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Published: Wednesday, 11/12/2008

Jada Collins featured at Ebony Fashion Fair in Toledo

BY BRIDGET THARP
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Wearable art is exemplified by French designer Christian Lacroixs wrap waist silk organza gown brush-stroked with a color-rich abstract print. Fashions like these will be featured at the Ebony Fashion Fair Sunday at the SeaGate Convention Centre. Wearable art is exemplified by French designer Christian Lacroixs wrap waist silk organza gown brush-stroked with a color-rich abstract print. Fashions like these will be featured at the Ebony Fashion Fair Sunday at the SeaGate Convention Centre.
NOT BLADE PHOTO Enlarge

Behind her fearless runway strut, Ebony Fashion Fair spokesmodel Jada Collins was once overwhelmed with self-doubt.

Though she was a successful model, jet-setting to photo shoots in Paris and Rome, she struggled against feelings of inadequacy that took root long ago. There were the reckless words of an abusive father who abandoned the family, and her sexual molestation at age 10.

Only after she embraced the Christian mantra that the only important opinions were her own and God s did she become truly beautiful, she wrote in her latest book, Be-you-tiful: The Threefold Process to Becoming You.

The 5-foot-11-inch fashion plate will promote the book as the Ebony Fashion Fair, known as the world s largest traveling fashion show, rolls into the SeaGate Convention Centre in downtown Toledo on Sunday.

The event raises money for the scholarship and community service portion of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. Tickets are $35 for adults and $25 for students and can be purchased from sorority members or at www.zetaalphaomega.com.

We get so bogged down with other people s opinions of us, Collins said. I m in a really comfortable place. Like, God created me how he wanted me to be, and your opinion of me really doesn t matter.

Mrs. Collins started the book accidentally, as a journal for a class at Contra Costa College in the San Francisco area, she said.

Mrs. Collins punctuates painful stories from her abusive childhood with the three things she s learned (or what others should learn) from her experiences.

She reveals the words that threatened to destroy her she was just like her ugly momma, her father once said. Compliments from her grandparents and a classmate that she was pretty, like a model helped turn around her self-esteem. She points to those words for her first triple lesson: replace the negative with positive, recognize pain as inevitable, and face your pain.

Though her stories are honest, detailing unwelcome sexual encounters and the violence her father inflicted on her mother, she was careful to keep the language appropriate for all ages, she said. She skips the expletives in the details of explosive arguments between her parents, in which her father repeatedly curses and hits her mother.

It wasn t meant to exaggerate the negative or family drama. It was genuinely to help other women who have suppressed self-doubt, Mrs. Collins said. I do think that it s a very, very basic book and a good read. If someone, say 12 years old is reading the book, I don t think they are immune to curse words, but I want their parents to be OK.

She was discovered by a modeling agent as a teenager while working out at a Nashville YMCA, and became absorbed in an industry that continually tested her self-esteem. At her first major job, an Oscar de la Renta show, she realized her 122-pound frame was considered overweight when she was one of the last to be assigned garments, she said.

It was her faith in God that helped her overcome such tests, and brought her husband, Gospel musician Ernest Collins, into her life, she said.

At 37, Mrs. Collins has forgiven her father, become an ordained minister, and written three books. In May, she ll complete her bachelor s degree in communications from Regent University in Virginia. In March, she ll film a pilot program as host of a Christian Tyra Banks show to air on the Christian Broadcasting Network, she said.

It s a process, just like baking a cake. If you leave the sugar out, it s not going to be a very good cake, Mrs. Collins said of realizing her potential. So that s how I look at Be You. It s a process. It s mind, body, and spirit. All three of those elements have to function together.

The Ebony Fashion Fair is at 5 p.m. Sunday at the SeaGate Convention Centre on Jefferson Street in downtown Toledo. Tickets are $35 for adults and $25 for students and are available from Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority members or at www.zetaalphaomega.com.

Ticket prices include a one-year subscription to Ebony magazine or a six-month subscription to Jet. A reception immediately following the fashion show is $10.

Jada Collins will sign copies of Be-you-tiful: The Threefold Process to Becoming YouSunday from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Barnes and Noble, 3100 Main St., in Maumee. Information: 419-878-0652

Contact Bridget Tharp at:btharp@theblade.comor 419-724-6061.



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