The brisk Seattle air greeted me as I stepped off the plane, and the maze-like highways were reminders that I was no longer in the Bay Area. While fighting off the drowsiness from the flight, I made my way to Lynnwood Convention Center for the highly anticipated Fashion SOULstice. I was nervous of the new environment I was about to enter, but also excited to get a behind-the-scenes view of a fashion show as I had never been to one before!

All I knew about Fashion SOULstice was that it was a fun charity event that celebrated beauty. All the funds raised that evening would go to empower victims of sex trafficking through professional cosmetology training in Cambodia. The concept of bringing fashion, beauty, and hair together for a good cause was enticing!

Photo by Kitera Dent

Vagaro was a platinum contributor of Fashion SOULstice, which gave me unlimited access to the in’s and out’s. And having the privilege of absolute mobility throughout the convention was like seeing the light and dark side of the moon at the same time. On the convention floor, esteemed guests were offered wine and hors d’oeuvres by staff members dressed in black and white. In contrast, behind the scenes told a story of bubbling chaos as salon teams raced to prepare their models. Ten to the show! An eager voice boomed over the speakers. The atmosphere thinned as the minutes ticked down.

I followed the anxious crowd and made my way to the catwalk for the show to begin. Buzzing excitement reduced into whispers as stage lights dimmed. Eighteen local salons showcased their impressive talents and wildly different personalities through hair, fashion, and music. From extravagant costumes to vivacious choreography, everyone had a statement to share. Some used their platform to express their unrestrained creativity. While others used it as an opportunity to further educate the complex inner-workings of trafficking.

The evening concluded with resounding success. More than $60,000 was raised before the end of the night— enough to sponsor three students for the prestigious Justice and Soul cosmetology program. My team and I felt proud that our contributions helped catapult the show’s accomplishments. And we’re honored to have gained valuable knowledge of this growing problem.

Photo by Kitera Dent

We landed back home the next day, but something felt different. I felt different. Stirred by a cocktail of emotions, I stared out the window of my comfortable Lyft ride and thought about all the people who were suffering. But rather than spiraling into hopelessness, I realized that Fashion SOULstice had truly inspired me. All those incredible souls united under one mission to make a positive difference for victims had made me realize that I too could make a difference. Armed with my new-found knowledge about sexual exploitation, I continued the conversation with everyone and anyone I came across. Did you know there are 20.9 million adults and children that are bought and sold worldwide into commercial sexual servitude and forced labor?

It takes a village to empower a child to become a self-sufficient and confident individual. With 20.9 million people, this is a global effort! We have a duty to educate one another and aid the suffering citizens of the world. Each of us has something to offer to end sex trafficking. Whether that is through cash donations, raising awareness, or giving our time and skills to charity events like Fashion SOULstice.

Photo by Kitera Dent

As I walked away from the Lyft car, the warm San Francisco air greeted me. Wide awake from the sobering events of the weekend, I thought to myself, We must end sex trafficking, but we must do it together.

“You could really see how much people cared and once together, there is so much that can be accomplished. Awareness is key and after the show, you can feel that many eyes were opened. From this point on, our knowledge and understanding of trafficking will grow and grow. In turn, trafficking will be made a headline issue that cannot hide in the shadows anymore.” – Keoni, Sales Rep at Vagaro.

“We’re excited to contribute to this great cause. Giving kids an opportunity to have a career that they can be proud of is a wonderful way to support this industry and to nurture the next generation of small business owners.” – Fred Helou, CEO at Vagaro

Header photo by Kitera Dent.