The show goes on: Mom takes up late daughter's body-positivity cause

Advocate staff report APR 29, 2017

Petrouchka Moïse is picking up where her daughter, Kaiya Smith, left off.


Kaiya Smith walks the runway at the 2016 Bigger Than Fashion Show.

Last year, Smith produced a fashion show as a senior project at McKinley Senior High School and formed her body-positive movement, Bigger than Fashion. After Smith's sudden death last summer at 18, her mom is continuing the project.

This year's fashion show, which the Baton Rouge teen had begun planning before her death, is called Confident Curves. Through the show, Smith hoped to bring awareness to the importance of mentoring and its impact on developing self-esteem, and to pay homage to her mentors. Anna West, one of those mentors, said she was deeply inspired by Smith’s project.

Petrouchka hand paints silk fabric that will be used in the fashion show.

“Bigger Than Fashion is a celebration of our greatness, our thickness, our tallness, our loudness, our intellectual and spiritual wholeness, our wit and refusal of the ways we have been told to hold ourselves back to fit into someone else's notion of what it means to ‘fit in’,” West said. “Kaiya actively strove to live in this big way, and she sought out teachers, mentors and friends who could expand the world with her. When I felt uncertain about my own ability to carry my own greatness, Kaiya called it up in me.”

The fashion showcase will include styles by Smith, Moïse and other local designers, as well as designers from Dubai

Shiqing Duan, LSU, and Rachel Settoon assist in painting the fabrics.

In addition, the work of Charlotte Charles, of Jacmel, Haiti, (a nod to the Moïse family’s Haitian heritage), will further support the mission of BTF with the campaign “Cotton is Bigger Than Fashion." On her last trip to Jacmel, Moïse saw that the Haitian girls were in desperate need of cotton undergarments, a pack of which costs a day's salary, she said, so some of the fashion show profits will go to the "Cotton" cause.

Sunday's event will also benefit Forward Arts’ Slam Camp, TransfHERmation and Miss Black Louisiana USA, all organizations that Moïse said promote character development, leadership, wellness and positive body image.

“We hope to build awareness so that we can reach more young girls and women,” Moïse said.