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Before and After

Susan L'Hullier

    Before                                                           After

Susan L'Hullier's experience as a model at one of Cindy's Style Review Catwalk Shows

Tell me, what is the usual response when asked by Cindy to be a catwalk model in her famous Style Review? In head-to-toe Alannah Hill? Certainly not! Was my response followed by tears and a refusal. Hmm, I think I shocked Cindy as much as her request overwhelmed me.

Putting my name on Cindy’s list seemed a great idea at the time but when the reality of it coming true was presented to me I wasn’t even prepared for my response.

So many aspects of my life were in turmoil, and I was facing my fortieth birthday in a matter of weeks! I had never done anything like this before - up on stage, spotlight on - who was I kidding?

After a big pep talk by my husband it became a challenge, to push me out of my comfort zone and do something to make me feel great about turning forty.

On the morning of the fitting I was very nervous. It all still seemed quite unreal, being in Alannah Hill, trying on so many outfits, and putting together four gorgeous outfits including some very cute shoes! Cindy and Dinai were both focused, creative and lots of fun. I had a ball! It was amazing how my own style was revealed in the resulting outfits.

Then my nerves returned with the realization of all the layers, the jackets, the cardigans and gloves I would have to remove during the catwalk. The detail in Alannah Hill’s clothes is gorgeous at every layer. How on earth am I going to do this!

Today is the big day, I should not be nervous. The three kids are organized, as well as a babysitter so my husband can come and watch, along with six excited friends. I know the process for the night as I have seen a couple of Cindy’s shows before, only this time I wasn’t in the safety of the seats.

Once at the hairdressers I meet two other girls. I felt comfort in the realization that there are other girls for whom this is a big deal too. They are just as nervous and excited as me. We meet Cindy at the hall where she shows us where to change and how to walk on the catwalk.

Cindy, her family and friends are madly setting up in the hall and cooking up a storm in the kitchen. All the work she puts into this night to make it a success is very clear to us all, we hope we can give her a good show and not let her down.

We gather backstage, a few sips of champagne to steady the nerves. We get to know each other a little, excited by the different fashion lines and by the great ideas in each other’s outfits. One covets her suede boots, stroking them; another tries on the wicked Ted Baker heels.

There’s the call and we are ready in our casual outfit. Danai and Loan fuss over our scarves, tops and belts. I feel gorgeous in pink, navy and ballet flats to start. At least I am in no danger of falling over in heels for the first walk.

I walk onto the stage, the lights are bright but I am lifted by the cheers, Wow! My heart races as I walk down the long runway. My smile is so wide, how fantastic this is! Cindy talks about my body shape and style, I manage to remove the cardigan and take another walk.

At intermission I catch up with my husband and friends. I enjoy being stopped by members of the audience to admire my outfit, the gorgeous flippy black skirt. The other girls are happy and more relaxed, the nerves are less and there is a more relaxed buzz backstage.

The second half flies by too quickly, I am relaxed and most of the nerves are gone. I am dressed in the most beautiful eveningwear and I am having fun. When I am waiting for my last walk, Cindy catches me bopping away backstage. I have a couple more jackets and layers to remove, another walk with a pose at the end. Cindy poses a question to my husband - yes, without a doubt I am beautiful!

What a night! Thank-you Cindy for challenging me; for pulling me out of my comfort zone, shaking me up and reminding me that I can be amazing. Every time I spend time with you, I learn something new about myself and my own style.

And I popped into Alannah Hill and bought a dress for a very happy fortieth!!

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