Asher on Aspen: Aspen’s Next Top Model |

Asher on Aspen: Aspen’s Next Top Model

Shannon Asher
Asher on Aspen

It’s quarter-past 9 p.m. and I have somehow forgotten to eat dinner. We just finished learning a dance routine set to a scandalous Janet Jackson number and the choreographer is encouraging us to get into character. The homework he’s given us is to watch a 1994 “Saturday Night Live” video for inspiration.

Practicing for a live performance always brings me joy — in addition to a subtle rush of adrenaline. This feeling is what keeps me motivated during the monthlong run of nightly rehearsals in preparation for the 9th Annual Aspen Cares Fashion Show. This is my fourth year participating and annually I find myself caring more and more deeply about the cause.

Most people don’t realize that Aspen has one of the highest suicide rates, per capita, in the country. Surprising to most, this sad statistic has devastated and affected many throughout the Roaring Fork Valley. The show raises money and awareness for the Aspen Hope Center — a local nonprofit serving those in emotional crisis. Expert clinical care, public education, community collaboration and outreach programs are just a few of the ways the organization works to decrease the stigma around mental health. The Aspen Hope Center dedicates its efforts to eradicating the issue and fostering an open and supportive community.

After a two-day audition and call-back process, 32 models were selected to participate in this year’s performance. If you’re a local, you will most likely know or recognize at least one person in the show. Many performers are returning members of the cast, some coming back for their ninth year in a row. Your local barista, yoga teacher, bartender, real estate agent, waiter or après-ski buddy may be strutting their stuff down the runway for this highly anticipated evening.

As far as the fashion side of things go, the entire cast will be modeling clothes that have been donated by local and national designers. No matter your aesthetic, there is something for everyone. Even better, you could possibly meet the brains behind the brands and discover how their unique personalities shine through the fashion creations. Featuring brands such as Frame Denim, Aviator Nation, Moncler, Rossingnol, Jitrois, Alice + Olivia, Res Ispa, Meridian Jewelers, Dennis Basso and many others, the night is primed for a fashion success.

And if fashion isn’t your thing, the fast-paced dancing and upbeat set list will surely draw your attention. All songs represent a unique story that the models express through dance, song and theatrical storytelling. Spectators will find themselves emotionally invested in the combination of music, moves and storylines that offer alluring depictions of mental health. Some lines will have you out of your seat to applaud with excitement while others will have you in awe, emotionally connected to a heartbreaking display of struggle and the power of love.

The event was founded in 2012 by two women, Katy Parnello and Ramona Bruland, who both have a personal mission to help people in crisis receive the mental health help that they need. They met working on the Telluride AIDS Benefit, the Aspen Cares sister event. They bonded over their backgrounds in dance and the performing arts and decided to put their talents to use for a good cause.

The final thing to note is that everything you see on the runway will be available for purchase. Take note of the pieces that catch your eye on the runway so that they can be in your closet come Saturday. Casa Tua will host the sample sale on Feb. 8. Peruse designer fashions at affordable prices while sipping après-ski cocktails and enjoying a live DJ — experience the model life for yourself.

Exhausting and nerve-rattling as it is to perform in Aspen Cares, it’s all for an outstanding cause that directly helps our neighbors. Come be entertained and support the Hope Center!

Aspen Times Weekly

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