By Sharon Fountain, Chicago Crusader
More than 77 years ago a group of beautiful, elegant and accomplished African American Women established an organization to assist Black women to break into the fashion and modeling industry. It was called the Association of Mannequins.
When you consider last summer a young beautiful African American woman named Ebonee Davis was the face of Calvin Klein’s fashion campaign, you realize some of their work was not in vain.
The Society of Mannequins, which was established in 2000 to continue the legacy of the association, will host their 17th annual Scholarship and Presentation Luncheon at the beautiful Tuscany Falls Banquets and Events in Mokena, Illinois from 1:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, March 19, 2017.
Each year this luncheon has grown, with more than 700 guests expected to attend this year representing Who’s Who in Chicago. Robin Robinson, who is also a trophy board member, returns as Mistress of Ceremonies to charmingly engage the attendees while keeping the program moving from the presentation of awards to the last runway models.
In keeping with the Society of Mannequins’ first mission, they will again award scholarships at the luncheon to students that need financial assistance to pursue a college education. Last year one new student received the Emma Beck Scholarship and six other students were awarded the Continuing Scholarship. The Continuing Scholarship provides any eligible African American high school student with the opportunity to receive continuing financial support for four years.
Their second mission is to present the “Woman of the Year” and the “Ten Best Dressed African American Women of Chicago Awards. Women who belong to this select group are exceptional in their commitments and glamorous. They are good role models and outstanding leaders in their fields and communities. These women achieve remarkable success while impeccably dressed and elegantly poised.
The 2017 Woman of the Year is Bonita Herring. Herring is the director of the Office of Field Placement at Chicago State University and the Immediate Past National President of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc.
Bestowing the distinctions on the new honorees and also modeling are the 2017 Governing Board Members: Lee L. Brown, president; Cecellia M. Smith, vice-president; Janet Blake-Greene, treasurer; Lucille Banks-Jefferson, secretary; Cheryl Marshall Washington, scholarship coordinator; Leotine Brown, Dr. Blondean Y. Davis, Valerie Davis, Carolyn Griffin Palmer, and Dewetts Thompson.
Joining the 2017 Mannequin Honorees for the first time is Carol Bell, vice president at B. Coleman Aviation, LLC. Once a woman is inducted, she will “walk” three years before being made a Trophy Board Member. The second year trophy honorees are Lisa Cooper, public affairs specialist, State Farm Insurance; Mayor Vivian Covington, Village of University Park; Dyanna Lewis, advertising and marketing director, Chicago Defender Newspaper; Denise Little, chief operating officer, Chicago Public Schools; Mayor Debbie Meyer Martin, Village of Olympia Fields; Dr. Kimako Patterson, superintendent, Prairie Hills Elementary School District 144; Annette Gurley, retired chief officer, Office of Teaching and Learning, Chicago Public Schools; and Valerie Stoudemire, chief operating officer, “The Whole Sha-Bang” Event Service.
For the past four years Ella Flagg-Dukes, CEO of Ellana Boutique has dazzled the guests with her unique and extraordinary fashion and accessories. She not only coordinates the fashion show, she also provides the fashion and a team of professional models to give guests the look and feel of a Paris high fashion show. Dukes has been in business for over 30 years, successfully catering to women who want their fashion to make a different kind of statement. Her clientele ranges from first ladies of Chicago’s churches to women in the boardroom.
A special feature of the luncheon are the Mannequin guest models. This year’s models are: Michael Redding, Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, comedian Damon Williams, Abe Thompson, Bobby Simmons and Tyronne Stoudemire.