On my blogiversary I mentioned a non-profit organization a friend of mine is involved in, called Hollywood Heart, an annual arts program/summer camp for kids with HIV/AIDS. The kids come from all over the United States and learn activities like creative writing, film making, fashion(!) and more.
My friend, Melysa, runs the fashion portion, and she's graciously agreed to an interview about her role with the camp. Which is funny, and she said, weird, as she's a producer and usually the one asking questions!
1. Tell us about yourself, how you started sewing, how long, past sewing ventures, etc
Well that's a lot, but here goes. I grew up in Orlando and hated it. Especially when I got to high school and desperately wanted to be fashionable.... which just isn't possible there. So my grandma taught me how to sew and make clothes that's where it all began. From there I made ALL my clothes and I wore them with pride! Next thing I knew people were asking me to make their clothes. It all just sort of happened. It eventually turned into me living in NY with a clothing line, a business partner and no sleep for about 5 years. We had a good run, but fashion is fickle so we closed the company while we were still on top and I started costume designing for TV shows. (Which is why the move to LA...)
2. Tell us about the Hollywood Heart Charity and how did you get involved
I was living in LA and working on a TV show and there was this non-profit based out of the back of the production office. I met them over by the coffee machine one day and loved everything they said. I immediately signed up and started volunteering as much as possible. Hollywood Heart is a non-profit that teaches performing arts to kids affected with HIV/AIDS and they run a summer camp for the kids in Malibu every summer. The camp has several vocations for the kids to choose from: music, acting, creative writing, visual arts, filmmaking and of course, fashion. But the main thing I think camp teaches is self-esteem and opportunity. These kids come from a world where 'fashion designer' never occurred to them as a possible path in life.
3. Walk us through a typical day in the fashion workshop with you
The kids are in their 'classes' for 4 hours everyday and we all work toward our big 'Gala Performance'. My class puts on a fashion show at the gala so our week is jam packed! The kids come in and they've never sewn a stitch, but in just a week they all have 1-2 complete looks that they model in the show. And they do it all! They design their look, sew their look, pick their accessories, pick the music for the show and the performance. Last year they had a guy on stage (whom they styled) and they all pushed him around when they came out from back stage and eventually kicked him off the stage and strutted their stuff right up into the audience. They come up with it all, I was just there to help.
4. You told me about the shift in the kids from the beginning to the end of camp, explain por favor
Yeah the kids are flown in from all over the US and most come from rough areas, they don't know each other, and now we're asking them to sing in front of a crowd, it's tough. But once we do some ice breakers and we get started in our classes, the transformation is incredible. They all live with this big burden of being born with a virus that has a bad wrap, but at camp they're surrounded by a bunch of other people just like them, with the same burden. Add to that they're all learning how to make something or discovering a talent they never realized and they just blossom right in front of you. In fashion the big thing is thinking of an outfit they like and then MAKING it by themselves, it blows them away that they can do it. They always tell me how empowered they feel and almost every camper I've had has continued to sew after camp.
5. What do you hope for the future of the camp?
I just want camp to keep happening. It's a magical place for one week out of the year but it means the WORLD to the kids that attend. I stay in touch with some on facebook and they look forward to camp ALL year, they count the days. But for my class, I'd love to have other professionals come and teach the kids about other aspects like costume design, color theory, basically careers they don't even know exist.
6. Cause I'm always nosy, what is your favorite material to sew with?
This is the most difficult question on the list! I've been going round and round but really how can you pick just one?
I don't know about you, but I cried after reading her responses!
**Now, we all know the sewing community is hugely generous. I'm asking, please spread the word about this organization, whether through email, blog or other means...And if you're interested in donating, click here **
Thanks, Melysa, for taking time to be on the other side of the interview!
(totally stole your pic ;-)
(And this is interesting, I didn't meet Melysa here in LA, we've known each other since the days we were both traipsing around Miami Beach, about a decade ago. Fast forward years later, through a mutual friend, we realized we were both out here, AND working in the same business. I remember meeting her way back then, when she was deep into sewing and selling clothes. I was still sewing things into squares, haha! Needless to say, she's been impressing me for a long time with her mad skillz!!)