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Backstory

Going red for heart disease

By: - Columnist
/ 12:20 AM February 15, 2018

NEW YORK—A day off spent helping to bring awareness to a good cause is a day off well spent.

On Feb. 8, many illustrious women came together for the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women Red Dress Collection 2018 fashion show at the Hammerstein Ballroom in Manhattan.

Seventeen ladies—actors, performers, reality-show stars, models and one very pregnant meteorologist, as well as heart disease and transplant survivors—walked the runway in designer gowns in different shades of red.

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Yes, I got to walk (in Oliver Tolentino), and I also got to sing the opening number (wearing Alexia Maria).

The facts about heart disease in the United States are scary: It is the No. 1 killer of women, causing one in three deaths a year.

However, it doesn’t affect all women the same way, and the warning signs for women aren’t always the same in men.

So in 2004, the American Heart Association (AHA) faced a challenge when it realized that, at the time, 500,000 women a year died from cardiovascular disease, but women weren’t paying attention, dismissing heart ailment as a disease of older men.

In order to raise awareness, it created the Go Red for Women campaign, to empower women to take charge of their heart health by eating healthier and exercising. In 2018, Feb. 2 was designated “Wear Red Day.”

The Red Dress Collection fashion show was presented by Macy’s, featuring designs
by, in addition to Oliver and Alexia, Badgley Mischka, Karen Millen, Catherine Regehr, Pamella Roland, John Paul Ataker, Terani Couture, Marc Bouwer, Rubin Singer, Sachin & Babi and Nicole Bakti.

A few days before the event, I headed to a fitting with two people in charge of fashion,
Jordan Bass and Sarah Jenkins (Jordan was once a musical theater performer, while Sarah is still on the boards, appearing in the recent revival of “Cats”).

On the actual event day, my escort was the same man who took care of me at last year’s Tony Awards, my friend Brian Jose.

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I had a rehearsal in the runway shoes to get a feel of the floor and, an hour after that, a sound check for my song, OneRepublic’s “I Lived.” Ria Villena-Osorio created the backing track, with Yosha Honasan providing backup vocals.

At another large ballroom designated for makeup and hair (doing glam for me was my usual New York-based makeup artist Yuko Takahashi), I sat beside actress Elisabeth Röhm (well-known for “Law & Order: SVU”) and Grammy winner, gospel great CeCe Winans.

All around the room were more heavy hitters: Kate Walsh (“Private Practice”), Tatyana Ali (“Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”), Melissa Joan Hart (“Sabrina the Teenage Witch”), Lynn Whitfield (“Greenleaf”), Rachel Lindsay (“The Bachelorette”), Marion Ross (“Happy Days”), supermodels Kathy Ireland and Niki Taylor, Liz Hernandez (“Access Hollywood”), Zuri Hall (“E! News”), model and nutritionist Maye Musk, YouTube personality Grace Helbig, ABC TV meteorologist Ginger Zee and Adrienne Bailon-Houghton (“The Real”), plus AHA national spokesperson Lilly Rocha and heart transplant survivor Karen Hill.

Pop group En Vogue performed the finale of the show, also all dressed in red. Our host was Oscar winner Marisa Tomei.

The event was so much fun with a very relaxed atmosphere. Champagne was being passed around the room during the class photo session, as well as during our glam prep. All the ladies on the runway were met with cheers and abundant applause.

To the AHA, thank you for the invitation to participate in this wonderful and important event, and may more women be aware of their own heart health.

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