Lights, Camera, Camp! Designer, boutique owner launches camp for models
Forget about tents and toasting marshmallows — summer camp just got more chic. Ronnisha Tolefree, fashion designer and owner of Aura Boutique in Westport, is gearing up for her first fashion camp for aspiring models called Enhance Product You.
“I’ve done a lot of fashion shows with people getting into modeling,” Tolefree says. “People who want to learn more but haven’t found anything around here in Kansas City. I took it upon myself to do this camp. I’ve always wanted to help people get to the next level.”
Enhance Product You camp will offer young models, ages 10 to 21, a chance to learn skills from professional models, work with well-known photographers and even strut their stuff in a fashion show. The best part, Tolefree says, is the camp is free for the 75 models chosen.
“I want to give the participants the best experience that I can,” Tolefree says. “Everybody has something about them that’s beautiful. We will teach them what they can do to enhance it.”
The camp is July 7-29. Workshops will take place Tuesday evenings and every Saturday. Tolefree will choose a winner after the finale fashion show based on skill, personality, willingness to learn and professionalism. The “top model” will receive a scholarship, photo shoot and $500 in prizes.
The idea for the camp started brewing when Tolefree began exploring her passion for fashion. She started designing her own clothes when she was a teenager and helping her friends shop.
“I would style other people’s outfits,” she says. “I starting thinking ‘I’m going to open my own boutique.’ I worked 70-plus hours a week and opened it without any loans. The most difficult part is trying to keep up with the demand for custom items, especially when I do fashion shows.”
After doing several shows in Kansas City, including KC Fashion Week, Tolefree says she knew she wanted to offer local models a chance to learn the basics of modeling and the fashion industry.
“I did one show with teenagers in the inner city. I was hardest on the girls because I knew they had it in them,” she says. “After the show, I had parents come up to me and thank me, and they asked me to do this again. When I saw those girl’s faces, it was really confirmed for me.”
Tolefree has enlisted her friend and professional model, Jessica Woods, to teach workshops for the Enhance Product You camp. Before Woods became a model, she attended a workshop in Orlando, Fla.
“It really helped me out with my modeling career,” Woods says. “I’m looking forward to working with the girls who are just starting out. We’ll teach the girls how to take care of themselves, how to do a photo shoot, what strengths they have, what poses work well for them.”
In addition to receiving a thorough introduction to modeling, Woods says she hopes the girls form lasting friendships. “I’m still in contact with the girls who I went to modeling training with. They will get a chance to meet people with similar interests and goals.”
Enhance Product You also will bring some local fashion heavy-hitters. “I have a representative from KC Fashion Week coming, just to lend some advice and experience,” Tolefree says. “Multiple agents, including Element Modeling Agency, and model scouts are coming and will be doing private meet-and-greets with various models.”
With all the glamour and excitement of the camp, Tolefree says she’s most looking forward to the fashion show at 7:30 p.m. July 29 at the Holiday Inn Grand Ballroom on the Country Club Plaza. “I’m always looking for progression,” she says. “It will be neat to see the girls from the first day to the last day and get to see everything they’ve learned."
Photo by Angela Bond