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The unforgettable moments from “The Style Show: A Runway to Empower”

Our Motivation | May 24, 2022

Kendra Gottsleben is a rare disease advocate living with MPS VI and is the founder of the non-profit Rare by Design.

I am still finding it hard to believe that my lifelong dream of the “The Style Show: A Runway to Empower” is now finally a reality. In front of a sold-out room, 17 models of all shapes, sizes and abilities strutted down the runway representing true diversity in all its forms. I can still feel the energy of the space with the music sending the models down the runway and the flashing lights accentuating their every move. I have been spending a lot of time reflecting on the event and I could not feel more grateful or empowered. A picture is worth a thousand words, so I thought I would share some of my favorite moments from the fashion show with you in photographs.

MOMENT 1: Seeing the runway for the first time

As I have shared in my previous posts, bringing a NYC-style fashion show to Sioux Falls, SD, has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember. So, I have had quite some time to imagine what the room and runway could look like in my head. While I spent countless hours with my event partners on all the details, when I walked into the room for the first time, I was speechless. It matched my expectations and vision exactly. The colors, lights, music, and layout created an infectious energy for the models and attendees. I knew from the start that these key elements would be what made the fashion show an unforgettable, top-notch event.

MOMENT 2: Meeting some extra special attendees

Beyond the models, I am proud that the attendees at the event also reflected diversity in its many forms, including others with disabilities and rare diseases. In fact, we had a special opportunity to help bring a family who have two daughters with MPS IV to The Style Show to experience the event. They traveled from Minnesota to attend, and it was so much fun to have them there as fellow members of the MPS community. I hope the little girls were able to take everything in and see that no matter how we strut down the runway, it is the beauty and rarity composed within each of us that makes us each breathtakingly beautiful.

MOMENT 3: Watching the smiles and confidence of the models

My favorite moments by far were watching the smiles on the model’s faces and the confidence they exuded on the runway. One of my main missions with this event was to show how clothing can empower people of all abilities and diverse body types with confidence and style. And I think this photo shows we achieved just that! It was an honor to give all the models this truly unique experience and make them feel seen and valued. Most of them had never even had their hair or make-up done professionally before! When one of the models looked at herself in the mirror after the stylists where done, she burst into tears of happiness. Seeing her reaction made me emotional, too, knowing how special the experience made her feel.

I hope the buzz we created from the fashion show will only be the start. I challenge everyone who attended, or even just read about the experience on this blog, to take what they learned and start conversations in their own communities about how true representation, including people with disabilities and rare diseases, matters in all aspects of life, from TV shows and commercials to board rooms and businesses. I am endlessly grateful to all of you for your support and for following my journey! Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I cannot wait to see where my dreams take me next, so stay tuned!