"For all those who battled the darkness of yesterday, may we give light for today and hope for tomorrow."
That quote defines the mission for Ophelia's Place, a center in Liverpool that provides educational and support services for people with eating disorders and their loved ones. The center, which opened in 2002, held its second annual "Revolutionizing the Runway" fashion show Sunday afternoon at Liverpool Community Church. The show, part of the center's continuing effort to give survivors of eating disorders hope for tomorrow, focused on redefining standards of beauty in Central New York and beyond.
"All of a sudden, it's like people feel that they have a choice in how they view themselves and their bodies," said Mary Ellen Clausen, who founded Ophelia's Place after watching her daughters struggle with eating disorders. "I think a lot of people felt that the fashion show gave them permission to look at themselves differently, to forgive their flaws and to start to develop a healthier body image."
In other words, permission to start a revolution.
The revolution is long overdue. Approximately eight million Americans have an eating disorder -- seven million women and one million men. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. A study by the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders reported that 5 to 10 percent of anorexics die within 10 years after contracting the disease; 18 to 20 percent of anorexics will be dead after 20 years.
The causes of this epidemic are numerous. They include depression, a history of abuse, troubled interpersonal relationships and feelings of inadequacy or lack of control in life. There's also the cultural factor -- our society's obsession with thinness and physical perfection.
"Revolutionizing the Runway" and events like it, Clausen believes, represent a step toward redefining that standard. The fashion show featured models from AMS Models as well as Ophelia's Place staffers and family members and showcased fashions from Target, Maxed Apparel, New York Bride and Groom and Rescue Mission Thrifty Shopper. Hosted by local television personality Julie Abbott, the show included men and women of all ages, sizes and body types. It also included a performance by dancers from Wacheva Cultural Arts West African Dancing and Drumming.