‘FashionAFRICANA’ celebrates Black Beauty

Demeatria Boccella is on a mission to broaden the standard of fashion and beauty in as many ways as she can. With her FashionAFRICANA initiative, she is able to keep on her journey.

“I wanted to showcase our talent and our beauty,” said Boccella who grew up in Hazelwood. “I always wanted to be a model or work in the industry in some capacity and what I knew as a standard of beauty I didn’t see. I had to learn to appreciate who I am. We have some healing to do but we’ve come a long way.”


Started ten years ago by Boccella, FashionAFRICANA explores African history and culture in a contemporary way and collaborates with fashion designers and artists to create new work through various mediums.

“We have been brainwashed. We don’t see the beauty that’s out there with African-Americans,” said Bocella. “It’s a mindset that we have to change. We have to see images of more people who look like us and things will change. I want Fashion Africana to celebrate who we are.”

To commemorate its decade-long existence, FashionAFRICANA will honor women of the African Diaspora through a multi-media presentation of African-inspired fashion, music, dance and design. The event will showcase work by some of Pittsburgh’s finest artisans including David Pohl, Terrance Hayes, Isabelle Strollo, and LeVerne Kemp.

The show will be held at the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater, 5941 Penn Avenue in East Liberty on Friday, December 9. It will begin with a pre-show cocktail party at 7 p.m. The mixer will premier FashionAFRICANA: A Retrospective—an exhibition celebrating a decade of African-inspired art curated by Pittsburgh set designer, Richard Parsakian. It will include an interactive presentation by FashionAFRICANA models andwill feature wearable art by Vanessa German.

“There will be African inspired designs and the show will focus on the model and her beauty. There will be body art and beautiful tribal head dresses and jewelry created for the models. Everything is very artistic and there will be a wide range of designs. It’s going to be an amazing event.” Boccella said.

The event is sponsored in part by Highmark, the Eden Hall Foundation and the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater.

Dwana A. Smallwood dancer, choreographer and Director of Student Affairs at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy in South Africa will serve as FashionAFRICANA’s honorary chair.

“I am honored to serve as chair of FashionAFRICANA’s 10th anniversary event. I am still learning and trying to make my way back to Africa being in South Africa and reclaim what I believe belongs to us—that is our confidence and our strength as women of African descent. To chair such a wonderful event, which helps young women and the world to see how beautiful we are is an honor,” Smallwood said.

In addition, Smallwood will present the first annual FashionAFRICANA Award to Jamaican-born fashion model turned designer Lois Samuels for broadening the standard in fashion and beauty. Special recognition will be given to five Pittsburgh women of African descent of diverse backgrounds.

“We wanted to recognize the individuals who have made strides in their fields and both Dwana and Lois have done that,” Boccella said.

The celebration will continue on Saturday, December 10 with an indoor festival as part of the Kelly-Strayhorn’s yearly holiday bazaar. The day will include food, music and family activities like African dance and face painting. Saturday’s event, which will be held from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., is free of charge.

Tickets for FashionAFRICANA are $25 for general admission, which includes the pre-show mixer, awards presentation and fashion show.

(To purchase tickets visit: www.kelly-strayhorn.org for more information visit www.FashionAFRICANA.com.)

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