Downtown Riverside fashion show brings awareness

Riverside City College School of Cosmetology provides hair and makeup for breast cancer awareness event

By Mary Valterria
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Breast Cancer survivor models during The Fashion District Downtown Riverside fall fashion show on Oct. 6. (Chris Edson | Viewpoints)

Cameras are flashing as loud, upbeat music fills the night air. A faint smell of smoke filters in from a distance, probably from onlookers. Models in high-fashion attire saunter down the runway, with makeup and hair on-point.

No, this isn’t Paris Fashion Week. This is the Fashion District Downtown Riverside Fall fashion show — where breast cancer awareness took center stage.

Riverside City College School of Cosmetology students volunteered their services by styling hair and applying makeup to models featured in the show that took place Oct. 6 in downtown Riverside.

The show was put on by The Fashion District Downtown Riverside and was dedicated to raising awareness for breast cancer.

“RCC School of Cosmetology has been working with Riverside Downtown Partnership and local designers for five years,” said Cosmetology Director Peter Westbrook. “I was really excited that (this year’s) show kicked off Breast Cancer Awareness month.”

The Pink Ribbon Place, a breast cancer resource center, joined The Riverside Downtown Partnership to coordinate the event that showcased fashions donated by local retailers.

Janice Penner, executive director of The Riverside Downtown Partnership explained that fashion shows are coordinated yearly, but only recently have they been designed to center around women’s health issues.

“We decided to reposition the show to reach a broader demographic,” Penner explained. “It helps to get the message across.”

Penner also pointed out that having cosmetology students provide hair and makeup for the fashion show helps give them “professional experience” to add to their resumes.

“This event is a win-win for students, retailers and community,” added Westbrook.

RCC Cosmetology students Monica Mercado and Aubree Pendergraft stood alongside one another as the show came to a close. Both said they were honored to be involved in the event.

“If we have the opportunity to (contribute) our skills … it might as well be for something that makes a difference,” Mercado said proudly. 

“It’s for a really good cause,” added Pendergraft.

RCC Cosmetology students weren’t alone in supporting breast cancer awareness. All models donated their time and local clothing stores donated the outfits used during the show.

“The (shops) get a chance to show that they offer fashion and accessories,” Penner said. “It’s a venue to promote our downtown retailers.”

Clothing worn by the models ranged from vintage wear, contemporary looks to men’s formal tuxedos.

Shari Young and her son, Cameron Wolf, donated their time by modeling at the event.

While waiting for her turn on the catwalk, Young stepped out of line to better cheer for Wolf, who Young says has plans to join the Marines after he graduates from Ramona High School this coming June.

“He’s doing this to support breast cancer awareness,” Young said, as she snapped photos of Wolf while he was on-stage. 

“I’m very proud,” Young added.

Young had her turn on the runway later in the show. She worked the catwalk all to the tune of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” as she modeled vintage-wear from The Pink Ribbon Place.

The Pink Ribbon Place is not only a resource center within the Riverside Community Health Foundation, but it’s also a thrift store located in downtown Riverside that serves as a wig bank, breast prosthesis bank and reading library. The program also offers patient navigation, support groups, counseling and survivor mentorship.

“I’m a survivor,” Young said. “That’s why I’m doing this.”

“(Young) stood out to me,” said RCC student and fashion show attendee Maryann Romero. “She was full of life and she was having a good time.”

The participants, volunteers and members of the audience seemed to be having a good time alongside Young. “The show really brings out the community,” said Westbrook. “I am honored to work with so many dedicated individuals.”

Although the atmosphere was fun-loving and carefree, the show took a more serious turn once all the models cleared off the stage.

A candlelight vigil brought audience members, volunteers and participants together.

Amidst a light breeze that gently swayed the flame of candles being lit, a moment of silence was called. Although brief, the silence spoke loud and clear — the cause had touched many of those in attendance.

The night ended as the group blew out their candles, some wiping away tears. People who were strangers two hours before gave each other tight hugs.

Everyone walked away with significant appreciation. But above all, they walked away with awareness.