Even a model can struggle knowing her worth and beauty.
That was once the case for Ashley Micheal, a 20-year-old college junior and Garner Magnet High graduate.
Micheal said during her transition from middle school to high school she experienced a culture shock. The middle school she attended was predominately white. But when she got to Garner Magnet High School, it was much more diverse.
She didn’t fit in. She wasn’t popular. She didn’t play sports. She wasn’t a cheerleader. She liked art and no one understood that.
“For a while I wasn’t comfortable in my skin either,” Micheal said. “I felt really shut out and I felt weird. Kids used to pick on me.”
But when she graduated high school, she started to find herself. Micheal currently attends Chowan University in Murfreesboro, NC.
“I grew. My confidence was over the top,” she said. “And college – now – I’m me.”
She modeled, shot photographs with her Cannon camera for fun and is studying graphic design.
Now she’s helping other young girls battling with their own self-confidence and self-esteem issues. Micheal combined all of her talents and each of the past two summers, she’s put on fashion shows for young girls to teach them the importance of being comfortable with who they are.
Her show on Aug. 8 will be the second one she’s produced.
Girls from 13 to 25 years old participate. They model clothes, dance and vow to always respect themselves.
However, the girls are not given clothing to wear. They use their own clothes and fashion to show off for the audience.
“I want their style, what they like and I want them to be themselves,” Micheal said.
‘Stay true to yourself’
Her message is simple: “Always stay true to yourself, no matter the circumstances.”
“No matter what situation you’re put in, whether it’s good or bad, always stay within your character, stay true to yourself and don’t lose your values, your morals,” Micheal explained. “Just respect yourself.”
Eleven girls will participate in the event, some who participated last year.
Autumn Williams, 15, will perform in the show for the second time. She said she liked it so much last year, she wanted to participate again.
“I was really excited the first time because I’ve never really been in anything like that,” Williams said. “I really like it and it was really fun being able to work with all the girls and being able to get it done.”
Williams is a 10th grade student at Garner Magnet High School. She said although she is a dancer, her favorite part of the show was modeling. She said she likes changing into different clothes and showcasing them for the audience.
“It’s like all the attention is on you,” Williams said. “You have the spotlight. You’re the center of attention.”
Naomi Dolby, 16, also enjoys the modeling.
Dolby said one of the toughest things about high school is finding yourself and realizing it’s OK to be different.
“Because with this type of show, you don’t have to look a certain way,” Dolby, an 11th grade student at GMHS, said. “It’s really about expressing yourself in your own way. It’s not wanting to look how everyone else wants you to look. It’s a learning experience.”
Micheal’s older sister, Chenise Bowden, 25, will also participate. She serves as another mentor for the young girls, teaching them what it means to be beautiful.
Bowden said having gone through everything each girl has been through and still being young works to her advantage when talking to the girls.
“Beauty is loving yourself on the inside and also on the outside,” Bowden said. “If you don’t love yourself on the inside you won’t love yourself on the outside, no matter how many people tell you.”
Making a vow
Micheal says the primary reason she puts on the show is help prevent girls from making mistakes that could affect their lives in the future. One bad move could have a lasting effect, she says.
At the end of each show, the girls light a candle and recite a vow to always love themself, respect themself and to demand respect from others.
“A lot of (girls) are losing their insight,” Micheal said. “Social media... Boys. It’s really important for them to know who they are so they can stay true to who they are. When they’re put in those situation to where their character can be judged, they’ll know this isn’t me.”
She said she hopes to continue the tradition of the fashion show even as she continues to matriculate.
Micheal said this year will be better. She will also walk the runway to show off her fashion. However, there’s one thing she won’t do, she says.
“Nope, I can’t dance,” she said. “Nope. I’ll leave that up to my sister.”