Model Citizen

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For one young woman from Kentucky, an appearance on a national reality competition series proved to be the opportunity to confront her greatest insecurity. Such is the story for Laura Kirkpatrick, a two-time competitor on “America’s Next Top Model” who has since used her own fame to put a spotlight on dyslexia and its many sufferers.

When she first appeared on “Top Model” Cycle 13, Kirkpatrick quickly became a fan-favorite with a mix of Southern charm and the trademark fierceness required to stay afloat in the competition. The same girl who was excelling in photo shoots and weekly challenges, however, had struggled with the common learning disability from a young age.

“I was really embarrassed because they do the Cover Girl commercials and we had to read from a teleprompter,” she recalls. “Being dyslexic, that was really hard on me. My confidence was terrible because of it.” A good friend on the show encouraged Kirkpatrick to stay the course and find her voice. She openly discussed being dyslexic, resulting in a lasting impact long after she placed runner-up. “When I got home, I had all these emails from other people who are dyslexic saying how much it meant to them. That’s how my charity started.”

Each year, “Laura’s Angels” hosts a nonprofit fashion show to benefit her own charity, The Beautiful Minds, as well as several other carefully selected organizations. On November 5, the Laura’s Angels Charity Fashion Show will take place at PLAY Louisville, this year embracing a colorful disco fever theme at the city’s liveliest dance club. “We’re loving the opportunity to wear glitter,” she laughs. “We’re just obsessed with disco and the ’70s, and it just came together naturally.” From the models to hair and makeup to the show’s producers, everyone is a volunteer. “It’s hard on us because everyone has their day jobs and then we’re up at midnight talking about this event,” she says, her tone ringing of enthusiasm, not obligation.

Initially, Kirkpatrick sought to help students at her own former high school in Stanford, Kentucky. The first fashion show was held in the school’s gymnasium, she says, and steadily grew every year since 2010. Eventually, the initiative gained enough traction to benefit other selected charities as well, including Fund for the Arts and the Family and Children’s Place for 2016. “We focus on helping youth because that’s how the community can build strong, confident adults.”

That goal to lift up the next generation extends to the designers contributing the fashions. Twelve designers are included in this year’s show, all from Louisville or nearby areas. Among them is “Project Runway” All-Star Gunnar Deatherage, another beloved reality competitor who, like Kirkpatrick, transcended Kentucky roots to pursue high-fashion prominence on the small screen. Asa Lyons of Exult, Tyler Grube, Kristina Sellers of Kilika Couture and Frances Lewis of Ann DeEvelyn Clothing Co. are among the other designers showcasing ’70s-inspired street styles and couture ensembles. “We like that we’re supporting artists and not just big name brands,” she says, noting that adherence to authenticity is crucial to the event’s overall mission.

Since everyone behind the scenes is a volunteer, 100 percent of profits from the show go to the charities involved. Kirkpatrick sings praises for PLAY Louisville’s flexibility and accommodation, as venue has been the biggest and most expensive obstacle in years past, she says. “Not worrying about that as much has allowed us to focus on the bigger issues and making it a grander show.” Highlights include pop-up shops for each designer before the show starts, a silent auction for some select pieces, and the Greentree Beauty squad on hand for guest touch-ups as the night heats up.

Guests are encouraged to bring a donation of toiletry items or a used coat to go to the Lexington Hope Center. (Monetary donations will also be accepted.) General admission for the show is $25 at the door, and preferred seating reservations are available on eventbrite.com. The event begins with drinks and designer networking at 6 p.m. before the show commences at 7. Guests are encouraged to dress for a disco flashback. VT