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Why I Started the Fashion Show

Updated: Nov 27, 2023

In 2009 when I came to Utah and I was helping forcibly displaced women from all over the world, I received a call in the middle of the night from one of the Congolese ladies I was helping. She was crying on the phone and told me that someone had grabbed her purse, hit her hard on her head, and told her "Go home since you are wearing your traditional dress or dress like an American!” I tried to calm her down, but she added that he took her purse and ran away. In her purse was her food stamp card, green card, and her ID, and, without them, she couldn't pay her bills or take money from her bank. I helped her to reapply for the documents that were stolen. 


My decision to start the Fashion Show event was deeply rooted in a desire to empower forcibly displaced women and address the challenges they face in adapting to a new culture. The incident involving this lady from Congo served as a catalyst, highlighting the need for a platform that not only celebrates the diversity of cultures but also provides a space for these women to reclaim their identity and showcase their strength.


The Fashion Show event serves multiple purposes, each with significant meaning:

  1. Empowerment and Dignity: The runway becomes a symbol of empowerment for these women. It allows them to feel powerful and proud, shifting the narrative from shame to strength. By walking the runway, they assert their right to be here and build a life for themselves and their families.

  2. Cultural Representation: The event becomes a platform for these women to represent their countries and cultures. It's an opportunity to educate the audience about the rich diversity of the world, from geography and language to traditional attire. This helps break down stereotypes and fosters a deeper understanding of the global community.

  3. Success Stories: Sharing personal success stories during the event serves as inspiration for others. By highlighting how these women have become independent and are thriving in Utah, it challenges preconceptions and showcases the resilience and determination of forcibly displaced individuals.

  4. Preserving Cultural Identity: Keeping the traditional or cultural dress is not just a fashion choice; it's a deliberate effort to preserve cultural identity. This is especially important for the children of these women, ensuring they are connected to their heritage while navigating the complexities of growing up in a different cultural context.

  5. Cultural Fusion: The idea of not balancing between two cultures but rather taking the best of both and combining them is a powerful message. It encourages a harmonious integration of cultural elements, fostering a sense of belonging for these women in their new home while cherishing their roots.

  6. Showcasing Utah's Rich Diversity: The Fashion Show becomes a celebration of diversity within Utah. It emphasizes that the richness of the community extends beyond its geographical borders, showcasing the various cultures that contribute to the tapestry of the state.


In essence, the Fashion Show event becomes a platform for empowerment, education, and celebration. It not only addresses the immediate challenges faced by forcibly displaced women but also contributes to a more inclusive and understanding community in Utah.


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