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Fashion makes splash

Roslyn Wilson hasn't missed a stitch of the Ebony Fashion Fair in six years.

"It's a tradition," the Tampa native said. "The uniqueness of the fashion is something typically (blacks) wouldn't patron. These shows make you feel like there's more places to buy clothes than just Wal-Mart."

Now in its 46th year, Ebony Fashion Fair's Spring 2004 Color Splash tour spilled across the Tampa Theatre stage Sunday night.

Black beauty, wrapped in every shade of the rainbow, sashayed and paraded across the stage during the two-hour show, which featured designs from the United States, Italy, France, Great Britain, Japan and Canada. And, for the second year, the international traveling fashion show also featured Tampa resident Victoria Bowers.

"It's refreshing" modeling before a hometown crowd, Bowers said after the show. "This is the first show I was actually nervous for. My sister told me she didn't like my wig. Other than that, the feedback was positive."

"Of course, I'm biased, but I think she was the prettiest one in the show," said Victoria Bower's mother, Jacqueline. "She's living out her dream modeling."

When the 25-year-old isn't on the road working, she has other things on her mind. Bowers studies international business administration at Hillsborough Community College.

Touted as "the world's largest traveling fashion show," the Ebony Fashion Fair has raised more than $50-million for nearly 500 education scholarships while "helping black women to keep up with what's vogue across the Atlantic."

Proceeds from each show benefit local charities. The amount of money raised Sunday for scholarships wasn't immediately available from show organizers with the Tampa Hillsborough Urban League, who estimated that 700 people were in the audience.

The crowd learned the double meanings of colors from show commentator Jada Jackson Collins.

Wearing blue, she said, describes a friend who's tried and true.

"But it also says you have a stormy side," Jackson Collins said.

A lady in red doesn't say "loose and easy."

"It means you're royal and regal," Jackson Collins said. "Unfortunately, ladies, red is known to come in many seductive shades."

While at times the sheer sleepwear and short skirts gave the show a risque feel, Jackson Collins made sure it remained a family show with a few not-so-subtle messages.

"But ladies, don't turn down the sheets until you're legally wed," she said at one point.

Lisa Haynes, the only full-figured model in Sunday's show, received roaring applause every time she took the stage. Jackson Collins said Haynes once told her that she's not thin and built for speed like the other models, describing herself as a luxury car instead.

"I was once a little chubby girl with frizzy ponytails sitting in the audience," the 28-year-old from Columbus, Ohio, said after the show.

Encouraged by her mother to respond to a Jet magazine ad for the fashion fair, Haynes sent in a head shot she had taken herself.

"One little chubby girl made it," she said.

Haynes said she wears a size 16 to 20, depending on the outfit's design.

Haynes' flawless outfits left some women with their mouths open, as did models Norman Scales, 23, and Ronnel Blackmon, 21. During at least two acts, the two men stripped down to their bare chests and short shorts.

The show will make a second appearance in Tampa Bay at 8 p.m. Feb. 2 at Mahaffey Theater at the Bayfront Center in St. Petersburg. Visit www.ebonyfashionfair.com for more information.

Although some outfits were sheer and some skirts short, the Ebony Fashion Fair maintained a family friendly atmosphere with reminders like, "But ladies, don't turn down the sheets until you're legally wed."

From left, Patricia Jackson and her daughters Phylisha Jackson, 12, Alesia Jackson, 11, and Alexis Jackson, 11, collect models' autographs after Sunday's Ebony Fashion Fair at the Tampa Theatre.

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