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Deal Divas

Stephanie Hayes, Katie Sanders, Kameel Stanley, & Keyonna Summers

Ben Chmura's back for a good cause



I don't know about you, divas, but hearing about little girls being abused pains me like nothing else. Little girls should be enjoying simple things like playing dress up or shopping with friends -- not healing from hurt caused by someone they love.

But when it does happen, thank goodness for places like Brookwood Florida, a therapeutic group home for abused girls ages 11 to 21. Next week you have a chance to support the nonprofit home with a night of food, drinks and a showcase of outfits made by local designers, dubbed the Swanky Soiree. And guess who's directing the fashion part of the evening... our very own Project Runway contestant, Ben Chmura!

We thought this was a good time to catch up with our friend Ben, whom we haven't heard from since he was let go from Project Runway's season 7.

benchmura.jpgSo, besides volunteering with Brookwood, what are you up to these days? My husband, Bobby, and I moved to New York on June 1st, and now I'm the graphic designer for Sean John denim boy's line. It's been great to come back to New York and fall right back into it. It's fantastic. But of course we have fashion week now, so it's crazy here!

How did you get involved with the Swanky Soiree? I got involved because I met Phyllis (Eig, the event's committee chair)...  She told me about Brookwood and the cause. I feel that what they're doing is so important, helping these young girls acclimate and get back into normal life.

What should we expect from the fashion show? I didn't want to do a traditional fashion event -- not a runway. Models will be walking around in designer looks, mingling and interacting with the guests. We've actually gone to the community, contacted other designers we felt would be appropriate. We didn't want to be too fancy or too avant garde. We wanted it to be accessible. Each designer (there are about eight) was asked to provide one look so they'll all have equal representation. I'll be showing my finale from my resort collection, my last collection before I left Florida. It's a cocktail dress.

Why was it important to include fashion in this domestic abuse event? I think fashion is important for these girls because they're starting over, basically. They've been through so much, why not treat them to clothing that will help them manifest into a new person? It'll help build their self esteem. I think people usually look at fashion that's on the runway and say, oh that's silly, but it's really there to inspire people. Involving fashion in this event is a great way to do that.

The event is on Sept. 16, from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at the home of Dr. Patrick Sexton in St. Petersburg. For tickets, visit the event's website, And don't forget to say hi to Ben!

Deal Diva Kim



[Last modified: Friday, September 10, 2010 3:11pm]


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