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30/03/2015

Aspen Cares Fashion Show Finishes Strong

(Photo:www.marieaustralia.com/formal-dresses-adelaide)

Saturday night brought on heaps of anxiety, as well as large amounts of excitement. The moment we all spent endless hours preparing for had finally arrived, and we knew it would be over before there was even a full chance to acknowledge it.

I paused to collect my thoughts only briefly in a chair at Salon Myo. There was an hour left until doors opened at the Belly Up and I was shocked at the sight I saw before me in the mirror. I had long, black hair extensions that went down to my belly button. My pale Irish skin was lightly tinted and aglow from the spray-on tan I had gotten earlier that day. And my makeup was caked on heavily, my eyes looking larger than ever with fake eyelashes attached. I rarely even remember to brush my hair in the morning and I typically only wear makeup once or twice a week. And the spray-on tan? Well that was entirely out of character. I was staring at a very different version of myself in the mirror, but I was intrigued by the transformation.

Preparing for this night has taken a great amount of my time in the past month.

So much so that this is the second time I’m writing about it in my column, because frankly, very little else has been on my mind as of late. Often times during the month, friends would ask me why I decided to get involved in such an intense project since it was taking up so much of my free time. I suppose part of the reason was because I was excited to get on a stage and strut my stuff. But really, I felt incredibly fortunate to be able to be involved in something this extensive. For me, it was a privilege, not a chore.

We spent night after night mastering the choreography, memorizing our blocking and familiarizing ourselves with the music. But getting to know our characters and the story behind them was the real challenge for me, and the real reward. Each person had a story from the emotionally abusive bad boy to the shy girl overcoming depression. It centered on all of our struggles, but showed how community, love and acceptance could help to ease those struggles.

I took on the character of the loner, the outcast that got bullied. Part of the reason that character was incorporated into the show was because of one of the beneficiaries, the Aspen Hope Center, a nonprofit in the Roaring Fork Valley that works to help those in emotional crisis and to decrease the stigma of mental illness. The Hope Center has found that bullying is a large problem in schools in the area. Volunteers and employees from the center spend a lot of time talking to children and teenagers about ways to prevent it. I hadn’t experienced much bullying when I was young, however, as I began to take on the role of the loner, I started to feel like this character, recoiling in front of a large group when they stared at me and often staying oddly quiet during rehearsals.

Others came alive in their characters. Some had never even been on stage before and were down to their bras and underwear in front of a captive audience, shaking their asses confidently. No matter the person’s story, I was so impressed with how we were all able to own our characters, taking on both their weaknesses and their strengths.

We are lucky to have such a philanthropic-minded community. A list I received a few months ago from the Aspen Community Foundation has more than 400 nonprofit organizations in the Roaring Fork Valley on it. There are endless opportunities to get involved and make a difference. This particular mission, Aspen Cares, benefitted Aspen Hope Center, Telluride AIDS Benefit, WestCap, AspenOut and Aspen Community Health.

By the time the show was over on Saturday, we were all on cloud nine. Adrenaline and excitement were high and we were eager to celebrate together. It felt so rewarding to see how 30-plus people started as individuals and ended the evening coalesced together as one supportive unit. We had found love and acceptance in a group of young Aspenites who had little idea what they were getting into when they auditioned a month ago for a fashion show.

More so than the cast growing together, we helped to identify and support organizations that have made it their mission to help people overcome mental and sexual struggles similar to the ones we presented on stage.

I felt lucky to be a part of the show because it reiterated something to me that I often forget: Love and friendship have the power to conquer all.

I hope our audience was able to take that away from the evening as well.Read more at:www.marieaustralia.com/plus-size-formal-dresses

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