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Walking the Runway, Fashion Raises Funds for Broadway Cares

by David  Perry
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Monday Feb 18, 2013

A bodacious bevy of bumptious beauties took to the catwalk Feb. 9 during New York's world renowned Fashion Week not to highlight the latest designs, but rather to emphasize that AIDS remains a deadly disease.

Tapping the luscious couture designs of Dominique Auxilly, models on The Reality of FASHION The Reality of AIDS show braved bitter winter cold to bring attention to the cause. Hosted by "America's Next Top Model" star and MTV stalwart Kim Stolz, The Reality of FASHION The Reality of AIDS is the brainchild of BPMPR CEO Monique Tatum, who brought a galaxy of stars from reality TV on board to strut their stuff.

"We did it because with reality stars people pay attention," said Tatum. "We figured if they were going to do something for a really amazing cause, regular people would do the same thing. They'd take notice, and they'd pay attention."

Starting off with a bang in the form of legendary supermodel emeritus Janice Dickenson ("America’s Next Top Model") in a pastoral strapless beige gown with a bodice festooned in faux feathers, the show ended just as deliciously with Lil Kim ("Dancing With The Stars"), who poured her famously va-va-va-voom curves into a black full-length leather-and-lace gown. The gown was complete with train whose steampunk lasciviousness contrasted with its modest Edwardian-style construction that prompted the rapper to make full, lady-like turns, rather than quick pivots on the runway.

Between the two, sporting sassy minis and dignified maxis, demure taupe and radiant fuchsia, 22 women of reality TV’s hottest shows, from "Basketball Wives" to "Mob Wives," from real wives of New York and Atlanta to the erstwhile wives of "The Bachelor" flaunted, wafted, and swirled across the floor of Chelsea’s Altman Building, interspersed with models wearing T-shirts emblazoned with "Unaware" on the front and "300,000" on the back, referencing the grim statistic that 300,000 Americans are HIV-positive and do not know it. HIV/AIDS is a concern dear to Tatum, who lost her father at age 12 to the disease.

"Times really haven’t changed that much," Tatum observed. "I think in the past, people were more aware. That 300,000 number shows, specifically for the younger generation, that this is a cause that has fallen by the wayside. They are not getting tested. We need that to be a cause at the forefront."

Resplendent in a frilled chartreuse yellow mini-dress, Nikkie Rae Walker of "Big Rich Texas" was "willing to do anything" to make the event, even if it meant battling her way through the foot and a half of snow winter storm Nemo dumped on New York and the resulting 14 hours of flight delays from Dallas to get to the show on time. "It is a great cause, and for Tatum, I know it is really dear to her heart. She lost her father."

Despite cutting-edge therapies, people are still dying; the high-profile death of gay porn star Josh Weston at age 39 from HIV-related complications occurred just days before. These facts are not lost on the other models of the show.

"With everything competing for attention in this day and age, with 24/7 news and online coverage, you can’t forget about a disease just because it has been around for a while," said Leslie Birkland also of "Big Rich Texas." "Just because there is a cocktail for AIDS doesn’t mean there is a cure."

Tracy DiMarco of "Jerseylicious," whose lush voluptuousness was clad in an emerald green mini with beguiling peepholes at the hips, concurred. "I think that sometimes people feel that AIDS is in the past, in the 70s, and they need to know that it is now, too. We need to take a stand and make awareness, and we need to fight AIDS. It’s killing people, and we need to kill it."

Tatum’s choices of models were not arbitrary; each reality star works with other charities, and some, such as Lil Kim, are established philanthropists with their own charitable foundations. Surreptitiously, because Tatum presented the women of reality TV, she also presented the women of reality; while the long, statuesque lines of Janice Dickenson and "Top Model" alum Brittany Bower are familiar fashion stalwarts, the classic hourglass figure exemplified by Tracy Pollard ("I Love New York’) in a kicky black-pant number was on proud display, as was the petite presence of "Jersey Shore"’s Deena Cortese, who wore a split-up-to-there, classily tight-waisted modern take on an Empire dress, whose flowing form was black above and cream-colored below.

Likewise was Tatum’s choosing of Auxilly.

"Dominique worked with me two Fashion Weeks ago," Tatum explained, "I fell in love with her designs then, and we stayed in touch. When I envisioned this event, I automatically knew I wanted my stars and Dominique."

No stranger to the rarified heights of celebrity, Auxilly, already a darling of stylists, editors, fashion bloggers, is responsible for some of the signature looks of Nicki Minaj, Adrienne Bailon, Coco-T, Tamar Braxton and many more. After the runway, Auxilly’s creations will be auctioned off to the public next month with a hefty portion of the proceeds being donated to Broadway Cares, one of the country’s leading industry-based HIV/AIDS fundraising and grant-making organizations.

In a nod to her models as much as to the audience, Tatum opened The Reality of FASHION The Reality of AIDS show with a benediction to her late father in the form of a quote from the late Steve Jobs: "Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes; the ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things. They push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do."

For a world without AIDS, in their entire splendor, here’s to the crazies.

Sponsors for "The Reality of Fashion The Reality of Aids" were Beautiful Planning Marketing & PR (BPMPR), EFFY Jewelry, AIRWORKS Compressors Corp, Lamik Beauty, Lozo’s Virgin Hair, MVC Productions Management, Sign Expo, Amoy Couture Hair, Time Frozen Photography, The JW Essex Marriot Hotel, Dre Productions, Hatch Creative Studio, Cherwin and Cherwin Auctioneers, Pulsd, St. Moritz Security Services, Draude Inc., and Arter Clothing

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David Perry is a freelance travel and news journalist. In addition to EDGE, his work has appeared on ChinaTopix, Thrillist, and in Next Magazine and Steele Luxury Travel among others. Follow him on Twitter at @GhastEald.


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