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Teen girls in faith-based program find modesty, modeling can coexist


By Bitsy Kemper
Herald correspondent


Felicia Stiles learns graceful tips from a pro model

Felicia Stiles learns graceful tips from professional model Leah Darrow of “America’s Next Top Model.” Darrow was in town to give tips to 30 teen-age girls participating in “Pure Fashion,” a program that focuses on modesty, charity and inner beauty. Photo courtesy of Cynthia Ahr


Thirty teen-age girls from Grass Valley to Benicia have spent the past six months training to be models. But not just fashion models — role models.
By participating in the international, faith-based program called “Pure Fashion,” they’ve learned not only about hair and makeup, but how to let their inner light shine.


The Pure Fashion program started in 1999 and is a service of the Catholic ecclesial movement Regnum Christi, represented in the Sacramento Diocese through the Legionaries of Christ. This is the first chapter to be established in California and the program has been endorsed by Bishop William K. Weigand and officials of the Sacramento Diocese.


Participants hail from Holy Spirit, St. Charles Borromeo, St. Ignatius, St. Francis of Assisi and St. Mary parishes in Sacramento, Holy Trinity Parish in El Dorado Hills, St. Dominic Parish in Benicia, St. John the Baptist Parish in Folsom, Our Lady of the Assumption Parish in Carmichael, St. Mel Parish in Fair Oaks, and Loretto High School and St. Francis Catholic High School in Sacramento.


Monthly classes cover traditional modeling topics, but also embrace less-traditional topics such as communication, charity and etiquette.


“At our first orientation, I was impressed that they said a blessing before the ice cream social. Even more, they recognized a model can eat ice cream and still enjoy life. They are committed to the girls having the right message of how to be beautiful,” said Jane Lee of Cameron Park. Her 14-year-old daughter Katie is participating in Pure Fashion.


“It’s the best community outreach to help teens stay ‘good’ in a society that promotes every other virtue but inner goodness,” Lee said. “Katie now knows I’m not the only parent in the world who’s been talking about how fashion shapes people’s first impressions and how most of today’s messages are too mature.”


Katie Lee says she has learned public speaking, different ways to do makeup, how to conduct herself in different situations, and how to look confident.


“I think a good portion of today’s teenage girls are out of control with the way they dress,” she said. “I think maybe if they knew a little more about what they’re doing, they might make different decisions. I think they should at least look at all the facts.”


A faith-based program that emphasizes and encourages teen girls “to live, behave and dress in accordance with their dignity as children of God,” is something the diocese both welcomed and endorsed, according to Kathy Conner, administrator of the Department of Evangelization and Catechesis.


Conner said Bishop Weigand was contacted about the program several months ago. Conner and Dom Puglisi, superintendent of Catholic schools, met with Inchi Sugarman, local chairwoman, on the bishop’s behalf.


Both Conner and Puglisi said Pure Fashion is an outstanding program and gave their endorsement. Puglisi went so far as to write to all school principals about the program.


“To my knowledge, nothing else quite like this was offered,” Conner said. “Pure Fashion is the perfect antidote to help counteract today’s culture, which pushes promiscuity and provocative dress as the norm for young women.”


Sugarman says the program helps girls gain confidence in personal elegance, poise and a generous spirit toward others.


Molly Herboth, 14, agrees. “(Pope) John Paul II once told us, ‘If you are who you are meant to be, you will set the whole world ablaze.’ I think that was a call to be authentic and genuine: To follow the calling that God gave us and not to follow the fads or trends of the world,” she said.


Home-schooled in Grass Valley, she is admittedly sheltered from the bustle of most clothing-focused girls her age and a little behind on the pressures of fashion trends. Learning from the different classes she’s been taking, she realizes more how virtues are needed in the world.


Molly’s mother, Mary Herboth, said every girl wants to know she is beautiful and that beauty doesn’t depend on a fashion label. “No father wakes up in the morning and says ‘How can I get my daughter to show off her body today?’ It just goes against the law of love,” Mary Herboth said.


She and her husband view their daughter as a gift from God, both body and soul, she said. “We want to protect that gift from poorly-thought-out fashions and trends that limit beauty to flaunting exaggerations. At the same time we don’t wish to keep our daughter’s light hidden under an artificially homemade bushel. We want her to know her beauty and the beauty of others that is visible, fun, interior and secure.”


Molly Herboth said she’s grown from the program. “It’s a good, fun, Catholic-Christian environment. It’s built up my confidence and now more than anything, I can let my virtue shine.”


Runway training by professional models, including Leah Darrow of “America’s Next Top Model,” was an unexpected bonus, especially as it focused on modesty.


A fashion show on May 30 will spotlight the girls involved in Pure Fashion and culminate their six-month training program.


Open to the public, the event will be held at Arden Hills Resort Club and Spa, located at 1220 Arden Hills Lane in Sacramento. Speakers will include Coleen Kelly Mast, Catholic radio talk show host, and actress Jessica Rey. Doors open at 6 p.m. and tickets are $40 per person and may be purchased online at www.purefashionsacramento.org.


A second six-month program will start in the fall and is open to all girls ages 14 to 18.


“Our hope is this program will flourish the greater Sacramento area,” Conner said.



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