Fashion For Life 2014 – A Personal Perspective

My heart is still filled with warmth reflecting on Thursday April 3rd Fashion for Life Fashion Show. I have had the opportunity to be apart of this show for multiple years either assisting backstage or modelling in it with GEMINI Models, but this year was especially memorable for me.

(Left) Danielle H – GEMINI Grad 2009 & Cancer Survivor 2014, (Right) Leah H – Blog Writer (Agency Administrator, GEMINI Models)

Here is my story: 

It feels like yesterday when I was laying in bed, awaiting the news from the doctors on what had been causing my sister such agony and pain over the past few months.  News I could not prepare for.

And there it was: your sister has cancer.

For those of you fortunate enough to never have received information like this, I can’t even begin to explain to you the emotions that are felt with those four simple words.

This devastating news struck me hard. My sister came to me, scared but confident and opened my eyes to how lucky she was. Yes, she has Stage 4 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and the next six months of our lives were going to be tremendously difficult but she was blessed with a cancer that has a good survival rate and she is young so her body should be able to handle the chemotherapy treatments.

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So, how did we handle the next six months and 12 chemotherapy treatments? with strength, confidence and most importantly: as a team.  No one should ever have to face the ‘c’ word alone & my family was determined to show my sister and anyone else who fighting this difficult battle, that the whole world was behind them.  How did we do this?

1. We began a #DanielleStrong twitter campaign on my sisters first day of Chemotherapy. (inspired by the Colt’s Football teams #ChuckStrong campaign)(which received an enormous amount of tweets & retweets by friends, family and local and international celebrities)

2. We made #DanielleStrong T-shirts & asked friends and family to take photos to show their support

3. We participated in a fundraising football tournament at Wilfrid Laurier University using the team name #DanielleStrong

4. We watched my sister declare the completion of her 12th chemo treatment on stage at the Fashion For Life Fashion Show 


Involvement with GEMINI Models: 

Photo of Danielle looking at her first modelling photo at GEMINI Models
Photo of Danielle looking at her first modelling photo at GEMINI Models

Being the younger sister, my sister was always my role model and I needed to do everything she did. When she was around 14 years old, she decided to take a modelling course at GEMINI Models, which of course, lead me to sign up shortly afterwards.  I remember being nervous and excited each week before class and always going to my sister for fashion advice.  I would even sneak into her closet and steal, I mean, borrow some of her clothes.

Although that was years ago, and she is not currently with GEMINI Models. (besides assisting with various events) She is still my role model and inspiration. I still constantly go to her for advice on what to wear, how to act and pep talks before fashion shows and photo shoots. I would not be where I am today with the Agency without her guidance.

Fashion For Life: 

Fashion Logo

This event has always been important to me, but I don’t think I truly understood the extraordinary power behind it, until this year.  Being a model in the show meant most of my time was spent backstage, but I did sneak out to see one very important scene: the Celebrity Cancer Survivor Scene.

I wish there was a way to put into words the atmosphere in the Bingemans Ballroom during this scene. The first survivor up on stage was a little boy, who walked out with such confidence and with such an enormous smile.  Each of the survivors that followed had the same confidence, glow and smile to them.  I can only imagine that for them it was so much more than just modelling in a fashion show. It was a mark, a statement, a proud moment of ‘I beat cancer!’

Cancer Survivor Scene 2014
Cancer Survivor: Mateo F GAP Kids Photographer: Ema Suvajac

Looking into the audience, it was remarkable to see their faces matching those of the models, supplemented with tear filled eyes.  It was obvious that the audience was deeply moved, as the scene highlighted that cancer does not discriminate.  It effects individuals of all different size, shapes and ages. And although not everyone in the audience knew someone in this scene, chances are they know someone who is or has had to fight the battle with cancer.  The faces of the audience displayed an appreciation and understanding of the amount of strength that these individuals and their families had to endure through the process. Granted that this scene was extremely emotional, for some it was a moment of celebration and reflection on how far they have come.

As I stood at the back of the ballroom, I found myself rocking back and forth trying to prepare for the moment my sister would enter onto the stage.  I am again left with no words that could possibly describe the feeling that overcame me when she stepped out onto the runway.   After a painfully long year of watching her struggle with her illness and seeing her at her various moments of weakness –  watching her walk on the runway with such strength, confidence and elegance was an overwhelming experience.  It truly was much more than just a beautiful model walking down the runway – it was a moment, a mark, a statement of conquering the battle against cancer.

D & H 1
Models: Danielle H & Helen Debes Photographer: Ema Suvajac

I am also filled with such gratitude that I got the opportunity to meet Helen Debes a few months ago at the Grand River Hospital. Hearing her inspiring story of her battles with cancer touched my heart in so many ways. My sister and Helen made an amazing team up on the runway in their La Creme gowns.  In my eyes they are both the definition of beauty and strength. (Read Helen’s inspiring story here.)

All of the survivors did a phenomenal job and I feel so blessed that I was able watch that scene and be apart of the show.  I encourage all of you who are reading this to take a moment and check out the inspiring stories of some of the other survivors who participated in the event. Click Here: Inspirational Cancer Survival Stories

Cancer Survivors 2014  Photographer: Ema Suvajac
Cancer Survivors 2014
Photographer: Ema Suvajac

Thank You’s: 

This phenomenal event could not have been made possible without all of the endless handwork done by the Fashion Show Committee, GEMINI Models, Arrowsmith Corporations & Mercedes-Benz Victoria Star Motors, DJ- Thunderstorm Productions, Hair- Shear Heaven Salon, Official Photographer – Ema Suvajac, Red Carpet & Decor – Julia Flowers, Videographer – Amotion Films, Technical Production – Sherwood Systems Inc., all of the sponsors, retailers and all of the attendees.

Special Thanks:

Major Prize Sponsors: RAFFI Jewellers (Round Cut Diamond Necklace $2,500 Value), Jolanta’s European Spa (Cellcosmet Line Gift Basket $800 Value), Fitness 360 (One Year Gym Membership & 3 Personal Training Sessions $500 Value)

Vignette Sponsors: who have donated products valued over $1,000: Accents For Living, Golour Paradise Greenhouses, Jolanta’s European Spa, Julia Flowers,  Xclusive Elements

Fashion Provided By: Nantucket, GAP Kids, Unique Boutique, Taya, Nygard, Trends for Men, SPANNER, INSIGHT, La Creme, The New Dundee Emporium, Seasons Fine Lingerie & Luxuries, Star’s Mens Shoppe, Jewelry Secrets, Creme Couture

If you did not get an opportunity to attend this years Fashion For Life Event I highly recommend that you mark it on your calendar for next year. Not only does it support a phenomenal cause it is also a remarkable and unforgettable event.

I was tremendously impressed by it all! The stage was simple but elegant.  The music was upbeat and fit each of the different scenes perfectly, and the sound quality was very impressive.

Model: Nicole K  INSIGHT Eye Care  Photographer: Ema Suvajac
Model: Nicole K
Photographer: Ema Suvajac

The models had an energy, and bounce to their walk that made the atmosphere feel like a celebration.   The dance interludes were phenomenal, the performers were well practiced and the young boy that danced was adorable!  I loved the INSIGHT eye care scene where the models only wore towels – it was risque but very tasteful.

                                        -Tina Sop




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