WEST PALM BEACH — Larcenia Bullard and Brenda Coke were not present at the “2nd Annual Pink Strydes Fashion Show” held at the Palm Beach County Convention Center in West Palm Beach on Saturday.
But they were undoubtedly among the stars of the show organized by breast cancer survivor Vanessa Robinson.
Bullard and Coke lost their battle with the disease since last year’s show and Robinson took pains to pay tribute to them.
Bullard, a Democratic state senator from the South Miami-Dade area, modeled during the 2012 show, joyously showing off her gorgeous garb. She demonstrated how to make the most of the life you have, said Robinson.
Bullard died in March and this year, her son, Dwight Bullard, who succeeded her in the senate, was on hand to honor his mom.
“I’m absolutely ecstatic. It’s a great event. I’m honored to honor her legacy. She was ecstatic last year,” he said. “She was a bit of a showman, being a celebrity model,” he laughed.
Bullard said his mother is also missed in politics and in her family. “She was a proud mother, woman and wife,” he said. “She was one of the few women I know who can wear all those roles well. People often pull me to the side and share their stories [about her]. She’s missed.”
Coke, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011, also took to the runway last year with liveliness and spunk. She died in February and is survived by her husband and five sons.
“The two ladies are gone but will never be forgotten,” Robinson said. Mangonia Park Commissioner Addie Greene, also a breast cancer survivor and a community activist, was this year’s honorary model. Greene said she wants women not to be concerned about the “stigma” of cancer.
“Every day I want to let these young ladies know that when I was coming up the ‘Big C’ was something to be ashamed of. But when I see the Susan G. Komen women [survivors], they are not ashamed. No longer is it a stigma,” said Greene.
Robinson, 42, planned the first Pink Strydes Fashion Show while undergoing chemotherapy last year. It was a form of therapy for her and a way to give back to other women faced with the disease.
This year, Robinson not only contributed to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, as planned, but she also provided help to two women who are battling the disease and experiencing financial difficulties.
“It’s a feeling that I can’t put into words,” said Robinson, who owns Salon Voila hair salon in West Palm Beach. “We doubled the proceeds so we were able to give back to those women. I feel good about helping others. Giving back to Susan G. Komen is great but that’s a big pond and I don’t see the effects personally. This way, I see where the help is going.”
Tracy Sims, principal of Lincoln Elementary School in West Palm Beach, said she hopes modeling in the show would make her an inspiration to her students.
“My students would be very proud to know that, in the midst of a storm, I survived,” she said, after taking to the runway.
Many of the models were cancer survivors, though other models hit the runway, as well. The youngest survivor present, Britnee Walker, 23, was diagnosed in 2011, despite having no family history of breast cancer. She wants everyone to know that the disease doesn’t discriminate by age. But, if it happens, stay strong, she said. “Stay encouraged and never give up. God will make a way,” she said.
Comedian CoCoa Brown of the Tyler Perry TV show For Better or Worse, who was host and MC for the affair for the second year in a row, described the show as an inspiration.
“I needed this dose of positivity. It’s an honor to see the ladies support each other. The sisterhood is amazing,” said Brown, who has her own foundation to help women facing cancer.
Wigs of Love provides cancer victims with high-priced wigs to make them look and feel better. So far, she said, her group has collected more than 200 wigs to be distributed to cancer survivors.