Area woman models in NYC Red Dress Collection

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Regional - posted Mon., Feb. 11, 2013
Cindy Parsons at the Red Dress Collection Fashion Show in NYC. Photo courtesy of Lindsday Shaw. - Contributed Photo

On Feb. 6, Cindy Parsons, owner of the Trink-et Shoppe in Danielson, took her place among a star-studded lineup of celebrities at the kick-off to Fashion Week in the Big Apple. The Heart Truth Red Dress Collection Fashion Show has been a flagship event for the National Institutes of Heart, Blood and Lung for 11 years. NIHBL has taken on the symbol of the red dress to increase heart health awareness among women. This year marks the first time that a woman of the people has walked the catwalk with the likes of Grammy award-winner Toni Braxton, Olympic gold medalist Gabby Douglas, fitness expert Jillian Michaels and television personality Kelly Osbourne.

Parsons was invited to the show because of her participation in “Follow the Fifty,” a heart health initiative in northeastern Connecticut. With a $100,000 grant from the Heart Truth, and sponsorship of the Northeast District Department of Health, and HealthQuest Northeast Connecticut, 130 women from Windham County took on a nine-month program to exercise, eat healthier, and teach themselves how to lower their risks of heart disease. Parsons lost 77 pounds and lowered her body mass index, resting heart rate and blood pressure in the process.

She was among 18 other women who walked the runway at the Hammerstein Ballroom in Manhattan. She wore an Adrianna Papell floor-length chiffon gown with fitted goddess-style top. Her shoes were by Christian Louboutin.

The lead-up to her 40-second runway appearance was a wild one. “It was over the top,” Parsons said. She had her own crew for hair, make-up and nails. “I had a 4 p.m. run through and a 4:30 p.m. hair and makeup, then we did the red carpet press line. It was just like the Oscars. They hung up a sign that said 'Cindy Parsons, non-celebrity.' It was click, click, click, click, just like I was on the real red carpet. It was crazy.”

Parsons spoke to reporters and photographers from CNN, "Entertainment Tonight," "The New Yorker," and a host of other media outlets. She told her story to all who asked. “I have heart health issues in my family,” she said. “My mom, who was close to my heart, died of heart disease two years ago. I was overweight. ‘Follow the Fifty’ sounded awesome. It was a year-long adventure of learning, and in the meantime I lost 78 pounds.”

Heart Truth team member Faren Edwards called Parsons’ story inspiring. “I think the crowd will go crazy when she comes on,” Edwards said before the show. Sure enough, when Parsons took to the stage, she did so to a round of applause. A contingent of 165 FTF models and campaign partners, who had made the trip in a show of solidarity, erupted in cheers from the balcony at the Hammerstein. 

One of the people working backstage made it a point to shake Parsons’ hand. She had just lost 100 pounds herself. “She told me, ‘I just want to say, you represent me,'” recounted Parsons. “She said, 'I’m a regular woman. It’s not just the stars who can afford to do better. Real people need to learn how to do it.’”

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