Flint fashion show 'This is Me' celebrates diversity with special needs models

FLINT, Michigan — There is more than meets the eye with this fashion show. “This is Me” is about celebrating all people, combating bullying and promoting acceptance. And, it’s walking the walk: All 15 of the fashion show’s models have special needs. 
“We’re all beautiful,” says Flint’s Tracy Palmer, owner of Trendsetters Productions, a modeling and etiquette school in Flint. “This is Me” is set for 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 16, at Mott Community College’s event center. Proceeds will benefit young people with special needs and anti-bullying efforts. 

“I was having a conversation at a fashion show with a woman who said she wished her son was able to take part in a show, but she told me he was autistic and knew that wouldn’t happen,” says Palmer, who graduated from Beecher High School. It was at that moment Palmer decided that young man, and others like him, could and would also get their chance to walk the catwalk, show the world their beauty, and take a stand against bullying. 

As for that boy whose mother told Tracy she wished he could be in a fashion show? His name is Emari Suggs and this weekend his dream will come true. Other models have cerebral palsy, hearing impairment and attention deficit disorders.

“This is Me” is a first for Palmer, but it is a continuation of her work over the last five years to put a stop to bullying. The issue became a high priority for the mother of four when her daughter, Zahria who is a model, told her she’d been bullied for nearly two years. Palmer was stunned to see and hear about the amount of bullying that was taking place within the modeling world and at schools.  

Palmer responded by launching a modeling and etiquette school, where she meets weekly with a group of about 25 teens on everything from modeling, fashion, proper etiquette and life skills such as writing resumes as well as preparing for and dressing for job interviews. She also hosts workshops and visits schools to spread her anti-bullying message. 

“This is Me” follows in the footsteps of Palmer’s other successful fashion show: More than 500 people attended “Fashion Against Bullying” in Flint Township in July. 

Palmer hopes to be able to draw a similar crowd for “This is Me,” but also shrugs off the idea that the success of “This is Me” is dependent on audience size. No matter how many people help celebrate them, those 15 models are hitting the runway this weekend and getting an opportunity they’ve never had before. That is success, says Palmer.

Tickets to “This is Me” are $10. Doors open at 3:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 16. For more information, check out the event’s Facebook page or email Palmer at [email protected].
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