Amore Brown is bursting at the seams with excitement – very fashionable seams, to be precise.
This July 20, the 23-year-old will be one of 50 young models hitting the runway as part of the second annual Fashion Against Bullying (FAB) fashion show.
FAB is the brainchild of Tracy Palmer, founder of Trendsetters Productions (TSP), a local modeling and etiquette school. The show has become a popular platform for bringing awareness to the problem of bullying, and the importance of inclusion of all people in Flint.
“I’m proud to be part of such a powerful movement. Working with TSP in Fashion Against Bullying has been an eye-opening experience,” says Brown. “It’s shown me just how serious bullying is. People who are now close to me have experienced bullying and I never knew the full impact until they started sharing their stories.”
Brown’s own story of bullying centers around her time in high school. She is nearly six feet tall and there were a number of kids who made it an issue. In the early teen years, that can already be challenging under the best circumstances, it hurt to be called a giraffe, among other things.
Brown, who is pursuing a career in physical therapy, is quick to point out that she’s aware of bullying cases ending in death or injury and recognizes that her experience was never that extreme. But the teasing did harm her.
“People don’t realize that it can create real insecurities that affect someone’s sense of self,” Brown says. “I felt excluded most of my high school experience. It made me feel unwanted and unheard.”
But, when Brown got involved in sports like track and field, she felt like she finally had a place she could call her own, surrounded by people who gave her a sense of belonging somewhere.
It’s the same feeling she got when she joined TSP several years ago, after witnessing the transformations of some her peers who were being coached in modeling by Palmer.
“I was drawn to Miss Tracy’s spirit right away,” she recalls. “I love the whole TSP team and they’re like my family.”
Part of the TSP tribe is nationally recognized child advocate Mari Copeny (aka Little Miss Flint). An outspoken powerhouse both on and off the runway, the 11-year-old has been modeling since she was two-years-old and has been involved with Palmer’s shows since 2016.
Copeny, who plans to be President in 2044, says that she loves what FAB stands for. The need for inclusion of all people in Flint is something that resonates deeply with her.
“As a child activist I’m regularly excluded from things, because lots of adults feel I’m too young and that I need to remain in a child’s place,” she says. “When situations like that occur, instead of feeling bad for myself I work to prove that I belong in that space as well.”
One such effort was a book project that has resulted in over 2,000 books landing in the hands of local children. “There were lots of little libraries popping up, but not many of them had books from authors of color or that featured characters of color,” Copeny says. “So I started a book project to get black books into the hands of black kids in Flint.”
Copeny is an inspiration to Brown, who believes that young people consciously acting as role models will contribute to the creation of a better Flint.
“People like Little Miss Flint are setting a good example for the city. Their actions can start a positive chain reaction of giving back within our community, which will uplift everyone,” she says.
Brown, who has lived in Flint since she was five, says that she’s noticed that people have grown just generally nicer and more tolerant – despite hard setbacks like the water crisis.
“There is a lot bustle and happiness and Flint is developing the feel of a college town,” she says. “Seeing more people moving in, new schools being built, the theater back in action, and the colleges prospering is really giving me hope for Flint being great again.”
Her optimism is echoed by Dwayne Harrington Jr., who will also soon be strutting his stuff on the TSP runway.
Harrington Jr. works at Genesee Career Institute in the janitorial department and is also a contracted construction worker.
The industrious 19-year-old got involved with FAB when his father and stepmother’s salon was approached to volunteer hair services for models in a TSP show, and he in turn, was asked to be a model.
Being painfully shy at the time, he initially hesitated. But, in the end, he took a brave leap beyond his comfort zone. And it was one of the best things he’s ever done. “I’m becoming less shy and I’m building the confidence to help me be the man I was called to be and fulfill my purpose,” he says.
Harrington Jr.’s future goals: Having his own construction company and opening a homeless shelter.
Housing Flint’s homeless is close to his heart, because he feels that they are often stereotyped, discriminated against and excluded from opportunities that can help them recover.
“I see myself as part of a new emerging Flint that is inspiring to the young and old. Inspiring people to pursue their dreams no matter their previous circumstances,” Harrington Jr. says.
His own observation is that a new wave of young entrepreneurs are creating opportunities and pathways for the next generation. “I also see current entrepreneurs reinventing themselves by connecting with the young to stay relevant and prosper,” he says.
Harrington Jr. believes the new up-and-comers are making Flint not only richer economically, but in mindset as well.
He says, “I think Flint is becoming more accepting of differences because young people are rising in leadership. And they’re in positions to stop discrimination and decrease teasing in schools.”
Brown agrees, and stresses that every single Flint resident should think about what action they can take to make the future Flint one that is welcoming and prosperous for all.
“Even if everyone just did something small the city will see positive change,” Brown says. She adds that an outsider might sneer and think that her participation in a fashion show seems insignificant. “But there are two things I believe in,” she says. “I believe that people grow into what they see modeled for them, and that even small things can make a big difference.”
Editor’s Note: Tickets ($15) for the July 20 Fashion Against Bullying event taking place at Flint’s Riverfront Banquet Center are on sale now. The show will begin at 6 p.m. For more info visit the event page.
Its sponsors include TheHUB Flint, Park Place Hair Studio, Ebenezer Ministries and Renewed Faith Church.
Models, designers and other talent at this year’s event include:
Marlon Ballard Jr.,
Keith Darrough II,
Jemini Green (Motive Clothing),
Dwayne Harrington Jr,
Eric Owens II,
Lead image courtesy of Amore Brown/facebook
Click to see TheHUB’s related coverage: