Be Beautiful Be Yourself Fashion Show
Stars Come Out At
Beverly Johnson’s Niece & Jamie Fox’s Sister Share Spotlight At Down Syndrome Fundraiser By Sheila Smith
Beverly Johnson and Natalie Fuller
Photo by Jamie Cotton
atalie Fuller strutted down the runway with all the dazzle of her famous supermodel aunt, Beverly Johnson. In a very formal, silver-grayish dress with a black lace trimmed hem that hung just past the knees, and long locks of curly hair coming down to her shoulders, Natalie walked the walk. She even blew kisses to the audience. It was exciting for 23-year-old Natalie, who has Down syndrome, to be in the spotlight. Johnson and her niece were part of the star-studded fashion show, Be Beautiful Be Yourself Jet Set Fashion Show, on Oct. 15 at the Hyatt Regency Convention Center in downtown Denver. The event is an annual dinner fundraiser for the Global Down Syndrome Foundation benefiting the Linda Crnic Institute for Down Syndrome. Other celebrities of the evening were music icon Quincy Jones, actor/singer Jamie Foxx, and actor John McGinley, along with a few professional athletes from the Denver Broncos and Colorado Rapids. Johnson is the first AfricanAmerican supermodel to grace the cover of Vogue magazine, back in 1974. Her fame expanded for three decades, as she went from supermodel to actress, author, activist, businesswoman, and icon in the fashion indus-
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“That is what is so fantastic about this program with the Global Down Syndrome Foundation and finding out our struggles weren’t unique across the spectrum,” Johnson stated. “This kind of event helps shine the spotlight and helps get the attention of the government.” Down syndrome is currently the least funded of genetic diseases by the National Health Institute, according to the foundation. Natalie’s mother, Joanne Richardson, said the first thing that a parent is asked when their child is born with Down syndrome is, ‘Do you want to institutionalize your child?’ “It brought tears to my eyes when the doctor came to my room after Natalie was born and asked me if he should get the paperwork ready for her to be institutionalized. I said ‘No way,’” Richardson said. She added that she was told so many negative things about what her daughter wouldn’t be able to do. “When I gave birth to Natalie, I was devastated, and I am not going to say that I wasn’t. My mother and father sent me this card that said God gave me a very special gift, so make wise use of this gift. From that day forward, I went in the direction of making sure Natalie is all that she could possibly be.” Natalie spends a lot of time with her family and her boyfriend. She attends Hi-Hope Service Center in Lawrenceville, Ga., where she continues her education and learns social skills. Another superstar on the runway was DeOndra Dixon, 27, who has Down syndrome and happens to be Jamie Foxx’s little sister. There was no doubt DeOndra knew what to do in posing, fluffing out her hair ,and having that distinctive walk and big attitude like only models do. Her escort down the runway was Miss Colorado Diana Dreman. DeOndra loves shaking it. She was seen on stage dancing with her brother Jamie Foxx during the 2010 Grammy Awards, and was featured in his video to the song “Blame It (On the Alcohol).” Continued on page 10
try. She has a new television show coming out in 2012, and will be featured in Tyler Perry’s new movie Good Deeds coming out in February. She is also the mother of a now 30-year-old daughter, Anansa. Johnson donates her time to AIDS awareness and health issues affecting gay men. She was appointed the Ambassador of Goodwill in the Fashion Industry to help eliminate sweatshops and the national spokesperson for Ask4Tell4, which is a campaign to educate women about options in treating uterine fibroids, a painful condition that affected her for more than 10 years. Only a year ago, Johnson found herself wanting to get more involved with the Global Down Syndrome Foundation. She called her niece, Natalie, to see if she would walk down the runway in this year’s fashion show. Johnson first understood what Down syndrome meant when growing up with a cousin with the condition. “She was the star of the family. She was the funny one,” Johnson said of her cousin. “So when my sister Joanne gave birth to Natalie, we gathered around to be as supportive as we could. Now Natalie is our superstar.” Johnson’s sister, Sheila Wright, added, “The one thing about our cousin, she was never treated any different. She was in regular school and didn’t even know that she was different. And we did the same thing with Natalie.” Wright who works in the educational system sought out special programs for her niece, Natalie, who lives in Georgia. “The life expectancy for all Down Syndrome is less than regular children but even more so for AfricanAmerican children. Parents don’t get the information to access the programs, medical care, and insurance. They don’t know their child can stay in school until age 21, get placed on a job and be trained. The programs are there,” said Wright about the need for more awareness about Down syndrome.
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Published on Nov 1, 2011