Text: Naomi Shimada
Photography: Christina Jin
Njairé McKoy is this year’s Spirit Fashion Show chair. She’s a senior Biological Sciences major with a minor in Biomedical Engineering and considers herself a STEM based person. She’s a first generation on both sides of her family.
I'm first gen on both sides of my family. My mother is English by nationality and Guyanese by heritage, and my father is Jamaican by nationality and heritage. There's a bit more mix in between there as well, some European and Asian, but I identify as West-Indian American.
She joined the fashion show after seeing it while in high school and visiting CMU at COD weekend.
During COD weekend my senior spring of high school I decided to attend this fashion show. I saw this long skinny guy walking down the runway in heels and I was just so mesmerized by him and the production that I knew I had to be a part of this. Four years later, I'm chair of the show and taking on a position I essentially had no experience with and making it my own.
Kiker didn’t have any experience when she joined SFS as a freshman. She saw a poster in her dorm and decided to try out.
I saw a poster advertising model tryouts in my freshman dorm. Despite having no experience, and heels I hadn't yet broken in, I showed up to tryouts, and the model coordinators must have seen some potential in me. Once I joined the show, I was learning what SPIRIT was about at the same time that I was learning how to work a runway. It was overwhelming and amazing. If I hadn't seen that poster, I don't know if I would have found the SPIRIT community or SFS, and that would be such a shame because they have been one of the best parts of my time at CMU.
Her experience with the show this year has been “absolutely incredible!” McKoy believes that the Fashion Show stands for freedom of expression. The show is inclusive and strives to make it open to all.
I've never seen a show that allows the designers and models to express their truths so freely via all shapes and orientations and backgrounds. In our show we allow our models to walk the way that is most convenient and empowering for them. We allow models who only wear conservative clothing to still wear fashion show type clothing that caters to their needs and is still beautiful to wear. We allow underrepresented designers and performers to display their art in a variety of forms through our unique show choreographies, poems, music, and more. I honestly do love this show and everything it represents, and I believe we can continue to improve every year.
Being the chair of the show, says McKoy, means creating a balance between all the different aspects involved with Spirit and with her own life.
Being chair means texting your executive media director at 2am because you just got an idea. It also means trying to remain calm in the face of many forms of adversity. It means being executive yet humble, compassionate yet stern. All together, being chair means having a balance. You have to understand your audience and their wants/needs, your models and their wants/needs, the designers and their wants/needs, as well as your eboards want/needs. It gets tricky at time, especially if you have to make a tough and unpopular decisions. On top of that, you are a student and a human being. You have to take time out for yourself when you know things are becoming overwhelming even if you want to just push through.
Being chair, though, means being stern. And it’s been the most difficult part of McKoy’s job.
One of the most difficult parts has been learning how to be stern when talking with friends. To be honest I was friends with most of my eboard before I became chair, and being in a leadership role naturally my position changed. So I could be having a very serious conversation with my eboard in our SFS groupchat while having a totally separate unrelated hilarious conversation with someone in my eboard. It's difficult, finding the balance.
Despite having to be stern, McKoy has fostered the art of this year’s show. She’s loved pushing people to their full potential and watching the art that grew out of it.
I love pushing people to their best potential. It's been so beautiful watching my eboard members take on positions and do the best they can to make the show successful. It's also been so rewarding seeing models who were very discouraged by their walks in November, completely owning the runway in April. In addition, viewing the art from the student designers from all different background, majors, and class years has been a heart warming event to watch.
Everyone should come see the fashion show, she says.
If you love Black fashion or even just want to get to know a bit more about relevant topics within the Black community then you should see the show. If you appreciate student designers and want to see student models transform a normal runway into art, then you should for sure see the show. Essentially if you're a living breathing human then you should see the show just because it's a show that is not and will never be comparable to in regards to its use of art by means of fashion to bring light to topics within the Black community.