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Halting HIV in Style

These days, much of the news about HIV/AIDS justifiably focuses on the stunning epidemic in Africa, where many countries are war-torn, and people can't get the medicine--or the prevention education--that they need.

But HIV/AIDS is still a big problem closer to home. In 2008, more than 12,000 people were living with HIV/AIDS in the state, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Since 2004, an event called Möda Provocateur has been raising money to assist those in Arizona who have been infected with the disease. Organizers of this year's event--being held on Sunday, March 8--hope to educate the public on prevention in hopes of bringing those numbers down.

"I think there's a bad idea that HIV is manageable," says Möda Provocateur creator Kevin Casey, adding that while today's HIV medications can keep people alive longer, the side effects are often severe.

Mixing fashion, hairstyles and different forms of entertainment, Möda Provocateur raises money for the services and programs of the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation (SAAF).

"I really believe in the work they do," Casey says about SAAF. "It's amazing, the number of services they provide. ... They really only have four fundraising events, so this is really critical for them."

Due to Casey's efforts, the first Möda Provocateur was held in 2004, after he attended a similar fashion-show fundraiser for a HIV/AIDS organization in New Mexico. This year, his salon--Avalon for Hair, Skin and Nails--will join the Aveda Institute Arizona, Ahead of Style, John Paul Mitchell Systems and Style 7 Salon to collaborate with Tucson boutiques on a fashion runway show.

"It's more than a bang for your buck; come out for a blast," he says. "I love it when I look out in the crowd during intermission, and the seats are all filled. It lets us get the word out on prevention."

Casey says the success of the show is due in large part to the loyalty of the attendees and participants. Since 2004, Möda Provocateur has raised more than $88,500.

The way in which fashion and hairstyles are combined in Möda Provocateur allows hairstylists to get their due. "Hair dressers don't always get to take the lead for a fashion show," says Casey.

Likewise, the models in the show are not just there for good looks; they are also intended to be advocates for the cause. "We don't just want you to be a model, but an ambassador," says Casey.

This year, Möda will be adding a unique twist to the event. Inspired by the reality-TV show, Möda will be having its own Project Runway competition. Pima Community College designers are the competitors who designed garments based on four themes; green; Tucson style; all things patriotic; and HIV/AIDS awareness. The participants will present their designs, and the overall winner will be determined at the event.

The competition is just another way to spice up the event and make it different from previous shows. "We try to change it up to a new idea that's catchy. ... We thought it would be exciting," explains Casey.

Along with the runway show, the event will include dance pieces, including one choreographed by UA School of Dance student Ashley Bowman.

"My inspiration was a relationship between a man and a woman," says Bowman, who dances the modern-jazz piece with a male UA dancer. "We have this conversation down the runway; we're creating a look between him and me. ... In the end (the point is that), it's your friendships that matter. It doesn't matter what hardships you've had; it's your love that gets you through."

Bowman and her partner will use the entire 80-foot runway as their stage as they dance to electronic music. This isn't the first time Bowman has choreographed a dance for charity; she was also an associate artistic director for the Dance in the Red event that raised money for SAAF in January.

"We're really trying to get dance as a leading source of the arts as a main source of fundraising," she says. "(It's) just another chance to raise awareness. ... We're really passionate about the work we create for fundraisers."

Möda Provocateur will be held at the UA Student Union Grand Ballroom at 6 p.m., Sunday, March 8. Tickets are $50, or $30 for students with an ID. For tickets or for more information, call SAAF at 628-7223, ext. 258 or ext. 250, or visit the Möda Web site. Tickets can be purchased at the door, but they usually sell out quickly.

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