I always encouraged my blind daughter to be aware of her physical appearance. If we expect our blind children to compete for jobs, we must teach them how to present themselves to the public. When our children go to school or apply for jobs, they should be aware of their attire and should understand how others perceive their body language. Confidence comes from the inside out. Teaching our blind and visually impaired children about current fashions, hairstyles, and accessories will strengthen their ability to build friendships and will help them feel confident in who they are. Our children must learn to show others that they are capable and able to fit into whatever situation they encounter at school or at work. We can teach our kids all they need to know for academic success, but if they don't have the tools to fit in socially, they will have a much harder time competing as adults. With all of this in mind, I embraced the challenge of the style show!
Style is not limited to those who have sight. If you attended the NFB national convention in Dallas last summer, you may have witnessed children learning about their own sense of style. The NOPBC held its first style show for students ages five to twenty-five. Applications were sent out six weeks prior to the convention, and all blind young people were eligible to take part.
At the style show, students had the opportunity to walk the catwalk wearing their outfit of choice. Models wore everything from formal dresses to swimsuit attire. Fancy shoes, hats, and jewelry were donned during the show. Some models even decorated their canes!
To prepare for this event, all of the children and young adults went through several rehearsals. They learned the layout of the room as well as the catwalk path. Volunteers worked with the kids to show them the correct posture and how to strut their stuff while they walked down the runway.
After rehearsal, the students quickly changed into their modeling clothes and awaited the cue to walk. As each model walked into the room, the audience heard a bit about him or her, such as name, home state, and hobbies. Once the music began, each model walked with cane in hand down the runway toward the front of the room. The audience cheered, and the models walked with confidence galore! When the models hit their cues they stopped, turned, and struck a pose.
After a thank-you cue was given, each model left the runway to change quickly into Outfit Number Two. Each child or young adult was given the freedom to create his or her own pose and walking style. The only requirement was to have fun!
For the finale, all of the models walked back to the front of the room as a group. They stood together, shoulder to shoulder, and answered random questions from the emcee. Questions ranged from "What is your favorite part of the NFB convention?" to "What do you want to be when you grow up?" It was our intention to give our young people the opportunity to be interviewed while speaking into a microphone. If you haven't used a microphone before, hearing your voice amplified can make you a little nervous. All of our students proudly took their turns and answered questions for the audience. The models took a final bow together and left the room to a standing ovation!
I was so proud of every model who took part in the style show. We had hoped for a positive outcome, and that is what we got! Students learned about the various styles the others wore and how we each are unique in our style choices. They learned that holding the shoulders back shows confidence. They learned how to be interviewed and how to show confidence with the power of their voices. All were given the opportunity to walk independently using their canes to discover their surroundings.
I would like to thank Pamela Gebert, Sandra Oliver, and Lety Flores for their help with the planning of this event. Sandra and Lety purchased miscellaneous items for goody bags that were given to each participant as a thank-you for their time. The goody bags were donated by the NOPBC and the Texas Parents of Blind Children. I would also like to thank my husband, Bobby Cunningham, who assisted me with the music and photography. Bobby donated a fashion portrait to each model. What a great team!
If you plan to attend the 2013 NFB national convention in Orlando, Florida, next summer, please encourage your children to apply to walk. Feel free to contact me if you would like to be sent an application. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.