The Cheyenne River Youth Project has announced its keynote speaker for the 2018 Passion for Fashion event, scheduled for Saturday, Mar. 10. Fashion designer and public speaker Gina Still Smoking, an enrolled member of the Kul Wicasa Oyate (Lower Brule Sioux Tribe), will be CRYPs honored guest for this special day dedicated to “Empowering Your Inner Lakota Wonder Woman.”
In addition to her work in fashion design, Still Smoking also is an event producer, artist, photographer, actor, comedian, mentor and business owner. In her life and career, she uses multiple platforms to give back to native communities, delivering a high-energy and engaging message to which all ages can relate.
“It is a message coming from experience,” she writes, “dealing with obstacles but rising up to make a difference in your own life and in the lives of others.”
Still Smoking grew up in Pierre, South Dakota. After graduating from Flandreau Indian School, she went on to earn her business degree from Northern State University in Aberdeen. She has been a designer with Still Smoking Designs since 2013.
She’s active in the contemporary fashion industry, and she says she hopes to create a South Dakota-based modeling and talent agency in the coming years.
“We’re honored that Gina will join us for our annual Passion for Fashion on Mar. 10,” says Julie Garreau, CRYP’s executive director. “Last fall, she gave our teens in the art internship program the opportunity to learn about the world of Native American fashion, from its history to what’s trending now. With her guidance, they developed the inspiration, motivation and skills they needed to design their own clothes—and learn what it takes to pursue a career in fashion.
“We’re looking forward to hearing more of her story,” she continues. “And, we’re grateful that she’s giving our young people yet another opportunity, this time to be inspired and lifted up through the sharing of her own life experience as a Lakota woman.” When the teens arrive at Passion for Fashion on Mar. 10, they’ll first take part in icebreaking activities, followed by a sit-down luncheon in the Keya (Turtle) Cafe and Still Smoking’s keynote speech.
From there, the young women will move on to the gymnasium, where they will receive manicures, pedicures, makeovers and hair styling; find their dream dresses, shoes and accessories; and celebrate their transformed selves on a formal catwalk. They’ll make memories and new friendships; they’ll support each other as they work through difficult issues such as bullying, low self-esteem and poor body image; and they’ll share this unparalleled life experience with multiple generations of Lakota women, from grandmothers and mothers to aunties, sisters and cousins.
All high-school girls on the Cheyenne River reservation receive personalized invitations to Passion for Fashion, and junior-high girls are welcome to attend as well. CRYP also welcomes teens from the nearby Standing Rock reservation, and from border towns such as Faith, South Dakota.
To ensure that approximately 100 teenagers will be able to find what they need for a memorable prom night, CRYP needs new and gently used formal dresses in sizes 4 to 26, especially in sizes 16 to 26. It also needs shoes in all sizes, especially in sizes 9 to 12.
CRYP also asks for jewelry and hair accessories; makeup and bath sets; gift cards and cash donations. Staff and volunteers will take any contributed funds and make additional purchases based on need.
To learn more about the Cheyenne River Youth Project and its programs, and for information about making donations and volunteering, call (605) 964-8200 or visit www.lakotayouth.org. And, to stay up to date on the latest CRYP news and events, follow the youth project on Facebook (/LakotaYouth), Twitter (@LakotaYouth) and Instagram (@waniyetuwowapi).
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.