Monday, February 21, 2011

Fashion Week NYC Outreach, February 2011

Jesus Goes to Fashion Week

On Friday, February 11th, my wonderful husband Shaun and the students at YWAM LA surprised me with a trip to New York City! My flight left that Sunday night and I began ministry the following morning! I had been praying about going to New York to help my friends with “Models For Christ” (or MFC) in their outreach at Fashion Week, but I had declined the invitation to go because there appeared to be too many hindrances. Shaun worked hard to make the trip possible, and through the financial support of my loved ones at YWAM LA, I was able to attend.

Fashion Week is held twice a year and is a time for designers to showcase their latest collections. The event is very entertaining. Models grace the runway accompanied by loud music, while an overwhelming number of photographers, journalists, buyers, celebrities, and socialites sit in the stands excited to witness the upcoming fashion trends.

Our vision for the week was to be examples of Christ to those working in the fashion industry. There were people working with us from YWAM Kona, YWAM Pittsburg, YWAM New York City, and then the members of MFC organized and led the outreach. This message is to document some of the stories of what God did in NYC, I understand that there are LOTS of stories, but even if you are only able to read a couple of them, I hope that you are encouraged by what God is doing in the world of fashion!

The YWAM Kona team spent their days backstage dressing the models. Actually the only way someone can dress the models is by going to school at a Fashion Institute and taking a course on it, but God opened a door for us to have people in there and our team welcomed the responsibility. The YWAMers were able to talk to the models, pray for them, and encourage them. They even had opportunities to share some love with the designers, other “dressers”, and a handful of other people that happened to be working backstage.

My sweet roommate Danielle did such a great job dressing her models for the J. Mendel show that she was asked to come back the next day and fill a position dressing models for Oscar De La Renta’s show. This is a HUGE deal because it is a very difficult show to get into. When Danielle arrived the next day for the show, her supervisors were quite upset to learn that she was not a trained fashion student but a Christian missionary who had only worked one show! In a frantic effort to “hide her” they commanded her not to tell anyone of her lack of experience, and they sent her to a separate room that they felt would keep her away from anyone that would complain about her. This room that she was sent to happened to be where the “Super models” were getting ready. This means girls that we see in Vogue and on Victoria’s Secret ads- these were the girls she would be working with! She was able to talk to Chanelle Iman and tell her she was praying for her! (That was actually the second time someone had told Chanelle about Models For Christ, because the director of MFC shared with her at a spa in LA just last year!) Danielle prayed like crazy and shared with as many people as possible and we were all SO encouraged to see God use her!

What about getting into Fashion Week? It is pretty amazing because typically no one is allowed into Fashion Week without an invitation or proper credentials, however I had neither and somehow I was able to get in everyday! Usually the security guards didn’t even stop to question me because I learned to walk swiftly, like a woman on a mission! I learned that I had to be confident and not make eye contact, this gave the appearance that I knew what I was doing, when in reality I had no idea what I doing and I was just praying that God would let me in! Once I was in the lobby it was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. Everything was free! There was free diet Pepsi, free Starbucks Frappucino’s, free yogurt, free alcohol, free manicures, free hair styling, and free make-up! The room was brimming with well-dressed people, tv reporters, a couple of real celebrities, and a whole bunch of people who acted like they were celebrities, but were probably just as normal as you and me.

On Tuesday I was able to talk to Nina Garcia, the Fashion Director of Marie Claire magazine and judge of Project Runway. She was leaving the event and I was able to get her attention right before she left! It was amazing because at first she appeared a bit aloof, until I mentioned I was praying for her, then she let her guard down and became just a normal sweet woman. She was so grateful and asked a bit about me too. It was a brief interaction but I am excited to know that she is aware of God’s pursuit of her!

 That same day I met Jade Cole, a finalist on Cycle 6 of America’s Next Top Model. She was standing in a corner making herself available to take photos with people. My friend and I approached her and let her know the she looked beautiful and that I would be praying for her. Once again, as soon as I showed her that I respected her and was not there to get anything from her, the fa├žade fell away. She became a normal young woman and gratefully took all of the Models For Christ information. She almost declined taking the card from us because she was from LA and not NYC, but I excitedly told her about Models For Christ in LA and she loved the sound of it. She asked me to pray that she would be able to share her true heart with people because she had been misrepresented on TV and now she desperately wants people to know her real personality. After a bit of conversation we left her to take photos, but we returned a little later and she immediately asked me about prayer. She was curious to know who I pray for and I was able to share that we pray for lots of people in the Fashion Industry. She said, “Thank you, thank you so much. We really need God. The people in this industry are so lost.” It was amazing! She was so open and receptive. We shared and bit more and then when we left her she encouraged us by saying. “Go! Shine! Be a bright light in this dark place!” Ah! It was so beautiful!

One of my new friends, DJ, from the Kona team is a photographer and through some creative sneakiness he was able to get into Vera Wang’s show- because he fit right in with the other photographers! He sat front row and was able to pray for the people while photographing the show. He had a brief interaction with Vera as he attempted to encourage her, but unfortunately he was unable to share because she had to go. We were all delighted that God gave him a way in and allowed him to be present while praying for people involved in her show!

One two occasions, I mustered up some confidence and requested tickets to see a show personally. By God’s grace I was given tickets and both times I was unsure of what I was getting myself into but I walked and talked like I knew exactly what I was doing! In each of the shows I was pulled out of line and given a seat to watch the show. If that had not happened I would have been standing in the back row watching the shows, but instead I was walked to the second row for the first show, and the third row for the second show!  After the first show I realized that everyone in my section was going to be heading backstage because somehow they had relationships with the people in the show- either family or very close friends. So instead of leaving the room with everyone else, me and a couple friends just stayed with the family and headed backstage with them. We were able to talk to models and I even encouraged the designers in both shows too, because of course after I got backstage in the first show I HAD to go backstage in the second show too! It was unreal- only God could have allowed that to work out!!

The last show of Fashion Week was L.A.M.B. by Gwen Stefani. My friends and I attempted to get into that one but it was impossible because they were at capacity. So because we were determined that God wanted to use us, we headed out to the back of the building where the models and celebrities, including Gwen, would enter and exit the building. Somehow we had favor from the police officers AND the security guards! They made everyone around us leave but they let us stay. One of the officers, not even a Christian, was so concerned about us getting to talk to the models, he kept checking in to make sure we knew where to stand so that we would get to talk to them. The police officers were also really aware of people talking to us and they came over a couple of times to make sure that no one was messing with us. I loved it! Then when the show was over we were able to interact with almost every model that left the building and invite them to Models for Christ! We even took a photo with The Veronica’s, a band out of Australia and told the girls that we were praying for them! We hoped to speak with Gwen Stefani but she left very quickly because she had an after-party to attend. Maybe next time we will get to share with her!

I learned so much about the fashion world from my few days in New York. The people are precious but there is a whole lot of darkness that goes on in this industry. After talking to one male model who is 6'3 and according to his agency is not allowed to weigh more than 110lbs, I had a whole new perspective on the culture of fashion. Modeling, though it appears glamorous, can be a dangerous lifestyle. Many of the girls are as young as 15 and their bodies are not even developed. Then as they get older and their hips begin to take shape they have to do whatever it takes to stay thin, which is why it is not uncommon for the models to take cocaine or clenbuterol (an asthma medicine for horses which is very dangerous but somehow makes humans thin). Many of the models had not eaten for days, even weeks before the show. In one show someone told us that they had 7 models pass out that morning from overworking and not staying nourished. A 24 year old male model told us that he was required to use botox in order to stay youthful. Most of the agencies pay for their models to keep smoking, because that helps them to eat less. These valuable people are treated as "walking manikins", they are underpaid (many do not even receive compensation they just walk away with some free clothing), and they are told to tone down their personalities because "no one wants that on the runway". These people were so desiring genuine love, it became quite simple to offer some encouragement that would touch their hearts. They are not used to people sincerely caring about how they are feeling because their entire lives revolve around how they look and what they are wearing. PLEASE be praying for the protection of the models from eating disorders, drug addiction, and death.

Those are just a handful of the things that God did in New York this past week. If you would like to be praying for some the people that we met here are a list of them!

June Ambrose- Author and Celebrity Stylist
Robert Verdi- American TV personality & style expert
Chanelle Iman- Victora’s Secret model
Karolina Kurkova- Victora’s Secret model
Arizona Muse- Fashion model
Kelly Gervais- Fashion model
Janice- a Christian Fashion model in Vera Wang show
Jade Cole- Cycle 6, America’s Next Top Model
Tim Gunn- Project Runway
Jay Alexander- also known as “Miss Jay” from Amercia’s Next Top Model
Michelle Smith- designer
Elene Cassis- designer
Sachin & Babi- designers
Vera Wang- designer
Oscar De La Renta- designer
Adam Muscinsky- Fashion model

Thank you, thank you, thank you!! For everyone who gave to me, prayed for me, encouraged me, and thought of me while I was gone! I am so grateful for the opportunity and hope that you are encouraged by the way God moved. I am hoping to go back to NYC and do outreach at the next Fashion Week! Hooray!

Love you all, God bless you!