Celebrate Diversity: High school fashion show a hit

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Michee Kikobo and Anna Andres Serpa get modeling instructions from Sara Kalonda before Friday night’s fashion night at Lewiston High School. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

Sara Kalonda, center, talks to some of the models before Friday night’s fashion show at Lewiston High School. Kalonda is a fashion designer and helped organize the evening’s activities. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

Adey Ahmed and Shafea Guhat give each other encouragement before the fashion show at Lewiston High School on Friday evening. Guhat was performing a dance as part of the evening’s entertainment. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

Mariam Baraka walks back down the runway at the start of the Lewiston High School fashion show. Baraka will be competing in the Miss Muslimah USA pageant in Ohio this summer. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

Sulekha Abdow, a junior, and Mardoche Kikobo, a Lewiston High School soccer star, return down the runway at the Lewiston High School fashion show on Friday evening. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

LEWISTON — Nervous? Well sure, Jordyn Rubin was a little nervous. It was her first fashion show, after all.

“I’ve never done anything like this,” the Lewiston High School sophomore said. “That’s a lot of attention on you all at once.”

When it came time for her journey down the catwalk, though, Rubin looked completely at ease in her red Somali gown.

Fadil Mulkurti, too, was experiencing high jitters before the Celebrate Diversity Fashion Show got underway Friday night at the high school. An exchange student from Albania, Mulkurti was unnerved by the idea of walking down the runaway before hundreds of his peers and others.

“I’m nervous,” he said. “I don’t like doing anything in public.”

But then it was his turn and, what do you know? Mulkurti somewhat swaggered down the center of the cafeteria and even managed a sly smile along the way

So much for the jitters. But of course, these students-turned-runway-models had a secret weapon in Sara Kalonda, a designer from Edward Little High School brought in by Djamal Maldoum, who produced the fashion show.

In the minutes before show time, Maldoum and Kalonda helped guide the young models on their journeys to the catwalk.

“When they’re walking, they’re nervous. You tell them what to do; give them instruction and it’s a boost to their confidence,” Kalonda said. “The last thing they have in their heads is the image of me screaming at them. It helps.”

Kalonda is absolutely right, as it turns out. In a backstage room minutes before show time, the more she yelled and ordered them about, the calmer the brightly garbed students became.

In its second year, the fashion show was well-attended, with hundreds turning out to cheer the models and the singers, dancers and poets from a variety of cultures.

“We’ve got some really great talent here,” said Patty MacKinnon, an English teacher and Celebrate Diversity Club adviser.

For MacKinnon, the heavy turnout was no surprise. The show last year, held at Bates College, quickly sold out, with more than 250 people attending. That show was an obvious hit and the people made it clear they wanted more.

“It was such a popular event,” MacKinnon said. “People were just begging us to do it again.”

The idea behind the show is to celebrate the diversity in Lewiston, MacKinnon said. A wide variety of nations are represented in the form of music, food and, of course, fashion.

High school junior Joao Victor Rodrigues, for example, was wearing a pullover dashiki shirt, a style worn by both men and women across West Africa. It served the purpose of the show, sure, but for Rodrigues, it’s a fashion that suits him in his leisure time, as well.

“I’ll wear this if I’m going to a party,” he said, “or sometimes when I visit my family.”

Nicholas Roy, also a junior, was sporting a white flowing robe and topped it off with an ornate Japanese umbrella.

Nervous? Not this guy.

“I do cheerleading,” Roy said. “I’m used to all the attention.”

Sulekha Abdow, a junior, was wearing a blue and gold Wakanda-style dress and a head scarf as she prepared to make her walk down the runway.

“I’m nervous,” she said. “We’re going to have fun, though.”

It was a pretty solid prediction. The room, populated by an audience of well over 200 souls, was at full volume from the start. They applauded often and screeched their joy when the singers sang, the dancers danced, and the poets read their lines.

When the fashion show began, it became almost a deafening roar of approval, which was no doubt a satisfying sound to those who made long journeys down the middle of the room.

Of course, through it all, they also had Kalonda, who had designed several of the ensembles worn during the show. Before sending them off to the runway, Kalonda made final adjustments to their outfits and offered words of guidance before sending them on their way.

“I enjoy what I do,” she said, beaming over her models. “I really love this.”

Obviously.

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