The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


A fashionable approach to awareness

A fashionable approach to awareness


Friends and acquaintances saw Elisa McCall as a vivacious, fun-loving, and carefree young woman; yet, mentally and emotionally, the college student battled with self-loathing, anxiety, and depression. Eventually, Elisa, who suffered from bulimia nervosa, felt too consumed by these destructive emotions that came with her illness and took her own life at the age of 20. In the journal she left behind, Elisa asked her family for one final wish: that her story be used to help others facing similar battles.

Elisa’s story is what brought the Dallas fashion community together in late September at Tootsies in Preston Center in celebration of the fourth annual “Esteem: A Fashion Show,” an awareness event promoting positive self-esteem and body image through its use of real models: men and women of diverse ages, races, shapes, and sizes. A self-assured fifth-grader wearing a Nicole Miller dress, for instance, was followed on the runway by Dallas philanthropist Yvonne Crum, who still radiates confidence in her 80s.

“Through The Elisa Project’s education programs, students learn the importance of positive self-esteem and body image,” said Kim Martinez, executive director of The Elisa Project. “They learn that everyone comes in different shapes and sizes and that, that’s okay. They learn how to eat a healthy well-balanced diet to keep them physically and emotionally strong. ”

The event is put on each year in support of the nonprofit organization founded in 1999 by Elisa’s parents, Leslie and Rick McCall, to honor their daughter’s final wish. The Elisa Project is dedicated to the prevention and effective treatment of eating disorders. Based in Dallas, The Elisa Project has made a strong national presence through its efforts in awareness, education, and support of eating disorders.

According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD), eating disorders affect up to 24 million people of all ages and genders in the United States and have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. This can be avoided, however. Through awareness, information, education, support, and advocacy, The Elisa Project seeks to share the message that recovery from eating disorders is possible and that, unlike the tragic story of Elisa McCall, no one should have to suffer or recover alone.

“Eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia affect so many young women, and even some young men today,” said Dr. Camille Kraeplin of Southern Methodist University. “The public – including teachers, families, friends, boyfriends – need to be aware of the symptoms and educated about the issue so they can recognize the problem in the lives of those who are suffering and get them help.”

The Elisa Project promotes this sense of awareness through its annual fashion show, Esteem. In this year’s show, 36 women and men of all ages, sizes, and personalities exuded confidence and upbeat energies while strutting down the runway in the season’s top fashions.

“The show is about friendship, fellowship, mentoring and supporting and uplifting each other. It builds confidence and courage in those who participate and allows them the opportunity to feel good inside and out,” Martinez said.

The Esteem show was first created and produced by Rhonda Sargent Chambers in 2010. Chambers has been a respected leader in the fashion community for over 30 years as a model, television personality, speaker, and fashion show producer. She currently serves on the board of directors for The Elisa Project as a personal effort to help, support, and empower women and men everywhere.

We need to teach everyone to support and not destroy each other. Lift one another up, giving confidence; give a hug or a reassuring smile that we will always be there for them,” Chambers said. “A room filled with men and women, smiling and having fun…of all ages, all sizes and all colors… That is awesome!”

This was a particularly meaningful year for Esteem and for the show’s master of ceremonies, Debbie Denmon, who has been with Esteem since its birth. Throughout the past year, Denmon has encountered an enormous amount of stress. She filed a lawsuit against her former employer, WFAA, for discrimination, which she believed to have been a matter against her weight. The news station then opted not to renew her contract. This was the first time Denmon said she was legally allowed to address the matter in public.

“This year has been mentally tough for me,” Denmon said. “But it’s not right to hold women to a different standard and have people judge you by the way you look.”

Denmon now serves as spokeswoman for Dallas District Attorney Craig Watkins and continues to be an advocate for the importance of positive body image and self-esteem, despite the frequent misconceptions in the media.

Dr. Kraeplin believes that it would be none less than “naïve” for a person to think that the media and fashion industries haven’t affected body image and self-esteem perspectives in today’s society.

“When the average model today wears a size ‘0’ and tools like Photoshop manipulate every photograph in an advertisement or editorial spread, the impression many women take away is that they must meet the standards of beauty set by the fashion industry – a standard that is nearly impossible,” Dr. Kraeplin said.

The Elisa Project dedicates its efforts to address these very issues and remind women and men that there is no standard worth upholding, but rather all people should live healthy lives and be confident and comfortable in their own bodies.

“Remember, you are gorgeous the way you are,” Denmon said in her closing address to Esteem: A Fashion Show.

For more information about The Elisa Project, visit:

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