Difference Makers: NY fashion event showcases mental health, substance use awareness


NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — There is a very ugly side to fashion.

“The fashion industry doesn't highlight people who aren't perfect," said Alexandra Nyman, founder of Break Free New York Fashion Week. “We don't talk about the fact that we perpetuate eating disorders, we perpetuate negative body images."

Nyman wants to change that.

“We're looking to lead the discussion for mental health and substance use disorder advocacy through the medium of fashion," said Nyman.

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She achieved that with her own fashion show featuring several designers, including her company, LadyCat, using models like fashion advisor Jenn Ancelin.

“I am an alcoholic. I do have drugs in my story," said Ancelin, who is recovering.

While the industry does have some events which talk about mental health and drug abuse, Nyman described them as a form of "tokenism."

Besides the clothes on models of all shapes and sizes, her show highlighted stories of what some went through.

“There's a lot of power in just sharing your experience,” Nyman said.

Among those sharing their story was Deni Carise. She developed a problem with cocaine, but later got sober, and is now a PhD and chief science officer of Recovery Centers of America.

“And to be able to really have something that is here to help folks who are struggling with addiction, depression, mental health, to call attention to that in the fashion industry, where frankly it runs rampant, is incredibly important," she said.

Nyman, besides running LadyCat, is also the editor-in-chief of the recovery blog Soberocity. She got into the field because she suffers depression and because her brother has attempted suicide.

Her story so inspiring, documentarian Carrie Borzillo is now following her around with a camera crew.

“To be able to shine a light on anything that helps people with mental health, addiction issues, or showcasing people of different abilities and sizes and shapes and diversities like she does is the kind of story I want to make as a new documentary filmmaker," Borzillo said.

And that’s why WCBS 880 wanted to honor Nyman, too, with a Jefferson Award as someone who is Multiplying Good and is a Difference Maker.

Click here to nominate a Difference Maker you know for a Jefferson Award.

Featured Image Photo Credit: Mike Sugerman