Fashion for a cause: Annual “Walk this way” fashion show benefits local organization
by Sara Ritsch
For the first time in history, Oklahoma City entertainers Maria Isabel and Renee Hilton will be styling the upcoming Other Options (OOI) fourth annual fashion show this March. “Walk This Way: One Night in the Ultra Lounge” will display their earth-shattering coquetry through high-end, handcrafted panache.
Local “hero” Mary Arbuckle, who runs the program, will return to host alongside this dynamic duo. This will be OOI’s biggest fundraiser and all proceeds will be used to benefit HIV/AIDS patients.
“This is our way of bringing the artistic talent of these two amazing designers to the forefront of the community,” said Arbuckle. “It is important that we are able to showcase two new designers trying to breakout in the fashion community.”
Arbuckle is known for her tireless work serving the LGBT community at Other Options, a volunteer agency in Oklahoma City whose primary mission is to provide food, resources, services and education to at-risk individuals affected by HIV and AIDS. She is always eager to raise money for the cause, and this year she will be raising it alongside this well-known couple with their added flair.
“Every week we volunteer and donate our time to helping out at the pantry at Other Options,” Hilton says. “Mary decided, ‘well here’s another way to put on a show, to show off and help raise money for the community.’ Every week we assist them through support of Other Options – why not put those two events together for a cause?”
“We wanted to contribute by doing something we do on a daily basis,” Isabel says, referring to her career in the art of fashion, makeup and design. “Renee and I have been working together on fashion and drag shows for over eight years.”
The pair has also been in a relationship for that amount of time, so in working together they knew they could create something brilliant that would draw an audience and help Other Options gain the donations they need.
“I think they have become the heart of Other Options not only as volunteers, but in their fundraising efforts. Armando [Maria] is the driving force behind all the MAC AIDS Grant funding we have received,” Arbuckle added.
Their overall stylistic concept is both collaborative and contrasting. “Renee and I wanted to do separate designs for it [the show] so people can experience different looks and techniques and how we sell the overall fashion show. We wanted it to feel like two completely different designers,” Isabel explains.
But as a further description of what’s to come, Hilton says, “We have similarities, but at the same time he’s got the more exotic flair and I have the more female illusion with the ‘soccer mom’ flair.” Isabel was born in Piedras Negras, Mexico, while Hilton was raised on a farm in the Oklahoma countryside.
Isabel and Hilton inspire each other. They make every outfit by hand, picking out fabrics together, helping each other with sewing and paying attention to the other’s work in order to give advice and grow as a team.
“Since we live together, he might see something that I might have missed or vice versa,” Isabel says. “We give each other tricks and tips about colors complementing each other, et cetera. We don’t just sew. We style hair, we make jewelry. We do our own makeup. But because of my career I give Renee tips on makeup, texture, color, technique – things that might work better for him, for his art.”
But does Hilton take criticism or critique well? “No,” she blurts, while Isabel laughs. “But what a lot of people don’t know is that he [Maria] is the one that created Renee Hilton. I was just a big fan of drag and he was already performing. He always calls me the monster that he created. So I always feel like when he does criticize me it’s because of what he created.”
This flair is just what Other Options needs to brighten up the lives of the people who benefit daily from their selflessness. A couple who trusts and loves each other; who works hard for their community; led by a woman who knows exactly what the community needs.
Arbuckle recently won Oklahoma City’s “Hero of Hope Award” for her heartfelt work at Other Options and the prestigious Richard May Award from the Oklahoma AIDS Care Fund.
The Other Options event, “Walk This Way: One Night in the Ultra Lounge” will be held Saturday, March 26 from 6 p.m. till midnight at the OKC Farmers Market at 911 S. Klein. For tickets, visit www.otheroptionsokc.org.
The Gayly- 2/29/2016 @ 1:50 PM CST