The Beautiful Survivors runway show will be on Sunday, Nov. 22 at the Hawai‘i Convention Center.
By Don Wallace
Forget Giselle, Karlie and Kate. When Taylor, Bruce and 18 others take to the runway Sunday, Nov. 22, for HONOLULU Fashion Week, you’ll see how real models rock the house. That’s because these cancer survivors are role models who, by strutting their stuff, are throwing off any preconceptions and labels (except the designer kind).
“I’m very, very excited to be walking,” says 13-year-old Taylor Tagatac. A talented drummer, horseback rider and serious student at ‘Ewa Makai Middle School, she’s also beaten acute myeloid leukemia twice in her young life. The first bout came when she was two and a half; the second required a groundbreaking bone marrow transplant from her father. Now five years cancer-free, she says, “I try to follow fashion trends as much as I can, but also try to work in my personality.”
As befits a horsewoman, that means pairing blue jeans with “slippers, coral colors and girlie blouses.” She normally picks up pointers from fashion videos on YouTube, but here will wear a shirt picked out for her. Biggest decision: Converse or Vans? “They said sneakers are fine.”
Taylor is the 2015 Children’s Miracle Network Champion for Hawai‘i, speaking to groups as an ambassador and patient of Kapi‘olani Medical Center for Women and Children. More on her story here.
Lā‘ie musician Bruce Naluai has a specific reason for his runway walk: “It’s an awareness thing for people like me, especially locals, especially men who were born here and raised in a certain way.” The former Kahuku High football player and wrestler ignored symptoms for over a year. “We’re taught that you suck it up, toughen up, don’t stop unless you’re dying.”
In Naluai’s case, his symptoms only became unavoidable when his vision temporarily failed. “That was enough—I went to a doctor.” Tests revealed a growth, and he was diagnosed with lymphoma. Chemotherapy followed, and today he has been cancer-free for three years. He continues to play music with his group, Vaihi, and takes photos of sunrises, which he’s turning into a business.
New York fashion expert Dean Christopher is running the show, which features clothing donated by 9 Kahala Mall stores, including 33 Butterflies and Adore. He picked out a Reyn Spooner shirt for Naluai’s walk in the stars. Naluai hasn’t told his two daughters yet what he’s about to do, but says, “I want to show my daughters you can survive anything. Since chemo, I’ve been celebrating survivors; anything to do with that, that relates to life, is really big to me.” He also wants to honor his support team from Straub Clinic & Hospital, who became a second family for him during his treatment, when his life felt like it was falling apart.
For them he’ll even, at Christopher’s request, wear his hair up and lip-synch to “Smile, Please” by Stevie Wonder. “I’ve been practicing my walk and it hasn’t been going well. But I asked Dean, ʻAm I your first plus model?’ and he just started laughing. When he said, ʻYes,’ I told him we can start a whole plus-size model agency for men.”
The Hawai‘i Pacific Health—Beautiful Survivors Fashion Show will be held 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 22, at the Hawai‘i Convention Center; standing room and first-come, first-serve seating is free and available to the public. Come show your support and be entertained by the 20 inspiring models.