Lunar Gala goes 'Vice Versa'

I was backstage with the models, eight hours before the show began. Lunar Gala girls and boys scurried around for outfit changes — it was the last practice before the distinctively diverse show. “I wanted to get involved in something creative,” said Alissa Micciulla, a sophomore self-defined major, while donning some lacy netted number.

Micciulla was among other laughing models, some frantically changing, others sitting and waiting for their scenes. They all agreed that the fashion show was a heavy commitment. Rachelle Emard, a junior in the Department of Social and Decision Sciences, concurred. “It’s been time consuming. But I think I learned a lot,” she said. She explained that the models’ comfort zones and confidence levels were pushed — but that it was a good thing. “It’s very fun still,” she insisted. Despite the complaints, she added, the models must like the show enough to stick with it.

Lunar Gala 2007 was themed “Vice Versa.” Each of the 13 designers interpreted the theme differently. Lunar Gala was created 11 years ago to commemorate the Chinese Lunar New Year through creative means; that is, fashion and entertainment. Since then, it has grown into one of the most celebrated events on campus, completely run by students. This year’s rendition praised the year of the golden pig, which brings good luck and prosperity.

Seven hours before the show, senior biological sciences major Justin Van Denend predicted that the audience would respond with “catcalls and erections.”

Emard put it more lightly, presuming the audience would appreciate being entertained by the different pieces: “It can appeal to a lot of different people,” she smiled.

Van Denend and Emard were on the right track. Thirty-eight models and 30 entertainers filled the stage at different times during the show. The entertainment fest included varying acts — in addition to the posing models, there were dance performances and beat boxing extraordinaires, which closed to the night’s loudest applause. The second half of the performance, “Bus Ride,” featured the CMU breakers getting down alongside dancers in business suits. The audience roared with applause and laughter when senior computer science major Frank Denbow ripped his shirt off and tossed it off of the stage.

Lunar Gala is known for its blend of fashion and the bizarre, and this year was no exception. Hours before the show, the model’s changing rooms were lined with gigantic bows, Mardi Gras beads, and oddly shaped balloons. At showtime, some of the more unusual elements took form on the models, who added them to their styles.

One standout scene named Deviant, designed by H&SS first-year Sanyu Kyeyune, featured original designs with a funk edge. Another prominent display created by junior design majors Diana C. Hurd and Mary K. Katica, named Woven, offered fashion-forward wearable designs.

Other scenes featured girls clad in vibrant bikinis, potato sacks dressed up with ribbons, gas masks, and red and white space suits. Even name brand apparel from United Colors of Benneton, Lost Orchid, Sisley, and Torque Denim made appearances throughout the night.

When asked to describe the Lunar Gala experience, Micciulla beamed — it gave her an excuse to buy new... lingerie. “It’s been a heavy commitment,” she added. Other models murmured incoherent protests, but still admitted an appreciation for the chance to meet new people.

Yet, the lengthy practices that the models endured seem to have been worth it. There were no spills or falls and the show was clean and solid. And, despite the long nights, every model gained something from the experience. “A lot of different people get together for [Lunar Gala].... It’s a bonding experience,” said Micciulla.

Emard cited working with designers and other models as her favorite part of the Lunar Gala preparation: “[The designers] have a vision and you are helping their vision come to fruition,” she said. As a model, Emard explained, she had the opportunity to watch designs develop from sketchy to tangible onstage pieces. “You see it all come together,” she said. Emard also credited the executive board for their hard work — “They push your confidence.”

And after the show? Spreading congratulations and good wishes, models and audience members mingled in the halls and outside of the Connan Room in the UC. “I’m so glad it’s over!” Micciulla screamed. With an array of models and friends, she attended the crowded after party to celebrate the end — and of course, the Chinese Lunar New Year.