On the Runway


In a recent runway fashion event, the Debi Lou Modeling Academy featured 11 breast cancer survivors. The event was held on Oct. 25 at the McAllen Airport Radisson Hotel and served as a fundraiser for breast cancer research.

Debi Chavez, the founder of the modeling agency, has hosted the event annually for over 10 years. Chavez had the opportunity to resume the event following a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

“My mother passed away from breast cancer, so it’s very near and dear to my heart,” Chavez said. “I knew that I wanted to do something in October since October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.”

The fashion show allowed breast cancer survivors to share the runway with models from Chavez’s studio. Models at the event highlighted clothing from a number of stores, including a local clothing and accessories boutique in McAllen. The event also featured a silent auction to raise funds for breast cancer research.

“The proceeds from the silent auction go to whatever charity we decide,” Chavez said.

This year’s proceeds were donated to the Infinite Love foundation, a charity emphasizing cancer research and treatment.

Chavez teamed up with a number of sponsors to bring the fashion event to life. She and her sponsors first treated the runway models to lunch at the McAllen Country Club, where each model received a breast cancer awareness bracelet designed by Brighton. The models then enjoyed professional beauty services at BD Photography, a studio in McAllen owned by Barbara Delgado.

“The models tend to not feel as beautiful as they once did,” Delgado said. “When they see themselves for the first time again, it’s emotional for them.”

The studio photographed portraits of the 11 breast cancer survivors, offering the service as a donation to the models. Delgado recalls that three models had been photographed in the studio before.

“We had done a giveaway a couple of months earlier,” Delgado said. “It dawned on me that if we could do it for other people that would be a really nice gift to them.”

Chavez recounts that the visit to the studio was among the event’s most memorable highlights.

“That was pretty exciting that they got to have that done,” Chavez said. “A few of them had never had their hair and makeup professionally done, and a lot of them had never had a professional headshot.”

The models later drew an enthusiastic response from those attending the exhibition. The welcoming support of the McAllen community was an encouragement to each cancer survivor.

“Everybody was excited to be there,” Chavez said. “A lot of the models’ family and friends went. It was awesome how much support we got from the community.”

Chavez hopes that the annual event will continue raising breast cancer awareness and that individuals will respond practically.

“Bringing awareness to breast cancer is very important,” Chavez said. “I think it’s very important to bring awareness to it by making sure that every woman knows to get checked every month.”


Bill Hill