Last weekend, Saturday April 26, was the 62nd annual DAAP Fashion Show held at the University of Cincinnati’s campus recreation center. Every year, students from UC’s college of Design, Agriculture, Art, and Planning create their senior projects and present them to the public. The fashion design students showcase their collections in a much-anticipated fashion show.
I got to be a part of the pre-show preparations by being a model for one of the designer’s critiques. This is a gradual process, where the students show their design progress in stages to their professors, and classmates… and of course they offer their suggestions to make it better. In order for me to be a part of the actual fashion show though, I had to audition. There were over 70 models in the Tri-state area that came to try out. Laurie, the director of the show, gave us a speech about how a lot of these models were returning from doing the show last year, so there were a limited number of spots left. She said not to be discouraged if we didn’t get in, but to do our best! No pressure. I remember it was very overwhelming, and nerve wrecking seeing all of these beautiful, tall girls in their heels prepping to impress the judges (faculty, a few Macy’s executives, students, and the director of the fashion show). We had to do one solo walk, and another with a partner. After my audition I felt as though I could’ve done better, but prayed I did enough to get through. When I got the email from the director that I’d made it into the show I was ECSTATIC!
Thursday April 25th finally rolled around– the rehearsal. Rehearsal lasted from 4pm to about 10pm. I had to come straight to campus from school, and stayed there all evening. Laurie gave us a run through of how the show would go, and passed out our line ups. I would be walking for the Macy’s collection, and six of the designers. I would be out on the runway 7 times!! I was shocked considering this would be my first time doing runway, but I knew this was a challenge I could face with confidence. Next, we did a few practice walks. All of us walked in a continuous line back and forth down the 88ft runway so Laurie could make any necessary adjustments. Then it was time to learn our walks for the show. In this show, it’s not just walk to the end of the runway, pose, and turn to walk back. It’s so much more complex. Each time I stepped on the runway, I had a different walk (usually with 3, 4, or 5 other models out their on the runway with me) to do. A few of them were the “Zigzag,” “The triangle,” and one was with me, a guy, and another girl modeling one jacket. So, the guy started with it, had to pass it to me to model, and then I handed it off to the third girl. It was extremely tricky to pull off smoothly! At 7pm, there was an alternative show to the one the next day, that was much cheaper ($10, as opposed to the $40–the basic level ticket). So we had a decent sized audience (maybe a few hundred) that watched us rehearse.
The day was here. Friday, April 26. I could barely focus at school that day. I kept imagining myself on the runway, hoping to God I wouldn’t fall flat on my face and embarrass myself in front of 1,500 people. I arrived at 4:30pm to get my hair and makeup done. The show was to start at 7:30. First, were the little kids that walked with their parents, or some of the models, to model the children’s lines. Next came Macy’s Spring collection. I wore an orange ankle cropped pant, and a peplum black and white striped top. The MC for the night, 1985 DAAP graduate, David Meister (he’s designed for Katherine Heigl, Queen Latifah, Fergie, Tina Fey, Demi Lovato, Drew Barrymore, etc. just to name a few) said a few words, and then everything began to move really fast from there.
My first outfit was a cream top that was cut in a deep V, and a matching organza skirt with super funky butterfly glasses (see below). I was extremely nervous backstage, mentally preparing myself to go out on the runway. This was it. This was everything I’d ever dreamed of. “Niyah..” Laurie’s partner gestured to me that it was my turn to go on. I took a deep breath, and strutted the best way I knew how. For this walk, the middle girl went out first, then the two girls next to her walked together, and finally me and the girl on the far left walked simultaneously, keeping our “triangle” formation. When we got to the end of the runway, we lined up again, turned in sync, and walked back in the same formation. I led us off the stage. My cheeks lifted as I’d realized I’d done it! No mistakes. Now it was time to do the same thing five more times.
My second change was a quick one, almost immediately after I stepped out of the skirt and top, I was called back to get ready to go on again. There really wasn’t time to be nervous. The rest of my changes weren’t as crazy, but I’m so thankful we each had dressers to help keep things organized.. I’m not sure how I would’ve made it through without mine! I felt so in the moment backstage, and on the runway. And each time I stepped off to go and change into another look, I had to keep from smiling so much. I’d never felt so happy. So alive! This is where I was meant to be. Not just modeling, but around fashion, around style, around people like me who love the same things I love.
I was actually disappointed when I was dressing for my last look. It was the second to last collection of the show. I wished I could live in this moment forever. Alas, the final collection came backstage, and we all lined up to walk back out clapping, to signify the end of the show. There were two lines. One line was on the right side of the runway, the other on the left. In the middle, the seniors walked soaking up the satisfaction that they were done with what they’d worked so hard on for the past five years. Not one person in the audience was left sitting on their seat. It was a proud moment for everyone, and I’m extremely thankful I got to be a part of it. I’m literally counting the days until next year’s show! I. Cannot. Wait.
To read more about the show, or see some of the other designs click any of the links below: