45th Ebony Fashion Fair is here on Wednesday

Published: Tuesday, January 21, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 21, 2003 at 1:37 a.m.



  • What: "Simply Spectacular," the 45th annual Ebony Fashion Fair, comes to Gainesville.

  • When: Wednesday, 8 p.m.

  • Where: Lincoln Middle School, 1001 SE 12th Street.

  • Tickets: $22. Call 377-0838.

  • "Hey, aren't you a model?" "Hey, don't I know you from somewhere?" To some people, these may be worn-out pick-up lines. To Valerie Jones, they could be legitimate questions.
    Jones makes her way back to Gainesville Wednesday evening as one of 12 models who will be strutting their stuff in the 45th Ebony Fashion Fair at Lincoln Middle School.
    The svelte Miami native and Gainesville resident started modeling last August for the Ebony Fashion Fair, which is a traveling international fashion show that will visit nearly 200 cities in the U.S., the Bahamas and Canada before its tour ends in May.
    Annually, the show attracts more than 300,000 patrons, and since its inception in 1956, the Ebony Fashion Fair has helped non-profit organizations around the world raise more than $49 million.
    Jones finished her BA degree at the University of Florida while living in Gainesville from 1998-1999 and she's back in Gainesville, taking more courses. Her modeling career got its start, she says, to cover the costs of her education.
    "I started entering beauty pageants to put myself through school," Jones says. "And the more confidence that I gained, the more I wanted to pursue (modeling as a career)."
    Putting her degree in marketing to good use, she says, "I'm my own walking business."
    But modeling "is not as easy as it looks," Jones explains. During the course of Wednesday night's two-hour fashion show, Jones says she'll make 17 outfit changes. She must maintain her sleek shape to model the lingerie and other form-fitting outfits showcased in the event.
    Staying fit on the road can be a challenge because "our eating habits are off, and we eat a lot of fast food," says Jones. She adds that she packs some exercise CDs in her suitcase to maintain her necessary weight during the hectic nine-month tour.
    Another thing that the young model must keep in mind is that whenever she appears in public, she must be at her best.
    "Whenever you walk outside, you are representing the agency - it's almost as if you walk onto another stage. Everybody is watching. You never know when your image will appear on the Internet or in the newspaper."
    Jones, however, says she enjoys her work immensely. "I don't really have any dislikes. This has been a really unique experience that has really blessed me," she says.
    Jones is also proud that her work is benefiting others. "The whole purpose of the Ebony Fashion Fair is to raise money for different scholarships - the money is given back to the community.
    And in Gainesville, the fashion fair will benefit several students who will be entering college this year with the help of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, which has been sponsoring the show locally "for more than 25 years," says Alena Buggs, chairperson for the event. "Usually, the Zetas give anywhere from $3,500 to about $5,000 for academic scholarships," says Buggs.
    Buggs expects an audience of roughly 1,000 for Wednesday's show and believes that it's an event for all genders and races. "It's a great evening out. They leave feeling good because they helped a charitable event," she says.

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