By Helen Stec 

Students Helping Achieve Positive Esteem (S.H.A.P.E.) is hosting a free fashion show to promote diversity and the belief that all bodies are acceptable and beautiful on Sunday, November 1.

S.H.A.P.E. is a peer education group that advocates positive body image, self-esteem, and awareness of eating disorders at the University of Connecticut.

The fashion show, called “Cat Walk to End Fat Talk,” was originally meant to coincide with Fat Talk Free Week, a five-day body image awareness campaign from October 19 to 23. It focuses on highlighting body image issues and how the “thin ideal” can damage women. However, due to scheduling conflicts, the fashion show had to be delayed until November 1.

“Everybody has a different body and a different frame, and, you know, some parts of your body are going to be bigger than other people’s body parts and some will be smaller, you know, everybody doesn’t look alike and we’re trying to promote that that’s okay,” said Stephanie Voytek, a peer educator for S.H.A.P.E and the coordinator of the fashion show.

Last year while trying to come up with events for Fat Talk Free week, Voytek came across “Cat Walk to End Fat Talk,” an event started by the national chapter of Tri Delta, an international sorority.

Voytek said many young women feel pressured by the media to conform to the strict ideal of beauty it perpetuates, but what really matters for these women is being comfortable with who they are. The goal of the fashion show is to embrace diversity and highlight all shapes, sizes, ethnicities, and personalities.

“We’re trying to promote that that’s okay. All that matters is you being okay with who you are, and it’s a great thing to celebrate. Diversity isn’t something that we should shame—it’s something that we should embrace,” Voytek said.

Models are allowed to wear whatever they want during the fashion show—as long as it’s PG-13 or below. As of Friday, October 16, the show had 21 models who, according to Voytek, are very diverse and stepping out of their comfort zone. Though she hoped more models would volunteer, Voytek understands how frightening the experience could seem.

“It’s definitely asking a lot for a person to put themselves out there like that, so I totally understand that it’s a hard thing for a lot of people to do,” she said.

Voytek hopes that the fashion show will not only build confidence for both the models and the audience, but also be an educational experience about body acceptance that could improve the UConn community.

“There are a lot of pressures to look a certain way, and I think if we were able to embrace, you know, a campus’s diversity in a fun environment, it would be so much easier to feel better about ourselves and treat ourselves better and our friends and everybody around us,” she said.

“Catwalk to End Fat Talk” will take place from 4 to 5 p.m. in the Student Union Ballroom on Sunday, November 1. Doors open at 3:45 pm.