Less than five weeks remain before the Cheyenne River Youth Project®’s annual Passion for Fashion event, where young women from across South Dakota’s 2.8-million-acre Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation come together to celebrate that classic American rite of passage, their high-school prom. And this year, they have a very special treat in store for them.

The 27-year-old, grassroots, not-for-profit youth project has announced that its keynote speaker will be Darrell Redleaf, a top celebrity hair stylist, makeup artist, product developer and TV commentator with 30 years of experience in the Hollywood glamour business. He also has personal ties to Cheyenne River.

Redleaf’s father, Fay Fielder, was a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. His mother, Elizabeth Grinnell, was a member of the MHA Nation/Three Affiliated Tribes. He was born at Fort Berthold and is enrolled on his mother’s reservation at Newtown, North Dakota, but he was raised on Cheyenne River.

“I went to kindergarten, 1st, 2nd and part of 3rd grade in Eagle Butte,” Redleaf said. “We moved to Phoenix when I was 8 years old. It’s important to me to return to my roots and my home. If I can come back and share my story of trials and tribulations as well as success to my people, of course I will.”

Redleaf decided to follow in his mother’s footsteps into the field of cosmetology, quickly becoming a star hair stylist in the local Scottsdale, Arizona, salon scene. His first big entertainment break came when he was hired as the department head hair stylist on RKO/Paramount’s “Campus Man” in Tempe, Arizona, after which he worked on “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure,” which was shot in Phoenix.

In 1987, Redleaf headed for Los Angeles, where he worked on magazine fashion shoots, print advertising and TV commercials. His hair styling and makeup artistry appeared on the covers of Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Cosmo and many other fashion and glamour publications — then, in 1991, he met Helen Hunt.

Redleaf styled Hunt’s hair for seven seasons of her TV series “Mad About You” as well as for her movies, including “Twister” and “As Good As It Gets.” Today, his resume is filled with A-list celebrity clients, such as Cameron Diaz, Selena Gomez, Britney Spears, Jewel and Scarlett Johansson. He’s received a First American in the Arts award (2000), IATSE’s “Best Contemporary Hairstylist in Television” (2000) and an Emmy nomination for styling Jewel’s hair in the Lifetime movie “Ring of Fire” (2013).

These days, Redleaf is working on developing a product line called Redleaf America, which will be the first indigenous, botanical, head-to-toe personal care brand. He anticipates that it will be available this fall.

“My philosophy, like that of my ancestors, is ‘walk in beauty,’” Redleaf said. “If I can motivate one person to step out of her comfort zone and pursue her dreams, then I have succeeded.”

This year’s Passion for Fashion event will take place on Saturday, March 12 at CRYP’s Cokata Wiconi (“Center of Life”) teen center. The daylong event will feature a special theme: “The Force Awakens.”

After attendees enjoy a sit-down luncheon and Redleaf’s keynote presentation, they will move to the gymnasium for manicures, pedicures, makeovers, and hair styling. They’ll search for their dream dresses, shoes, and accessories; they’ll reveal their transformed selves on a formal catwalk; and they’ll pose for fashion photographs with professional lifestyle/portrait photographer Dawnee LeBeau, who generously donates her time each year. Each young woman will go home with a special swag bag filled with bath and beauty products, in addition to jewelry that matches their gowns.

For details regarding how you can support CRYP’s Passion for Fashion program, see the included sidebar. And to learn more about the program, check out the video on CRYP’s YouTube Channel. Simply go to youtube.com and search for “Cheyenne River Youth Project” and “Passion for Fashion.” And to stay up to date on the latest CRYP news and events, follow the youth project on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

The Cheyenne River Youth Project, founded in 1988, is a grassroots, not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing the youth of the Cheyenne River reservation with access to a vibrant and secure future through a wide variety of culturally sensitive and enduring programs, projects and facilities that ensure strong, self-sufficient families and communities.

How You Can Help

If you would like to support the Cheyenne River Youth Project’s 2016 Passion for Fashion program, please considering contributing any of the following:

-New/Gently Used Formal Dresses (Sizes 4-26, especially sizes 16-26)
-Dress Accessories (Examples: Purses, Wraps, Scarves)
-Formal Shoes (especially sizes 9-12)
-Hair Accessories & Care Products
-Facial, Manicure & Pedicure Supplies
-Makeup and Bath Sets
-Gift Cards
-Cash Donations

CRYP usually makes a variety of additional purchases, including makeup, food, and some accessories, so every contribution helps. Please send donations to CRYP at P.O. Box 410, East Lincoln Street, Eagle Butte, SD 57625. To make a financial contribution, either mail to the above address or simply visit the youth project’s website at www.lakotayouth.org, click “Help CRYP” and select “Monetary Donations.”

To ensure that CRYP staff and volunteers have time to prepare for the Passion for Fashion event on March 12, please send all packages and contributions by Friday, March 4. The youth project also will gladly accept late donations, since many teens who are unable to attend the event itself will pick up their dresses at a later date. Donations for next year are welcome as well! For more information, call (605) 964-8200 or send e-mail to julie.cryp@gmail.com.

RSVP for Passion for Fashion!

Teenagers from the Cheyenne River reservation who would like to attend this year’s Passion for Fashion event at the Cokata Wiconi Teen Center on Saturday, March 12 should contact the Cheyenne River Youth Project to let staff know they plan to participate. RSVP as soon as possible by calling (605) 964-8200 or sending e-mail to julie.cryp@gmail.com.