Wednesday, January 6, 2010

How Precious

Late last year I wrote about how I wanted to dress Gabourey Sidibe, the lead actress from the film "Precious" (, for the upcoming awards season. With her full figure, she may seem like an unlikely celebrity for me to have a fervent desire to clothe, but her spirit, confidence, and talent are an intoxicating persuasion. Besides, I embrace the curvy girl because of the beautifully robust women who populate my family and my circle of friends. So after I called the film's distributor, Lionsgate, in California and was able to procure her manager's contact info, Ashanti, my company's marketing & communications director, immediately drafted an email that included sketches and photos of my work. About a week or so passed and we heard nothing, so Ashanti began to call. When Gabourey's manager did respond, she wrote in an email that she had forwarded the images to the star's stylist. Fortunately, she included the stylist's name. Unfortunately, she did not include the stylist's contact info. After several Google searches failed to yield that information, I turned to my diva friend Josette who is a fabulous public relations pro. But even with her access to industry-specific search engines, she could not track down the stylist. But she did find an online resource that charged a nominal fee that might produce the missing morsel of information we so desperately needed. Armed with my debit card, I dutifully registered as a user of the site. As soon as I was allowed access, I typed in the stylist's name and up popped her email and her phone number. BINGO! Even her list of celebrity clients, which, of course, included Gabourey, was revealed. So Ashanti crafted another email and away it went. A week passed and we still heard nothing. Silence really is quite common, but after almost 12 years in the industry I still find it unnerving. While we waited for the stylist, Linda M., to respond to us, I discovered that Gabourey and the film's director, Lee Daniels, were to give a discussion at The New York Times event space. How serendipitous! I immediately bought 2 tickets online. I began to visualize how Gabourey and I would meet and become fast friends and how she would trust me the way my sister does to create glamorous frocks for her. And she would wear my gowns exclusively the way Renee Zellweger wears Carolina Herrera. Talk about an active imagination! But there was work to be done. Ashanti and I collectively decided that she would wear the denim gown I designed for her last year since we were proposing gown designs for Gabourey. Never mind the talk was to take place at 12 in the afternoon. It would certainly make a statement! We really didn't know if we would be given the opportunity to approach her, but we were stepping out on faith. Caught up in a crazy schedule, I forgot to actually put a package together to give her. So late Friday, the night before the discussion, I culled together sketches and fabric swatches and made plans to race and have color copies of 6 of my most elegant designs made and place them in matte boards so that they would resemble works of art. I ran to Staples and to the art supply store and hailed a cab to get back to Staples to pick up the copies. I made it to The New York Times auditorium in record time. Ashanti was already sitting in the front row resplendent in my gown. We tied the 6 works of art together in a scarlet grosgrain ribbon and anxiously awaited the arrival of Lee and Gabourey. They received a standing ovation before the lively and informative discussion began. Gabourey was every bit of the down-to-earth starlet I had watched on Oprah, Jay Leno, and Live with Regis & Kelly. And I found Lee's outlook on things similar to mine. When the discussion was opened up for questions from the audience, I quickly walked to the mic. Although I was last to speak, I feel like I brought a distinct quality to what I had to say. "Good Afternoon," I started. "My name is Wilbur. I am a fashion designer and I want to dress YOU, Gabourey." She answered with a good-natured confidence, "Yeah, you do." After I directed my question to Lee, I made my way back to my seat as his eyes followed me to my front row perch. The talk was over and after a few light bulbs flashed with star, director, and moderator being snapped in front of the New York Times signage, audience members clamored to the stage to get closer glimpses and autographs. I handed the package to Gabourey who remembered my name and thanked me. And out to a cordoned-off area she disappeared.

I am not sure what the outcome will be. I've tried every possible avenue I can think of. But if Gabourey does decide to wear something I've designed, it will be one of my life's most "precious" moments.

Peace & Fashion!

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