CAMP ZAMA, Japan – Kamryn Johnson, 11, had always wanted to be a model, and her first opportunity involved getting to walk down a runway on a red carpet to thumping music, flashing strobe lights and camera shutters.
Kamryn was one of more than 20 models who took the stage during an all-ages fashion show held Saturday at the Main Exchange here to highlight back-to-school looks.
“[My mom] told me that they were doing this fashion show, and I immediately said ‘yes,’” she said. “I’ve never been on a red carpet before. I was excited and nervous at the same time.”
Camp Zama’s Army Community Service put together the event primarily as a way to show off the many different boys’ and girls’ clothing styles available at the Exchange to those families who arrived to Japan over the summer, said Lucinda Ward, an ACS specialist.
“We know back-to-school is not about a fashion show, so they say, but it totally is,” she said with a laugh.
Space was cleared in the middle of the Exchange for an elevated, T-shaped stage, complete with a backdrop of a New York City street and the runway, which pointed directly out into the gathered crowd.
“I have been to a few fashion shows, and I think the lights and the stage and the music [we used] did make it more of an event,” Ward said. “You either go big or go home.”
Ward, serving as the emcee, announced each model’s name and gave a description of the outfit and accessories they were wearing. They then walked to the edge of the stage and struck a pose—some stood more or less still, while others took the opportunity to do a dance move or execute a dramatic hair flip.
Finding models to participate in the show involved putting out an “all call” on a Camp Zama Facebook page, with additions to the lineup coming as shortly as one hour before the show.
“They just started coming out of the woodwork,” Ward said. “It was great, and they were all really excited about it.”
The models each got to show off two outfits, the elements of which they chose themselves, to include shoes and accessories like backpacks, bracelets and sunglasses.
“For my first outfit, I just chose an undershirt with a dress because I have tons of those at home,” Kamryn said. “And for my second, I chose purple because it’s my favorite color and I love [the brand] Champion.”
For his first walk, Jayden Bing, 12, another first-time model, chose some Nike shorts and a gray T-shirt to go with his new Jordan sneakers he got recently. After that, he just “picked something random for the second outfit [to] go with a whole Nautica flow.”
Allowing the models to choose their outfits was done to make the children feel more comfortable and hopefully calm any nerves they may have had before walking onstage, Ward said.
“I do believe that it allowed them to have a little bit of autonomy and know that, ‘I’m doing this for myself and I’m going to be able to show my style,’” she said.
When Valerie Broussard Boston heard about the call for models, she asked her daughters—Eliza, 6; Ophelia, 7; and Josephine, 10—if they wanted to participate and said all three were very enthusiastic about the idea.
“[They are] natural-born performers, so any time they have a chance to be onstage or perform, they jump at it,” Boston said. “It was the first time for all of them, and they had a blast.”
Boston said she enjoyed the show because not only did her daughters and the rest of the models get clothing discounts for participating, but it also allowed them a great opportunity to be a part of the community.
“All their little friends were doing it, so they were chatting in line and having fun with all the prep and everything,” she said. “My husband and I were just smiling and watching them do their thing and shining individually.”
After finishing her first fashion show, Kamryn had one piece of advice for any other aspiring models.
“I think all that you really need is confidence when you’re walking out on the stage,” she said. “It’s fun seeing all of the people in the audience. And you meet different people on the runway too. That’s what I like about modeling.”