Malaysian Fashion Show Feat. Cancer Survivor Models Promotes Hope & Opportunity


Now here’s a fashion show worth paying attention to!

The GTHQ team are definitely a group of fashionistas, but with a bit of a twist. If you look back through our archives at some of the fashion shows we have written articles about, you will notice one common thread: they are all fashion stories that have a heavy empowerment theme and don’t just promote clothing for image sake.

When we heard about this inspiring show at the Islamic Festival held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on November 18, we knew this was something worth blogging about!

The event, called ‘Giving Hope – Touching Hearts’ was organized by a local NGO called Pink Unity, who wanted the show to go beyond what the regular portrayals of beauty are on a fashion runway.

A group of designers participated in the show, dressing not just your average models, but cancer survivors! This has got to be a first, where an entire runway show is made up of cancer survivor models. The idea, developed in conjunction with local doctors, was to give hope to other women suffering from the deadly disease, and also as an alternative form of therapy, where other patients can visualize what survival actually looks like.


Salmah Stewart was one of the models in the show, and she is also the president of Pink Unity.

“We hope to drive home the message that despite facing challenges, cancer survivors can still look and feel good,” she said to the local press.

Pink Unity is run solely by women cancer survivors as a support group for all types of cancer and has as its concept “By Survivors, for Survivors”.

The Islamic Fashion Festival itself is focused on promoting diversity, and features over 250 designers from countries such as Cameroon, France, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Malaysia, Morocco, Palestine and Singapore. They are not just Islamic designers by the way, as part of the diversity mantra is that they want to show they are respectful of various religious backgrounds also.

Designers such as Calvin Thoo, Salikin Sidek and Jarumas dressed the women in the Giving Hope show which you can see in the pictures in this blog.

It’s awesome to see the fashion world being invaded by people who want to send a positive message. It is happening in every corner of the world.


Closer to home in the US, a New Jersey model is leaving the fashion world scratching their heads. Rebekah Marine, 27, was bullied in high school for being born with a missing forearm due to a deformity. After being fitted with a prosthetic arm later in life, she decided to pursue modeling as a way to boost her confidence.

During one particular photo shoot when she was 22, the photographer suggested she take the prosthesis off and model without it. Now it has become her unique, signature look, although Rebekah is about to be fitted with the prototype of a high-tech prosthetic designed especially for petite women and teens.

“My mission is to show that models of all shapes and sizes are becoming mainstream,” she told the New York Post. “I hope my story inspires other people not to let any disability get in their way.”

She now goes to schools and talks to young girls about finding confidence, despite being different.


The presence of a woman like Rebekah is also going to give great hope to other girls and women who feel they may not “fit in” when they look at the heavily airbrushed and photoshopped images of women in magazines. It is important there are people in the fashion world making key decisions to cast diversely, instead of exclusively, to represent the customers who will actually buy the clothes.

Rebekah doesn’t even have proper modeling representation, yet she has been shooting regularly because her story is starting to spread. She was asked to be am ambassador for the Lucky Fin Project which is a non-profit aimed at sharing the message that being born with a limb difference is not a tragedy. It is named after the line from the Disney movie ‘Finding Nemo’ where Nemo talks about his “lucky fin” which is a different size to most other fins. Celebrating our differences is the focus of the organization, and it is starting to slowly be reflected in the fashion world.

The Islamic Fashion Festival show, and Rebekah’s story are all about giving hope to individuals, rather than selling this horrible idea of inadequacy which the fashion world has become way too good at over the years.

We love the message that fashion, style and beauty isn’t about perfection or one narrow ideal. It is a democratic idea that all people can be a part of and contribute their definitions.




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