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English Elegance: Gala Channels Downton Abbey at Hotel Zaza

English elegance came to Hotel Zaza in the form of Devereux Advanced Behavior Health’s gala. This year’s event featured a Downton Abbey theme that was echoed not only in the decor but right down to the music (the show’s theme song played in the ballroom).

The gala raises money to help fund the group’s services. One of the parts I think event-goers (and jewelry fanatics!) really enjoyed was the Kendra Scott mystery pull. They had a similar pull at the TUTS gala and I must admit, I was a willing participant in both. There’s just something about a surprise jewelry box I find really exciting! Ha!

Suzi Hanks from Houston’s Eagle radio station was the emcee. Overall, the event never lost sight of its true mission to bring awareness to issues some are too afraid to talk about such as abuse or neglect. I appreciated that the focus remained on the goal of helping others.

Another element I loved: many items were up for auction and among them – a painting created by Devereux’s therapy dog, Stevee.

You can see that in the pictures below. You can read the full story here. It’s also in its entirety under the photo gallery.

From CultureMap:

Ladies and lords turned out in their finest attire for the Downton Abbey-inspired Savor the Hope Gala at Hotel Zaza benefiting Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health. Now in its eighth year, the event raises money to help sustain the programs and services at Devereux, a nationwide organization that helps children and adults overcome several challenges including intellectual and developmental disabilities. It has two Texas campuses in League City and Victoria.

Many in the crowd of 300 wore the Downton Abbey theme well, donning gowns, tiaras and feather and rhinestone hairpieces that echoed the 1920s style seen later in the series. The feeling of aristocracy trickled into the ballroom, from the show’s theme song lightly playing in the background to the décor, which featured large floral and white plume centerpieces donated by Kroger.

But just because the setting was posh doesn’t mean that the atmosphere was stuffy. “Dean and Rog” Morning Show co-cost Suzi Hanks from Houston’s Eagle radio station opened dinner with jokes and kept the room rocking as she emceed through the night.

The gala honored Austin-based jewelry designer and philanthropist Kendra Scott with the Emy Award, which recognizes leaders or organizations in the community for their charitable giving. Scott was unable to attend, but according to a member of her team accepting the award on her behalf, the designer has worked with Devereux to raise more than $5,000 for that organization alone since partnering with them last year.

Even though fashion was a way to bring everyone together, Devereux executive director Pamela Reed reminded everyone of the real reason for the soirée: raising awareness about the issues affecting children that many people are too afraid to talk about, such as neglect or abuse. The evening was also about celebrating the ways partygoers could become involved with the group’s mission.

A live auction emceed by lifestyle and fashion blogger Sheree Frede opened the floor to anyone looking to get away, whether it was a staycation at Hotel Zaza or a trip of English elegance to The Savoy hotel in London. Frede’s husband, Norman Frede, who owns a dealership in the Clear Lake area, came through with the biggest win of the night in the live auction  — bidding $10,000 for a trip to the Canyon Ranch Spa in Tucson.

In a separate room housing the silent auction items, there was another star of the show – a half Labrador, half Dachshund named Stevee. He’s Devereux’s therapy dog and he offered his own artwork of colorful dog paws. At one point, he slipped away from Devereux behavioral analyst Rose Filteau and ran into the arms of guests who were delighted to have him. An autographed Houston Texans Jadeveon Clowney jersey and diamond level Houston Astros tickets were some of the other items up for grabs.

Seen in the crowd were radio personality Sarah Pepper, gala chairs Jon Halvorsen and Pamela O’Brien, Devereux director of development Joni Roberston, Roy Green, Lisa Dimond Vasquez, Aliza Dutt, Larry Strader, Amy and John Mallett, Elizabeth and Charles Spillar, and members of the Deacons of Deadwood Motorcycle Club.

Between guests sampling Argentinean empanadas and sausage hors d’oeuvres from Patagonia Grill and Café, taking snapshots at the Stardust Photobooth and dancing to live music by The Gentle Lamb Experience, the gala proved that having fun and giving back never goes out of style.

 

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We’re Your Dreamgirls

Theatre Under the Stars celebrated its annual gala in glamorous fashion, with a nod to Dreamgirls. The production  was at the Hobby Center for a limited engagement for about two weeks in April. But the gala also feted  philanthropist Margaret Alkek Williams, a woman some in the community would call a Dreamgirl in her own right for her contributions to the arts. I had the opportunity to cover the event and I felt pretty glam myself in a blush sequin off the shoulder gown by Badgley Mischka. The theme was all about the retro and glamour vibe that spanned the decades of the 60s and 70s. Perhaps most important, the night raised money for TUTS programs. I snapped a few shots at the gala of the decor, food and (of course!) my gown. See those below. You can read the full story here on CultureMap or see it in its entirety under the photo gallery.

From the moment guests stepped out of their cars, they needed to be ready for their close-ups as a photographer captured the red carpet arrivals at the 2017 Theatre Under The Stars Gala at The Hobby Center for the Performing Arts. The theme was “One Night Only,” one of the signature songs of the Broadway musical Dreamgirls, which opens next month and inspired the night.

The evening started with cocktails and appetizers in Sarofim Hall, offering the perfect opportunity to do some shopping at a silent and live auction. Everything from autographed sports memorabilia to trips to Saint Lucia, Paris and even Belize was up for grabs.

For those who wanted to get in on the action without placing a bid, $175 would get you a mystery bag from Elaine Turner. Each bag had a purse or clutch inside ranging from $150 to $400 in value. Across the room, Kendra Scott also had a mystery pull for a fixed price of $60.

The lights soon flashed in the lobby signaling the start of the show and the moment for each guest to take their turn in the spotlight. That’s because instead of watching the stage, they were on it. Dinner was served onstage with an entrée of filet mignon in a brandy mushroom sauce, petite carrots glazed with ginger and citrus and vine tomatoes filled with creamed baby spinach, catered by Culinaire.

And if you’d always wanted to feel like a Broadway star, this was your chance. The word “Dreams” hung from the ceiling, a nod to the theme, while décor bathed in purple and centerpieces that looked like chandeliers accented the tables — all created by The Perfect Touch.

You didn’t even have to be in show business to have your own record. CDs with “One Night Only” on the cover were at the seats along with microphones and disco balls. Technically, the CDs were handmade chocolate from The Chocolate Bar and the microphones and disco balls were cookies, but what’s better than something you can eat?

Houston’s Dreamgirl honored

The gala honored Margaret Alkek Williams for her contributions to the arts community in Houston. True to the glitz of the night, Williams sparkled in a purple sequined gown as she accepted her award from TUTS board chair Amy Pierce. “It means the world to have Margaret’s support,” Pierce said. “Her sincere generosity has enabled our arts community to grow and succeed beyond what we thought possible, for arts programming to reach students who desperately need it and most importantly, she is mentoring the next generation to foster a love for the arts.”

Pierce noted that Williams is helping TUTS expand its Humphrey School of Musical Theatre and The River, which serves children with disabilities.

But Houstonians weren’t the only ones recognizing Williams. Original Dreamgirl Sheryl Lee Ralph, who played the role of Deena Jones on Broadway in 1981, delivered a recorded message to her since she couldn’t be there in person (she’s currently starring in Wicked on Broadway). She told Williams the city is fortunate to have her. “No wonder you are dubbed Houston’s Dreamgirl!,” Ralph said.

The gold curtain later opened to reveal the cast of Dreamgirls, who performed numbers from the musical, including “Family,” “When I First Saw You,” “One Night Only,” and of course, the title song, “Dreamgirls.” Zonya Love, who stars as Effie White, brought the house down with “I Am Changing.” Her powerful vocals and range earned her a standing ovation, and I’m pretty sure had we been in church, a few ‘Amens.’ Yes, she was that good.

Seen in the crowd were TUTS executive director Hillary Hart, gala chairs Becky and Bart McAndrews and Paul-David Van Atta, who were thrilled at the nearly $700,000 raised at the gala, Deborah Duncan, Faith and Lee Majors, Phoebe and Bobby Tudor, Jerry Ann and Victor Costa, Sandy and Randy Stilley, Rob Pierce, Dreamgirls director and TUTS artistic advisor Sheldon Epps, Pierce Bush and Sarabeth Morgan, Penny and Paul Loyd, Alicia Smith Maguire, Frank and Demetra Jones, Nick Tran and Vaalerie Tran, Jim Daniel, Steve and Leticia Trauber, Jay Landa and Daniel Turner, John Nau, Roxann and Tim Neumann, and Roselle and Dennis Baldwin.

After party continues

By the time the gala ended, the lobby of Sarofim Hall had undergone its own glamorous makeover as the site of the “Grand Finale” after party. The tables were replaced by a black and white tiled dance floor and a dessert bar, courtesy of Culinaire Catering, now lined the wall with towers of dreamsicle chiffon trifles, red velvet mini cupcakes, gold leaf brownies, banana puddings and other treats.

Chaired by David Peck and Hector Villarreal, the after party was a new feature this year. Guests could also sweeten their evening with fresh purple cotton candy, made in another corner of the room, or could immortalize their trip back to the ’60s and ’70s by snapping a picture at the photo booth, complete with signs that read “Disco Fever” and “Can You Dig It?”

But you can’t have an after party without music and anyone looking to sweat out that disco fever with some dancing could certainly do it thanks to the Richard Brown Orchestra breaking down the chart-topping hits of the era. “Rescue Me,” “Disco Inferno,” and “Car Wash” were on the playlist, along with “Brick House.”

And leave it to the cast of Dreamgirls to really get the party started by doing the electric slide. Guests flooded the dance floor as the orchestra transitioned to “Proud Mary.” It didn’t take long for everyone to start rollin’ on the river as if they were Miss Tina herself.

While the event played up glamour and a retro vibe, the focus was on raising $25,000 for TUTS’ arts and education programs, which Dreamgirls cast member Thomas Hobson (Curtis Taylor, Jr. in the musical), pointed out, doesn’t go out of style, no matter what decade we’re in.

“It’s always great to see communities that understand how important art is and understand how important it is especially for young people to have venues where they can see themselves and have great experiences,” Hobson said.

The Theatre Under the Stars production Dreamgirls runs April 4-16 at the Hobby Center. For more information, visit the TUTS website.

A (Rockin’) Night at the Museum

You normally wouldn’t go to the Museum of Fine Arts to stargaze but anything can happen during Super Bowl weekend. The kind of stars I’m talking about also aren’t typically seen in the sky. But they did shine bright at Rolling Stone Live!, the event I covered the Saturday night before the big game.

Once the celebrities hit the red carpet, it felt like the party had already started and that was before headliners DJ Cassidy, Diplo, Big Sean and Nas got there. You can read about the antics that ensued here or check out the full story under the pictures.

Stars clown around and put on a red carpet show at Rolling Stone Super Bowl party

We haven’t even made it through Super Bowl LI yet and already comedian JB Smoove had a suggestion for next year’s half time performer. “JB Smoove, of course. Next question!” Jokes, laughter and antics were just some of what could be heard and spotted on the red carpet at the Rolling Stone Live! party that had the atmosphere feeling more like a comedy club.

From NFL players Eddie Lacy and Brandon Williams dancing to Anthony Anderson breaking up Smoove’s interview (they hugged it out right after that), celebrities from the entertainment and sports world got things rolling early at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston Saturday night.

In fact, former Bachelorette Andi Dorfman called out reporters for being too tame. “Why are you so quiet? Am I going to have to put on some music on my phone?” It might have been a little quiet on media row, but the evening’s performers would more than make up for it.

DJ Cassidy and Diplo were set to take the stage along with Grammy-nominated rapper, Big Sean, who stopped to take pictures and sign autographs for fans waiting outside the red carpet area on Montrose Boulevard, not far from Hotel ZaZa. It turned out to be a prime spot to sight celebs. Entourage’s Adrian Grenier ended up going over to meet fans, as did Houston Rockets star Sam Dekker when he arrived around midnight.

Busta Rhymes showed up later for a surprise performance with Diplo.

To be one of the main acts, multi-platinum artist Nas slipped onto the red carpet quietly, letting his jacket do the talking with the words ‘Unity Is Power’ on the back. He walked in around 10:30 pm and his name came up often when stars like Eddie George were asked who they were excited to see. “I’m ready to see Nas because he’s one of the legends. I’m a big hip-hop fan, so that’s what I’m looking forward to,” George said.

Appearances came early and often with Alyssa Milano, James Ihedigbo, Warren Sapp, NeNe Leakes, Cynthia Bailey, Cameron Jordan, Delanie Walker, Finesse Mitchell, Olivia Culpo, and Odell Beckham Jr. arriving within the same hour.

MFAH as party venue

One thought that crossed my mind was how the Museum of Fine Arts would be turned into the party venue that athletes including Ezekiel Elliott, A.J. Green, Antonio Cromartie, Jaelen Strong, Devon Still, Sterling Shepard, and Victor Cruz would flock to.

I got my answer when a mix-up got me inside about an hour before the event started. A huge DJ booth on the second floor lined a wall showing projection art. The space that normally has only a few seats for museum guests to watch the installation was filled with leather lounges and tables. Across from that, Mercedes-Benz, a sponsor of the event, had a convertible AMG GT C model on display.

White Mercedes-Benz sports cars were also parked outside the museum in contrast to the splashes of color being thrown onto the exterior of the building.

Back on the red carpet

Back out on the red carpet, expected questions surrounding the Super Bowl like “What do you think Lady Gaga is going to do during the half-time show?” or  “Who do you think will win?” dominated the conversation.

But you can’t talk about the big game without talking about the big city hosting it. “Houston is relatively easy to get around, hospitality has been great, the food has been excellent, and it’s been easy for a long week,” George said.

Minnesota Vikings’ Andrew Sendejo also praised the city, calling Houston his second home since he graduated from Rice University. He struck several fun poses on the red carpet.

Celebrities continued pouring into the party with Jerome Bettis, Chanel Iman, Darrelle Revis, Rashad Jennings and Caroline Wozniacki making it in before midnight. Fans who stuck around long after that were also able to see Gordon Ramsay, David Schwimmer and Adrienne Bailon.

 

 

Leather and Laces Super Bowl Party

After a year of build up and a historic night, Super Bowl LI has come and now gone in Houston. I remember when it was first announced that the game would be coming to our city and then doing the subsequent countdown to the big day. I was part of the experience over the last two weeks, first as a Super Bowl volunteer and then this past weekend, covering two of the parties happening in town.

The first was Leather and Laces at Hughes Manor on Washington Avenue. The annual event started in Houston back in 2004. It returned to the Bayou City this year with co-hosts (and married couple), Jenny McCarthy and Donnie Wahlberg. Past guests have included Adriana Lima, Joey Fatone and Jeremy Piven. I covered the event for CultureMap. You can check out the story here or read the full article below.

Marriage proposal and Super Bowl predictions take center stage at sexy Leather and Laces party

is In the Air” might sound more like a phrase best saved for Valentine’s Day, but it managed to find a place at the 14th Annual Leather and Laces Super Bowl party Friday night.

Actress Jenny McCarthy and husband Donnie Wahlberg co-hosted the event at Hughes Manor on Washington Avenue, but the couple turned the spotlight over to their friends shortly after the clock struck midnight. Wahlberg, who is the star of CBS’ Blue Bloods, handed the microphone to his friend, Tony, so he could propose to his girlfriend (and for the record, she said, yes).

That was probably the most surprising moment at the party, which is making its return to Houston after being founded here in 2004.

But let’s not forget one of the main reasons bringing partygoers out this weekend: Super Bowl LI. Predictions for who will win leaned more in the New England Patriots’ favor than the Atlanta Falcons, with the most notable push for the Pats coming from Wahlberg, a Boston native.

Special guest and NASCAR driver Kyle Busch also threw his support behind the Bill Belichick-led team, while former Houston Texan Marcus Spears elected to stay neutral saying, “We’ll let the chips fall where they may.”

Even if some fans didn’t outwardly show their love for the Falcons, they did have a chance to take home some memorabilia from the team’s quarterback. A silent auction featured a Matt Ryan autographed jersey, along with signed guitars from Pink Floyd and Paul McCartney, movie posters with cast signatures on them, and other items from NFL teams. But when paying to play in auctions gets too expensive, you can always get the autographs from the athletes and celebrities in the flesh. And there were plenty opportunities to do that.

La’Roi Glover, Roy Williams, B.J. Johnson, Victor Ortiz, Bryan Braman and Ryan Klesko were among the former and current professional athletes to walk the red carpet. Sports Illustrated model and Texas native Hannah Ferguson also made an appearance.

But dancing was the main theme of the night as popular music blared from a room with white cabanas and a lit-up dance floor. Performers with Cirque USA dangled from the ceiling as open bars throughout the venue kept the drinks flowing. DJ Michael Jerome entertained in another area, where guests could feast on macarons, chocolate and strawberries from Dolce Delights, or briefly play dress-up at the photo booth.

For those interested in watching the scene rather than being part of it, covered seating on the deck was an option, complete with a big screen airing NFL Network. One of the lushest rooms was a lounge with a Moulin Rouge flair, including red curtains and velvet ceilings.

Friday was the first of a two-night event. The party continues Saturday with models Emily Ratajkowski and Sara Sampaio expected to headline. Parking seemed limited on the Hughes Manor campus, with valet being the closest option if you plan to navigate the streets yourself on the night before the Super Bowl. Otherwise, you can grab an Uber right outside the club.

A lounge ticket starts at $400 and goes up to $20,000 for a celebrity cabana. You can find more information on the Leather and Laces website.

 

 

 

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Passion for Fashion with Christian Siriano

This year, Houston Community College‘s annual Passion for Fashion luncheon featured designer and Project Runway winner Christian Siriano. The event at River Oaks Country Club raises scholarship money for students in HCC’s Fashion and Interior Design programs. CultureMap editor-in-chief Clifford Pugh interviewed Siriano, who talked about life after Project Runway (he’s one of the show’s most successful stars), and his latest collection, which he showcased during the event. Siriano also has a sense of humor — which kept the room laughing!

Work from HCC students was also on display. I’ve always loved their designs and the talent that comes from the schools arts’ programs. Around May, HCC usually has a large fashion show featuring the collections of at least a dozen students. Scholarships to study in Paris, sewing machines and gift certificates are among the awards given to the top designers (though, those involved are all strong). I’ve modeled in the show before. It’s worth checking out!

On a personal level, I saw my great friend and former co-worker, Brittany. She’s a graphic designer who actually created all the materials (programs, signage, digital elements, etc.) for the event. A snapshot of her work is in the above gallery in the bottom right-hand corner. Before the show, I ran into Clifford Pugh and in between mingling with other guests, hung out with the mannequins. Turns out posing with them is harder than it looks! I also worked in a fierce picture with Christian Siriano.  Stay Stylish!

 

 

 

 

 

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Pink for a Passion

Mia Sharp’s personality is as bright as her cotton candy blue and electric neon pink hair. But even without the avant-garde wig she’s wearing, it wouldn’t be hard to spot the high school junior or feel the energy radiating from her when she smiles.

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Mia Sharp, one of the models in the hair show, is also a bright teenager battling an inoperable brain tumor.

“It’s just motivational,” Mayra Sharp, Mia’s mother said. “She just reminds you that you can’t let this thing bring your life to a stop.”

That “thing” Sharp is talking about is cancer. 16-year-old Mia is battling pilocytic astrocytoma, or a brain tumor. It’s inoperable but that hasn’t broken her spirit or deterred her from playing tennis and managing to sing in a blues band through treatment.

“She’s not shy. She likes for girls to accept themselves for who they are and that’s part of her,” Sharp said.

That confidence was clear as Mia took the stage to model for the Visible Changes’ artistic team during the salon’s Fashion for a Passion gala October 15.

I was proud to be a part of the event as an emcee.  The gala, held at Momentum BMW Southwest, was the company’s first fundraiser aimed at expanding its Thair For You program – a free service that gives any woman fighting cancer, regardless of whether she’s a client, a custom wig that is styled to fit her. According to Visible Changes co-founder, Maryanne McCormack, the salon has given more than 2,000 wigs since it started in 2011 and last year alone helped more than 750 women.

McCormack with daughter Meagan, who not only owns the company, but is its Chief Happiness Officer
McCormack with daughter Meagan, who not only owns the company, but is its Chief Happiness Officer

McCormack knows first-hand the value of feeling beautiful inside and out. In 2009, McCormack was diagnosed with cancer. That’s when she got the idea for Thair For You.

McCormack is now cancer-free and so is long-time Visible Changes client, Olivia Kaufman, who found out she had stage 2 breast cancer last year when she was just 26-years-old.

“When you get diagnosed with cancer you feel as though you’ve lost control of everything that’s happening in your life,” Kaufman says. “You’ve got a disease in your body that you can’t control. There are things changing, things happening to your body that you can’t stop.”

But one day helped change that, putting her on the path to getting her power back. Kaufman says she was sitting in the chemo infusion chair when a Visible Changes logo caught her eye. It was part of a poster describing Thair For You.

The next day she called her stylist at the salon that cut off 16 inches of her hair, which was donated.

“I was really scared about being bald, but they made me feel beautiful when it felt impossible,” Kaufman says.

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Olivia Kaufman found out she had breast cancer at 26. She’s now a survivor and raises awareness for early detection.

Kaufman told me she has the same genetic mutation, BRCA1, as Angelina Jolie Pitt, who had a preventive double mastectomy.

As a breast cancer survivor, Kaufman says she’s now raising awareness by encouraging people – especially those with a family history of cancer – to get tested for the disease earlier in life.

Kaufman shared her story at the inaugural gala, which raised a little over $19,000. All proceeds went to Thair For You. To find out more about the program, go here.

The fundraiser also included a fashion show with looks provided by Sloan/Hall, who was also a sponsor.

All photography is courtesy of Kristen Eide. Click here to learn more.

 

 

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FH5: Lebanese Elegance and Walking with Dem Boyz

The final night of Fashion Houston started off with a little help from the NFL. Houston Texans running back Jonathan Grimes played piano and sang back-up vocals on the slick, white runway for Taylor Crowley, who gave her own jazzy renditions of songs like Sia’s “Chandelier.”

Houston Texans running back Jonathan Grimes showing his musical skills off the gridiron
Houston Texans running back Jonathan Grimes showing his musical skills off the gridiron

With that, the first collection swept the catwalk with some of the most gorgeous gowns I’ve ever seen. They were from Lebanese designer Rami Salamoun. His work featured dresses that were lacy, daring (thanks to the high slits, low cuts and conveniently placed details over certain body parts)  and literally sparkled on the models. His bridal gowns almost made me wish I was getting married. Almost.

Salamoun also played up his pride for Lebanon — the lights went down and came up again to reveal a model wearing a robe of the Lebanese flag. Lebanon’s national anthem rang out during the display, which garnered applause from the audience.

Someone else who used music to send a message through his show was Haitian designer Fabrice Tardieu.

685During my interview with him, he gushed about his love for Houston — so much so that he’d consider moving here! FH5 also wasn’t his first rodeo (had to put that in there!). He showed in 2012 as co-owner of the brand Bogosse, which was a business he shared with his brother. This time around, he brought along his line of luxury jogging suits (think sets blended with leather and Japanese denim) floral prints and shirts with a print of Benjamin Franklin. He also dropped a hint to me during our chat: pay close attention to the music. It comes from artists who have worn his eponymous brand.

So, what tune helped give models their swagger during his show? Wiz Khalifa’s “We Dem Boyz.” And it looks like the models were taught well — Tardieu did his bow or should I say, dance,  to the song, too.

While the crowd bounced to the beat (myself included), the musical hint reminded me of something a friend of mine used to tell me all the time: miss a moment, miss a lot.

Stay stylish!

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FH5: Southern Roots, Breaking Barriers and Jadakiss

The next designer to take the stage on opening night at Fashion Houston was New York-based brand, Tibi. But before she settled on the East coast, company founder Amy Smilovic grew up in the South on St. Simon’s Island, Georgia. She was incredibly sweet and a gracious person to interview. Smilovic is also a huge fan of culottes (saying before they have the ease of trousers but look like a beautiful skirt) and presented a collection that was classic, laid-back and breezy for Spring.

Tibi founder Amy Smilovic and me
Tibi founder Amy Smilovic and me

Another favorite took the stage, following Tibi, Jonathan Blake. The man behind the brand is actually named Jonathan Tinkle, and he’s another designer who proudly keeps production of his garments local. He was also the youngest member of The Houston Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 Class of 2013.

But FH5 wasn’t just for designers who have established themselves as powerhouses in the industry (or at least are on the way there). It was also about touting the upcoming generation of designers who proved they deserved to be on the catwalk, too. That’s where Little Black Dress Designer came in — a competition that gives students the opportunity to create their own version of the iconic LBD and win thousands in scholarship money. LBDD was the brainchild of Neal Hamil Agency director Jeff Shell.

At the initial LBDD presentation back in May at the House of Blues, students were paired with mentors and muses. Their assignment was to create a LBD based on their muse. What they came up with was finally unveiled at FH5.

I also had the chance to interview Sameera Faridi. Originally a native of Pakistan, she’s brought the beautiful traditional wear of South Asia and blended it with Western culture to create a stunning line of bridal wear, gowns, formal wear and menswear. Faridi also told me — don’t think sarees are just for special occasions. She wants people to know they can be worn for any event. This is her way of breaking barriers. Proving that cultures can co-exist and bringing them to life for anyone to wear through fashion. Have nothing to wear for date night? No problem. Grab a saree! And you’ll definitely want to grab hers. They’re all hand-embroidered.

Faridi is the first South Asian female designer to debut her new collection at Fashion Houston.

Wrapping up the night was New York based, Grungy Gentleman. Contrary to the name, this line was anything but grunge. The collection brought to Houston was actually the same one debuted at New York Fashion Week and mixed traditional tailored menswear with luxe fabrics like suede and rich colors like oxblood.

But perhaps the biggest surprise in the whole line was who came out with the models. Jadakiss started rapping on stage, upping the “it” factor of the line and showing that Fashion Houston wants to step out of the “Houston-isn’t-a-fashion-capital” shadow.

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FH5: Hollywood Drama Comes to Houston

Fashion Houston turned five years old this year, and I was on deck for the celebration. It returned to the Wortham Theater Center downtown and featured 21 emerging and legendary designers in its’ most diverse year yet.

I had the opportunity to cover the show as part of the first-ever Fashion Houston TV, where I met and interviewed the talented designers of opening night. I also worked with a great production team, Michael Allendorf & Company, that specializes in high fashion photography and video production.

661Fashion Houston founder Jared Lang and KHOU 11 News Morning Anchor Lily Jang kicked off the night as emcees and introduced the lineup.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABut before the models wowed us with each designer’s Spring/Summer 2015 collection, I sat down with Alexis Monsanto, a designer originally from the Philippines. Monsanto first made headlines in 2011 as the first designer in the U.S. to be part of a fashion show using 3D effects. He’s also known for adding dance routines to the runway (which one designer did this year, but more on that later in an upcoming post!).

667While there wasn’t any dancing in Monsanto’s FH5 show, it was multi-dimensional, complete with masks, feathered headpieces and four buff men carrying a model like she was a queen.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs Monsanto told me during our interview, “I’m bringing the high drama of Hollywood to Houston!” And he delivered on that promise. See pictures from his show below. I’ll post the interview as soon as it’s available!

 

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My Black is Beautiful

About a month ago, I saw a tweet from Houston’s Voice about My Black is Beautiful, a contest designed to unite African-American women and promote their beauty inside and out. According to the website, this is their first “nationwide search for six empowering women who can help us inspire black women and girls to become their best selves.”

Those six will become ambassadors who will possibly make appearances at events and appear in product ads for the contest sponsor, Procter and Gamble. Well, *drumroll please,* I’m one step closer to becoming one of those six: I’m a finalist!

From April 26 to May  17, the search took place in four markets: Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, and DC/Maryland. However, the audition process actually began April 11 when anyone who was interested had until midnight to submit an application online. Out of those who applied, 100 semi-finalists were chosen for a live interview in one of the four markets I listed above. I went to the Dallas interview May 10, met some wonderful ladies and came home with CoverGirl products from the Queen collection.

Dallas Semi-Finalists
Dallas Semi-Finalists
CoverGirl Queen Products
CoverGirl Queen Products

Out of the 100 semi-finalists, the top three from each market advanced to the finalist round (for a total of 12). Videos and pictures of the finalists from the live interviews will be posted to the My Black is Beautiful Facebook page. From May 28 to June 1, the public will vote for their favorite six who will then be named grand prize winners.

My goal is to be one of the six! Winners will be finalists for one year and also will travel to the 2014 Essence Music Festival – an event tied to the contest.  You can vote for me here.

One more note: I have to mention that my dress was designed by my good friend Ksania Lerner. I believe true beauty does come from within and that confidence is sexy and I definitely felt ready to take on anything in that dress. Check out more from her line, Alexenia.

Remember: May 28-June 1, Please vote here!