Seventeen women of different ages, backgrounds, shapes, and sizes, but who share the bond of an unpredictable and often disabling disease, channeled their inner supermodel for the 10th annual Fashion Plates Luncheon and Fashion Show in Boston.
“In a million years, I never would have thought that I could put model down on my resume,” said Lori Grande, co-host of the JW and Lori Morning Show on WKLB Country 102.5 in Boston.
Grande was one of the models, all women living with multiple sclerosis, who took to the runway to raise money for the National MS Society and awareness of the disease. The popular radio show host had recently gone public with her MS, after hiding it since her diagnosis eight years ago.
“I realize that many people still see MS as a really negative thing -- and so it makes me think that it's such a good thing that I "came out," so people can see that I am fine and that there are so many "faces" of MS. I'm so pleased to show a healthy, positive side of MS,” said Grande after the show.
MS is a chronic illness that affects the central nervous system and interrupts the flow of information between the brain and the body. Sharon Froston of Boston was diagnosed 10 years ago. She too was a first-time Fashion Plates model and had a cheering squad of 20 family and friends in the audience. (Sharon is pictured at the right with Brent Williams (L) and Jacque Williams (R).)
“It meant so much to me to have them there,” she said. “It was comforting seeing familiar faces and knowing that people care about finding a cure for MS.”
More than 600 people turned out to support the women on November 14, 2014 at the Sheraton Boston Hotel. The event has more than doubled in size since its inception, and this year raised more than $100,000 for MS research to stop disease progression, restore lost function, and end MS forever, at the same time it funds services to help people with MS live their best lives.
Marleigh Brown of Wrentham was awarded the Karen Van Houten MS Spirit Award. Van Houten was one of the creators of the original MS fashion show. She lost her battle with MS in 2012. Brown was recognized for being a Fashion Plates alumni model, MS program volunteer, and team captain of her Bike MS team, Fit Werx MPB, which has raised $470,000 since 2010.
Brown said she was humbled and honored by the award. “Unfortunately I didn’t have the honor of knowing Karen Van Houten while she was living,” said Brown. “I wish I had, but I am today still inspired by her example. I promise Karen’s dream of a world free of MS, our dream of a world free of MS will now live on through every single one of us here today.”
Marleigh Brown's Speech
Both first-timers Froston and Grande said they would “absolutely” model again, and look forward to another chance to raise awareness of MS.
“I hope people saw that a woman diagnosed with MS can lead a productive, successful, and fun-filled life,” said Froston. “The face of MS is not always someone who needs assistance walking, since many challenges are not visible to the naked eye.”
For Grande, Fashion Plates was more than modeling, it was an opportunity to open up and become a role model for others with the disease.
“There are certain times in your life when you realize you are in the exact right place with the exact right people and [Fashion Plates] was one of those times for me. I loved being with all those beautiful, lovely, lively women onstage and backstage,” said Grande.
As for her performance on stage Grande said, “I felt my poses were kind of awkward, but I never felt more beautiful -- or more hopeful.”
Video from 2014 MS Fashion Plates