She fidgets backstage, running her fingers along the hem of the leopard print cocktail dress that she thinks is too revealing for this time of winter. She sees her cue and with one last nervous glance down at her high heels, Emily Mroz takes the runway with pride.
Mroz, a freshman human science major and psychology, was one of 30 models who participated in the LGBTA third annual fashion show. The show was called "Designs and Dreams Three: Fashion for Strength," and it took place in the CFA last Sunday.
For the past three years, the LGBTA has hosted a fashion show in support of a cause that is important to many members of the club and the UB community. This year the event supported the victims of domestic abuse.
The club raised almost $2,000 for the Family and Children Services of Niagara Inc., a center in Western New York that supports battered women, runaway teens, and bullied children.
The members of the LGBTA searched for an organization that supported its belief of spreading an equal amount of help to everyone in need. The LGBTA chose this organization based on the idea that many members of the LGBTA community also struggle on a daily basis with all kinds of abuse, especially in the home, according to Brendan Dillon, a sophomore urban planning major and public relations representative for the club.
"We wanted to show [that] our club is full of diversity," Dillon said. "We are involved in every aspect of life: the good and the bad. There is no difference between us and anyone else, besides who we love."
Mroz was even more anxious and excited to be a part of the event because she knew that she was modeling for a greater good. She tried out to be a model for the show on a whim and when she received the call that she was chosen to be part of the helpful event, she knew she had made the right decision.
"It's for a club and a charity, and I knew that was a good thing and that [motivated] me to learn to model and pushed me forward when I thought I couldn't do it," Mroz said. "I had never even worn heels before. It wasn't until an hour before the show the other models helped me and showed me how to walk."
Other models included a mix of students and professionals that the designers handpicked during a round of auditions. The models ranged from 12 to 23 years old, and none of them were paid.
The designers were eager to join in support of the cause – many of them had been involved in prior fashion shows. All of them are from the local Buffalo region, and they volunteered their time and money to help with the show. This year's designers included Holly Hue, Splash Panic, Katie Gariepy, Shana Feeley/Thomas Lee Designs, Beth Eischen/Lilipad Creations, and Desiree Murphy/DMattliano.
These artists were chosen in an effort to support local businesses and give these designers a chance to show off their creations, according to Judy Mai, a junior health and human services major and president of the club for two years.
Every outfit was handcrafted and every designer came up with his or her own theme. Designs ranged from alternative formal wear to sportswear to animal prints.
Mroz modeled for Murphy in her leopard dress and had an amazing time getting to know real models and other students who shared a similar passion for charity. She was even allowed to keep the spandex leggings that she fell in love with.
Besides the fashion and the charity, the show was meant to promote awareness of what the LGBTA really stands for. This was an effort to show the rest of the UB community that the members of the LGBTA are more than just the people who put on drag shows every year, according to Mai.
"That's just a small part of our culture," Mai said. "We don't judge based on anything. We welcome everyone. Our club accepts everyone and yes, we focus on LGBTA issues, but that's not all we do. We want to make UB a safe environment for everyone to know that it's OK for [people] to be who they are."
In the future, Mai hopes to take the show to the next level by holding it at a venue off campus. This will allow more people to come and therefore more money to be raised for the charity they choose to help next.
Mroz plans on trying out again next year to be a part of the annual show.
"I loved [the show] because it shows the LGBTA in a good light," Mroz said. "It shows that we are a put-together and strong group who really can accomplish anything."
The LGBTA is hosting LGBT Awareness Week from March 26 to 30, as the organization hopes to continue raising understanding of its club as well as its culture in general.