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FASH-LANTHROPHY SP Q&A: Cheryl Ann Wadlington On A Mission To Help Teen Girls Through A Love of Fashion

November 12, 2013

With us now approaching a season of thanks and giving, many people are becoming increasingly interested in giving back through charity. But, for Philadelphia native, and fashion journalist Cheryl Ann Wadlington, her mission Evoluer House, a nonprofit that helps teen girls from socio-economically challenged backgrounds is something she’s passionate about everyday. For the Holiday season, Cheryl is celebrating her mission and her Evoluer House girls with a spectacular, not to miss fashion event, the 4th Annual Fashion Gala entitled J’adore la Mode”: The Love of Fashion! caught up with Cheryl to find out more about her organization and all that is in store for her upcoming event.


SP: As a style and self-image expert and fashion journalist, what was the defining moment that inspired you to expand your brand with the Evoluer House program to help teen girls?

C.A.W.: I believe that every girl deserves an opportunity to become successful. For me, the work we do at The Evoluer House is a God-driven mission and part of my family DNA. I come from a long line of preachers and am just continuing a legacy that my family set in the church and filtered down to the second, third and fourth generations.  I also have a lot of aunts and uncles who are pastors as well.

The establishment of The Evoluer House is bigger than me.  It is more about humanity. Right now, investing in girls is one of the smartest move a country can make. This is the largest girl generation in history and they desperately need resources. One of my missions is to do all that I can to help prepare, empower and protect girls. And I know, particularly through the work I’ve done, that you don’t have to be rich to impact their lives.

I don’t hear the alarm ringing loud enough about addressing the issue women and girls face here in America. They face a daunting array of problems and they need our help. I don’t want them, especially women and girls from socio-economically challenged backgrounds, to be forgotten about. Not only are we facing a high school graduation crisis, but also our girls are struggling with health and obesity issues, gang violence and drug abuse. There is a lack of effective programs that teach girls about good character and citizenship, and bullying and technology issues are creating problems that kids 20 years ago never imagined.

The evidence is clear: with health and wellness, education and opportunities, women and girls can contribute fully to society and help break the cycle of poverty. Because when women and girls earn income, they reinvest 90% of it into their families/community, as compared to 30-40% for a man. One thing I know for sure, the choices and opportunities made available to girls in the coming years will shape their lives and those around them. That’s why the work we do at The Evoluer House is so important.

Plus, I am mindful that I didn’t just wake up glamorous. I was blessed to had been groomed and mentored by legends and trailblazers – model and entrepreneur Naomi Sims, dance masters Alvin Ailey and Nat Horne, and designers Willie Smith, Geoffrey Beene, Patrick Kelly and more. So, that gave me so many opportunities to see what greatness looks like at such a young age. Thus, I learned how to be prim and proper and how to sparkle early on, on and off stage. Now, I’ve decided to share some of that good stuff I am grateful to have received to help women and girls everywhere to lead healthy, happy and full lives.

SP: Upon completion, what have been some success stories of teen girls who have become refined through Evoluer House rites of passage?

C.A.W.: The Evoluer House is a proven program model that works! Some of our graduates are now in law school, or are MBA candidates and on the fast track of reaching their academic and career goals. Evoluer girls are working hard and achieving – and more than 800 girls Philadelphia-area girls have graduated from our program since 2004 with 100% of them graduating from high school, compared to the 50% graduation rate for their peers. 100% of Evoluer girls avoided teen pregnancy in 2011 and 2012. And, in the words of an Evoluer House program graduate, currently a Junior at Temple University: “The Evoluer program helped to shape me into the young woman I am today; it helped me learn how to act with dignity at all times and gave me the confidence to believe in my dreams as well as the tools needed to make them a reality. I plan to use all that I have gained from Evoluer House to achieve success and to influence and inspire other young women in the way the Evoluer House influenced and inspired me.”

SP: With the Holidays around the corner, you’re in preparation for the 4th Annual Fashion Gala Benefiting The Evoluer House, entitled “J’adore la Mode: The Love of Fashion!” How effective is the impact of images portrayed by the mainstream fashion and beauty industry on a teenage girl during her defining years?

C.A.W.: The images portrayed by the mainstream fashion and beauty industries has an alarming impact on the way young girls feel and think about themselves – I often refer to it as the “I’m not good enough or pretty enough” affect.  Through my work, I see so many women and girls suffering from low self-esteem. In the U.S. alone, 80% of women are dissatisfied with their appearance and more than 80% of 10-year-old girls have been on a diet, responding to societal pressure to look a certain way. However, only 8% of women in the U.S. naturally possess the body shape defined by the fashion industry as “ideal” – which is an image that is not real.

I recognized that girls need help, which is why I (along with former In Style editor Sonia Beard) wrote “The DivaGirl’s Guide to Style and Self-Respect” as a response to their “help-me” cry. This book shows girls they can be cute, popular, smart and successful without trading on their sexuality or self-worth. And, like the Evolouer House programs, it also addresses more serious issues that affect girl’s self-esteem and their ability to succeed.

SP: What’s in store for the night during your 4th Annual Fashion Gala “J’adore la Mode”: The Love of Fashion” event? 

C.A.W.: “J’adore la Mode,” (French for “I love fashion”), is the theme of this highly anticipated benefit fashion gala.  International celebrity stylist Kithe Brewster, considered one of the most prolific fashion minds in the industry today, will present a special preview of his Spring 2014. Kithe, who spent 14 years in Paris and London honing his skills and a fashion editor and stylist, has styled nearly every celebrity under the sun — Celine Dion, Halle Berry, Heidi Klum, Johnny Depp, Beyonce, Angelina Jolie, Cate Blanchette, Usher, Drew Barrymore. Women’s Wear Daily credits him with helping to make actress Julianne Moore a fashion icon. In music, his accomplishments are endless.

The “J’adore la Mode”  fashion show will also feature the work of world renowned dancer/choreographer Anthony Burrell of Fox TV’s shows “Glee” and “So You Think You Can Dance, “The Beyonce Experience,” Rihanna’s “Girl Like Me Tour,” and Broadway musical “Come Fly Away.”  Another confirmed guest includes one of fashion’s most lauded beauties supermodel and Philadelphia-native,  Sessilee Lopez.  And, LaBelle’s Sarah Dash, of disco anthem “Lady Marmalade” fame, will serve as Honorary Chair of this year’s charity event that will be laced with delectable hors d’oeuvres, signature cocktails, a silent auction of coveted treasure and absolute fashion power.

Subsequently, like I always say to our girls, “Polish until you sparkle. Sparkle until you shine!”

Ticket information for the “J’adore la Mode: The Love of Fashion!” event are available at

Evoluer House Gala 1


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