The house was packed, the music of DJ Khaled’s “No Brainer” with Justin Bieber, Chance the Rapper and Quavo blared from the speakers, and the models strutted their stuff down the runway, decked out in original designs depicting bones, muscles and organs. This was not your mother’s fashion show.

It was the third annual Anatomy Fashion Show held Sept. 28 by Phi Delta Epsilon, the pre-med professional fraternity at Brookhaven’s Oglethorpe University. And those original designs? They were the systems and organs of the human body.

Ally Benisek walks the runway in an outfit depicting the lungs and other parts of the respiratory system. (Phil Mosier)

The event was a fundraiser for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, a member of the national Children’s Miracle Network. The show got its start at OU in 2016 with a committee of three, including PDE president Benjamin Hopper, who presented the welcoming speech for this year’s show.

In an interview, he said that, inspired by seeing other chapters’ renditions of the Anatomy Fashion Show, “We thought it would be something that the community on our campus would appreciate and vibe with well.” He added that it has caught on so well that it is now a signature event, hosted annually during OU’s Family Weekend.

Students, two at a time, modeled — front and back — various systems and organs of the human body, 11 in all. Artfully and realistically done, the designs were painted on leotards and, in some cases, the skin of the models by more than 20 students in Oglethorpe’s art department. The more complex systems, such as the skeletal, muscular and circulatory, took as many as 18 to 20 hours to paint, while the more compact systems, such as the digestive and reproductive, took two hours or fewer.

An enthusiastic audience of more than 200 gathered in the Turner Lynch Student Center, which had been transformed into a fashion show venue. The audience included students, especially from the social and professional Greek groups, parents and relatives visiting for OU’s Family Weekend, OU alums, Phi Delta Epsilon alums and medical personnel from Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Emory Hospital, Shepherd Center and other medical centers in metro Atlanta.

A large screen at the head of the runway flashed detailed pictures of each body system and organs as students modeled them. The students had the runway moves down and virtually all the pairs had choreographed their performance, much to the appreciation of the audience. First to take the runway was the duo depicting the skeletal system, followed by models showcasing the muscular, nervous, circulatory and endocrine systems, each a complex, full-body, and often, colorful, work of art. After an intermission came the respiratory, lymphatic, digestive, excretory and reproductive systems, and the last was pregnancy.

striking poses as the skeletal system are Denae Douglas-Ocasio, left, and Natalia Pierre-Paul. (Phil Mosier)

During intermission, the college’s Khayos dance troupe performed, most of them sporting a painted body part.

The intermission speaker, Amelia Holley, 21, shared her story about her lifetime of medical care at CHOA, her “second family,” she said. Born with hydrocephalus, a build-up of cerebrospinal fluid on the brain, she has endured 41 surgeries in her young life.

Holley is now an English major at Oglethorpe and expects to graduate in 2021. Her goal is to be a child life specialist, a high school English teacher, or a mix of the two as a hospital educator. At 21, she has aged out of Children’s, and is receiving therapy at Buckhead’s Shepherd Center, where she is on the adaptive ski team and sometimes volunteers to talk with patients.

Since CMN’s founding in 1983, the network has raised more than $5 billion, most of it $1 at a time through the charity’s Miracle Balloon icon campaigns. Funds raised within the community remain with the local member.

Throughout the evening, a donation jar was passed around. The goal of the fundraiser was to top the 2017 total of $1,500. With donations coming in after the event, the sum reached $1,700, said Benjamin Hopper. A hot competition percolated among the Greek societies to see which one could raise the most money for Children’s that night.

In wrapping up the evening Hopper announced the winners of the Anatomy Fashion Show: Ms. Body – Ariana Jimenez, Alpha Phi Omega, Circulatory System; Mr. Body – Tyler Stridiron, Alpha Phi Alpha, Digestive System; and Best Artist – Chrysta Avers, Digestive System. He ended with the news of the group that raised the top funds, Alpha Phi Omega with $135.

–Judith Schonbak

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